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Day walks

Unforgettable Rakaia Gorge day walk, Canterbury

  • 3 minutes

Canterbury, South Island

Places to go and things to see, South Island

Adventure boots are laced up for a day exploring Rakaia Gorge. Discover a massive rock gorge carved out by glacier runoff from the Southern Alps. A day walk that can be shortened for kids and shorter legs.

Rakaia Gorge walk highlights

  • Glacial flour (finely ground sediment) creates amazing vivid blue water set against the emerald green native bush.

If it has recently rained in the Rakaia Gorge or upstream the river will run a murky grey.

Mt Hutt lookout over Methven and Canterbury plains, NZ
Mt Hutt lookout over Methven and Canterbury plains
  • Nearby Methven is a winter haven for skiing yet summer walks are often overlooked
  • Spectacular mountains, river gorge and sweeping Canterbury plains views that dip into native bush
  • Opportunity to go jet boating on the Rakaia River
  • Walk across the Rakaia River on the suspension bridge. The The view from the bridge is amazing stunning with plenty of space for photos
  • Rakaia River bridge is a heritage wrought iron bridge built 1880-82. The 55 metre single-span bridge has trusses that fan out underneath carrying the load to the gorge edges
  • Summer picnics on the river banks (stoney)
  • Very popular fishing spot due to salmon and trout populations


Rakaia Gorge is approximately 15 minutes driven from Methven (mid-Canterbury) and 1 hour from Christchurch on route 77. Park in the riverside car park on the north side of the bridges.

Car park for walking track is identified with Discovery Jet Boat signage. From the car park look for bridge where the official start of the track has a Department of Conservation sign.

Yes there are toilets at the Rakaia Gorge. Parking and toilet, picnic tables and rubbish bins at the Discovery jet Boating location.

  • It is 75 km from Christchurch 75kms and 11 km from Methven – 10 mins drive.
  • Distance: 10.4km return
  • Important information: this walkway goes over private farmland; show your respect to landowners by keeping to the track, and not disturbing stock. Dogs or horses not permitted. Parts of the track may be muddy so wear suitable footwear.
  • Time: 3-4 hours return

As a Department of Conservation managed resource check out Rakaia Gorge DOC description, Easy: Walking track.

No dogs allowed.

Rainbow over river Rakaia in the South Island in the New Zealand
Rainbow over river Rakaia in the South Island


Short on time and want to explore the Rakaia Gorge or got kids or mobility issues then consider the Rakaia Gorge Lookout Point. The lookout point walk is approximately 35 – 45 minutes (one way).

Yes, you can can in the summer at the Rakaia Gorge Rakaia Gorge Camping: A basic camp ground with no power. There is hot water available in communal kitchens and showers. Truly stupendous views of the river and disconnect. It is likely your mobile will not have reception.


  • Explore the nearby towns of Darfield and Methven.
  • Take a selfie against an enormous concrete pink donut in Springfield
  • Join a Discovery Jet Boat thrilling spin on the Rakaia River
  • Heritage buffs do not miss out with the Rakaia heritage bridge and TE HUANUI ART GALLERY. The Malvern Community Arts Council

(MCAC) not-for-profit community group of volunteers gallery. The art centre is committed to develop, facilitate, and support arts events and activities in the district so that the community can fully enjoy and participate in the arts locally. Visitors get to enjoy local unique artists in the making exhibitions.

Darfield main street in spring, Canterbury, NZ
Darfield main street in spring


Selwyn District resource:

Rakaia River origins are in the Southern Alps with glacier runoff and melting snow feeding the river. The average river flow is 160 cubic metres per second.  Flows as low as 85 cubic metres per second can occur for long periods in late winter. Several times a year after heavy rain, muddy water churns through the gorge and water can rise up around the iron trusses close to the bridge deck!  Very occasionally floods exceeding 5,000 cubic metres per second have been recorded.

River Life

The gorge is a popular fishing spot. Salmon and trout live in the river, with numbers boosted by Fish & Game.

A range of birds travel up the river from the coast. Some species breed exclusively on braided rivers like the Rakaia, including the endangered black-billed gull, black-fronted tern, wrybills and banded dotterel.


You are in Canterbury high country territory, prepare accordingly and consult local weather conditions and carry supplies. This walk is part of the New Zealand unforgettable day walks series.



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