Best spots to swim in North Canterbury

When you’re heading to the beach, local river or lake to swim this summer, don’t forget to look out for water quality information signs or visit the ‘Can I Swim Here?’ section of the Land and Water Aotearoa (LAWA) website. 

North Canterbury has some great spots to swim during the summer, but it’s important to check the water quality before you get in, to keep you, your whanāu and your dog safe.

Key swimming spots in North Canterbury

Here’s an update on the swimming spots we monitor, at the start of the 2021/22 season. Nineteen (19) sites in North Canterbury were graded as suitable for swimming, four sites were graded as not suitable for swimming this year.

It’s important to note that the swimming suitability of a site can change, depending on environmental conditions such as warm temperatures, sunlight, low or stable river flows, and high levels of nutrients. Before you, or your dog swims, make sure you view the most up-to-date water quality results from our weekly monitoring at lawa.org.nz.

Marine sites 

  • All five monitored beach sites in the Kaikōura district remain good for swimming (Armers Beach, Gooches Beach, Mangamaunu, Peketa Beach and South Bay), as do the two sites in the Hurunui District (Gore Bay and Motunau Beach).
  • In the Waimakariri District there have been no changes since last year's grading. Pegasus township Beach, Pines Beach, Waikuku Beach and Woodend Beach are suitable for swimming. The Ashley River/Rakahuri Estuary site remained unsuitable for swimming.

Freshwater sites

  • In the Kaikōura District, the Kahutara River at State Highway 1 remains good for swimming. Lyell Creek Lagoon remains unsuitable for swimming.
  • In Hurunui rivers, swimming should be avoided after heavy rain. The monitored sites in the Waipara River at Boys Brigade pool and Waiau-Uwha River at Waiau township are safe to swim in. Upstream, the Hurunui River at State Highway 7 site remains unsuitable for swimming.
  • In the Waimakariri District, all three Ashley River/Rakahuri sites (Rangiora-Loburn Bridge, Gorge Bridge and State Highway 1) are suitable for swimming. Pegasus Lake at Moto Quay is suitable for swimming. Kaiapoi River at boat ramp should be avoided.

Regular water quality monitoring 

Each summer, popular recreational sites are monitored weekly by us to check for faecal contamination which can make us sick. River sites are also monitored for cyanobacteria (also called toxic algae) that might be harmful to humans and deadly to dogs.

If a site that is generally suitable for swimming shows the water has temporarily changed and is unsuitable for recreation, Canterbury District Health Board will issue a public health warning and warning signs will be erected. It will also be listed on our ‘Health Warnings’ page and the LAWA website.

It’s also recommended to avoid swimming for 48 hours after there has been heavy rainfall. This is because rain can wash bacteria from roads, paddocks and other sources into the waterway.

You can find out the latest information about water quality and cyanobacteria risks for any monitored site in the country at the LAWA website.