Oxford, a rural town on the Inland Scenic Route 72, is the perfect place to appreciate the mountain scenery and seasonal beauty of the North Canterbury Plains.
Named after the university city of Oxford, this farming town of 1,600 people, was a saw-milling centre until 1898. It was known to the Maori as Tawera meaning ‘hot blow’ due to the well-known Canterbury Nor' Wester. They travelled here from the main Kaiapoi pa on food gathering expeditions and also crossed the Alps in search of the precious greenstone (jade).
Oxford is an ideal base for all manner of outdoor adventures, from soft, relaxing pursuits like golf, wine trailing, walking and horse riding, or more energetic, adrenalin rushes like hunting, fishing, tramping, mountain biking, kayaking, 4 wheel driving and jet boating.
Inland from Oxford is the spectacular Waimakariri Gorge, where the river squeezes between steep rock walls. This is the transition point for the gruelling ‘Coast to Coast’ annual multi-sport event, where competitors finish the kayak leg. Jet boating is a major attraction here with thrills aplenty, as you negotiate the gorge and the ever-changing shallow shingle beds of the mighty river.
The Oxford Forest is an ever-popular playground for locals and visitors. Formed walking tracks lead you through lush tawai and beech forests. Walking in the township is promoted with a Kiwi Walks brochure (available from local shops) and includes a climb up to the Millennium Lookout, which surveys the Canterbury Plains. Mear’s Track is an easy stroll in company with the ever-inquisitive fantail birds.
The Oxford Historical Museum opens on Sundays (or by arrangement) and gives a glimpse of the colonial past, including tractors, traction engines and an historic jailhouse. The main street has takeaways, hotel meals, an excellent cafe and a popular evening bistro bar.
Accommodation is plentiful with numerous B&B options, motels and camping and cabin facilities in the holiday park. Some of the farmstay options are quite unique. One offers horse riding from beginners to serious equestrian competitors. There are also offers of fly, nymph and spin fishing, with full instruction and tackle supplied. Salmon fishing is a popular feature in the December to April period.
Oxford’s strategic location near the Waimakariri and Ashley river gorges, its unsurpassed views of the mountains and its wide range of activities, make it a sought after holiday haven.