"New beginnings in the epicentre" Top 5 Page for this destination Lyttelton by Kakapo2

Lyttelton Travel Guide: 116 reviews and 320 photos

Hills, Harbour and History

The epicentre of the devastating 6.3 earthquake that destroyed the city of Christchurch on 22 February 2011 was near Lyttelton which is only 12 km from Christchurch's CBD. The heart of our little town did not look as horrible as Christchurch because the destruction was on a smaller scale but also our centre was reduced to rubble and piles of bricks. The 6.4 quake on 13 June 2011 gave the already damaged historic buildings the rest, the Timeball Station collapsed.

The final 6.0 quake on 23 December 2011 did not do a lot more damage as the three churches, the Timeball Station, the Harbour Lights Theatre, the historic hotels and other beautiful buildings have been demolished. The gaps have been filled with temporary structures or, like at the site of the former Ground deli with the Petanque Club, recreational spaces. The new Port Hole pub, the bakery and the Visitor Centre operate out of containers. The Farmers Market keeps on going, as do more and more shops and some restaurants. Meaning life has come back to Lyttelton. Well, sure, it has never stopped but it is on the way back to normal - although it will never be the same again with all the beautiful churches that were miniatures of the destroyed ChristChurch Cathedral, and buildings lost.

As Lyttelton is built on volcanic rock there is no liquefaction as in the city and particularly in the eastern suburbs. But after all the demolitions you now have sea views from London Street!

Lyttelton does not feel like a ghosttown anymore - as was the case in the first month after the earthquake. Still in some streets there is no life because many people have been evacuated, due to the risk of rockfall and landslides.

We have great views in Lyttelton, from Lyttelton and to Lyttelton. Those are already enough reasons why I love to walk in and around Lyttelton.

We have the Port Hills which separate us from Christchurch on one side, and the hills of Banks Peninsula on the other side. The crater rims of the ancient volcanoes which have formed Lyttelton Harbour are perfect lookout tracks where you can wander along the whole day and get different views at every bend. The tracks up the hills are for view seekers, sportoholics and weight-loss conscient people.

We have the harbour. The colours of the water are fascinating. They are turquoise blue on a sunny summer day, and frosty blue when Mt. Herbert and Mr. Bradley, the highest hills of Banks Peninsula sitting, are snow-capped or covered. Looking over the rooftops on such a day Lyttelton feels a little bit like shifted north to Iceland.

As the shores of Christchurch are swampy Lyttelton has become the port of Christchurch. It is a working port but not very noisy, and in summer cruise ships anchor here nearly every day, and the travellers flock to the cafés and to Christchurch city.

We have the history. The first settlers of Canterbury arrived in Lyttelton on the first four ships in 1850. They crossed the Port Hills on foot, walking on Bridle Path, and founded Christchurch on the other side, in the Canterbury Plains where they could plant their food. They built the coastal road to Sumner, crossing Evans Pass, and it took until 1964 for the Lyttelton Road Tunnel to be opened. A real lot of pioneering work.

There are quite some interesting buildings including the unique Timeball Station which tell the story of Lyttelton, and the two old cemeteries are testimony to the hard life of the first settlers. Stroll along the headstones, and you will know how the families suffered from hardship and disease, children dying in dozens at very young age, and where all those people came from.

We have become a lifestyle choice for Cantabrians and immigrants who are looking for a place with seaview, hills, traffic and leisure infrastructure. The buses take less than 30 minutes to the city centre, the ferry crosses the harbour to Diamond Harbour within 10 minutes.

You can explore the harbour and the geologically and historically highly interesting Quail Island in the harbour basin by tour boats, and you will spot hector dolphins, the world's rarest dolphins, and - but only if you a very, very, very lucky - once a year a whale.

Once home to poor people or at least of people with low income, Lyttelton has attracted all kinds of people in the past some years (including me LOL), with the consequence of quickly rising property prices. The dark bars of drunken sailors have mostly disappeared, and we have so many cafés and restaurants now that lately I have read that Lyttelton is already called the "Larnell" (Parnell) of the south. Nearly every time I walk down to the town centre there is a new place opening, actually (Feb. 2007) there are 15 places where you can get food. The Farmers Market on Saturdays also attracts a lot of people. (Nov. 2012: This market has been relocated to London Street, which is Lyttelton's main street, and more stalls have been added.)

Ok, we also have some idiots in Lyttelton who think they must use the streets to demonstrate how powerful their cars and how noisy their motorbikes are. We also have plenty of barking dogs and their owners not picking up the poo. There are still a lot of houses which only do not fall apart because the glue of the wallpapers hold them together, with people who live on social welfare and cannot afford anything but cigarettes, beer, cats and dogs... And there are gardens in which the weeds are higher than the flowers. You cannot transform a place completely within only a couple of years.

We even have swimming beaches. They are small but nice although I prefer the endless beaches of New Brighton. It is nice to walk along the harbour, to Cass Bay and Corsair Bay, and drive on the winding road around the harbour to "the other side" - to Diamond Harbour and Purau, the gateway to marvellous Banks Peninsula.

Our Painted Skies

Sometimes I think I would not mind to give up our house, and I do not need all the cafés and the starting price rise in the new restaurants, and sometimes I find it annoying that my favourite jogging ground, Hagley Park, is not just two minutes away like when we used to live in Merivale, and that you have to walk uphill all the time, and that you cannot cross the tunnel by bicycle. But it would be hard for me to give up those ever changing views. Not to see the harbour and the huge clouds rolling over the hills, and those magic sunsets over the water which paint our skies.

It is great to be here because we are far away from the city and still so close.

From our house there is always such a lot to see. Whereas my husband notices more which ships come into the harbour it can even happen to me that I ignore a big cruise ship because I am more interested in the sky above. The picture of the clouds can change so quickly, you see the upcoming weather brewing over the hills, or clouds racing over the harbour at high speed, the hog's backs rolling over the ridges. And sometimes, of course, we have wonderful rainbows stetching over the harbour.

A sunset without clouds is nothing, or let's say: nothing special. The clouds make the difference, they make the painting in the sky interesting and give it all shades of the colours. Sometimes they are burning orange, at other times red, and sometimes unreal purple. Sometimes they are fluffy light, and sometimes very heavy, then it looks really dramatic when the red light of the sun is reflected. In the next moment I race to the deck or the balcony to take a photo - because when you are not fast or would not find the camera immediately the magic could be gone. Most times it is a matter of seconds, not minutes.

Panorama windows in the houses could easily replace the TV, as something is always happening in the sky (and, ok, the port as well). I wonder if the people who have lived here forever still notice this magic, or if it is so normal that they do not get excited anymore by the view of it.

To me, it makes all the difference.

Banks Peninsula on Christchurch + Lyttelton Pages

As Banks Peninsula still is not registered as a separate travel destination on Virtual Tourist (and I would have loved to create a page for it) I had mixed the destinations up on my Christchurch and Lyttelton pages. I am sure nobody would have searched it on the Canterbury page - as first you must know that the region is Canterbury, and I know that this is the most difficult thing for visitors.

So finally I have decided to create an Akaroa page which is the main destination of Banks Peninsula, and for many tourists the only place on Banks Peninsula they visit. On this Akaroa page you will, of course, find Akaroa plus many nice spots on Banks Peninsula - except the places located right around Lyttelton Harbour, which are:
Diamond Harbour/Church Bay
Mt. Herbert
Mt. Bradley
Packhorse Hut

On the Lyttelton page you also find the bays and places from the Lyttelton side of the harbour which are:
Magazine Bay
Corsair Bay
Cass Bay
Governors Bay

Some time ago I have asked VT to create the destination Banks Peninsula but the thinking process obviously is not over yet... ;-)

In the meantime I use my above explained system.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Magic landscapes and views, some nice cafés
  • Cons:The noisy motorists who think they are cool
  • In a nutshell:A great place very close and far away from Christchurch
  • Intro Updated Nov 28, 2012
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Reviews (65)

Comments (13)

  • kiwi's Profile Photo
    Jan 26, 2012 at 1:18 AM

    Fantastic to see Grubb cottage fully restored. But I can't help but think there was something appealing about the old corrugated iron roof :-)

  • Kristina1701's Profile Photo
    Feb 16, 2010 at 3:23 PM

    wunderschöne bilder!

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Nov 28, 2009 at 11:22 AM

    The harbor area sounds so scenic-and the skyline picture you took is fabulous. It contrast my last trip to Utah & Arizona desert area, which has big colorful mountains, and little foliage. I enjoyed remote areas near Kanab and Natural Bridges.

  • ranger49's Profile Photo
    Jun 18, 2009 at 6:50 AM

    I an enjoying your informative history and stories about your attractive home town. as well as the lovely photos. Too much to take in all at once, will be back for a second bite!

  • lynnehamman's Profile Photo
    May 10, 2009 at 8:12 PM

    Now I have had a virtual visit to areas near your home- we will have a real visit & feed the Seagulls at Governers Bay soon. Well deserved top page here.I will return to a virtual visit soon.

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Oct 13, 2008 at 2:15 PM

    I've enjoyed reading your interesting and enthusiastic Things to Do tips on your adopted hometown. (I'll return some other time for the rest.) It looks like you have found a great place to live, and it even has a harbor and history.

  • nickandchris's Profile Photo
    Apr 11, 2008 at 1:40 AM

    Terrific info here. Will return to read more in time!

  • setikeyvan's Profile Photo
    Apr 2, 2008 at 4:12 PM

    Wow! You do have incredible sunsets in Lyttelton. Just amazing.

  • allikat's Profile Photo
    Mar 19, 2008 at 12:24 AM

    The new North & South arrived yesterday - looks like an excellent article about Lyttelton this edition!

  • tissie's Profile Photo
    Feb 5, 2008 at 1:08 PM

    Thanks Sissi, I'd been wondering whether the Wunderbar still existed, we went in 1999 with friends from Corsair Bay and I "discovered" lemon, lime & bitters!! Good memories.

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