I had become aware of the Christchurch 360 Trail a year or so ago when a friend mentioned it, but I’d never really had the opportunity to undertake the eight sections. Over the Christmas / New Years break of 2021-22 I attempted to complete the eight separate segments of the trail. You’ll see these updated below. But first of all, what is this trail?
The Christchurch 360 Trail is approximately 135 km long and encircles the city of Christchurch, New Zealand. It showcases the diversity of the city, featuring not just the flora and fauna but also historical, architectural and cultural aspects of Christchurch. The trail, links up existing tracks and urban routes, highlighting the diverse ecology, from marshes and wetlands to dry savannah ecosystems, from verdant bush remnants to the exposed open hilltops of the Crater Rim.About | Christchurch 360 Trail
Whilst you can complete the segments in any order, I was keen to attempt them in the correct sequence, not least because the initial segment of the Godley Cliffs contained some of my favourite walking sections of the city with stunning ocean, harbour and city views.
Quick Links To The Eight Segments:
As this blog will get quite long, here are the quick links to the respect sections
Godley Cliffs – Segment #1 (December 30th 2021)
I got started at 7:30am as the website info indicated this could be a 10hr walk which I was pretty skeptical about but decided an early start would be good and ensure I missed the forecasted afternoon rain. As it turned out, it was the perfect time to start the hike and after my wife dropped me off at the starting point below the Christchurch Gondola Terminal I put on my bone conduction headphones anticipating I’d listen to some podcasts on the hike. As it turned out, the walk and views were so incredible I never listened to anything – just soaked up the silence and the views as I hiked the 17km by myself.
Before setting out, I’d downloaded the GPX file from the website and then used Garmin Connect to import it and make the course, this allowed me to follow the route easily from my Garmin Fenix 6 Pro and given the large number of walking and mountain bike tracks on the hills, this ensured I did not get lost. Learning how to do this was also going to be important on the subsequent segments which would be less straight forward and familiar to me. With the route loaded and backpack on, there was nothing to do but get started! There was some early morning cloud but not a breath of wind as I looked back over the city:
One of the things I love most about this area of Christchurch is the views into both Lyttleton Harbour and the main Pegasus Bay on the East Coast of the South Island. Within a few minutes I could see Quail Island down in Lyttleton Harbour.
The most remarkable thing about this hike is that you feel like you’re on the floor of heaven – you’re walking above the city, above the harbour, above the ocean but so close to the blue sky you feel you’re almost in it. With no one else around it was incredibly peaceful. In this photo I paused and looked back over my shoulder towards Governor’s Bay with Quail Island in the mid ground and Lyttleton Harbour in the Foreground:
The hike could really be divided into three sections – the first is the walk along Mt Pleasant towards Evans Pass Road. The second section would be out to Godley Head, tracking behind the hill on the harbour side, and then the third and final section would be dropping down to Godley Heads, into Taylors Mistake and up and over to Sumner Beach to finish the hike. The walk out towards the Godley Heads carpark is one of the best sections:
Upon arriving at the carpark I stopped for a sandwich, pleased with my progress and enjoying a rest and chance to drink deeply as the sun was really starting to come out with considerable heat. Again, there was virtually no one else on the trail making it peaceful and like I had my own playground to enjoy.
Due to the discovery of asbestos in the old military buildings on Godley Head, I could not take the usual route around the heads but instead took a more direct path down towards the main gun emplacements. On the way down, I came across Scott’s Hut (see the video) and a very interesting history board filled in the blanks for me:
The track around the coast towards Boulder Bay and onto Taylors Mistake definitely saw a big increase in crowds as plenty of families were out enjoying the beautiful day. This is a truly remarkable place of beauty with the sea a deep blue and the bone dry grass a light brown, almost straw colour:
The exit up and out of Taylors Mistake towards Sumner via the Flowers Track was beautiful and contained a short spike of climbing to get the heart racing one last time, before dropping down into a busy Scarborough Beach in time for a icecream!
All up, the hike took me just over four hours to cover the 17km and here is the Strava details if you’re interested:
I knew this was likely to be one of the longer and harder sections of the 360 Trail but also one of the most rewarding and it did not fail to deliver. I had a wonderful time and would highly recommend this walk if you’ve got a spare 5hrs or so and pick a day without any wind. Given it’s quite high in places it can be exposed if you’ve got the wrong weather so dress accordingly and take enough food and water for your journey.
With this one completed, I was keen to knock off the remaining segments!
Estuary Marshes – Segment #2 (January 3rd 2022)
This segment resumed on Scarborough Esplanade right where the first segment finished and having a quick scan of the GPX file I decided this would be easy to actually bike instead of walk – a quicker way to complete the segment on a hot day! I had to bike out to the starting point (where I’d finished the Segment #1) so chose my eBike to make it easy which was a good idea as there was a strong, hot wind blowing!
With the hot weather and New Year’s Day holiday being observed on Monday 3rd January, the beaches were packed.
In many ways, the start was simply retracing my ride out to the beach, but cruising down the esplanade knowing I was going to be following a route I’d never been on before adds a sense of adventure and this made the trip back towards the estuary and marshlands feel fresh and new.
Soon I was seeing a few new vantage points, taking a photo of the outgoing tide at the estuary:
After reaching Ferrymead the trail started to take me to new locations – places I’d been near many, many times, but never on this particular route. This, for me, is the joy of following someone else’s route occasionally: you’re taken to new places even in very familiar areas you live and play in regularly.
The history signboard was excellent, teaching me new things about the area, and the views over the marshes and back towards the Port Hills showed me where I’d hiked only a few days earlier. I was glad that I’d loaded the route onto my Garmin Fenix 6 Pro watch as it required navigating to a few places I was less familiar with, including down a few new streets for me linking between the various parks and wetlands that the trail followed. At one point, I did encounter a style and accompanying electric fence – something easy to navigate on foot, virtually impassable with a 35kg eBike!
I decided that discretion was the greater part of valor and opted to not attempt to lift my bike over the electric fence and was able to find an alternative shortcut to rejoin the trail after a few hundred meters.
Unlike the first segment of this trail which was 100% outstanding the entire way, this segment definitely felt like there were “linking” roads and parks that were not amazing and yet were necessary to keep hike continuous. I was glad I was on my bike and able to speed along these sections quickly. As the route headed back towards the coast I passed through the “red zone” – an area devastated by the 2010-11 Christchurch earthquakes that generated this unforgettable image (likely taken from up on the Port Hills somewhere near where I’d walked the first segment:
I took a photo in the red zone where no houses live and the Avon River meanders quietly past:
Before I knew it, I was at the end of Segment #2 “Estuary Marshes” and the start of Segment #3 “Dunes Wetlands” which I’d have to tackle another day:
I was pleased to knock off this segment of 19.4km in just over an hour taking it very easy on my bike. You can see the Strava details here:
Unless you’re an avid walker or really don’t like biking, I’d probably not recommend walking this section given there are definitely stretches where the trail is less interesting (i.e. it’s a suburban street) but as a link to the next section, I’m pleased to have completed it and looking forward to the next segment!
Dunes Wetlands – Segment #3 (January 14th 2022)
It was an almost spontaneous decision to attempt this segment on Friday January 14th 2022 – I’d taken the day off from work, and it dawned pretty good and after a slow start I made the decision to give it a go after dropping my eBike off to get some repairs. I did leave in sufficient hurry that I forgot my GoPro camera so no video footage of this, but here is the route:
I had recently picked up a new Osprey Katari 7 backpack from GroundEffect in anticipation of my new eMTB arriving (more on that later) and I was keen to give this a go so threw it on, grabbed a couple of snacks and with the internal 2.5L bladder full of water and some ice biked off to the bike shop to drop off the eBike and then catch a ride to the starting point of segment #3 entitled “Dunes and Wetlands”
The thing I’m liking about this trail is that it’s completely linked – so this is where I finished Segment #2 on my eBike, in fact I took a photo of it leaning up against the sign, so I could simply resume from my last point and start walking. It was quiet going alongside the Avon River as it meandered through the red zone and the sun was shining with the odd cloud scuddering across the sky, reflected in the river:
This section of the trail could easily be completed on bike, in fact I saw a number of cyclists heading along the path on the opposite side of the river. There was quite diverse birdlife around here and I’m certainly not an expert photographer but was able to capture some of this:
One of the things I’m most enjoying about this trail is that it takes me to places I would not otherwise walk, and prompts thoughts I might not otherwise have. As I continued on I came across a very run down and overgrown reserve that would once, no doubt, have been well maintained and enjoyed by the local community. Post-earthquake, the houses are gone and nature is slowly reclaiming the area with the minimum required work being done to stop it becoming a fire hazard. It was here that I stumbled across this memorial rock to Jack Hinton, a Victoria Cross recipient:
If you’ve read a few of my blog posts, you’ll know that aside from writing about educational technology, I have written a few pieces reflecting on the ANZAC spirt of New Zealanders and to literally stumble across this monument to his bravery was really something special, especially to learn that in his retirement he used to walk the banks of the river here where I was walking today. I encourage you to read about Jack here on the NZ History site where his actions that led to his Victoria Cross are described. Evidently tired of retreating in the face of overwhelming German forces in Greece, he yelled “To hell with this! Who’s with me?” before embarking on an almost solo counter attack:
he ran to within several yards of the nearest gun; … he hurled two grenades, which completely wiped out the crew. He then came on with the bayonet followed by a crowd of New Zealanders. German troops abandoned the first 6″ gun and retreated into two houses. Serjeant Hinton smashed the window and then the door of the first house and dealt with the garrison with the bayonet. He repeated the performance in the second house and as a result, until overwhelming German forces arrived, the New Zealanders held the guns. Serjeant Hinton then fell with a bullet wound through the lower abdomen and was taken prisoner.Jack Hinton awarded the Victoria Cross | NZHistory, New Zealand history online
You can read more about Jack Hinton on his Wikipedia page here and his entry in the excellent crowd sourced resource project Auckland War Museum Online Cenotaph here.
Carrying on, I soon came upon another memorial stone, again surrounded by nothing other than rough park where houses once stood, this time a tribute to one of the earliest families settled in the region and responsible for the naming of the beach as New Brighton, after Brighton Beach back ‘home’ in England:
It was not long after this that the surrounding areas became marshier and the wetlands started to emerge. The diversity of ecologies on this walk was awesome and I particularly liked these big bulrushes standing proudly in a creek:
There are not a lot of places in Christchurch where you’d see this, so again, I was grateful for this trail to bring me here. Another gratifying element of this trip, and testament to the relatively small size of Christchurch and the flat terrain, was the ability to look across almost the entire city and see where I’d started. It may be difficult to see in this next photo without zooming in, but you can clearly see the Port Hills in the distance, including the Gondola Terminal at the top of the Summit Road where I’d first started walking on Segment #1 of this trail. It was cool seeing how far I’d powered myself around the city, even though I was only on Segment #3!
I was soon entering the Travis Wetlands, a local nature heritage park and a place I’d walked a few times before (note: you’re not allowed bikes in here, so you’d not be able to bike through this part). There were a handful of joggers and walkers running the trails but aside from that I was virtually alone apart from the birdlife (and some sheep grazing right in the centre!) I saw some black swans sitting idle in a very murky and stagnant pool of water:
When I stopped for a short break and bite to eat I was welcomed by curious (and no doubt hungry) ducks, and a cheeky brightly coloured pukeko, none of whom seemed remotely afraid of me:
Exiting the wetlands I took a delightful stroll through a reasonably new subdivision of housing that acted as the linkage from the wetlands to the dunes with a jaunt through Bottle Lake Forest acting as the conduit. I was keen to walk through here as I anticipate I’ll be riding my new eMTB around these trails on a regular basis and I’d recently walked through some of these trails with my family over the Christmas/New Year break. Here are a few views of the approach and one of the trails:
It was incredibly peaceful inside the forest – the sun had been shining so far and it was quite warm but being in the stillness of the trees and with their relative density, it was cool and windless. I chose not to listen to any music or podcasts but enjoy the serenity. Looking directly up presented a beautiful perspective too:
As much as I enjoy Bottle Lake Forest, I certainly do think the signage could be improved to help with navigation and avoid getting lost for newcomers. Fortunately, the pre-loaded GPS route on my Garmin Fenix 6 Pro meant it was pretty easy to follow where I needed to go and almost too soon I was through the trees and transitioning to the final stages in the dunes. This ended up being a nice walk parallel to the beach mostly on an easy track:
As you can see, there was now not a cloud in the sky and with only a gentle breeze it was certainly getting quite warm. Perhaps here it’s worth mentioning how the new Osprey Katari 7 backpack and 2.5L water bladder performed:
I do have a CamelBak 3L bladder which I’ve used on plenty of hikes and bikes but I wanted something more lightweight and dedicated and this delivered. Pleasingly, there was no rubber taste from the bladder/tubing from the outset. The sealing mechanism is very different to the Camelbak, arguably simpler, and I did not have any leaks on this hike at all over the 17km.
I think the water flow is slightly less than the Camelbak which might be interesting if I was more breathless from a hard cycle with elevated heart rate, versus the gentle walk I was having today. I did like the secure internal pockets for wallet/phone/keys and the outer pockets for keeping sunscreen easily accessible and if I’d remembered my GoPro it would have been easy to secure this there too. Additionally, there was ample room for a wind or light rain jacket on the internal pocket if I’d decided to take one. Even with 2.5L of water it did not feel burdensome on my back with good weighting and the straps kept the load well secured.
One thing I did noticed was that the water tubing was initially threaded down the left arm strap but based on where the magnetic tubing attachment was located this didn’t work quite so well. At the end of the hike I actually rethreaded it down the right arm strap and this allowed the tubing to cross horizontally on my chest and magnetically snap into place – this will stop the odd leak I got on the centre of my chest where the hosing inevitably rested when it was originally strapped down the left arm. I’m looking forward to giving this a proper workout on some bike rides soon!
I could hear the roar of the sea over the sand dunes so took a quick detour to peek out on the Pacific Ocean rolling into Pegasus Bay and it was stunning:
Again, looking south was towards Godley Heads, Taylor’s Mistake and Sumner Beach – all places I’d walked on this trail already adding to the sense of satisfaction. At this point, it was evident that I’d be finishing soon and so I savoured the solo walk through the glades, with the wind rustling the leaves in the trees above and the waves pounding in on the back of a full tide:
Just like in Bottle Lake Forest, I tried to take a vertical photo capturing the light through the trees. This photo does not do it justice, but it appeared an almost luminous, neon green and it reminded me of a poem I’d learnt in high school which, at the time, I’d detested, but the phrase “dappled things” seemed to conjure up the experience through the trees for me:
The poem was Pied Beauty by Gerard Manly Hopkins and, whilst I’d detested learning it at school, I can appreciate what it is conveying more now:
Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.Pied Beauty by Gerard Manley Hopkins | Poetry Foundation
Shortly after, I was bursting into the familiar surroundings of Spencer Park where I’ve enjoyed many a BBQ and play with family and friends and if you’re going to do this hike, a great place to meet up with your rendezvous pickup and perhaps enjoy a picnic if the weather was anything like I experienced:
From there, a short walk to the Adrenaline Forest adventure park and the sign telling me that Segment #3 had concluded and #4 was about to commence:
Given this next segment is only 10km in length, I was tempted to complete it back to back especially as I was feeling great after the 16km of Segment #3, but I’d already prearranged a pick up ride I decided to call it a day. Interestingly, the Garmin ETA was very accurate, within a few minutes actually, even from the very start of the hike. It’s good to know this feature can be relied on, as I’d texted my wife in advance with the ETA time as there was very little cellular reception through much of the hike.
I enjoyed this section more than #2, but certainly the unbelievable opening views on Segment #1 remains my favourite so far. Looking forward to cracking on and completing a few more in the coming month or two. Here is the Strava details of the hike – clocking in at just over 3hrs moving time I was pretty pleased with this effort: