Amberley and the Hurunui

An attractive part of North Canterbury, an hour north of Christchurch, the Hurunui was a good spot to spend a long weekend based in Amberley.

Near the mouth of the Hurunui River is a collection of baches and access to the river bed. The head of the river is at Harper Pass, where the West Coast and Canterbury regions meet.

A great way to explore the area is to walk the 4.8km long Hurunui Manuka Bay Coastal Walkway. From the starting point near the Hurunui the river can be seen running behind the bar for several kilometers before finally joining the sea, though the entrance moves over time.

The track offers more good views along it’s length, with an active trapping programme allowing native bellbirds to thrive (first time I’ve seen them on the mainland) but at the expense of feral cats.

The track leads to the relatively remote, and beautifully quiet, Manuka Bay.

From here it is possible at low tide to continue walking north along the coast to Gore Bay, but we returned to our car at the mouth of the Hurunui River and drove there instead. Just before arriving at the bay there are the unusual rock formations of Cathedral Gully.

Gore Bay is a popular holiday home spot, though the beach is pretty wild.

Beyond the northern end of the bay is Cheviot Hills Domain, home to trees dating from the 1860s, and the remains of William “Ready Money” Robinson’s huge 40 room mansion, which burnt down in 1936.

The skies in Canterbury feel vast, a totally different experience to Auckland or Wellington. On our first night in Amberley we were treated to a spectacular sunset.

We stayed in a funky AirBnB, a conversion of Amberley’s old Post Office, filled with character and interesting details.

Amberley is a small town of ~2,300 people, through which State Highway 1 runs. One of the oldest remaining buildings is Cobb Cottage, which dates from the early 19th century. It has been moved from it’s original location, and was two stories high until damaged by wind in 1975.

Near the golf coast and coast there is a small area of wetlands being restored.

Of more interest was the quite stunning Amberley Beach, particularly when Hector dolphins were spotted playing in the waves. They’re one of the world’s smallest marine dolphins, only 1.5m long, with distinctive round black dorsal fins. They are endangered, with only around 15,000 left.

To finish with a few photos from the passenger seat driving around North Canterbury, a rather scenic part of the country.

Author: jontycrane

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