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Ashburton - Your first day in the South Island

Published: 03/09/2012 by by Experience Mid Canterbury - Allan Dick

Ashburton has a "can do" attitude, with a progressive, dynamic and thriving economy and community environment.  
As the hub of the district residents enjoy an enviable lifestyle combing city facilities and vibrancy with smaller town friendliness.  The range of dining, experiences and shopping opportunities backs these statements up. To mention a few attractions look for the aviation museum; Lake Hood water recreation area and restaurant; Plains Railway museum; Trotts - a garden of national significance; Ashburton river trails for cycling and walking; Art Gallery and Museum; Helicopter scenic flights and the domains gardens and walks.
Start your day
With over 15 choices of varied accommodation within an hour from Christchurch airport, this is a great place to start or finish your South Island journey.  Wake up and venture into the shopping area where the range of retail stores will suit most visitors’ purchasing needs. Stopping for a coffee break and a read of the local papers is more than tempting as you explore the many cafes scattered amongst the shops that range from clothing, souvenirs, books, home wear, sports and gifts. Visit the i-SITE visitor information centre on East Street next to the giant chess board to get up to date information on the district with that all important local advice. Here pick up the recent official visitor guide, heritage trail booklet or food and wine trail map.
To the North:
A must see includes the Ashburton Aviation Museum, regarded as one of New Zealand's finest.  
It is run by volunteers and located at the Ashburton airfield on Seafield road just 3km from SH1.  The museum is based on what was a major WW2 RNZAF training airfield where there were literally hundreds of Tiger Moths based. Today it is home to one of the finest collections of aircraft in New Zealand. Amazingly there is a pretty much totally airworthy and combat ready Hawker Harrier - the ' Jump Jet' that saw action in the Falklands war. Other aircraft include Vampires, Tiger Moths, Devon, Gloster Meteor, and DC3 Dakota.
On the way, a visit to a Garden of National Significance at Trotts Garden on Racecourse road is an inspiration to even those without green thumbs.  The varying styles of gardens, walks and historical chapel are a must see and home to a couple of fantastic annual events.
Ashford’s Village on West Street is a must stop for those that are interested in Arts & Craft, including wood turning, New Zealand wool, local artist and home of Nosh Café.
Some people will stay for days just to try all the dining options. Somerset Grocer, Speight’s Ale House, Braided Rivers, The Stables family restaurant, Nosh Café, Columbus café, Robert Harris Café, Lake House restaurant and café, and Robbie’s Bistro & Bar.  The choice is totally yours on the day.
To the South:
Pick up a trail map from the i-SITE or cycle stores and head to the Ashburton river bridge where mountain biking and walking trails can be found on both banks of the river.  To the south of the bridge you will find Tinwald and the turn off to Lake Hood water recreation area or the Plain Railway museum.  Both are great short stops prior to heading South towards Queenstown, Wanaka, Timaru or Dunedin.

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Ashburton - Your first day in the South Island

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