Here are the best spots to swim in North Canterbury

Our updated recreational water quality monitoring report for 2019/20 shows that there are plenty of safe swimming spots to visit this summer in North Canterbury.

Of the 23 monitoring sites at popular swimming spots across North Canterbury, 18 received grades of very good, good or fair, meaning they are once again swimmable. This is down one from the 2019 report.

If you’re heading to the beach, river or lake to swim this summer, don’t forget to look out for water quality information signs. These will tell you if there’s a health alert in place or whether to avoid swimming if it’s been raining in the past two days.

Regular monitoring for bacteria and toxic algae

Each summer, starting in mid-November, key recreational sites around North Canterbury will be monitored weekly by us to check for bacteria or cyanobacteria (toxic algae) that might be harmful.

If the results show the water is unsuitable for recreation, Community and Public Health will issue health alerts and warning signs will be erected.

It’s also important to avoid swimming for 48 hours after there has been 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 Land and Water Aotearoa (LAWA) website.

LAWA’s data will be recorded from 30 November 2020 to 30 March 2021.

Key swimming spots in North Canterbury

Here’s an update on the key swimming spots at the start of the 2020/21 season, based on our water quality monitoring annual summary report for 2019/20.

This considers the past three years of summer-time water monitoring data to inform a grade that gives an indication of overall risk to health.

Five sites in North Canterbury have been graded poor or very poor (unsuitable for swimming) this bathing season, while the remaining 18 sites are suitable for swimming.


  • All five beach sites in the Kaikōura district retain their good or very good grades, as do the two beach sites in the Hurunui District.
  • In the Waimakariri District there have been no changes to the 2019 grades. Pegasus township, Pines Beach, Waikuku Beach and Woodend Beach sites are suitable for swimming, while the Ashley River/Rakahuri Estuary site recorded a ‘poor’ grade and is not suitable for swimming.


  • In the Kaikōura District, the Kahutara River at State Highway 1 retains its good grade.
  • In Hurunui, the Hurunui River at State Highway 1 has received a grade of poor this year and should be avoided. This is down from its previous grade of fair. Further upstream, the Hurunui River at State Highway 7 site has retained its poor grade. Please avoid swimming at both sites this summer. The remaining two monitored sites in the Waipara and Waiau-Uwha are safe to swim in.
  • Both the Ashley River/Rakahuri sites at Rangiora-Loburn Bridge and the Gorge Bridge retain good grades. There is insufficient data to grade water quality at the Ashley River State Highway 1 site. Kaiapoi River at boat ramp is still very poor and should be avoided this year.


  • Lyell Creek Lagoon has not changed from its very poor grade. Do not swim at that site this year.
  • Pegasus Lake at Moto Quay in the Waimakariri District retains a grade of very good this year and is suitable for swimming. Keep an eye out for cyanobacteria warning signs over summer.

Swimming grades for 2020-21 summer

Kaikōura District 2020/21 Grade (*reading excludes rainfall data)
Kahutara River at SH1 Good*
Lyell Creek Lagoon Very Poor
Armers Beach Good
Gooches Beach Good
Mangamaunu Very Good
Peketa Beach Good
South Bay Beach Good
Hurunui District  
 Hurunui River at SH1  Poor (down from ‘Fair’ in 2019)
 Hurunui River at SH7  Poor
 Waiau Uwha River at Waiau  Good
 Waipara River at Boys Brigade Camp  Fair
 Gore Bay  Very Good
 Motunau Beach  Very Good
Waimakariri District  
Ashley River/Rakahuri above Rangiora at Loburn Bridge Good*
Ashley River/Rakahuri u/s Gorge Bridge Good*
Ashley River/Rakahuri at SH1 Insufficient data
Kaiapoi River at Boat Ramp Very Poor
Pegasus Lake at Moto Quay Very Good
Ashley River/Rakahuri Estuary Poor
Pegasus township Very Good
Pines Beach Good
Waikuku Beach Very Good
Woodend Beach Very Good