Rising above the city, a ride on the Christchurch Gondola offers picturesque aerial views of the Banks Peninsula, Lyttleton Harbour, the Southern Alps (on a clear day), and the Canterbury Plains.
Once at the top of Mount Cavendish there is more to do than we had realised when we began our ascent. Often called cable cars, the Christchurch Gondola ride itself is only a part of the adventure.
While the ever-changing views are dramatic in their own right, there is no question that the real magic happens at the top.
Here, we enjoyed both indoor and outdoor 360-degree panoramic views, learned a bit of the region’s history, hiked, shopped, and finally relaxed with what is close to the best coffee in Christchurch.
Note: Always check the official rules regarding New Zealand’s traffic light’ levels. Many options are at reduced capacity, therefore, booking ahead is more important than ever, as is reading cancellation policies.
Our experience on the Christchurch Gondola cable cars
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It takes about 10 minutes to travel the distance of nearly a kilometre from the base to the Summit Station on the crater rim of Lyttleton Volcano on Mount Cavendish in the Port Hills.
Through the 360° windows of the fully enclosed cable car, we enjoyed sweeping views of the landscape below.
Some of the side windows open, allowing for better photos. There are 19 cars that each seat four people (although we saw one car with additional smaller children).
We took a photo of the view while looking up at the cable car in front of ours, and more shots looking back towards the gondola base while on our way up to the top. We even noticed a broken road safety rail from a prior rock slide.
Views from Mount Cavendish
The Summit Station offers both indoor and outdoor viewing platforms on multiple levels of the building. In this case, a picture is worth a thousand words. Note that our favourite view from the top is at the head of this page.
Hiking on the Crater Rim
Just outside the door, we can truly enjoy nature. Our mistake was going up towards the end of the day, as we planned to take the cable car in both directions. Note that the last Gondola heads up at 4 pm.
Before heading out on a longer hike, check the Port Hills track information provided by the city council. The main hiking trails are nearly all part of the full Crater Rim Trail and include:
- Cavendish Bluff Lookout (30-minute return walk)
- Pioneer Women’s Memorial (50-minute return walk)
- Crater Rim Trail (3-4 hour return walk)
- Bridal Path (1 hour easy, but steep track from the Summit Station back to the base)
Here are a few images from our abridged Crater Rim trail walk. Most look out towards the Banks Peninsula.
More to do at the top of the Christchurch Gondola ride
Travel through the Time Tunnel
This seven-minute automated ride takes you on a journey to explore the region’s natural and human history. The amusement park-style cars, while very gentle, seem to be a big thrill for children. The ride through the Time Tunnel is included with your gondola ticket.
Relax at the Red Rock Cafe
Undoubtedly the best view in Christchurch, the Red Rock Cafe is a perfect spot to relax and enjoy a coffee, snack, or even a light meal.
- Souvenir shop at the top.
- There is also a Tramway Restaurant that was closed when we were there.
Things to know before you ride the Christchurch Gondola
- It is often windy at the top. It is a good idea to bring a light jacket.
- The gondola opens daily at 10 am (closed Christmas day) with the final cable car heading up at 4 pm, although it stays open later in parts of summer. Check their official website for details.
- The base (entrance) is at 10 Bridle Path Rd in the Heathcote Valley, an easy 15-minute drive from central Christchurch.
- There is a self-pay shuttle from the city, or you can take the number 28 bus.
Save money with a Christchurch Pass
Depending on your plans, the Christchurch Pass may be the perfect deal for you. It includes three Christchurch activities: Check prices and availability of the Christchurch Pass
- A punting along the Avon River (see our review)
- Christchurch Gondola ride
- And a day pass on Christchurch’s historic tram
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Will you hike up to the top, or take the Christchurch Gondola?
Disclaimer: We receive a small commission from a few of the links on this page. You pay the same, or sometimes less. Also, we worked with the local tourism board who arranged for our Christchurch Gondola experience to assist in the writing of this review. The opinions expressed here are strictly our own.