Part of North Canterbury's food and wine trail, the Waimakariri district is a bustling area just 20 minutes north of Christchurch. Encompassing the towns of Rangiora, Kaiapoi, Woodend and Oxford, it stretches from Pegasus Bay on the east coast, to the Puketeraki Ranges in the west. The Hurunui District and Waipara Valley, are directly north. Waimakariri is known for its diversity of activities, and exceptionally friendly locals.
Visitors can go rafting, jet boating and kayaking on the Waimakariri River, head into the local forests for some horseriding and tramping, or camp by the beaches of Waikuku and the new town of Pegasus, with its state of the art championship golf course.
Rangiora is the largest town in the region. It's a rural service town, popular with many Christchurch residents who like somewhere quieter to escape to in summer. New Zealand's highest recorded temperature, 42.4C, was registered here in 1973.
Amenities are good, with dozens of bars, restaurants, guest accommodation, a cinema and good sports facilities. The Rangiora Showgrounds hosts an annual car show, and the town also lays claim to the country's only meadery. Keeping things alcoholic, this is also the gateway to North Canterbury's wineries, and is a popular starting point for wine lovers touring the region.
To the southeast, is Kaiapoi, on the mouth of the Waimakariri River. A small port town, it's sometimes included as a suburb of Christchurch, but locals fiercely protect their 'independence'. The town was badly damaged in the 2011 earthquakes, but is slowly getting back on its feet. Sport is big here, everything from rugby and football, to golf and some excellent fishing.
The country towns of Oxford and Woodend offer a quaint portrait of rural life. Oxford has won many 'Most Beautiful Village' awards, as well as a gong for, bizarrely, 'Most Beautiful Toilet'. There's a fascinating historical museum, celebrity cooking school, a few very good bars and restaurants and a weekly Farmer's Market every Sunday.
Woodend is more 'suburban', with good shops and convenient access to the newly-constructed settlement of Pegasus Town. This will be home to 6000 people, and provide a purpose-built infrastructure of trendy apartments, large houses, and a thriving bar and restaurant scene. Both Woodend and Pegasus Town, together with Waikuku, a little further north, have great beaches and parks.