Kia Ora: Governors Bay

Many expats call this pretty-as-a-postcard town home, finds Elisabeth Easther.
Governors Bay is near the head of picturesque Lyttelton Harbour in Canterbury. Photo / 123RF
Governors Bay is near the head of picturesque Lyttelton Harbour in Canterbury. Photo / 123RF

Origin of name: Originally named Dyers Bay after the engineer who put in Dyers Pass Rd. When Governor Grey stopped by to visit the Canterbury pilgrims - because of his reputation as a philanderer - rather than offend the pious pilgrims of Lyttelton, he moored his boat in Dyers Bay, whereupon it was named for him.

Population: About 1200.

Old news: Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott had 24 Siberian ponies and 34 sledge dogs quarantined and trained at Quail Island out in the harbour. Bound for his 1910-12 assault on the icy continent, the ponies were tragically unsuited to Antarctic conditions and either died or were shot during the expedition.

Famous locals: Margaret Mahy (author), Sir Miles Warren (architect and philanthropist), Mike Cron (scrum doctor, rugby coach).

Notable local: Lachie Griffin was a tank commander during the Italy campaign and, upon his return to Governors Bay, became quite fond of walking his goat and dog through the bay each day.

Infamous local: Gerald O'Farrell was a wealthy property developer. Legend has it that he arrived in the bay in a chauffeur-driven Bentley and left in a beat-up old Mini.

Recognise this: Maori Television made the wonderful seven-part miniseries of Margaret Mahy's novel Kaitangata Twitch in Governors Bay and used lots of locals as extras.

The feel: With its handful of historic buildings, picturesque views, mature native and exotic trees (including willows and poplars), it's a bit like a mini Arrowtown by the sea.

Best website: governorsbay.net.nz

Main employer: Most people commute the 20 minutes to Christchurch, with the city people referred to as "flatlanders".

Who lives there: It's very multinational, with lots of expats, mainly first-world refugees, calling the place home.

Town fiestas: Aside from New Year's Eve at the pub, the biggest event on the annual calendar is the Governors Bay Fete. Held each March, there are stalls, fire brigade demonstrations, a photographic competition, donkey rides and lots of good, old-fashioned fun.

Here for a short time: Come for a sail, a round of golf at Charteris or visit the world-class gardens at Ohinetahi. Last century, before cheap airfares came along, Governors Bay was all the rage with honeymooners - canoodling is still a popular pastime.

Kids love: It's a safe community to raise a family, ride a bike or a horse, and be close to nature. The fishing is pretty cool, although sadly the famous old jetty is closed following earthquake damage but, not to worry, fundraising is under way with approximately $1.6 million needed to restore it. Yikes.

Post quake: A lot has changed, there was plenty of destruction but also some good things have emerged. A handful of delightful old buildings have undergone beneficial refits, the hotel is no longer covered in ugly grey stucco and looks much more like it did in 1870.

Best park: Rhodes Reserve is blooming with big old trees, there's lots of green space as well as picnic tables, barbecues and a community hall that is currently being rebuilt.

Best playground: Next to the community pool you'll find slides and swings and things.

Best walks: There are plenty of stunning walks from challenging hill hikes to gentle strolls. Faulkner's Track sets off about 100m from the hotel carpark and would take a fit person about an hour. The Crater Rim Walkway goes right around the harbour and takes the better part of a day. There's also a very nice undulating dog walk through native bush and exotic plantings from the jetty to Sandy Bay or further around to Maori Gardens with its pretty old baches. Or check out the nicely flat Allendale harbour walk. Look out for geological highlights including wondrous rocks and lava flows wherever you go.

Best view: Sit yourself on the deck of the hotel with a pint of beer, and look out to paradise and the jetty.

Pretty as a postcard: Be sure to visit the gardens at Ohinetahi. Maori for 'valley of the one sister' the historic homestead and formal gardens are world-class, featuring camellias, rhododendrons and roses, bridges, statues and sculptures. In 2012, owner Miles Warren gifted the property to New Zealand. How kind.

Best place to pull over: The vista from the top of Dyers Pass Hill down to Governors Bay.

Best swim: The best swims are Rapaki Bay or Sandy Bay, where the locals go to sail or jet ski. Or make friends with a local and dip in the community pool.

Looks historical: The local hotel is full of fabulous old photos.

Nice arts: Lots of writers and artists live around here, it's a very creative community. Governor Cricket bats are hand-crafted in Governors Bay.

Cream of the coffee: The hotel prides itself on making super coffee, as does She Universe.

Peace and chocolate: She Universe is a must visit in Governors Bay - featuring a cafe and chocolate school, the founder also focuses on spiritual growth and has developed a special meditation technique known as The Form. Dedicated to awakening extraordinary lives, Bernie Prior is a bit of a guru. Beautiful views, serene surroundings, wonderful food.

FYI: SHE = Spiritual Human Evolution.

Best food: Aside from the cafe at She Universe, the Governors Bay Hotel is where you'll want to eat. Having won five consecutive beef and lamb awards, they also specialise in peking duck over winter and even have offerings for vegans.

Wet your whistle: The pub of course, featuring the full range of Monteith's ales alongside a few craftier beers, wines are sourced locally as much as possible. The grounds are divine and always full of colour, whatever the season.

Best mountain biking: A seriously major MTB park is currently being built in the hills and will feature a huge variety of trails. Costing $80 million, there'll even be a gondola to take the lazy bums to the top of the trails.

Best-kept secret: Pretty little Sandy Bay.

Wildlife: Flounders and kereru flourish around this area.

Safety warnings: Do watch out for falling rocks.

The verdict: Utterly charming.

Thank you to Jeremy for sharing his local knowledge.

Checklist

WHERE IS IT

On Banks Peninsula in the Canterbury District, near the head of Lyttelton Harbour.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 10 Dec 2016 09:20:44 Processing Time: 1401ms