Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrSituated on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand, Lyttelton is a quaint port town with an addictive alternative and artistic vibe.
GeographyThe town of Lyttelton sits on the Lyttelton Harbour, an inlet of Banks Peninsula. The town sits on the slopes of the Port Hills, which separate the town from the city of Christchurch, 7 miles to the north-west.
HistoryIndigenous Maori lived in the area for around 700 years before European explorers discovered Lyttelton Harbour in 1770. It wasn’t until the 1840s that the area was settled by English settlers. Lyttelton quickly became the “Gateway to Canterbury” for settlers. The pedestrian track over the hill was the only way to access the growing city of Christchurch. Lyttelton was named after George William Lyttelton of the Canterbury Association, which had played a major role in the settlement of the area.
In 2009 the New Zealand Historic Places Trust recognized Lyttelton as “an area of special or outstanding historical or cultural heritage significance or value”.
The Lyttelton Timeball Station was constructed in 1876, and began signaling Greenwich Mean Time to ships in the harbor. It was one of only five working timeball station in the world, until it was destroyed by the 2011 Canterbury earthquake.
The devastating 2010 and 2010 Canterbury earthquakes damaged many of Lyttelton’s historic buildings, including residential and commercial property. In the wake of the tremor many buildings had to be demolished or majorly reconstructed.
The Lyttelton Port has long been the backbone of the town. Today Lyttelton regularly receives cruise liners and cargo ships, carrying the majority of imports to and a large proportion of exports from the South Island. Major industries include coal transported from the West Coast by train.
Lyttelton’s population today sits around 3,000.
Lyttelton Farmers MarketEvery Saturday morning from 10am to 1pm on London Street you can find locals and visitors alike frequenting one of the region’s best food markets. Wares on sale include free-range eggs, organic vegetables and fruit, bread cheese, fresh fish and chocolate. Grab a coffee, enjoy the live music, and indulge your inner foodie!
Quail IslandThis small island sits in the middle of Lyttelton Harbour. Named after the now extinct native quail (koreke), the island has a colorful history. It served as a quarantine station and a leprosy colony, as well as a training ground for the sled dogs and ponies of Antarctic explorers Scott and Shackleton. The island was later used for farming, before being converted to a recreational reserve, where today you can find regenerating native vegetation and native wildlife.
Black Cat cruises offer connections to the island from Lyttelton wharf. Sailings depart from Lyttelton at 10:20am daily from October – April, and there is an additional departure at 12:20pm during December – February. Adult tickets are $30, while children (5 – 15) are $15.
WunderbarA bar like no other, Wunderbar is an ode to the eccentric and wonderful. Decorated in a delightfully kitsch style, along with slightly scary decapitated dolls’ heads, Wunderbar is a compulsory stop for visitors to Lyttelton. The bar features live music many nights of the week. Open daily from 5pm, and from 1pm on weekends. Wunderbar is located on London Street, but enter through the car park behind the bar.
Where to eatDefinitely not for the budget conscious, Roots is nonetheless home to the best food in town. Offering degustation menus specializing in locally sourced, seasonal food, the courses are matched by spectacular wines. Roots is open for lunch Friday and Saturday, and for dinner from Tuesday through Saturday. A multi-course degustation begins at $90.
Lyttelton Coffee Company on London Street is a local institution, serving up delicious homemade food and, of course, fantastic coffee. The café also features local artwork, as well as spectacular views across the harbour from its deck. Open daily 7am – 4pm (from 8am Saturday and Sunday).
Also on London Street, Freemans never fails to serve up excellent pasta and pizza, accompanied by local craft beers. It is the perfect spot for a cold brew and relaxing after work. On Sunday afternoons they have a jazz band from 3pm. Open from 3pm Wednesday and Thursday, from 11:30am on Fridays, and from 10am on Saturdays and Sundays.
AccommodationUnfortunately the Canterbury earthquakes have limited accommodation options in Lyttelton. More is becoming available, however, as rebuilding efforts continue.
Check out http://www.lytteltonharbour.info/visitor/accommodation for an up-to-date listing of current options. Other accommodation can be found in nearby Sumner or Christchurch.
Getting thereLyttelton is a short 15 minute drive from the center of Christchurch. The 1.2 miles Lyttelton road tunnel connects the city, and is also New Zealand’s longest road tunnel. Christchurch International Airport is the nearest air connection. From the city, buses 28 and 535 also run to Lyttelton.
Further informationThe Lyttelton Harbour Information Centre is located at 20 Oxford Street, and can provide up to date information on the harbor basin communities and surrounding environment.
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Author: Amanda. Last updated: 51 weeks ago