Exploring the Canterbury Lakes

Surfari Trip

Canterbury’s inland lakes are famous for strong winds and stunning mountainous backdrops. The Northwesterly can easily reach speeds over 30knts. We were keen to see for ourselves what all the fuss is about.

The irrigated fields and paddocks around Christchurch soon get replaced by steep tussock landscapes as the road starts to climb. At Lake Lindon we turn off the main highway that would lead us via Arthurs pass to the West Coast. Lake Lindon has got some wind on it, but it’s too popular with power boats and water skis, we give it a miss and carry on to Lake Coleridge. It turns out to be another 45 minutes on a good gravel road through more tussock and between mountains. As a last hurdle before we arrive at the beach in Ryton Bay, we cross a 30cm deep ford. Seems to be the perfect timing – the powerboats pack up as the first white caps appear.

The 4.7 that I rigged soon becomes too big for me and I change down to 4.2. I can’t believe how lucky I am: It’s warm, dry, sunny and windy. The water has the colour of the sea in Maui, but without the floating rocks (aka turtles). The panorama is not far off the views you have at Lake Garda. Although here, you have it all for yourself and don’t need to indicate before you turn! Even the water temperature is not too dissimilar to Lake Garda.

Summer in the South of New Zealand means, the days are just endless and you can sail well past 8pm. After 5 days of rinse-and-repeat in this stunning spot, we need a change of activity and move on for a few days of mountainbiking before heading off to Lake Clearwater.

Lake Clearwater, though only a valley further to Coleridge, has a very different character. It gets the same weather patterns, but the backdrop and surroundings are very different. The country is far more open, with various smaller lakes dotted throughout the dry landscape. Sheep country for sure. Close by, the mountains are a bit more accessible, with the high peaks of the main Divide towering in the distance. Plenty of mountainbiking and hiking tracks invite those that have too much energy. Lake Clearwater also offers a small basic campground with a lot of permanent caravans and a classic kiwi bach settlement. The lake itself is much smaller and shallower than Coleridge. Therefore the water is warmer, but also unfortunately not as clear. However, it is a more beginner friendly spot.

Most of the lakes in the Clearwater area are too small to windsurf on. The only other one that looks really good is Lake Heron. Unfortunately this is a wildlife refuge and only paddle powered vessels are allowed on it.

After a week of windsurfing, winging and mountainbiking we run out of supplies and have to carry on. Off to a new adventure! The lakes of the McKenzie Country!

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