The Banks Peninsula has a radically different landscape compared to the adjoining, flat Canterbury Plains, where Christchurch (gray patch to the north) is located. The Banks Peninsula is formed from the overlapping cones of the extinct Lyttelton and Akaroa volcanoes. Subsequent erosion of the cones formed the heavily dissected terrain visible in the image, and sea level rise led to the creation of several harbors around the Peninsula. Erosion continues unabated today, as evidenced by the apron of greenish blue, sediment-laden waters surrounding the Banks Peninsula.
Other interesting features in the image include the braided Waimakariri River to the north-northwest of the city, and the greenish brown waters of Lake Ellesmere at image left. The coloration of the water is due both to its shallow depth (1.4 meters on average) and its high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus, which fertilizes the growth of large amounts of green algae.