This southern town's alpine landscape keeps Elisabeth Easther busy and enthralled.

Where is it?

In Canterbury on the western edge of the Canterbury Plains, 35km north of Ashburton.

Origin of name: Maori called the place Piwakawaka, or fantail, while Methven was named by an early colonial pioneer, a Mr Patton, who named it for his home in Scotland.

Population: 1326.


Town slogan: Amazing Space.

Town mascots: Would have to be Mt Hutt and the Rakaia River.

Infamous local: Rajah, known as Methven's Wonder Dog, was New Zealand's first police dog. He lived here in the 1930s and earned fame throughout the country for his acting performances as well as his talents working for the police, solving quite a number of crimes. A gorgeous bronze statue of Rajah was unveiled on February 8.

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Industrious: Dairy farming is big here, as is seed production, with South Pacific Seeds shipping its wares all over the world. Tourism flourishes thanks to the Mt Hutt ski resort, and the Yike Bike was born here, too.

Source of pride: Everyone is genuinely friendly, with tourists flocking to the town since the 1970s when the local Lions Club established Mt Hutt.

Town fiestas: Methven Summer School in the second week of January is famous. Now in its 25th year, adults can learn everything from golf, to cheesemaking, art, music and so much more. Throughout winter there are lots of snow-related events, including the Peak to Pub, which involves skiing, cycling and running. Plus there are fun runs, mountain bike events and a doozy of an A&P Show.

Here for a short time? The NZ Alpine and Agricultural Encounter is a community scheme that provides tourists with something neat to do when Mt Hutt is closed. This is an educational centre filled with all sorts of archives, medals and old skis. Loved by kids and adults alike.


Best reason to stop: The skiing, of course, and everything's just so pretty and pastoral.

For the kids: There's a groovy bike track on the outskirts of Methven, including a BMX trail plus a downhill mountain bike track at the base of Mt Hutt.

Kids also love: Playing in the river, chucking stones and swimming. There are plenty of picnic areas by streams.

Best park: There's a park with swings and slides (toilets too) in the middle of town, and another by the domain where there are tennis courts, and the locals play touch rugby on Fridays.

Loo with a view: The Mt Somers Track boasts a composting toilet and the most amazing views over Mt Summers range. There are nice loos by the i-Site.

Walk the walk: Walk to Sharplin Falls at Staveley, 20 minutes' drive south of town. This stunning track passes through bush to a waterfall and takes about 30 minutes each way. The Rangitata Diversion Race follows an irrigation race and looks out to the mountains. Bike it, walk it or run it. For something easy, there's a 15-minute walk at the base of Mt Hutt called the Awa Awa Rata Reserve, filled with native bush, trees and birds. Even the smallest child can handle it.

Terrace Downs lodge near Mt Hutt. Photo / Supplied
Terrace Downs lodge near Mt Hutt. Photo / Supplied

Best view:

Wind your way up the 12km gravel access road to Mt Hutt to a place called Canterbury View. Pull over for gobsmacking views of the famously braided Rakaia River, the Canterbury Plains and, on a clear day, the coast.

Best swim: Find a waterhole in the river. The best spots change every year so make friends with a local and get the inside scoop. There are also a couple of lakes, Clearwater and Camp, 45 minutes from Methven up Ashburton Gorge. Or take a dip in the outdoor community pool by the school, open over summer.

Best museum: Methven Museum was damaged in the earthquake and they're building a new one so, for now, some archives and local history can be found at the i-Site.

Nice arts: The i-Site, formerly the memorial hall, has been given a lot of love and, subsequently, it's the community hub. Here, local artists show off their wares and sell them sometimes, too.

Top shop: Primo e Secundo Cafe on McMillan Street is super-fun and everything there's for sale, from the tables and chairs, to cups, blankets and jewellery. Buy anything that takes your fancy.

Top shop 2: D'Fault, a gorgeous boutique, sells New Zealand-made clothes, jewellery and handbags.

Cream of the coffee: Primo, Arabica Methven, Cafe 131 (Main Street) , D'Fault and the two pubs. They're spoiled around here.

Baked: Methven Bakery does the most amazing bread.

Best food: Being a tourist town, there's an amazing range of restaurants, 15 in all, from The Dubliner, an Irish bar, to the famous Brinkley's Restaurant.

Fine dining: Shackleton's Bar and Grill (at Brinkley Resort) is amazing although open only in winter, and Mt Somers' Stronechrubie is out of this world but you'll need to book.

Wet your whistle: There are two pubs, the Blue Pub and The Brown Pub, opposite each other on either corner of the main street. It used to be the blue for skiers and the brown for farmers, although, nowadays, everyone goes everywhere. The Irish bar and The Green Parrot are also good.

Best mountain biking: Mt Hutt Bike Park is getting more popular each year, with its vast trails that range from family-friendly to epic. Plus there's helibiking if you can't be bothered getting yourself up the hills.

Best adventures: Walking, cycling, skiing, they've got so much. But the truly iconic thing for the past 30 years is hot-air ballooning. Plus there's archery, claybird shooting, Lord of the Rings site tours, 4WD touring, jetboating, fishing, hunting and horse trekking along the Rakaia River.

Best kept secret? Cosy up to a local and extract one for yourself.

Get the flock out of here: There's a moa in Alford Forest, well, a statue at least, and flocks of kea up Mt Hutt.

Locals say: Watch out for those cheeky kea, people.

Visitors say: "Cheeky? Those pesky parrots just stripped the rubber off my car's windscreen wipers."

Thanks to Kathryn Lorenzo from the local i-Site for spilling the beans.