Most of you would know I (Char) am from Christchurch, and one of my favourite things to do when I’m home (other than order Wings Chinese and play board games with the fam) is watching the sun rise and set. There’s something really special about watching the magic happen right in your hometown isn’t there? So here we go, our favourite sunrise and sunset spots in Chch.
1. Bridle Path – sunset
Ok so we’re probably a little biased here making this our #1 as this is where James got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife. Even on a dark cloudy day, the views up here are beautiful and in summer the setting sun lines up pretty well with Governors Bay, the harbour and Quail Island.
(And side note with Quail Island cause I love a good side note - for about 50 years [1875 - 1925] sick migrants, including those with leprosy were actually quarantined here). It’s quite fascinating reading about the history of Quail Island and equally as hilarious when James gets Lepers and leprechauns mixed up and goes around telling people “yeah mate did you know that back in the day they kept all the leprechauns here!!”).
Bridle Path quick tips and info:
Pack walking shoes, a water bottle and camera.
Starting from the car park at the bottom of the hill (this is right beside the gondola) the walk up should only take about 25 minutes - but be warned it is pretty steep.
It can also get quite windy at the top (hence the need to hold my hat on in the picture!) so you might like to pack a windproof jacket. To be honest you probably need a windproof jacket everywhere in NZ.
Once you reach the top there is heaps of room, so don’t just sit on the brick fence – wander off, explore and find yourself a secluded spot to enjoy! We personally like going to the left of the hut.
2. Hoon Hay Scenic Reserve – sunrise
We cannot get enough of the banks peninsula and rolling hills in Chch so coming in at a VERY close #2 is Hoon Hay Scenic Reserve. This spot is best for sunrise (especially April or September as the sun rises directly over the entrance to the harbour) but we also caught a reverse sunset here and thought it was pretty special. If you are planning on coming here for a reverse sunset, we recommend a day with clouds!
Sunrise at Hoon Hay Scenic Reserve
We parked and walked for approx. 10 minutes to get to this small rocky outcrop. When you first start the walk (only about one - two minutes in) keep your eyes peeled for a teeny tiny sign on the right hand side saying ‘Track’ (this will direct you to go right). Follow this path (crossing over the DOC fence) and continue along until you find the spot you’re after. The path is quite narrow and overgrown.
Sunset at Hoon Hay Scenic Reserve
Hoon Hay Scenic Reserve quick tips and info
Walking shoes are best but it’s not a strenuous or hard walk – we were fine in jandals both times!
Park at the little gravel area marked as 'Hoon Hay Scenic Reserve' on Google Maps.
If you are prone to getting rashes/eczema etc. - definitely wear long pants as the path is very overgrown.
See above note about it being windy and packing a windproof jacket!
3. Gibraltar Rock – sunset
We absolutely love the symmetrical shape of Gibraltar Rock. And this is a great place for sunset as you can decide whether you want to actually walk up Gibraltar Rock (which takes approx. 40 minutes) and shoot from there, or shoot from afar with Gibraltar Rock in the background. We chose the latter as we wanted to get the ‘pyramid’ in our picture.
Gibraltar Rock quick tips and info
Pack walking shoes and a water bottle if you plan on walking up Gibraltar Rock.
See above note(s) about it being windy and packing a windproof jacket!
February and October are the best times for sunset here (as the sun lines up really well with Gibraltar Rock).
Pull over very carefully here (the roads are windy and narrow) and park your car in one of the designated bays.
4. New Brighton Pier – sunrise
This was a tricky one for us – it actually took us four visits to the Pier before we felt we did it justice. I remember spending such happy days here as a kid. Jumping waves with my brothers, trying to boogie board (and failing) and eating glorious glorious scoops of Tip Top ice cream. Except because I’m me, I also remember the grim reality of returning home after these amazing days. Six very salty/sandy kids and only one shower. The battle that ensued was INTENSE. And unfortunately no matter how great my tactics were, I always managed to get last place. Anyway I digress, sunrise at the Pier is worth the perseverance don’t you think.
This is a beautiful spot for sunrise, and it’s quick and easy to get to – just park your car, walk about three seconds onto the sand and bam - hello Mr Pier! It’s also a pretty quiet location for how amazing it is (I think every time we have come, there’s only been 1-2 other people there!). If you can time your sunrise in late May or late August the sun lines up perfectly with the Pier too. We also think a reverse sunset (with clouds) could also look pretty cool here!
New Brighton Pier quick tips and info
Pack jandals (or go barefoot!).
Late May or late August is the best time for sunrise here as the sun lines up with the Pier.
Try and time it with a tide that is going out so you can get a nice reflection of the Pier in the sand!
If you have a fancy camera, do a long exposure here to blur the water, or alternatively if you have a smart phone you could try a time lapse as it would look awesome getting the sun popping up!
5. Anywhere along Godley Head/ Witch Hill area – sunrise and sunset (although the water colour is beautiful during the day too!).
A whole area filled with beautiful spots to sit and watch the magic happen.
For Godley Head, we like to park where the walking and biking trails meet the road and walk towards the Godley Head car park (going along the walking track). That section is our favourite part of the walk as it boasts beautiful views of the harbour while you are walking on the edge of the hill.
We also recently discovered Witch Hill. (James actually had to talk me into doing sunset here as ever since Roald Dahl’s movie Witches I have had an unreasonable fear of Witches), but I have to say it was well worth it. Maybe they should change the name?
If you’re heading to Witch Hill – it takes about 20 minutes to climb up to the lookout (from the car park). I didn’t realise walking/climbing was involved so sensibly wore a skirt and sandals. Shoes would definitely be better. For Witch Hill, we visited at sunset so the sun was setting over the city but we think sunrise would be better as it would rise over Lyttelton harbour.
Our tips for anywhere along the peninsula:
Wear shoes with good grip as you will likely need to walk/climb a wee bit.
See comment(s) above re windproof jacket.
Make sure you allow extra time when you arrive so you can explore and find a spot for sunrise/sunset.
There are so many wee pockets of beauty scattered throughout Christchurch (and the whole of New Zealand!!) that you’ll actually find yourself enjoying a beautiful sunset pretty much anywhere… like my favourite childhood park – the Edmond Factory Garden. (Can you spot my favourite Chinese in all the world? (Wings you have my heart forever).
What do you guys think? Where’s your favourite spot to watch the sun come up (or go down) in Christchurch? Or perhaps more importantly, have you tried Wings Chinese? (Ferry Road).