Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Godley Head Defence Site, Christchurch


From Lake Opuha we headed to one of our regular NZMCA Parks; Weedons on the southern boundary of Christchurch city where we were welcomed by a number of stunning sunrises. 

This was one of the sunrise views looking south, away from the rising sun. It was quite strange with a distinct band separating fluffy cloud from the blue sky beyond.

Of course spectacular sunrises are usually followed by an overcast or rainy day and so it was the case for most of our time in Christchurch. 

We've visited Christchurch numerous times but usually use our stay as a rest period and to catch up on chores in the city. I was hoping for a sunny day when I headed off to explore Sumner Beach, a coastal seaside suburb 30kms away on the eastern side of  the city and also to do a tiki-tour to Godley Head and travel the Summit Road on the Port Hills overlooking Christchurch.

Sumner Beach & Cave Rock
It was not to be though, instead a smoky haze hung over the city on a bitterly cold day. At the top of a short steep drive up Evans Pass Road, I stopped to take a photo overlooking Sumner below and across to South New Brighton and New Brighton. You can see the New Brighton Pier poking out into the sea in the middle distance.

The views along the Summit Road are spectacular, so close and yet so far from the bustling city below. I'm heading to Godley Head Park at the tip of the northern side of the entrance to Lyttelton Harbour. It's a 10km drive from Sumner to Godley Head and while the road is narrow, it's sealed all the way and not a particularly difficult road to drive; just don't get distracted by the views, it's a very long way down. And watch for oncoming traffic, it's mostly one way.

You can see part of the road cutting along the top of the hill in the photo below. There are a couple of sharp switchbacks in the Evans Pass Road that you'd need to watch in a bigger vehicle- we wouldn't probably be able to get our fifth-wheeler around them. 

I stopped often to take in the views. In the photo below one of the many walking and mountain bike tracks that criss-cross the Port Hills can be seen, this one is between Godley Head and Taylors Mistake. Across the secluded Taylors Mistake Bay are the earthquake sacred cliffs of Scarborough Hill and beyond that, Sumner Beach. 

The road weaves its way from one side to the other along the top of the headland, this is looking down into Lyttelton Harbour on the inside, the port and township of Lyttelton are tucked around the corner at the far right. The harbour entrance is to the left and across the water is Diamond Harbour.

Godley Head is the most complete WW11 coastal defence site in New Zealand today. It's now a public park administered by DOC (Dept. of Conservation). Click on the photos to enlarge if you'd like to read more.

The plotting room, miniature range & engine room buildings are still located on the hillside above the entrance to the harbour.

It really was a bitterly cold day with what I'm sure was a sub-zero wind chill factor, so it was a surprise to see people as mad as me visiting the park. I passed a guy carrying a load of photographic gear on my way down to the buildings. He told me he'd been doing a photoshoot, I found his model still at the buildings, she was taking a few selfies herself, and freezing in the process. 

I've included a photo of each of the buildings with their information board because I know there are a few people out there who'd like to read about the background (remember to click on the photo to enlarge).

The Battery Plotting Room-

The latrines would have had the best views in the whole base-

The Engine Room- 

This was the most fascinating building, like a big boys game of Battleships (which I guess it was)
The Miniature Range-

Back near the carpark were a collection of hatches, pipes and shafts-

Perhaps one of my readers will know more about these- 

Further towards the tip of  Godley Head and overlooking the ocean are the remaining buildings from the Military Camp. It is also now a DOC Camp and would be a great place to stay in the summer, especially with all the walking and biking tracks that weave their way up, down and over the headland. Bookings are essential; once your fees are paid you're sent the combination number for the lock on the gate. Dogs on a lead are welcome too. 

 I walked down to the handful of buildings; some are well looked after, others not so much.

The battery compound was closed off, the two photos of the small grey gun emplacements above are part of the compound that I took through the fence.

I also took this photo (black & white) looking across the Lyttelton Harbour entrance to the headlands that form the north side of Banks Peninsula.

Back in the ute, with the heater turned up to full, I headed back towards Evans Pass Road (the lower road) but carried on along Summit Road. Can you can see a small white dot? That's a car coming down the road. 

I stopped a few more times to take photos, the haze over the city hadn't improved but the wind had picked up considerably. The Avon and Heathcote Rivers flow through the city and empty into the estuary here.

With so many walkers and bikers in the Port Hills I'm sure this is a welcome relief to passersby. Supplied courtesy of a resident on Summit Road.

I was hoping to drive right along the Summit Road and drop down into Lyttelton but it was closed beyond Mt Pleasant Road so I drove back down to sea level and headed home (I believe it was closed initially because of the earthquake but now permanently, to allow a safer environment for bikers and walkers in the area).


  1. Is the walk easy enough and is it OK for children?

    1. It's hard to say and I guess it depends on the age and how fit the children are. I'd say they'd be fine (especially in summer), you'd just have to watch younger children on some of the bluffs.
      Here's the link to the DOC brochure on the walk- http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/canterbury/places/godley-head/things-to-do/taylors-mistake-awaroa-godley-head-walk/


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