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.
The Christchurch Gondola Cable Cars
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).
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:
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. We chose the time for better photos due to sun position (this part was successful). If I were to go again, I would head up earlier in the day to allow myself more time at the top. Always remember, the last Gondola heads up at 5 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.
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.
Two Additional Things to do at the Top
- Souvenir shop at the top.
- There is also a Tramway Restaurant that was closed when we were there.
Practical Information: Christchurch Gondola
- The gondola opens daily at 10 am with the final cable car heading up at 5 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. We stayed in town at the centrally located, luxurious, and newly renovated Crowne Plaza. While it is was an ideal location for many city activities and street art spotting, it was a 15-minute drive to the Gondola.
- There is a self-pay shuttle from the city, or you can take the number 28 bus.
- Gondola tickets can be purchased individually or as part of a package.
- It is often windy at the top. It is a good idea to bring a light jacket.
Save Money With a Christchurch Sightseeing Pass
If you are going to be in Christchurch for more than a day, one of the best ways to see more is with a Christchurch City Pass. The flexible pass can be used on multiple days and includes:
- Entrance and transportation (gondola shuttle) to and from the Christchurch Gondola
- Punting on the Avon River (see my review here)
- An open-top caterpillar bus tour of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens
- An opportunity to hop-on or hop-off at any of the 17 optional stops aboard the Christchurch Tram.
Did you enjoy the views from the Christchurch gondola? Would you hike the crater rim trail?
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.
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