Lyttleton: Magical seaport town

Port town of Lyttleton

This stunning ‘Lyttle’ town, situated on the northern aspect of the crater rim, shadows the Port of Lyttleton Harbour. Hidden behind the Port Hills, it could easily be bypassed on your journey around New Zealand. Indeed, its splendour cannot be appreciated until you arrive into the sheltered cove where it is located. Ships sail up from the harbour entrance; and cars, buses, and cyclists arrive from Governors Bay or Sumner having enjoyed the views as they cross the hilltops and zig-zag down into the bay. In the days before roads were established, people had to climb the Port Hills on a track known as the ‘bridle path’ to get to Christchurch. Once the Lyttleton tunnel was opened in 1964, traffic had an easier and quicker route from the city just 12ks away.

Driving to Lyttleton on a misty autumn day


Entering the Lyttleton Tunnel

A tug boat on the harbour. Part of Lyttleton in the background

Brief History

Although the harbour basin had been home to Māori for more than 700 years, prior to the arrival of the first Europeans, Lyttleton provided a strategic position for the new Canterbury settlers to land in the mid-1800s. The harbour itself was first sighted by Europeans in 1770 when the Endeavour passed by; however, the working port was only settled and established in the late 1840s.

The inner harbour and the smaller boats


Ships in the port with mist on Diamond Harbour

A boat in dry dock away from the harbour – a true port town

Lyttleton today

Today, the steep streets glide up the hills formed by several massive volcanoes over 10 million years ago. The hills provide shelter and aesthetic beauty as well as walking tracks and rock climbing. The port itself has welcomed shiploads of settlers, cruise ships, and cargo transported in modern container shipping; but is also a haven for yachts, kayaks, and other pleasure water sports.

The crater rim, shrouded in the autumn mist

Yachts, hillside houses and petrol storage tanks in the port

The quaint township

This quaint and historic town boasts a population of around 3,000 who inhabit the small towns and villages which have risen out of Māori settlements or farming communities.

A typical cottage with roses

Small towns and sparking Diamond Harbour

The whole harbour valley presents a beautiful scene of sparkling tranquillity, which is off-set by Diamond Harbour across the water. Water taxi transport is provided on a regular daily timetable if you do not want to drive the 30 minutes through Corsair and Cass Bays, Rapaki, Governor’s Bay and the other small settlements along the way.

Diamond Harbour water taxi


Lyttleton from the Diamond Harbour water taxi on a fine summer’s day

Saturday Market and Shopping

Artisan bread from Vic’s bread shop

Lyttleton itself is a relatively quiet little haven; however, on Saturday mornings it comes alive with the London Street farmers market and craft stalls which are enjoyed by visitors from near and far.

Some of the craft stalls at the market


Another part of the craft market


A container of radish

Organic fruit and veggies, quality artisan bread, freshly made waffles and toasted goodies, spices, hummus, free range eggs, honey, wine, artisan cheeses, and much more are on offer. Live music and entertainment add gaiety to the sounds of the bustling crowds enjoying the ambience of the day.

The market on a misty autumn Saturday morning

Organic Spring Collective at the market

Spring Collective organic vege sign

Musical entertainment at the market

Hot soup stall

The Hummus stall

Caddy Gardens vegetable stand at the market

Locally grown flowers, lilies, protea’s and more

The bridle path

Many traverse the ‘bridle path’ as an exercise to get to the market and trudge back up the hill with their packs full of supplies and their stomachs warm with soup or coffee. The market is held in the main street and many shops remain open to welcome the visitors.

Mist on the bridle path

The bridle path on a clear summer’s day

The street market scene

Organic Shop on London Street

Manfred, my husband with local Canterbury honey

Cafe’s and gift shops

Several cafes and gift shops line London Street and the shopping precinct. These are patronised during the weekend and weekdays alike. Two of our favourite shops are the Lyttle Kiwi gift shop and the famed Lyttleton Coffee Company.

Lyttel Kiwi gift shop sign

Lyttel Kiwi shop

Quaint cottages and misty mountains

Lyttleton Coffee Company

This cafe is where quality food and the ‘best coffee in town’ is enjoyed—as witnessed by the tables filled with customers and the lineup at the counter. In winter, the wood burner glows; and in all seasons the balcony out back provides a great view of the comings and goings of the inner harbour. During the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes in 2011, the coffee company operated out of the garage of a house whilst the main building was being repaired. We loved the atmosphere and candour of the friendly waiters and baristas, and with wood-fired pizza, excellent coffee and delicious food, they were always going to survive.

Lyttleton Coffee Company


Inside the Lyttleton coffee company’s cafe and roastery

Roots Restaurant

Roots Restaurant London Street

Speaking of food, showcasing the best seasonal produce, ‘Roots’ restaurant staff grow, forage, and source quality ingredients. They ‘wine match’ their food to provide a unique experience for the diner. Planned with sustainability, taste, and freshness in mind, Roots recently won the 2018 Cusine awards. In this little hideaway town, where good food consciousness is alive and well, this restaurant earns top honours. If you are visiting the area, a meal here will leave you feeling like you have visited the best place on earth!

The sun started shining on the wine merchants stall

The juice and smoothie caravan

The Timeball

One of the town’s iconic landmarks, ‘The Timeball’, was destroyed and subsequently dismantled following the earthquakes. It has since been rebuilt and sits at an eye-catching strategic position on the hills above the harbour. The Timeball’s history is intriguing in its provision of accurate time to match Greenwich meantime in the UK.

The Timeball from the town

Lyttleton Timeball

Aftermath of the ‘quakes’

Many Lyttleton ‘institutions’ were broken and damaged in the earthquakes and some of the Port’s historic buildings have been pulled down. Those that have been, or will be, restored provide a glimpse of the glorious past in this ever-changing landscape.

Local gift shops in historic buildings


‘Shroom Room’ and the open square

Mystical beauty of the hills

When the cloud is down on the crater rim, the mystique of this gorgeous little town continues. When the mist lifts, the grandeur of the hills is revealed and life carries on with enjoyment and appreciation of the everyday beauty of the harbour.

The cloud clears and the crater rim comes into view

The Volcano stall of tasty treats

Turkish bakery stall

Ready for the market


TeresaGlobalTravels Teresa Lynch

As a young adult, I wanted to travel and write – I now get to do both. In the interim, I became a registered nurse and gained a Masters in Health Science and bought up a family of 4 children – who live scattered around the world, providing me with destinations and stories. I also practice and teach Accunect, a holistic healing practice based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). I practice meditation and enjoy my collective and extended family of Oneness and Buddhist friends. My husband loves to cook and we explore the food of the world, particularly Mediterranean cuisine. This myriad of experiences feeds and inspires my writing. We are always researching and planning the next trip.