Heading south and then west from Christchurch across the Canterbury plains we swiftly close with the Canterbury foothills and the spectacular Ashburton Lakes area which is our first target for today, as well as our morning tea stop. First up is the spectacularly sited Lake Heron which in the right conditions reflects sublime mountain scenes in its calm waters, surrounded by yellowed grasses and tussock that complement the mountainous reflections.
Backtracking from Lake Heron we make a brief stop at the original buildings of the Hakatere Station (now effectively a museum site) and learn a bit of the history of the Ashburton Lakes area, and the Hakatere station itself. From there we make our way to the smaller lakes Clearwater and Camp, separated by only a very narrow strip of land that is home to the Lake Clearwater settlement and campsite.
Backtracking further, to Mount Somers we now turn north round the flanks of Mt Hutt, towards the Rakaia Gorge with its two historic bridges and where the Rakaia River is forced through a narrow chasm in the rocks. After being forced through the narrow break, the river immediately widens out creating a braided river bed that is well worth photographing in its own right. This spot doubles as our picnic lunch stop.
After lunch we cross the two bridges and take a hard left up the zig-zag rd at the foot of Bryans Hill to join the Coleridge Rd a short while later near the famous Terrace Downs Golf Course. Following the Coleridge rd we head through the Lake Coleridge settlement and past the hydro-power station before climbing up the hill to feast our eyes on Lake Coleridge.
From here, we have two options to get to our next stop; one of them is weather and season dependent but well worth the drive. The other is all weather, but considerably longer, with its own charms. Personally I prefer the first option, but we don’t always have a choice! Regardless, our next stop is Lake Lyndon near Porters Pass. Another scenic spot with a mountain backdrop, before climbing up and over Porters Pass towards Sheffield where we turn off onto the Inland Scenic Route to visit the Waimakariri River gorge, which, like the Rakaia, forces the Waimakariri River through a short narrow gorge spanned by another historic bridge.
From the Waimakariri Gorge we work our way back towards Christchurch via South Eyre Rd and if time permits we make one final stop on the banks of the Waimakariri River near the town of Kaiapoi before returning to the city
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