With lakes, mountains and rivers on our doorstep, there is nowhere in the world where you can experience so much, so close and so easily.

For the truly adventurous, from Ashburton township, it’s an easy hop to Department of Conservation hiking, mountain biking and campsites; head for the mountains to one of many high-country tracks or enjoy an easy walk or cycle through stunning landscapes.  Here are our favourites.

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DO THE LOOP: Rākaia Gorge Walkway follows the turquoise waters of the Rākaia River and delivers views of the Rākaia River and Mt Hutt that are breath-taking.

Starting near the Rakaia Gorge Bridge, the entire path is 10km, but the first lookout is only 30 minutes in, and you can easily do it in smaller sections.

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MUST-DO MOUNTAIN: Mount Sunday is a stunning site with fabulous views of the Rangitata River and the surrounding mountains.

Once the film site for Edoras in the movie The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, it is a great place to walk up for the afternoon.  The small hill got its name because boundary riders from the high-country stations would meet here on Sundays. This is an easy walk, 30 minutes one way. No dogs.

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​RIOTOUS RHODODENDRONS: Te Awa Awa Rata Reserve & Scotts Saddle is a  popular picnic area and an ideal day trip destination known for its spring display of rhododendrons. There are a few different options for various lengths of walks, but the three main tracks are the Alder, Opuke and the beginning of the harder Scotts Saddle track which can all meet up with the ridgeline to form 30 minute to 1.5 hour circuits. 

The tracks are all clearly marked and on a clear day there are good views from Scotts Saddle to Pudding Hill Stream, Mount Hutt ski field, Canterbury plains and the Port Hills above Christchurch.

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WALK OR CYCLE: The Ashburton/Hakatere River Trail is an easy walk or cycle following the Ashburton River from town out to the coast at Hakatere – a perfect family outing for all: walking, cycling, running, even buggies. Starting under the Ashburton Bridge, follow the trail until you reach Trevors Road where the dual directional track to Hakatere starts.  19 kilometres long, there are several well signposted access points allowing sections of the trail to be enjoyed individually.

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A HIDDEN GEM: Washpen Falls is a great interactive walk for the family taking you through ancient volcanic canyon, lush forest and amazing birdlife, up to a lookout over the Canterbury Plains. As you descend back down the canyon the track takes you alongside sparkling spring-fed creeks and stunning waterfalls, creating the longest tributary of the Hororata River.

Located right off the Inland Scenic Route, highway 72, this is a privately maintained track with a cost of $10 per adult and $5 per child. It takes about 2.5 hours to do the loop. Dogs are not permitted.

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Judy McAuliffe is a writer, and publisher Essence Mid Canterbury. Her experience in media is extensive and includes approximately 15 years as Creative Director for The Radio Network, writing, and managing the writing of radio advertising, mainly in Invercargill and Greymouth. In the late 1990’s she transferred to Christchurch, moving into an Account Management role with 91ZM. In 2007 she and a business partner set up Essence Mid Canterbury, very quickly adapting her radio-writing skills to print media. Judy became sole owner of Essence Mid Canterbury in June 2014. Judy is a ‘people person’ and has found her niche writing feature stories about the community she lives in and the people who live there. She is also available for freelance writing assignments.