With just over 2,000 residents, Canterbury’s Oxford is regarded as a small town. But given its quaint village-like atmosphere, a Sunday market second-to-none, shops, eateries and gallery, all within walking distance of one another, this little settlement fair bustles with activity, especially at weekends. The very best time to visit is on a sunny day in winter or early spring when the town’s snow-covered Southern Alps backdrop puts on a majestic display.
Just 50 minutes drive from Christchurch, Oxford can be reached via highway 72, or if you’re coming from the north, turn west at Kaiapoi. The town’s Sunday market kicks off at 9am every weekend of the year regardless of weather (unless there’s a gale blowing!). Country fair is the theme with preserves and sauces taking centre stage, and an ever-growing range of artisan stalls. While you’ll always find a coffee there, why not mosey on back into town for a sit down and a warm-up at Cafe 51. Set in a restored villa, the establishment’s tray bakes are difficult to resist!
If you’re planning on lunch, owner-operated Cruisy Day’s Diner is the place go, but be forewarned: this American diner-themed eatery is so hugely popular that if you’re looking for a table at the weekend or on a public holiday, you’ll need to reserve several days ahead – or face disappointment. We couldn’t get enough of Cruisy Day’s black and white tiled floors, flashy neon lights and retro jukebox. And the wait staff’s uniforms are to die for!
Just a few doors away is one of Oxford’s best treats – a seriously good book shop! It’s not often that small towns boast such a fine selection of reading material, or that you find yourself with all the time in the world to peruse tomes. If you have grandies in tow, this is the place for them, too, as ‘Emma’s at Oxford’ sports some delightfully quirky children’s titles.
While you’re in the retail frame of mind, time-warp into Cottage Crafts. This sweet gift shop is straight out of a 1970’s Country Women’s diary with knitted booties, folk art pieces, cottage candles and homespun-and-dyed Canterbury yarn. The whole shebang is housed in one end of the town’s red brick Centennial Hall.
If you’ve had your fill of shopping, or simply want to walk off lunch or afternoon tea, Oxford has a range of short (under 1 hour) walks, many of which leave right from town, so there’s no need to hop into the car. Choose which one suits you by browsing the walks information panel close to the old jail house.
It would be a pity to leave Oxford without a visit to ‘Arts in Oxford’. This one-stop-shop situated right beside the old restored jail, is an art gallery, gift shop and exhibition space – and that’s not all. As well as changing its two exhibition spaces every five weeks, the Charitable Trust-run operation (it attracts a raft of grants and is staffed by volunteers) also offers workshops. From weaving with flax to felting, painting and papermaking, there’s bound to be something that interests. Find out about the centre’s up-coming workshops here.
After the perfect day out you may, like many before you, find yourself checking out the village real estate – enjoy!