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Cruising on south an hour's drive from Christchurch is the Ashburton District. You have two highway choices staying on Route One or the scenic inland Route 72. Lake Hood is but five minutes from Ashburton where the annual Aquafest is held each February. Wheels Week every May is a celebration to the heritage attractions in the area such as the Vintage Car Museum Aviation Museum and the Historical Village. Rakaia is known for its world class salmon fishing on the Rakaia River. From November to March people from all over enjoy positive results. If you are there in February maybe you can join in the annual Rakaia Fishing Competition.
From The Rakaia River it is 28 kms to Ashburton. A very large Alpaca Farm is just on the right after the Rakaia River. Alpaca farming has become quite prevalent in New Zealand as you will note along many of the routes you are on. Haven't checked but this farm seems to be the largest.
Speaking of farming by now the traveler must have taken notice of the amount of sheep in the fields. New Zealand has 40 million ewes and an annual lamb count of 123%. That's a lot of sheep. Ashburton celebrates a fine wine and food festival called the Wooly Munchie in January in celebration of one of New Zealand's finest productions.
In the Ashburton area the place recommended to stay is the Coronation Holiday Park, 78 East Street, Ashburton. 87 kilometres south of Christchurch. Check out their website at Coronation Holiday Park
The best place to stop in Ashburton for coffee and a meal is the 'Lunch' cafe off the main street at 160 Burnett Street. Will match any cafe in any city for its ambience, staff, fine food and coffee. (Ask Jessica about the lemon meringue pie). Lunch gets one of the top ratings in the South Island overall. The town also has a beautiful Domain on the road to Timaru where one can stop for a break in the peaceful setting.
Fifteen kms south of Ashburton is theturn off to one of the favourite towns in the South Island - Geraldine.
Cross the Rangitata River and turn right on Route 79 to get to the town of Geraldine. Not too far after the turnoff on the right is the Tin Shed dealing in New Zealand wool products. For an adventure one might want to go to Peel Forest just beyond where the "Lord of the Rings" Middle Earth was filmed.(four wheel drives available out of Geraldine). The river also has a worldwide reputation for salmon fishing. Geraldine itself can boast many artists, craftsmen and wonderful shops. Be sure to visit one of New Zealand's top artists, Peter Jean Caley.
The Maori paintings on display are museum class recently having showed in Dubai and in the USA. In fact in 2006 the $6 million exhibit, now on display in Geraldine, was touring the USA for six months. A small shopping centre, Berry Barn Complex, of artists is at the south end of town just before you get to the Holiday Park right in town. This community is a wonderful place to hang out for the day. Make sure to have a meal or a coffee or both at the EasyWay cafe. One of the top eateries in the South Island. Usually have music on Friday nights.
Leaving Geraldine west on Route 79 it is now time to explore one of the most dramatic areas of scenery, that will take the breath away, the Mackenzie Country. Depending on the time of day stop by the Farm Barn along the way for a bite to eat. The road you turn into to get to the Farm Barn goes on to a wonderful small lake created by the dammed up Opuha River not even on maps. Lots of space and frequented by the locals. It is about a two-hour drive to Lake Tekapo from here.
If you choose to continue south instead of the Mackenzie Country from Geraldine take the road south to Winchester on Route One instead of Route 79 and continue on. It is 7ms to Temuku and 36kms to Timaru.
To the Mackenzie Country (Fairlie)
Leaving Geraldine west on Route 79 it is now time to explore one of the most dramatic areas of scenery, that will take your breath away, the Mackenzie Country. Depending on the time of day to enjoy stopping by the Farm Barn along the way for a bite to eat. The road to turn into to get to the Farm Barn goes on to a wonderful small lake created by the dammed up Opuha River not even on maps. Lots of space and frequented by the locals. It is about a two-hour drive to Lake Tekapo from here. The best spot to use as your base in the Mackenzie Country is right on Lake Tekapo at the Lake Tekapo Holiday Park. A fantastic natural setting. Check out their website: Lake Tekapo Holiday Park
The drive to Mckenzie Country on Route 79 takes you through the community of Fairlie. The Old Library Cafe provides top quality food and coffee. They have done an excellent job in the decor and the service is friendly and inviting. If you choose to continue south to highway#One instead from Geraldine take the road south to Winchester instead of Route 79 and continue from there. It is 7ms to Temuku and 36kms to Timaru.