A Cliff Hanger

From Sumner towards the DOC camp at Godley Head (#7544), we headed into the hills on a very steep and narrow road, thankful that the road was quiet so we could travel slowly and admire the scenery. Rounding one of the many corners we came across a sign that said “Road Closed” thinking this was not right and with nowhere to turn around any way we carried on. It turned out that the closed road was the side road to Lyttelton that had been damaged in the quake, maybe better signage is in order.

If we thought the road was narrow before then things got a whole lot worse as we passed the closed road. The road markings vanished, and it became little more than a one-lane country road that hugged the cliff every upwards with a precipitous drop on the left-hand side needless to say I hugged the right-hand side of the road. Blind corners appeared regularly, and despite sounding the horn, we were terrified of meeting someone coming the other way. Thankfully the two times we did meet oncoming traffic it was in an area where we could get past without one of us having to back up to find a passing space.

When we did reach the end of the road with relief flooding over me, I was able to take in the vista of a fantastic campsite overlooking Sumner, New Brighton as well as the entrance to Lyttleton harbour. Turns out that the gate to the campground is locked with a notice on the gate stating you must register online and within an hour they will send you the code for the gate. Parking up the camper I fired up the laptop and the wireless logged in and registered.

While we waited for the code to come through we set off for a walk around the area. Exploring the camping area first we noticed one other campervan, a tiny tent and one backpacker van, so almost nobody here. However, there were several people parked in the car park area exploring the trails.

From the camp, it’s a very short stroll to the central part of the battery station this, however, is fenced off with barbed wire. Leaving Sarah and I wondering “was this it” later as we walked another track we saw that the cliff had collapsed behind this area so we could understand why they had closed it off, it’s a long way down. This area is undergoing restoration, and they do hope to reopen it at some point. I really hope so as it looked fascinating.

The code for the gate came through, so we headed back to park up the camper to find a spot. Choosing a place that was sheltered from the wind by trees but still with a great view it was time to top up the oil in the camper that we had purchased in Christchurch. If only it was that easy no matter what we did, we could not get the oil filler cap off. Searching online for ideas and calling a friend of mine who is a mechanic failed to yield a positive result so it will be back to the Fiat dealer in Christchurch to try to get sorted.

After the failed attempt to top up the oil, we set off towards the survey mark at the top of the hill and to inspect the Battery Points that provide viewing miles out to sea. As we gazed out from the Point at the top of the hill, you could sense the feeling that must have pervaded during WW2 as they searched for the German invaders. It must have taken an enormous amount of effort to get all the concrete to the top of the hill to make these structures.

On the Lyttelton side, there are 4 buildings tucked into the hillside including the Plotting Room (sounds very mysterious) and the Engine Room that contains a massive gantry crane that’s still inside the building. They had over 400 people operating the Battery during the height of the war, so I imagine that the generators in the engine room would have been going night and day to keep the station running.

Walking down the path to one of the lower viewing points, it’s not hard to imagine people scurrying up and down the trails as shifts change or a ship comes into view. One of the information boards talks about a German Destroyer laying ten mines across the harbour entrance, It also says that the mines have never been found a rather worrying thought!

Settling in for the evening another couple of campers arrived, but the place is still basically deserted a bit of a change after the NZMCA camp at Kaikoura. As the sunset and the lights started to come on down at New Brighton, the view was a photo waiting to happen.


Waking up early the next morning, this fabulous sunrise provided another photo chance. And with that, our time at DOC’s Godley Head came to an end with us wanting to get down the road before everyone started coming up and while the wind was relatively still.

While it can be a bit frightening getting to the camp, I strongly recommend it as being worth the journey you will not be disappointed.

Sarah, my proofreader, wanted me to include the photo of the Lyttleton Harbour that you can see from various vantage points around the head. As well as the picture of the author.
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6 thoughts on “A Cliff Hanger

  1. Thanks for the great description of access. And the encouragement to visit despite the difficulty. I have put it on our list.

  2. What an awesome place, with utterly amazing views. I don’t think I had ever heard of it and it was great to learn about it. Wonderful photos.
    Thanks for the call. Do hope you feel better tomorrow. Give my love to Jon when you see him.
    Lots of love
    SP xx

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