Walking on the Port Hills
Major Hornbrook Track
Close to Christchurch (the city where I live) is Lyttleton harbour, ringed by high hills - the site of an ancient and extremely extinct volcano. A huge network of walking and running paths overlook the water, promising fresh air, whippy wind and breathtaking views.
Perfect for Picnics
The Port Hills are the perfect place for winter walking or summer strolling, picnicking or photography. My walking group includes a number of the paths and routes in its trip calendar.
Some days offer knobbly rocky outcrops to on which to practice ones mountain goat climbing skills. Others explore hidden tracts of native New Zealand bush.
Ferns, Tree Fuchsias - and Gorse!
I've slipped down gullies filled with ferns and tree fuchsias, pushed past gorse and broom (aargh!) happily growing amidst the tussock grasses, ambled over farmland tracks, and sidled underneath rock-climber bluffs.
Every trip has at least one Grand View - whether it be the distant expanse of the Pacific Ocean, the wiggly edges of Lyttleton harbour below, or both. Cameras are compulsory up here!
Early Summer - Lyttleton Harbour and Iconic Cordyline
The Port Hills have changed in appearance these last few hundred years. They were originally bush clad, but land was cleared for stock and timber was felled to build settlers' cottages. There are very few large rimu or totara trees left standing.
Mid-Winter - Lyttleton Harbour
So this land has been grazed, gorsed (aargh!), and occasionally built on (in early days a series of stone shelters, then lately a tourist gondola). Good citizens of Christchurch, New Zealand - please leave this prime real estate alone! Let the native wood pigeons flap happily in the bush, and let the not-necessarily-native visitors get out of their cars, grab their daypacks, and enjoy!
New Zealand Wood Pigeon
There are 39 reserves on the Port Hills - the Christchurch City Council manages 31 of them. Other reserves are run by the Department of Conservation, the Banks Peninsula District Council, privately, or by trusts. No-one should get lost - there are good maps, and the tracks are well signed.
The Pacific Ocean
Start with a visit to Coopers Knob, Witch Hill, the Mount Pleasant Bluffs, or the Packhorse Hut. And don't forget to take warm clothes, a camera, and a scrumptions picnic!
Sad News - 2011
I'm sorry to say that many of the Port Hills tracks I've walked over are now closed, due to rock fall and other problems associated with the Christchurch earthquakes. Anyone inspired to walk on the hills must check further before setting out. The tracks may be closed for some time, and some may never reopen.