Lyttelton (Māori: Ōhinehou) is a port town on the north shore of Lyttelton Harbour, at the north-western end of Banks Peninsula and close to Christchurch, on the eastern coast of the South Island of New Zealand.
Due to its establishment as a landing point for Christchurch-bound seafarers, Lyttelton has historically been regarded as the „Gateway to Canterbury“ for colonial settlers. The port remains a regular destination for cruise liners and is the South Island’s principal goods transport terminal, handling 34% of exports and 61% of imports by value.
In 2009 Lyttelton was awarded Category I Historic Area status by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) defined as „an area of special or outstanding historical or cultural heritage significance or value“.
According to the 2013 census, the usual resident population of Lyttelton, including neighbouring communities of Rapaki, Cass Bay and Corsair Bay, was 2,859.
In August 1849 it was officially proclaimed a port. Pilgrim’s Rock shows the place where European settlers first set foot in the harbour. The present location of the rock is well inland from the sea, as much of Lyttelton’s dockside has been reclaimed from the harbour waters in recent years.
Lyttelton was formerly called Port Cooper (after Daniel Cooper) and Port Victoria. It was the original settlement in the district (1850). The name Lyttelton was given to it in honour of George William Lyttelton of the Canterbury Association, which had led the colonisation of the area.
The Lyttelton Times was one of the principal newspapers of the Canterbury region for 80 years, published from 1851 until 1929, at which time it became the Christchurch Times, until publication ceased in 1935.
On 1 July 1862, the first telegraph transmission in New Zealand was made from Lyttelton Post Office.
In 1870, fire destroyed all the wooden buildings in Norwich Quay, on the main street of Lyttelton.
The Lyttelton Timeball Station was erected in 1876 and started signalling Greenwich Mean Time to ships in the harbour that year. It was one of the world’s five working timeball stations until it was destroyed by the June 2011 Christchurch earthquake. The castle-like building was located high on a ridge above the port with extensive views over the harbour.
On 1 January 1908, the Nimrod Expedition, headed by Ernest Shackleton to explore Antarctica left from the harbour here.
The Lyttelton Harbour Board was created in 1877 to be in charge of the harbour’s management. It was dissolved in 1989 after the passing of the 1988 Port Companies Act, which forced it to split into two separate organisations, one commercial (the Lyttelton Port Company, currently owned by Christchurch City Holdings, the commercial arm of the city council) and one non-commercial. In 1996 the Lyttelton Port Company registered on the New Zealand Stock Exchange.