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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 15, Issue 1 (April 1, 1940)

The … — Christchurch Scenic Drive

page 55

Christchurch Scenic Drive

That portion of the Summit Road, on the Port Hills between Lyttelton and Christchurch, offers one of the most attractive scenic drives in New Zealand. Most visitors agree that, until one has taken advantage of a walk along the Summit Road, one cannot fully appreciate all the beauty that Christchurch and the Canterbury Plains have to offer.

The road commences just above Sumner, on the sea coast, seven miles from Christchurch. Passing through Sumner, Evan's Pass is ascended, the top of which merges into the Summit Road proper. From then onward the road runs in an undulating line, with easy grades, for approximately eighteen miles, along the top of the Port Hills which follow the contour of the upper reaches of Lyttelton Harbour.

After leaving Evan's Pass a fine panoramic view of Sumner is obtained. Then, after gaining more altitude, Mount Pleasant is reached. The view at this point is superb; away to the right stretches a vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean; almost directly below lies Redcliffs, built around the south shores of the estuary. The estuary itself is separated from the sea, except for a small outlet, by a narrow spit upon which part of the seaside Borough of New Brighton is built. At full tide, on a calm day, the estuary resembles a placid lake and it is here that a large number of Christchurch yachting enthusiasts indulge in their summer recreation. In the background, looking towards the north-east, the gaunt snow-capped peaks of the Kaikouras stand out vividly on the skyline.

Farther along the road one observes the Heathcote, Horotane and Avoca valleys, which, with their rows upon rows of fruit trees and tomato plants, present a pretty picture. From above the Heathcote Valley a splendid view is to be had of Lyttelton and the numerous picturesque little bays in the harbour. Incidentally, this spot is interesting from an historical point of view; it was here that the pilgrims from the first four ships stood and gazed down on the fertile Canterbury Plains where they were to make their future homes. A steep track, which they hewed out of the hillsides from Lyttelton to Heathcote and known as the Bridle Path, still remains in good repair—a reminder to later generations of the courage and pioneering spirit of their forefathers.

The road now veers to the harbour side of the hills and from here one has a fine view of the upper reaches of the harbour and of Quail Island. Farther on a splendid panorama of Christchurch is revealed. The outskirts of the city are clearly discernible and numerous large tracts of green here and there denote the presence of parks and playing fields, with which Christchurch is plentifully endowed. The dominating feature of the skyline, in the city area, is the tall spire of the Anglican Cathedral rearing its head majestically above all the surrounding buildings. From this vantage point on the hills the city presents a magnificent sight after nightfall. A maze of multicoloured Neon signs, amidst a sea of twinkling lights, distinguishes the business area from the suburbs. On the outskirts of the city the lights dwindle and then gradually merge into the inky blackness beyond.

The next point of interest on the road is the “Sign of the Kiwi,” at the intersection of the Dyer's Pass road from Cashmere to Governor's Bay. Here, a halt may be made for refreshments before resuming the journey to Kennedy's Bush and the “Sign of the Bell-bird”—another rest-house where refreshments may be obtained. From this elevation, Lyttelton Harbour with its bays and inlets presents a magnificent picture. A mile or two farther on, to the south-east, one looks down upon the sparkling waters of Lake Ellesmere. From this vantage point, also, looking from north to south, the fertile Canterbury Plains are seen at their best. Some fifty miles to the west the plains, presenting an endless variety of colour forms, merge into rolling foothills backed by the wonderful snowcapped peaks of the Southern Alps. This view in itself is more than compensation for the whole journey.

The Summit Road now dips down sharply to its termination at Gebbie's Pass, the return journey to Christchurch being made across the plains via Tai Tapu and Halswell. This scenic drive provides a feast of Nature's loveliness as inspiring as it is sustaining.

The Fox Glacier, Westland, South Island.

The Fox Glacier, Westland, South Island.

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