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Travel guide

Lyttelton, Canterbury attractions, things to do and places to visit

  • 5 minutes
In this Article

Lyttelton offers plenty of things to do with galleries, shops wrapped around the historic main street.The eclectic nestled in an eclectic main street. Linger and enjoy the arty vibe of a port town Lyttelton. The impressive road tunnel whisks visitors from Christchurch CBD in 20 minutes to the busy port town.

TOP 5 ATTRACTIONS

Casual vibe mix of cafes, galleries, historic port town

In this Article

TOP 5 SIGHTS IN LYTTELTON

Quail Island @shchavelev.pavel Павел Щавелев
Quail Island @shchavelev.pavel

QUAIL ISLAND – LYTTELTON HARBOUR

Catch the ferry out to Quail Island and spend the day discovering the island’s  fascinating history. There is something exciting about catching a ferry and sailing across the Lyttelton Harbour to an island. Pest free Quail Island has a varied history from a pandemic quarantine station to ship wrecks.

Within 5 – 10 minutes visitors can be throwing the picnic rug down at a sheltered beach. The gently sloping beach is safe for swimming. Fossick at low tide among the rocks or beachcomb for shells. There are information plaques describing the story of the Barracks buildings. For visitors after more adventures there are shipwrecks to find and a bird watching hide for birding fans.

Learn more about Quail Island attractions, Best 6 short walks in Christchurch.

History at Lyttelton’s Timeball Station

Visual signals were important features of any port, necessary for communication between ship and shore, in pre-radio times. The Timeball Station sustained devastating damage during the Canterbury earthquakes but the site remains significant to New Zealand’s history, and that of international maritime history.

Lyttelton’s Timeball is a reminder of the town’s important maritime location. A rare piece of maritime history, it has been restored after suffering damage during the September 2010 earthquake. The Timeball Station is open to the public and boasts spectacular views over Lyttelton Harbour.

Timeball stations were important visual signals in many of the world’s ports enabling correct ships’ chronometers and accurate navigation. However many were discontinued after radio signals were invented. The Lyttelton Timeball Station is one of only five in the world known to be still working. Be sure to keep an eye out during your visit at 1pm to see the station drop its ball.

While the original building was damaged beyond repair in the earthquake 2010 -2011, the timeball has not suffered the same fate.

Lyttelton Timeball Station, Canterbury, New Zealand @Ross Younger
Lyttelton Timeball Station @Ross Younger

Lyttelton walks, picnics and beaches

Spend time walking around the harbour to capture views of the waterways and the busy commercial Lyttelton port. A must-do walk for all fitness levels is the

Get away from the crowds and discover quiet walks and places to throw down a picnic rug with goodies from the local deli.

Diamond Harbour, Canterbury, New Zealand @peelingbackhistory
Diamond Harbour @peelingbackhistory
  • Corsair Bay playground, picnic tables and toilets and a popular place to launch kayaks. Wharf jumping and a summer pontoon make Corsair Bay a local favourite. The beach is largely crushed shells with a rocky shoreline exposed at low tide
  • Cass Bay, get kids and friends walking between the two bays and discover hidden gems with walking tracks down to tiny beaches between the two bays.
  • Pony Point is a grassed reserve showcasing the results of a replanting programme. The reserve is surrounded by native bush and has glorious harbour views
  • Recycled wharf timbers make great seats at the Te Ana Marina. There is lots of parking available for families with scooters and bikes. The sealed footpaths connect seemingly to Lyttleton’s main street with cafes along the way
  • Diamond Harbour day trip across the harbour picnic / brunch in the historic corners of Lyttelton Harbour

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Check out the Travel Pack Section and browse the Lyttelton walking brochure.

LYTTELTON SCENIC VIEWPOINTS

URUMAU LOOP WALK

Lyttelton is primarily a busy commercial port for the South Island. The maritime focus is very evident from the hilltops with harbour cranes, containers and shipping dominating the port. Walk up Urumau loop with a steep climb up over an ancient lava flow.  The walk utilises a section of the Crater Rim to connect Godley Head to Urumau Reserve. The loop walk is part of the Crater Rim Walk above Lyttelton on the harbour Port Hills. It is exposed to the weather and carries a waterproof warm layer at all times.

Lyttleton, Canterbury, New Zealand @Kishan Modi
Lyttleton @Kishan Modi
Breeze Bay section of the Awaroa, Godley Head Loop Track. Godley Head, Canterbury, New Zealand
Breeze Bay section of the Awaroa, Godley Head Loop Track

GODLEY HEAD WALK

Godley Head is a fantastic starting point for the Head to Head Walkway. A GREAT WALK HOWEVER THERE ARE CLOSURES … Stunning views without the heavy lifting of strenuous hill climb. The walk has a touch of history with World War II gun emplacements and abandoned bunkers. To reach the historic sites is a short uphill climb however it is worth the effort for the stupendous views and the air of desolation of an abandoned military site. The WWII coastal defence battery site was built in 1939 and is ranked in the top ten New Zealand coastal defence heritage sites. This walk is one the must-do short walks in the Christchurch area

… learn more Best 6 short walks in Christchurch

COASTAL PATH – MAGAZINE BAY, CORSAIR BAY AND CASS BAY

A walk connecting Magazine Bay, Corsair Bay and Cass Bay with spectacular views of Lyttelton Harbour and Quail Island.  The seaside walk follows the shoreline to Corsair Bay. Corsair Bay was named after a whaling vessel that drifted onto rocks in 1861 and was wrecked. The coastal path is approximately one hour, one way is largely flat with a firm track surface.

This wide, well-formed track follows the coastline well above the shore. You can take a connecting path (5 minutes) to drop down to explore Magazine Bay, a small sandy beach perfect for picnics, which is home to the Thornycroft Torpedo Boat Museum (limited open hours).

  • Dogs on leash
  • This is NOT a shared use trail
  • Toilets along the way Corsair and Cass Bay
Motukauatiiti, Corsair Bay, Canterbury, New Zealand @Michal Klajban
Motukauatiiti, Corsair Bay @Michal Klajban
Corsair Bay, Canterbury, New Zealand @Mapio.net
Corsair Bay @Mapio.net

Magazine Bay to Motukawaiti-Corsair Bay – 15 minutes

The track passes through regenerating forest and pine trees before dropping down to the shore at Corsair Bay, a popular swimming and picnic spot. There are toilets and drinking fountains here, and a pirate-themed playground beside the car park.

Motukawaiti-Corsair Bay to Motukauatirahi-Cass Bay – 20 minutes

Pick up the track again on the far side of Corsair Bay beach where it climbs into the pine trees. This second part of the track is longer, narrower and steep in a few places with some steps; it follows the coastline. Cass Bay also has a playground with a flying fox, toilets and a grey sands beach.

Motukauatirahi-Cass Bay to Otuherekio-Pony Point Reserve – 15 minutes one way

Drop down to Cass beach and walk to the far end. Walk a few metres up Bay View Place to pick up the well-formed track just above the playground and toilets. The track through Pony Point Scenic Reserve is a circuit track – a 30-minute round trip.

The left-hand route sidles around above the boat sheds following the water edge before zig-zagging up to reach the summit of the point, where there is a grassy area with picnic tables and benches. There are native plantings and a pou, and great harbour views.

The return track to Cass Bay follows the fence then descends through the gum trees. You can also exit the reserve to Governors Bay Road from the top picnic area – there is a small pull-off for parking.

Source Coastal Path Lyttelton.

Motukauatiiti, Corsair Bay, Canterbury, New Zealand @Michal Klajban
Motukauatiiti @Michal Klajban

BRIDLE PATH – LYTTELTON TO CHRISTCHURCH

Feeling energetic then follow the trudge and puff of early European settlers as they climbed the Port Hills to the promised land settlement on the Canterbury plains in the newly emerging town of Christchurch. There are memorial seats honouring the pioneers and the first four ships to Canterbury who walked or rode over from Lyttelton. Enjoy sweeping 360 views of Christchurch and Lyttelton at the top of the hill.

Bridle Path, Canterbury, New Zealand @Schwede66
Bridle Path @Schwede66

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Christchurch to Lyttelton walking trail

Catch the Christchurch gondola at the summit as a way to avoid the hill climb with a downward walk along the BRIDLE PATH to Lyttleton.

There are a number of trails in the vicinity of the historic Bridle Path with gondola, bus and walk combinations possible. Take a picnic and soak in the views of Lyttelton and Christchurch. The Bridle Path is a shared use trail with bikes and people walking.

  • Dogs allowed on leash
  • Shared use trail
  • There are no toilets along the trail
  • 2.4 km one way

ART & HERITAGE LYTTELTON

LYTTELTON ALBION SQUARE

Albion Square was the site of a well known historic hotel, now lost during the 2010 – 2011 earthquake. Locals playing petanque on the cleared site and urban regeneration initiatives led to the creation of Albion Square, an informal town square and meeting spot. The Square is recognisable with its interesting locally carved entranceway, playgrounds and the historic Cenotaph gracing the area. Sculptures by local artists dot the area. There are buskers and places to rest and watch the world go by.

The Lyttelton Albion Square, Canterbury, New Zealand @Te Ūaka
The Lyttelton Albion Square @Te Ūaka

LYTTELTON TORPEDO BOAT MUSEUM

The torpedo boats have an interesting past. In the 1880’s Lyttelton was ready to play its part in the defence of the empire, against the perceived threat of Russian invasion with Torpedo Boat No. 168, Defender.

Magazine Bay (formerly known as Bakers Bay) however there was an issue with launching the boat as a high tide or strong swells meant the boat could not be launched.

Defending Lyttelton Torpedo Boat museum, Canterbury, New Zealand @Joseph Johnson
Lyttelton Torpedo Boat museum @Joseph Johnson

Expenditure of public funds … lampooned in an article in the Lyttelton Times with the suggestion that a placard be painted on Godley Head with the following: “To Russians and all others whom it may concern. Hostile parties wishing to shell the Port of Lyttelton are requested to time their visit for fine weather, otherwise they cannot be fittingly received by the local authorities.”

The restored Defender is lodged in the Old Powder Magazine Building with restored sections of the 1885 boat, a similar engine together with extensive information, film and photographs from the period.

For more information about the history of the torpedo boat check out Defending Lyttelton: Torpedo Boat No. 168 Defender | Christchurch City Libraries.

LYTTELTON MUSEUM

Te Ūaka is the name gifted to Lyttelton Museum by Te Hapū o Ngati Wheke. Ohinehou Lyttleton is a place of arrivals to Canterbury, South Island. Lyttleton has witnessed waka (canoes) in the 14th century and then onwards 19th century European settlers. Settlers were faced with a steep climb over the Port Hills to the proposed settlement on the Canterbury plains (Christchurch).

The museum’s home was severely damaged in the 2010 – 2011 earthquakes. Currently most of the collection is in storage being lovingly documented online. The online collection of the

Lyttelton Museum gives viewers an opportunity to explore Lyttleton’s narratives. While away the day reading stories about Felix and a ship’s stowaway.

@TeUakaTheLytteltonMuseum
@TeUakaTheLytteltonMuseum
@LytteltonArtsFactory
@LytteltonArtsFactory

Lyttelton Arts Factory (LAF)

Lyttelton’s only ‘black box’ theatre. Home to great theatre, touring companies, quality performing arts education and versatile venue hires for your next function.  Check the website for current shows and events beforehand to avoid disappointment. Lyttelton Arts Factory is a Not For Profit Trust overseen by The Loons Theatre Trust Board.

Ōhinetahi, is a nominated garden of international significance with over 1.25 hectares of garden. There are sculptures dotted throughout the garden, woodland trails and an outstanding 19th century homestead. There are two galleries in the homestead. The garden is closed during the winter season. Admission fees apply. Dogs are not allowed. There is limited car parking. Motorhomes and buses park use on street parking.

FACILITIES

Toilets are available and there are seating areas around the gardens to sit and relax. The majority of the garden is not accessible to wheelchairs.

DURATION

It is recommended between one to two hours rambling the garden and gallery to take in the views, galleries and relax on a garden seat admiring the harbour.

For garden lovers don’t forget to check out 9 Christchurch public parks & gardens to visit, trip guide: Best Bits.

Looking over the red garden to the Ohinetahi house, New Zealand @ohinetahi
Ohinetahi garden @ohinetahi

LYTTELTON FESTIVALS

@LytteltonHarbourFestivalOfLights
@LytteltonHarbourFestivalOfLights

LYTTELTON SUMMER FEST

Check out the Lyttelton Information Centre for updates on festivals. Festivals use the reimaged public Albion town square space, the waterfront and Lyttelton Arts Factory. There are pop up craft stalls, food trucks and live music.

LYTTELTON FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS

Lyttelton Harbour winter festival of lights lights up a functional port creating a magical night time space of popping colour, food trunks, music and street entertainment. London Street is party central with stalls selling crafts and local goodies. A festival highlight is the parade of buskers, performers and community organisations showcasing their contributions to the local port community.

FAMILY FRIENDLY FUN LYTTELTON HARBOUR

  • Explore the harbour and town on the Antarctic walk with the option of joining a cruise on TUG LYTTELTON
  • Climb up or drive for summit views of the port and surrounding harbour
  • Take the ferry to Diamond Harbour and picnic or lunch on the beach
  • Explore the Banks Peninsula and  Akaroa with its wealth of attractions for visitors
Lyttleton, Canterbury, New Zealand @Andrew Danks
Lyttleton @Andrew Danks

QUAIL ISLANDLYTTELTON HARBOUR MUST-DO DESTINATION

Family and friends will love the harbour cruise.

Lyttleton, Canterbury, New Zealand @Niklas Ohlrogge
Lyttleton @Niklas Ohlrogge
  • Opportunities to wonder about the plight of migrants in quarantine due the fear of infectious diseases
  • View shipwrecks and sunken vessels
  • Walk among the melancholy cemetery and wonder at a long sea voyage ending in a lonely grave on a quarantine island
  • Picnic, swim and explore the shoreline and bird reserve

Quail Island walks All walks start from the main ferry jetty and are one way unless stated. Walking track – Easy to moderate walking from a few minutes to a day. Track is mostly well formed, some sections may be steep, rough or muddy. Suitable for people with low to moderate fitness and abilities. Walking shoes or light tramping/hiking boots required.

… learn more about Quail Island Best 6 short walks in Christchurch.

JET JUNKIES

Adventurous spirits are kept entertained with JET JUNKIES water ski, jet fuelled propulsion or guided tours on jet skis is family action on the Lyttelton Harbour.

 

LYTTELTON – SHOPPING & MARKETS

London Street is the shopping and food core of Lyttelton. Dine at the delicious cafes or pop into the local craft shops for a spot of shopping.

Visitors will be tantalised by the scent of sweetly roasting coffee beans from the Lyttelton Coffee Company. Enjoy a leisurely brunch while watching the busy port and surroundings. There is a focus on sustainability with the use of reusable materials in the kitchen and the lack of plastic in the public areas. The cafe uses its brickwork walls to showcase local art and craft, hosts musical performances and is known to be the venue for craft workshops.

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Lyttelton Coffee Company – grab a seat upstairs for the stunning harbour views and savour freshly roasted coffee. There is a substantial counter food cabinet together with a chalkboard menu.

@lytteltoncoffeecompany
@lytteltoncoffeecompany
@civilandnaval
@civilandnaval

NEED TO TASTE A LOCAL BREW

Pop into Civil and Naval and peruse the extensive Canterbury craft brewery menu while ordering the classic hand cut chips with aioli to accompany the brew.

WEEKEND SATURDAY LYTTELTON FARMERS MARKET

Lyttelton Farmers Market draws crowds from Christchurch to the bustle of activity on London Street with pop up stalls selling second hand clothing, homewares, art and crafts, food and plants. There is something for everyone with local musicians adding to the festivities. A classic farmers market with unique gifts and life’s daily essentials wrapped around a historic street.

Day Trip to Diamond Harbour

Across the water you’ll find Diamond Harbour, and a great little day trip to get away without the hassle of too much travel. Take a quick ride on the Black Cat Ferry from Lyttelton with crossings every hour. On arrival explore the coastal track, Stoddart Cottage, art gallery and the delightful Diamond Harbour Eatery overlooking a reserve. There’s also a great spot to fish off the wharf or enjoy a dip in the harbour.

… LEARN MORE WHAT’S SO GREAT ABOUT DIAMOND HARBOUR

Diamond Harbour ferry, Canterbury, New Zealand @Phillip Capper
Diamond Harbour ferry @Phillip Capper
Ōnuku, with a historic church meeting house, Akaroa, New Zealand
Ōnuku, with a historic church meeting house, Akaroa, New Zealand

Day Trip to Akaroa

Akaroa with its French charm is a classic tourist attraction with heritage cottages, a lively streetscape and harbour to explore.

… learn more 10 holiday ideas for families in Akaroa, what to do & see: Best Bits

What kinds of ships might we see getting ready to head to Antarctica?

The most common ships are research and supply vessels, but there will often be visits from cargo vessels and sometimes specialised icebreakers, such as the US Coast Guard Cutter.

Antarctica walk Lyttelton

The walk commences in Albion Square continuing to wharf number two to visit TUG LYTTELTON and the nearby signage describing current Antarctic shipping with views of the DRY DOCK. Lyttelton and Christchurch have been a gateway to Antarctica since Captain Robert Falcon Scott based his first Discovery expedition here in 1901. Check Antarctic Port and Lyttelton Harbour brochure in the Travel Pack Section.

Lyttleton, Canterbury, New Zealand @Andrew Danks1
Lyttleton @Andrew Danks

GETTING TO LYTTELTON FROM CHRISTCHURCH & GETTING AROUND

BY CAR

Christchurch to Lyttelton driving route

This route is through the Port Hills tunnel

Christchurch to Lyttelton via Dyers Pass Rd over the Port Hills

22 km

 

BY PUBLIC BUS

Bus.  Metropolitan Christchurch public bus connects on a daily basis with Lyttelton. Obtain a metrocard for ease of use on the public transport system. Check out Casebrook/Lyttelton | Metro Christchurch up to date information on the Lyttelton bus route.

Explore some of the best of Christchurch on the Route 28

Route 28 starts in Northwood and travels past Bishopdale Mall and Northlands to the city. It continues on to Opawa, Heathcote and Lyttelton Port, with some trips extending to Rapaki. Portside commuters enjoy the morning and evening express trips for an even quicker trip from and to Lyttelton.

BIKES ON CHRISTCHURCH PUBLIC BUSES

All Metro buses are fitted with bike racks on buses providing you with options to bus to work and bike home, bike and bus in stages or get access to cycle tracks around the city. The bike racks are easy and free to use.

You can also learn how to put your bike on the bus without any pressure by using the practice bike rack at the Tuam Street end of the Bus Interchange

SOURCE Bikes on buses | Metro Christchurch

@BlackCatCruises
@BlackCatCruises

WALKING OVER THE PORT HILLS – Check out information on the BRIDLE PATH WALKWAY

LYTTELTON HARBOURBLACK CAT FERRIES

Black Cat Ferries offer cruises to Diamond Harbour, cruises dolphin watching in the Akaroa Harbour and island connections to QUAIL ISLAND and RIPAPA ISLAND.

RIPAPA ISLAND

Small island – big history. Tucked close against the southern shore of Whakaraupō (Lyttelton Harbour), the small island of Ripapa was an ideal site for a fortified pa for Ngāi Tahu and later, a fortress to defend against possible Russian attacks. Displays on the island provide more information about its history.

NOTE

Eating or picnics on the island are strongly discouraged due to the historic significance of the island for the Ngai Tahu with its heritage cemetery.

LYTTELTON HARBOUR – TUG LYTTELTON CRUISES

  • What a way to enjoy the harbour. Gracefully cruise in a heritage TUG BOAT. Throughout the summer season, usually from Christmas to April or May, the Society operates a Sunday afternoon harbour cruise to the Lyttelton Heads. The vessel departs from No. 2 Wharf at 2:30 p.m. and returns to her berth at 4.00 p.m. During the cruise passengers are able to view the workings of a steam ship that is over 100 years old. Along with visiting bays with historical significance in the Canterbury region. The souvenir shop and kiosk are open during the cruise … LEARN MORE Tug Lyttelton
Port Hills looking towards Lyttleton Harbour, Canterbury, New Zealand
Port Hills looking towards Lyttleton Harbour

LYTTELTON – SAILING CHARTERS

  • Sails billowing and you are on a ketch in the middle of the harbour. Glorious memorable moments with JAR TAR SAILING CHARTERS. The vessel is 36 ft Gaff Yawl “Oyster” built in 1902 by Charles Bailey Jr lovingly maintained by Jack Tar. Check out Jack Tar Sailing Co for up to date information.
Akaroa Beach on the Banks Peninsula, Akaroa, New Zealand
Akaroa Beach on the Banks Peninsula

GETTING AROUND BANKS PENINSULA

  • There are several shuttles operating from central Christchurch connecting to Akaroa with drop off points in Lyttelton on prior arrangement. Due to economic uncertainty shuttle services have been suspended until further notice.
  • Private vehicle is strongly recommended for trips around BANKS PENINSULA

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