Christchurch Motorhome Touring: The Geography Of Christchurch

When the new settlers arrived they were greeted by a landscape of fertile plains, flanked and sheltered to the west by the jagged mountain ranges of the Southern Alps and to the south by the Port Hills and ridges of Banks Peninsula, formed by large-scale eruptions of volcanoes some 11 to 5.8 million years ago.

The erosion of these volcanoes combined with the glacial and fluvial outwash from the Southern Alps created the alluvial plains and beach dune systems of Christchurch and Canterbury’s coast, and where drainage was impeded, heavy soils became saturated, resulting in the wetlands that originally characterised much of what now forms the urban city.

For it was here in the 1840s, upon a slightly elevated 400 hectare site bordering the Avon River River/Otakaro that the Canterbury Association decided to build their city. Although the area they chose was higher and therefore drier, to the east and north of the city there were large sand dunes and deep peat swamps.

Little wonder then that building houses and infrastructure was difficult, and with water‐borne diseases causing more deaths per 1000 than anywhere else in New Zealand at the time, the next 120 years was spent draining swamps, constructing sewers and drains, and modifying natural watercourses. Today remnants of wetlands that once existed extensively within the city limits can be seen at Travis Wetlands and Cockayne Reserve.

Thanks to Tourism Radio for much of the content supplied about Christchurch. Tourism Radio is like having your own tour guide - providing you with audio commentary of over 2000 points of interest in New Zealand. It is available for rental with any Christchurch Motorhome Rental vehicle booked on


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