Zoom with a View: The Christchurch Gondola
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When they say that no visit to Christchurch is complete without a trip up on the Gondola, they aren't kidding.
Catching the view of Lyttelton Harbor from the heights of Mt Cavendish is like looking at a working model of the earth's volcanic origins – you can actually see the landforms created by massive forces at work millions of years ago.
A nearly complete ring of broken, steep volcanic hills vaults up from sea level to 1500 feet – the remnants of a collapsed crater that holds Lyttelton's waterfront in its center like a giant teacup. And the gondola zips you up there in just 10 minutes' time.
As you ascend, the landscape widens with mind-blowing drama. Once at the top, you get these crazy views of central Christchurch, the Canterbury Plains, and distant snow-capped Southern Alps in one direction. The blue-green harbor of Lyttelton and craggy hills of Banks Peninsula in another. And in yet another, the beaches along Pegasus Bay with the Pacific coast stretching all the way up toward Kaikoura Peninsula, far to the north.
Let's just say it's not a scene you'll soon forget. To extend the magic, we definitely suggest toasting your travels over a tasty local beer or wine – or fresh-brewed artisan coffee and Kiwi bites – at the summit's picture-windowed cafe. And walking around the Crater Rim Walkway a bit.
After all, when's the next time you'll be up there?
The long way home
A small stone building stands along the bridle path at the Mt Cavendish summit, inscribed with "They Passed This Way." The Pioneer Women's Memorial honors Christchurch's earliest female settlers, who stopped to rest at this spot after climbing from Lyttelton in 1839. They were said to have "gazed with awe but courage upon the hills and plains of Canterbury where they were to make their home." Soon, they were joined by pioneers arriving aboard the First Four Ships – having braved months-long, cramped sea voyages from England.
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