Rakaia Gorge Walkway, Methven, Canterbury

Great family walk near Methven: The Rakaia Gorge Walkway

(updated December 2021)

The Rakaia Gorge has such stunning scenery.  Amazing blue green water offset against green bush, sitting boldly underneath an often snowy Mt Hutt. It is absolutely beautiful on a good day, but if it has rained, then the water is often grey, so do be aware of this before you walk the track.  The day we walked along the Rakaia Gorge Walkway with kids, it was grey like this, but fortunately I was able to come back another day and get this beautiful cover shot.  I think this is one of the best walks in Methven and you will be well rewarded with this scenery.

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How to get to the Rakaia Gorge Track

The Rakaia Gorge is located about 15 minutes from Methven, Mid Canterbury and is on the Inland Scenic Route 72.  Route 72 crosses a number of hidden rural gems across Canterbury.  The drive time from Christchurch to the Rakaia Gorge via Windwhistle is about an hour. The beautiful scenic gorge sits in the shadow of Mt Hutt which has a great skifield suitable for kids and families of all ages 

Where does the Rakaia Gorge Track start?

The first time I did this half day walk, it took me forever to find the actual start of the track, so let me give you a run down.

  • Park in the carpark for the Discovery Jet Boat (follow the signs – its on the Christchurch side of the bridge)
  • Walk through the carpark back towards the bridge and you will find the official sign for the track
  • When you see the Rakaia Gorge Bridge, look up to your right (across from the Lodge signage) and this little trail is the start.  From there you will be fine
How long will the Rakaia Gorge Walkway take (with kids too)?

Full Rakaia Gorge Track:  This out and back track will take about 3 hours return for adults, but I would allow 3-4 hours if you are walking with children.  It is quite undulating the whole way and you will work up a sweat.

Rakaia Gorge Lookout Point (pictured below):  If you do not want to walk the whole track, try walking to the lookout point (see the large photo below)  There are beautiful views over the mountains and the Rakaia River.  The lookout point will take 30-45 minutes each way.  With our three and four year old, it took us around 1 hour 40 minutes return.

Is the Rakaia Gorge Walk Safe?

The first part of the Rakaia Gorge walk is quite narrow and on the edge of the hill. I’d be happy for my 5 year old to walk by himself, but I’d definitely hold my 3 year olds hand along the way in parts (he’s a little clumsy). Otherwise I’d just pop him into a backpack. There is a nice amount of undulation and you get to look back over the gorge which is so pretty, even on a cloudy day.  

We went after a good amount of rain, so when walking over the farmlands on the second part of the walk there were quite a lot of large puddles on the track.  I brought my tramping boots the second time just because of that, but running shoes would be fine.

The end

Near the end, you come to the loop part of the track (signposted junction)  You can go straight ahead, then up the hill to the last viewpoint (where you can also access Terrace Downs Golf Resort – think “cafe and toilets here”) and come back around the loop.  Or if you are pressed for time, you could head straight up the hill to the right (its pretty steep, but a lot faster to reach the end of the walk)

Coal Mine detour

One of the interesting things about the track is there are some old coal mines, just a few minutes detour off the track.  Keep an eye out for this detour on the second half of the Rakaia Gorge Track.

Rakaia Gorge Bridge

The Rakaia Gorge Bridge is a historic piece of architecture that dates back to 1945 and is the oldest remaining bridge across the Rakaia River (although there were some previous versions before this).  This Mid Canterbury icon traverses the 145km long Rakaia River that begins in the alpines and heads out the Pacific Ocean. The view from the bridge is stunning so don’t forget to cross it as a pedestrian and stop for some scenic photos.

What to do at the Rakaia Gorge

  • Walk on the Rakaia Gorge Track or to the lookout point
  • Swim in the river
  • Take a ride on the Rakaia Gorge Jet Boat, the Discovery Jet.  They have family friendly and adrenalin seeking trips and launch right at the river.
  • Go fishing in the Rakaia River
  • Have a picnic: this is a popular spot for picnics all year around.  Plenty of space on the rivers edge (albeit stony)  Lots of people with portable bbqs who love a great view.

View from Washpen Falls waterfall walk, near Christchurch Nearby Washpen Falls Track, 10 mins from Rakaia Gorge, New Zealand

Rakaia Gorge Accommodation

It is so beautiful here, and in the summer, can be a great swimming spot, so if you want to stay nearby, I highly recommend it.

Here are are few options that are lovely and closeby.

  • Skitime Methven:  Skitime has a great range of rooms for families, starting from a deluxe lodge room sleeping up to 3, as well as two and three bedroom apartments with full kitchen and living areas.  One of the big highlights of Skitime is its beautiful restaurant and the fact that kids 10 and under eat for free here.  For the latest prices on accommodation at Skitime, click here
  • Rakaia Gorge Camping:  A well kept secret is that there is a campsite looking over the Rakaia Gorge.  No power here though, but gas hot water for the kitchens and showers.  An incredible spot to stay for a few days, especially in the summer.  Click here for more info on the Rakaia Gorge Camping Ground.

360 degree views at Peak Hill Walk, Canterbury, New Zealand, will rival even the best at Roys Peak Wanaka // Backyard Travel Family Nearby Peak Hill Track, near Lake Coleridge

Things to do in Methven, Mid Canterbury

We often stop to do this family walk when we are in the Methven area, so definitely check it out.  If you want to spend more time here, there is a campground overlooking the beautiful Rakaia River and this is a great budget friendly option for families.  

There are lots of other family activities to do in the area, such as biking at the Methven Skills Park in the Methven town centre, walking and picnicking in the Awa Awa Rata Reserve at the base of Mt Hutt, having lunch at the cafe at Terrace Downs High Country Resort, or even skiing at Mt Hutt.  

For more information on the best things to do in Methven and around the Mid Canterbury area, check out the links below.

Other activities in the area


Founder of Backyard Travel Family

Jen is a super organiser when it comes to travel. Having travelled extensively in Europe and Africa, has lived in London and the USA and holidayed in many parts of Asia, she is not a newbie to the travel space

Jen has three young children, 8 and under and travels around New Zealand with them.

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what you need to know


- 15 mins from Methven township
- 1 hour from Christchurch
- I found the start of this track a little tricky to find. If coming from Methven, head over the gorge bridge and to your right you will see a signpost for the Discovery Jet. You can park here (I would drive back as close to the bridge from here) and then head back down the path towards the bridge. With the bridge on your left and you cross directly over the road and the path starts from there. (just opposite the lodge sign) From Christchurch you will see this carpark on the left just before the gorge bridge.

The trail

- 3-4 hours walk with a lunch stop
- Terrain: compacted dirt with gravel


- There are toilets in the carpark as well as maps of the area walkways.
- A DOC campground is just across the gorge bridge (heading towards Methven) and on the left.

What to bring

- Lunch, water and sunscreen. There is some shade along the way
- Tramping Boots or shoes that are prepared to get muddy in places if it has been wet.

Food options

- Terrace Downs High Country Resort (cafe/restaurant) 10 minutes
- Methven township 15 mins fuel, 4 Square supermarket, cafes, restaurants

Further information

Rakaia Gorge Walkway

What the critics thought

"I walked the whole way to the Lookout and then we had lunch. I liked hiding in the big tree, but I got a bit tired on the way home."
Backyard Travel Family / Your go to for practical advice for active families travelling around New Zealand
3 year old Fire Cracker
"The views really make this walk wonderful. I think I have the same photo of the river and the bridge, every few minutes down the track"
Backyard Travel Family / Your go to for practical advice for active families travelling around New Zealand
Chief Travel Organiser
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