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Fun Ashburton Attractions for a Great Short Break

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Ashburton is not just a gateway to Christchurch or Tekapo. It’s a stunning mid-Canterbury destination in its own right, boasting great restaurants, fly fishing, the beautiful Ashburton lakes and the spectacular Rakaia Gorge for thrill seekers. Check out this short break guide for the best things to do in Ashburton and the mid-Canterbury area.  

There are many mountan biking options, for every level of expertise and confidence in Mid Canterbury, You can stay and play for days on our Trails . Mt Hutt Bike Park from downhill to cross country trails. Cycle through some of the most spectacular high country of Hakatere Conservation Park or a short sweet ride along  the banks of the Ashburton River 

Take a drive on the Inland Scenic Route out to the Staveley Store and Café nestled in the shadow of Mount Somers and close to some superb walks. Rumoured to serve the best coffee in the region, the sausage rolls, home-baked goods, and bacon buttys make this one of the more popular places to eat Ashburton-style fare.  Established in 1876 as a general store servicing the surrounding timber mills and farms, the shop showcases goods from nearby Mt Somers Station - seasonal farm produce, lamb, venison, veal, honey and olive oil.  

But it’s the coffee that’s the real McCoy. Sit on the veranda, admire Mt Somers, and watch local life pass by over the rim of a coffee cup.  

If you love to walk, pop up to Sharplin falls car park and enjoy the fresh air walking through mountain beech forest alongside Bowyers stream. If you like a bit of huffing and puffing a climb up to Hookey’s Knob will treat you with spectacular views. My favourite is the rhyolite Ridge Track on the mt somers walkway. The route takes in dynamic scenery within a landscape of waterfalls , beach forest, deep icy pools and rocky tors. 

Head for the nearby Lake Clearwater Circuit Track. The 10km hike will take around 3-hours and is considered one of the best walks in Ashburton and beyond. .


Discover classic planes at the Ashburton Aviation Museum 

Located just a 5-minute drive from the Motel, this is one of the great hidden things to do in Ashburton and a magnet for young and old aviation enthusiasts, as it’s free for kids. Did you know that Ashburton was a major air force training base in World War Two accommodating 50 Tiger Moths and military personnel?  Not many people do! The museum is now home to beautifully restored planes in its shiny new hanger and has recently acquired a retired RNZAF Skyhawk.  On calm weekends, spot the Skydiving Kiwis as they gracefully land on the grass outside the museum  , Im sure they don’t operate from here anymore . You can easily spend an interesting afternoon here especially on a rainy day. 


Have a blast on the Rakaia Gorge 

There is no better way to explore the Rakaia Gorge, with Discovery Jet, one of the more adventurous things to do in Ashburton and the surrounding area.  Drive 40 minutes inland towards Mount Hutt then take a thrilling jet boat ride through the Gorge and enjoy the 10 km walking track that follows the rim of the Gorge through spectaclar geological areas. At the Car park overlooking the Gorge and its crystal clear blue water is a Sculpture that highlights the story about the Taniwha. It’s such a cool story about the Nor’west wind and the Taniwha. 

While learning about its history and unique features, from your knowledgeable local guide.   


Chill out in the Ashburton Domain   

Well known for its large adventure playground, this is one of the free things to do in Ashburton enjoyed by local families. Take a run on the fitness track, feed the ducks on the lake, enjoy the gardens or picnic in the park. An aviary is home to colourful birds, Not there anymore ,and a junior bike track provides training-wheels fun for beginner riders.  

After a day in the outdoors, you’ve probably drummed up a hearty appetite.  For the best Asian food in Ashburton, book dinner at The Formosa, a tasty twist on Taiwanese cuisine and close to the motel.  One of my favourite restaurant in Ashburton, its sweet and sour chicken, orange pork, and Kumara fries tossed in plum powder are enduring local favourites.  Small plates include Teriyaki sushi, Spicy chicken bao or pulled pork buns. 

With so many things to do in Ashburton, ask our team at the Bella Vista Motel for local recommendations especially the best places to eat in Ashburton. We are absolutely spoilt for choice when it comes to dining