5 Adventures that are not the Dog Park

5 Adventures that are not the Dog Park

Written by Ian 'Dog Lover' Middleton.

I never used to notice ‘No Dogs’ signs when we were out on our adventures around New Zealand. Then we got two dogs, and now it’s all I ever see. Not wanting to be restricted to local dog parks or the beach – which always ended with me embarrassingly running after Oshy, as he disappeared over the horizon chasing birds – I began research into scenic, dog friendly locations. Although there are many places that are anti-dog, there are also plenty of interesting, adventurous destinations all within a few hours of Christchurch, which can be rewarding for you and the pooch.

trail dog nz

The New Zealand Alps have surprisingly loads of great places to take your pup!

The Port Hills

We’ll start with the most obvious and easily accessible. The hills are littered with walking tracks that provide endless perspectives down into Diamond Harbour, over to Banks Peninsula, and out over the Canterbury Plains. Personal favourites are the Mount Vernon Farm Track and the Godley Head Walkway. Be warned however, the tracks can get busy with walkers and cyclists, and sheep inhabited fields are aplenty.

trail dog port hills

Badger out on a trail run on the Greenwood Track in Christchurch Port Hills with his Front Range Harness.

For further information check out the local council website.


Canterbury Foothills

If, however you want to get out of Christchurch for more of a challenge, but don’t want to deal with a long drive, then the Canterbury Foothills are for you. Extending from East to West, Mt. Grey, Thomas, Richardson and Oxford are all located about an hour’s drive from Christchurch, and provide a variety of walking options, from half hour nature walks, to several hours, moderately graded hikes. Typically starting in the forest, it’s not long before you burst through the trees for an aerial view of Canterbury. All of the peaks are around a thousand meters, close enough to use the hashtag #mountaindogs in any case, so you can watch those social media likes come flooding in.

mountain dog

Foot hills of Canterbury... nice boots kids!

For further information check this brochure on the foothills.


If epic scenery is your thing, then head west into the Craigieburn Range. Here you can scale ‘proper’ mountains, and experience a variety of terrains including; dense alpine forests, barren mountain tops, sparse shrubland and rocky scree slopes, all the while being rewarded with amazing, panoramic views of the range. A good place to start is Helicopter Hill, a straightforward climb to a look out where those amazing, panoramic views I mentioned earlier can be savoured. Excellent mountain biking options may also be found here, if you want to stretch your canine’s legs without bothering too many people.

craigeburn trail dog nz

Oshy enjoying the view after a picnic (which he carried up himself in his ruffwear approach pack).

For further information check out DOC.


Hanmer Springs / St. James Conservation Area

If you would like to make a weekend of it, or generally explore a bit further afield, then the quaint alpine village of Hanmer Springs should be your next stop. The Waterfall Track is a rewarding 2.5hr walk to, unsurprisingly, a waterfall. Or the more challenging Mt. Isobele, or lesser walked, but I think more interesting, Mt. Dunblane are also worthy ways to spend several hours. Closer to town, Dog Stream Forest provides simpler, shorter walks if you’re not up for scaling mountains.

Dog friendly accommodation in Hanmer Springs includes: Alpine Holiday Apartments and Campground, Pines Holiday Park, and several bachs rented through Hanmer Holiday Homes.

St James in Winter Trail Dog

Oshy loving St James in Winter #snowpuppysunday

For further information on how friendly Hanmer is check this link.


If you’re willing to make a little more effort, then head out of town via Clarence Valley Road into St. James Conservation Area, where a little-visited, yet spectacular landscape awaits. The area is full of imposing mountains, hidden hot pools and endless photo opportunities. There are a number of walking, biking and 4x4 tracks that allow you to explore this hidden gem. Note that Molesworth station, located adjacent to St. James Conservation Area, does not allow dogs (boo!).

Free, dog friendly camp sites around St. James Conservation Park include St. James Homestead and Fowlers Campsite.

For further information on St James check here.



Hakatere Conservation Area

For those that have read any of the Dog Tails adventures will know that I love Hakatere. Yes, it’s a bit of a long drive along boring, straight roads, but it’s totally worth it when you arrive. The landscape is full of mountains, huge, grassy plains and a general lack of civilisation. A walk up Mt. Barossa is a good place to start, as the view from the summit allows you to get your bearings upon the area. Or, if you’re someone who prefers to admire mountains from the ground, as opposed to hauling yourself up them, then a walk around Lake Emma is a pleasant alternative. Due to the remote emptiness of it all, it was ideal for training our dogs for mountain biking, and walking off lead. The cycling isn’t as advanced as Craigieburn, generally using 4x4 tracks, which may appeal to the more novice rider, but the vistas are equally impressive. Note that at times you can be a few hours from a phone signal, so take suitable precautions and supplies when heading off the beaten track. Finally, don’t expect a friendly reception at the Lake Clearwater settlement when you are driving through with your dog, I’ve never seen so many large, bold ‘No Dogs’ signs at a village. Presumably they’re cat people down there.... however it is not far past here and you will find trail dog friendly areas that await!

Hakatere trail dog nz

Oshy finding the mountain water fresh!


For further information see here.

About the Author: 

Ian Middleton is dad to Oshy and Rusty the trail dogs and writer at Entertaining Adventures where you will find loads of great reads about adventures with and with out your dog in New Zealand.

Ian is also the founder of Bitchin' Beer Treats, dog treats made from left off brewing stuff!