Lyttelton Harbour

Lyttelton Harbour is a beautiful scenic harbour located right beside the city of Christchurch. It offers the visitor spectacular scenery, a fascinating Maori and European history and an abundance of recreational opportunities.

Lyttelton Harbour is the northern of two sea inlets on Banks Peninsula, the one prominent feature on the coast of Canterbury, New Zealand. Banks Peninsula was once a volcanic island and Lyttelton Harbour the sea-filled crater of a volcano that erupted 11 million years ago.

The Harbour runs westwards for eight miles from between two imposing headlands, Godley Head on the northern side of the harbour and Adderley Head on the southern side.

At the entrance, Lyttelton Harbour is almost a mile and a quarter and beyond the township of Lyttelton, it opens out into three wide and shallow bays.

In the middle of the Harbour lie three fascinating islands – Quail, Ripapa and King Billy.

During your trip with us, you will get an opportunity to see the many sights of Lyttelton Harbour, we are sure you will love it.

Ripapa Island near Purau Bay in Lyttelton Harbour
Lyttelton Harbour's History

A long extinct volcano, Lyttelton Harbour is home to the South Island’s biggest multi-purpose port. Lyttelton is a picturesque, bustling port town, reflective of its founding settlement past with turn-of-the-century weatherboard cottages and stone buildings nestled into the hillside. Originally called Port Cooper, Lyttelton Harbour, or Te-Whaka-raupo (the harbour of the bulrush reeds) was home to Maori for about 1,000 years before Captain Cook on the Endeavour’s first voyage to New Zealand, sighted the peninsula on 16 February 1770.  

In 1848 the Canterbury Association was formed and its mission was to found a Church of England Colony in New Zealand. Lyttelton was chosen because of its suitability as a port and the availability of a large area of flat land just over the hill; the extensive Canterbury Plains. An official proclamation on August 30, 1849 established the town as a recognised port and a 150ft long by 15ft wide wharf was constructed, putting it on the shipping map.

The first four ships of immigrants arrived soon after. The influx of people from every walk of life made an impressive new colony.

In 1877, the Lyttelton Harbour Board was established and was responsible for the management of the harbour. The Harbour Board was abolished in 1989 after the Port Companies Act 1988 separated the commercial and non-trading roles of the board. Lyttelton Port Company was formed to manage the port in the same manner as any other commercial business. In July 1996, the company listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange and now has a 30 percent public listing. The Christchurch City Council is the single largest shareholder of Lyttelton Port of Christchurch.

Even now, remnants of the bygone era, particularly of the town’s maritime beginnings, are in full view. The old stone dry dock, the last of its kind in the South Island, sits solidly at the end of the Godley Quay.

Historical Lyttelton
Sunken Ship near Quail Island