A Mt Somers ascent
At 1688 metres (5538 feet), Mt Somers towers above SH72 and the Canterbury Plains. There’s a 2-3 day walk around the mountain or you can hike / climb to the summit and back in a day. Its not a technical climb just a steep clamber.
Starting from the Sharplin Falls car park you’ll march steadily uphill through a slightly eerie black trunked beech forest which eventually opens up to tussock and sub-alpine scrub with good views over the Plains. After about an hour and a half the Summit track branches off and the real climb soon begins. Following the orange marker poles, another hour and a half or so should see you to the summit. Be prepared for really strong winds as you have the Hakatere valley and Southern Alps on the other side of the mountain to your West.
Great 360° views and an interesting timber obelisk at the top. Though the return is all downhill it’ll still take a wearying couple of hours back to the car park.
As a guide, I was only moderately fit and the round trip was 5 ½ hours.
Pick the right weather conditions for your ability and be prepared for sudden weather changes. (Strictly settled summertime weather for me).
Washpen Falls Walk
By all reports this is a really nice walk amongst spring fed waterfalls through small canyons with a good viewing point overlooking the Canterbury Plains. On private land and there is a small entry fee.
Take Washpen Road on the right travelling south from Christchurch on SH72 just before Windwhistle. (About an hour from Christchurch or 15/20 minutes from Methven.)
Trout and Salmon Fishing
Trout and salmon fishing is outstanding on the Rakaia River. Its tributaries and nearby lakes also offer good trout fishing.
Local guides are available or there are plenty of access points for you to find your own special spots. The river offers a multitude of options from the upper reaches, middle reaches, lower reaches down to the river mouth.
An increasingly popular way to access the upper reaches which are set in spectacular scenery is via jetboat.
Best times for salmon: November to March (upper reaches: January to March particularly; lower reaches December & January particularly)
High Country Horse Trekking, 4WDriving and Hiking
Up at Lake Coleridge there are some awesome high country experiences on offer. Some of the stations (farms) up there can arrange horse treks or 4WD trips that provide both a challenge and views of New Zealand that few are privileged to encounter.
A walk that affords great views out over Lake Coleridge is the Peak Hill route.
Not to be embarked on lightly, the walk takes about 3 hours return and can be undertaken by a well-prepared family group. The track is not that well formed and you'll need to follow the marker poles. As the weather can quickly up here you need to choose the right weather and be appropriately equipped for cold wet conditions and possible white-outs when the poles become hard to locate because of low cloud.
Peeling off SH72 at Arundel beside the Rangitata River you’ll find yourself in the Peel Forest. A pleasant diversion with a range of short and long walks.
One short bush walk visits a stand of giant totara trees (Big Tree Walk – ½ hour return) and another a waterfall (Acland Falls – 1 hour return). For more of a challenge there are various routes up and around Mt Peel itself. Little Mt Peel 1,311 metres, (4,300 feet) – is 1 ½ - 2 hours away; then there’s Middle Mt Peel 1,583 m (5,194 ft); and Big Mt Peel 1,743 m (5,720 ft) (and 9 hours return) each progressively further and more difficult.
There’s a shop in the forest to visit for directions or for a local map or for one of their excellent pies.
Continuing on up the road leads past a historic old church and Rangitata Rafting’s base and eventually to Mesopotamia station deep in the back country on the opposite bank of the Rangitata River from the Hakatere catchment area and Lord of the Rings’ Edoras.
Jetboating, White-Water Rafting & Kayaking
Jet boat rides are popular on the braided Rakaia River. Anglers can take this option to access the upper reaches above SH72.
With a Grade 2 rating, the Rakaia River also gives kayakers a swift flowing challenge. The Coleridge to Rakaia Gorge High Bridge leg is a popular one. Just watch out for jet boats!
For a grade 5 white-water rafting experience in spectacular surroundings, the Rangitata River takes some beating. You'll probably set off from up past Peel Forest, starting at Grade 1 and getting faster and faster navigating Rakaia Gorge and The Pinch. (You will have the opportunity to walk the Grade 5 section if you prefer.)
There are also more sedate Grade 2 rapids that can be rafted or kayaked in the lower Rangitata.
Methven Golf Club
The Methven Golf Club prides itself as having one of the best country courses you’ll find. Reasonably flat and well maintained, the 18 hole layout offers some nice views of Mt Hutt. With green fees around the $20-25 mark great value. Even better value on Thursday summer nights when $2 gets you 13 holes and something to eat off the barbeque afterwards - and you might win a prize as well, if you’re not too guilty to accept it. Now that’s South Island hospitality!
Terrace Downs (see above for more information)
International standard with superb views of Rakaia Gorge and Mt Hutt. Expect to pay between $75 and $120.
Hororata Golf Club
An 18 hole course near Glentunnel about half an hour north on SH72. Not a straight forward course with creeks, elevation changes and small greens. Value at just $15.
Rakaia Golf Club
Fairway-watered 9 hole course about 25 minutes away near the Rakaia River. Just $12.
Ashburton and Tinwald Golf Clubs
Two good quality flat courses with green fees in the $15 to $25 range.
Mayfield Golf Club
Delightful 9 hole oasis about half an hour south on SH72. A steal at $10-15.
At Geraldine (an hour south on SH72):
Geraldine Golf Club ($20-25)at Denfield is an established flat course with views to the mountains & Grand Vue Golf Club ($15) is a newer and hillier 9 hole challenge overlooking the town.
Mountain Biking - Mt Hutt Bike Park, Methven Walkway
The Methven Walkway is a flat 11 km walk or ride around Methven and its nearby irrigation canals.
Mt Hutt Bike Park offers some New Zealand's top trails around the Mt Hutt skifield access road. Shuttle services are available.
There are also specialist operators that will find a trail or organise a tour to satisfy your needs - be they scenic or technical. Heli-biking options, bike and gear hire are available in Methven.
Hot-Air Ballooning or Skydiving
An early morning hot air balloon ride is a great way to appreciate the exquisite tapestry of the flat Canterbury Plains as they collide with the always magnificent Southern Alps. These trips leave from near Methven, offer a great experience not just a flight and represent something of an icon amongst New Zealand tourist activities.
A skydiving school operates out of nearby Pudding Hill. You can take a full course or just take a jump.