Ice Ice Baby

The winter months means trying to find activities that are fun, even in the freezing cold. Ice skating is just one of the many activities that was, and is still, enjoyed by the people of the Ashburton District in winter.

As times have progressed and fashions change, so has ice skating fashion!

Long coats, fancy hats, stockings and formal attire are not what we see today, but it is consistent attire, seen in photographs from the early 1900s where people are seen ice skating.

Even the skates themselves have modernised, compared to what is seen in old pictures, where today skates are more comfortable and padded, while predominantly being made of synthetics, rather than leather, metal and wood.

The Ashburton district was lucky to have had many places to ice skate in the past and just a few of these feature on this page today.

At the Domain

The Domain is an attraction all year round but in the early 1900s crowds would gather to ice skate on the domains frozen swimming baths, which were opened in 1889. While we are unable to do this now because the swimming baths are no longer there, it is exciting to see pictures of people skating, especially seeing the clothes they wore- there are no Kathmandu puffer jackets in sight!

It is hard to imagine walking through the domain in winter and seeing people ice skating on the pools, but this was once very much the reality. On the pools there was also ice hockey played, ice skating races and family fun all enjoyed in town.

Staveley Ice Rink

Moving out of town and towards the mountains are the Staveley ice skating and curling rinks.

This ice rink is one of the few natural ice skating locations left in New Zealand. The natural freezing that occurs can cause some trouble with increasingly warm winters that have been occurring, even when it is hidden away amongst tall trees.

The open fire accompanied by BYO marshmallows and biscuits make for a great treat after a day or night of ice skating.

Staveley ice skating rink has been open since 1949, unfortunately the rink does not always open because it not always cold enough for a thick enough sheet of ice to freeze.

Mt Harper Ice Rink

The Mt Harper ice rink operated from the 1930s to the 1950s in a relatively isolated area. No wonder I had never heard of the place before!

Coming across pictures by Gordon Binsted, the ice rink caught my eye due to the picturesque location and the fun the people seem to be having.

The ice rink is possibly the first purpose-built public ice skating rink in the Southern Hemisphere according to the Department of Conservation. This was an impressive feat for Wyndham Barker who made the rink.

It was a trek reaching the rink as you had to drive on a windy gravel road and then once you arrived you had to cross the Rangitata River over a pontoon bridge. Despite this, it was still a very popular place, with 3,000 guests in one day in 1939.

I’m not much of an ice skater myself as there has been too many times I have fallen and hurt myself but I hope others have more fond memories of ice skating in the Ashburton and surrounding districts.


By Rosie Twamley



  1. Ice skating on the Domain looks like a whole lot of fun…that man looks like me when I try to ice skate! Falling flat on my back!
  2. Ice skating on the Domain in 1911. Looking very chilly!
  3. Ice skating race at the domain.
  4. People walking to the Staveley ice skating rink in the 1960s.
  5. The cute couple hold each other’s hands to keep steady at Staveley ice skating rink in the early 1960s.
  6. People skating at Staveley. Gordon Binsted’s proof sticker.
  7. The ferry that allowed people to cross the Rangitata and reach the ice skating rink. Look at that line of people!
  8. Mr Sorenson out ice skating at Mt Harper ice rink. Looking very much like a pro!
  9. A group of Greenstreet, Ashburton, residents enjoying a day out ice skating at Mt Harper. From left to right: Cliff Wells, Jennie (Russel) Pertic, Eric Russel, Leslie Likkey, David Lilley, George Letham, Aileen Wells, Bill Wells, Jill Jamieson, Vaney Wells, Lorna Lilley (Doone), Ian Shearer, Stewart Wells, Bruce Lilley.

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