What to do in Christchurch? A day trip to Mt. Herbert (highest point on Banks Peninsula)!
On an ongoing quest to find new things to entertain ourselves while living in Christchurch, we thought of giving the Mt. Herbet track a go on Saturday. It's a 5ish hour hike and the highest point on Banks Peninsula. It's suitable for tourists or locals alike, as you can do it all without the need for a car (although you'll need to catch the #28 bus to Lyttelton). Once in Lyttelton, you take the ferry from the harbour to Diamond Harbour, then you can start the walk right from the wharf where you arrive. The return trip on the ferry to Diamond Harbour costs $12.40. Check here for the timetable. If you plan to do this on a Saturday, you should go to the Lyttelton farmers market (10am-1pm) where you can have breakfast and also get some lunch to take with you before jumping on the 10.50am ferry over to the start. There's plenty of homemade quality pies, sausage rolls, sandwiches or if you want cheaper food there's even a temporary bakery housed in a cubicle at the bottom of the hill. Anyway, you're gonna need some food and a few litres of water per person. As you can tell by the blue sky in the photo, we got pretty lucky with the weather. It's mid-May and while it's starting to get pretty cold you still experience these amazing Canterbury (almost) winter days. Most of the reading I had done in the morning mentioned how hot the walk can get in summer as for most of the walk it's sheltered from the prevailing wind. After the 10 or so minute ferry ride, we arrived at the wharf and headed up the road about 100 metres before spotting a dirt road that heads right and follows the water around. It turns out there are around three of four different ways of getting to the starting point for the track. We weren't sure so asked a local that was also walking up the road, so followed the track. We came to a sign that said it was closed, however the local also said it was safe "just a few trees down" and sure enough there were parts of the track where you had to duck and dice through pine trees that must've come down in a recent storm. If I were to do it again, I would probably continue up the road to the cafe (going past the track to the right) and continue on past the dairy following the road around to the right. You'll eventually come to the sign post for the Mt Herbert track after about 400 metres. In terms of footwear, it's about at this point in the track it starts to get muddy. Sneakers would probably be fine but don't expect to keep them clean. I have a pair of Skellerup boots that are mostly waterproof, and apart from getting some mad blisters as I haven't worn them in yet, they did a pretty good job. This track that we took was about 600 metres long and we ended up coming back onto the main road. There is no sign post at this point, so by chance went the straight option out of three (left, straight or right). Luckily we ran into a local named Penny who confirmed we were going in the right direction, and also filled up our 2 litre bottle of water which we'd forgotten to fill along the way. Penny and her husband were from Christchurch but retreated to Diamond Harbour on the weekends. It's quite interesting how chilled out it is in Diamond Harbour but you're only about 10kms from Christchurch. Anyway, we walked to the end of the street and came to the farm gate. Head through that and you'll see a slight track across the paddock. (*The yellow arrow shows the approximate location of the top of Mt. Herbert, although it's actually a little beyond what you can see here). Head through the gate to the end of the paddock and once you've reached the far end gate, go through it and head down to the left on the gravel road. After 100 metres you'll get to the start of the Mt Herbert track. The track isn't like your normal native bush walk where you'll encounter fresh mountain streams and beech trees. It's an actual working farm with cows, sheep and horses (which by the way is closed between 1st August-16th October due to lambing). The advantage to this is that the track is mostly easy going, just enough to get a sweat on. The DOC website says the return trip will take between 5-6 hours, which is conservative. It took us around 2.5 hours to get to the top from when we arrived at the ferry and 2 hours to get back to the dairy. We were pretty hot the entire trip up, as it's pretty sheltered from the wind on the way up. Although it's only 919 metres above sea level, it's pretty exposed to the wind at the top. There were some pretty nice 360 degree views all around. This angle is looking south toward Gebbies Pass. We hung around at the top for around 20 minutes then started to make our way down. There weren't many others doing he track, we probably encountered about 10 people the entire trip. We arrived back at the dairy and had some ice cream while we waited for the ferry. It's a really nice area with a nice walk along the path down to the harbour from the dairy. The sun set as we waited for the ferry to come in and take us back to Lyttelton. Definately worth doing if you're looking for a day trip in Christchurch. Five stars! [mc4wp_form]