Published: July 7th 2010June 16th 2010
I recently (March/April, 2010) returned from a 7-week stay in New Zealand on the South Island and was located in Sumner, a suburb of Christchurch. I thought I would add a few reflections and pictures for Sumner in addition to those I provided in another blog for my travels on the South Island. The trip was part of my sabbatical from work as a professor and I spent much of my time during the weekdays at the local elementary school called the Sumner School. Sumner is a little like ‘Pleasantville’, an ideal place for family life. I imagine that living in Sumner today is what it was like to live in a suburb somewhere on the coast in California in the 1950’s. The town is very safe with wide roads, sitting as a triangular wedge between the surrounding hills on two sides and the beach on the third side. It has a nice small town feel where kids skateboard to school and where people take to the hills for hikes, runs, and biking and to the beach for surfing.
I was lucky enough to get the chance to rent a flat right on the Esplanade which is directly across from
the beach. In doing so, I got the opportunity to get to know Rod and Anne, owners of the house, very well. They were wonderful hosts and their place was the absolute best place to stay. If you look at the pictures there are a number of them that were shot just across the street from the house. It was so nice to be able to walk outside at any time of the day and hear the waves of the ocean coming in. And the sunrises and sunsets were unbelievable! In addition, I could go right out my door for a run to that would take me for a 5k loop around town or up onto the Captain Thomas Track. If you happen to be going to Sumner and do a lot of running I would recommend doing a long loop from the Captain Thomas Track up to Summit Road, continuing on Summit to Godley Head and then taking a trail back down into Taylor’s Mistake before coming back into town. The last part of this run will be slow going but the views are outstanding. And, actually, this would be a great hike to do also—with views from above
town and of the ocean cliffs. Definitely don’t leave Sumner without exploring the cliffs and shores around Taylor’s Mistake and Godley Head!
My friend and colleague Billy was my host for the work side of things and he hooked me up with the Summer School where I worked with Grade 5 students. This was definitely a highlight of my trip . . . simply getting to be in the classroom everyday getting to know the students and also seeing how school works in New Zealand. The emphasis on the students being active, particularly outdoors, was so refreshing. And I’m really missing the morning tea that we enjoyed everyday . . . particularly on Friday with the barrage of biscuits and other goodies.
In terms of food, I was only able to go to the Cornershop Bistro once but the meal was delicious—I had lamb. The norm was a barrage of fish and chips and the best place seemed to be the little stand right down in the center of town. For about $6 NZ you could get a large piece of fish and a huge bunch of French fries. It was difficult to even cook in and beat
the price of fish and chips typically. The Thirsty Mariners had good fish and chips also (but more costly) and fun trivia nights once a week. If you go for trivia though make sure to have a Kiwi on your team! For sweets make sure to get Cadbury caramels and the Cadbury hokey pokey bars. Hokey pokey is the flavor unique to New Zealand. Surprisingly, I never did really find great ice cream in New Zealand. Most of the stands sold the same brand name ice cream that was not very good.
I think Sumner would be a good base for a South Island visit. There you are sitting at the edge of Christchurch just a 25-30 bus ride away from the center of the city. And the advantages of staying in Sumner far outweigh staying in Christchurch as you have the surf and hills right at your back door. Also, with a Metro pass getting around efficient and straightforward on the bus. I would recommend going over the hills to Lyttelton to visit the town and see the scenic harbor. The city is known for it arts and music and also has a nice farmers market with fresh
Rod & Anne
This was our feast at the Cornershop Bistro. The lamb was excellent!
(and cheap) produce on Saturday mornings. A great hike that I discovered thanks to Peter (Sumner School) that gives great views of Lyttelton Harbor and the entire surrounding area is the Kaituna Valley walkway. The views are definitely worth the drive back to the trailhead (which is also scenic). In Christchurch make sure to take a walk (or run) though the botanical gardens as it is a beautiful place. Also, nice is going through the old site of the University of Canterbury which is now the Arts Centre that has a number of small galleries throughout. Finally, if you get the opportunity take in a Christchurch Crusaders rugby match.
If you are heading to Sumner I hope you enjoy the surrounding area as much as I did. I can see why people choose to raise their families there. Just wondering around the backstreets of the town I think will give you a taste of life there. Cheers!
There are more photos below