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25 Free and Cheap Things to do in Christchurch, New Zealand

25 Free and Cheap Things to do in Christchurch, New Zealand

Christchurch is one of my favorite cities in New Zealand because there’s so much to do here. Surprisingly, you don’t need to have a big travel budget to enjoy the city either, as a lot of the best things to do in Christchurch are either cheap or even completely free!

Think about it – New Zealand is known for its natural beauty so most of the best things to do in NZ involve the great outdoors. Christchurch is no different and the best free things to do in the ‘garden city’ (as locals affectionately call it) involve hiking and relaxing at the beach.

As for cheap things to do in Christchurch, in this blog post, I’ve listed over 10 budget-friendly activities too. So, whether you’re visiting Christchurch for just a night or a week you won’t go over budget if you read my savvy tips.

To help you plan your trip and convince you that Christchurch is one of the best places to visit on the South Island, here are 25 free and cheap things to do in Christchurch, New Zealand!

Free & Cheap Things to do in Christchurch 

1. Hike the Godley Head Trail

Views from the Godley Head trail of the coastline near Christchurch, New Zealand
Views from Godley Head

Of course, one of the best free activities in Christchurch is hiking. Godley Head Loop Track is one of the top hikes in the area and one that you should definitely consider.

Godley Head Loop Track is a 9.3 km (5.8 km) walking track that should take 3 hours to complete. It’s one of the best hikes on the South Island because it boasts views of Christchurch, the Kaikoura Ranges, and the Banks Peninsula. There are also many WWII historical sites to be viewed along the track. 

The track starts at Taylors Mistake Carparkand near the beginning of the trail, you can witness what’s left of the old cave houses that are built into the cliffs here.

Did you know the coastal defense battery found on this track was built back in 1939 and is one of the top 10 coastal defense sites in New Zealand? The gun platforms feature interpretive graffiti that highlights the critical role of the Women’s Auxiliary Army in defending the area during WWII. 

As well as that, there’s an underground magazine here (a place to store gun cartridges and shells as well as having a motorized hoist that once lifted the ammunition to the guns). There are several information boards too which tell the story and history of the area.

After the Godley Head parking lot (FYI – there are toilet facilities here), continue on uphill to a stunning viewpoint of Breeze Bay – you may even see dolphins and seals in the ocean below! The track goes downhill from here to Breeze Col, follow the Black Rock walking trail for 15 to 20 minutes before coming to a sign for Pilgrims Way Track. You’re almost at the end – the finishing point is also the starting point at Taylors Mistake parking lot.

Worth noting – you can stay overnight here at the Godley Head Campsitewhich has 25 non-powered tent sites (that you can drive to.) Advance booking is essential, and it costs $15 NZD per adult per night.

2. Explore Christchurch by tram

A tram drive by in Christchurch city, New Zealand
Take the tram and explore the city! Photo credit – TravellingLight

Have you ever ridden a historic tram? It’s a cool and unique way to explore a city. Would you believe that you can explore Christchurch on-board a tram for as little as $30 NZD per adult! Yep, it’s one of the best cheap things to do in Christchurch in my opinion! 

The tram is similar to hop-on-hop-off bus tours because you can hop off along the route at one of the 17 stops and hop back on again once you’re ready. Stops include Canterbury Museum, Botanic Gardens, and New Regent Street- many of the best things to do in Christchurch!

Along the way, the tram driver will tell you all about the city’s historical sites as well as the general history of the city. A fun fact I learned was that the tram line in Christchurch was built back in 1880.

If you’re after a real treat, you can book a 4-course dinner on board the tram on the Tramway Restaurant tour, which includes a welcome drink and a delicious 4-course meal. Pass by famous Christchurch sights like the Avon River and Botanic Gardens while you enjoy your dinner from your window seat. The dinner option is still reasonably priced considering all that’s included at $125 NZD per adult.

Worth noting is that children up to age 15 travel free. A ticket for the hop-on-hop-off tour costs $30 NZD per adult.

3. Bridle Path Track

Views on the Bridle Path Track
The Bridle Path Track is one of the best hikes in Christchurch!

The Bridle Path Track is a 2.4 km (1.5 mi) walking track that should take an hour each way. It follows the footsteps of the first European settlers to the area and was constructed back in 1850. The track starts at the car park at the base of the Christchurch Gondola in Heathcote.

This track is recommended for those with a reasonable level of fitness as it is quite a steep climb to the summit. On your walk, you will see evidence of the devastation the Christchurch Earthquake of 2011 caused, with huge boulders covering the hillside here.

At the top, there’s a historic stone building that was built to remember the pioneer women of Christchurch. But, the views from the summit are really what you came for – you can see Lyttleton Harbor, Mount Herbert, and Diamond Harbor from your prime vantage point.

You can walk back via the same track you took to get to the summit or walk the Crater Rim Walkway towards Lyttleton, this track does eventually join up with the Bridle Path Road. An easier way to do it is to catch the Christchurch Gondola up to the top of Mount Cavendish and walk back down.

4. Brockworth Street Art Gallery

A mural on the Brockworth Street Art Gallery
Just one of the beautiful murals. Photo credit: Brockworth Street Art Gallery

One of the most interesting art galleries I’ve ever visited is the Brockworth Street Art Gallery in Christchurch, which is essentially a collection of street murals that runs along the Brockworth walkway. Plus, it’s free admission! The project is the creative brainchild of artists Damian Holt, Courtney Brown, and Zac Harding. 

The murals are quirky and colorful, and I spent over an hour walking beside the train tracks and taking lots of photos of the murals. There are murals of scenic beach scenes, graffiti-style slogans, and weirdly wonderful caricatures. Art lovers will love this part of Christchurch! 

Brockworth Street Art Gallery can be reached from between 33 – 35A Riccarton Road (between Nandos restaurant and the Mobil gas station).

5. Visit a local craft brewery 

A pizza and beer at Brew Moon Brewery, Christchurch, New Zealand
Mmm beer and pizza! Photo credit: Brew Moon Brewery

If you’re a craft beer fan then Christchurch is the city for you because it’s home to lots of micro-breweries as well as the Great Kiwi Beer Festival. At the Festival, the best breweries in the country showcase their beers and even offer free tastings. As well as that, there’s live music, DJs, and seminars that will tell you all about the craft of brewing. This festival is held at the end of January in Hagley Park annually.

As for local breweries in Christchurch, Cassels & Sons’ Brewerylocated in Woolston just under a 10-minute drive from Christchurch CBD, is a local favorite and is famous for its milk stout, which has won numerous awards! Also worth tasting is their Lager, Pale Ale, IPA, and Dunkel. There’s even a restaurant on-site which serves up excellent wood-fired pizza and a breakfast menu (until 3 pm).

Another favorite brewery of mine in Christchurch is Brew Moon Brewery which is located in Amberley, a 40-minute drive from the CBD. Here, they both brew and can their own beer. Try their New England IPA, Hazy Pale Ale, and APA among others. They are constantly releasing new flavors so be sure to ask what their seasonal beer is!

6. Self-guided LOTR tour to Edoras

Mount Sunday in New Zealand
Mount Sunday landscape, aka Edoras from Lord of the Rings!

Did you know that most of the scenes from the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) movies were filmed on the South Island? From Christchurch CBD you can easily explore ‘Edoras’ which is the capital city of the Rohan people in the Lord of The Rings Two Towers movie.

‘Edoras’ is located at the summit of Mount Sunday in Hakatere Conservation Park. It’s a narrow gravel road up to the summit (aka Edoras) that starts from the small town of Mount Somers. The drive up is an experience in itself, it will take 1.5-hours of driving from Christchurch CBD to reach Edoras. If you don’t have a 4WD, you may have to park your car before the summit and hike about 30 minutes to the top. There is no entrance fee to Mount Sunday (aka Edoras).

If you want to pay for a guided tour this tour from Christchurch is highly recommended. On the tour, your guide will show you exclusive photos of how they transformed this rural mountaintop into Edoras – the before and after photos will leave you in awe – it’s truly amazing what they accomplished! Pick up and drop off at your hotel in Christchurch is included in the price, which is $300 NZD per person, as well as a picnic lunch with wine.

7. Visit the Sign of the Bellbird for a great view of Christchurch

View of Lyttelton Harbour from Sign of the Bellbird
The view of Lyttelton Harbour from the Sign of the Bellbird and Crater Rim

Easily the best view in all of Christchurch city can be seen from the Sign of the Bellbird viewpoint. You can see as far as Ohinetahi Reserve, Lyttelton Harbour, and Canterbury Plains from here. The viewpoint is accessed via a 4 km (2.5 mi) walking track which starts from nearby The Sign of the Kiwi (more on that below) and will take approximately 3 hours.

Worth noting is the track is considered moderate in difficulty as it’s quite steep in sections.

The Sign of the Bellbird is actually a historic tea room that was built by Harry Ell in 1914. However, it fell into disrepair over the following years and remains in a run-down state to this day. The roof was replaced in 2015 following a fire, but that’s about the extent of the renovations there.

There is a parking lot under construction at the viewpoint which should be completed soon.

Top Tip – on a sunny day, the water in the harbor is a cloudy turquoise color, making it even more photogenic.

8. Enjoy a coffee and view at Sign of the Kiwi Café

High up off Summit Road with stunning views of Port Hill and Lyttleton Harbour is a local favorite the Sign of the Kiwi Café. The drive up is very steep with lots of sharp corners – so drive with care. If you don’t want to drive, you can also hike to the Sign of the Kiwi via the Crater Rim Walkway, which starts from the Sign of the Takahe – this trail is 3.3 km (2 mi) each way.

The Sign of the Kiwi Cafe is located in a historic stone building. The coffee here is excellent, which will be much appreciated if you’ve walked up. They also offer freshly baked goods and even hot breakfast and smaller lunch items. My top recommendation is their Kiwi Stack from the all-day breakfast menu, which is served with poached eggs, avocado, spinach, and bacon on a crostini. 

They also cater to vegans here. They just ask that you ring ahead to ensure they can get something prepared for you.

There’s plenty of seating – indoor and outdoor and during the summer months there’s an ice-cream shop, which the kids will love. The view from here is one of the best in Christchurch so as you can imagine it can get very busy, especially at weekends. 

9. 185 White Chairs

The 185 White Chairs in Christchurch, New Zealand
This is so sad!

A moving art installation on the corner of Manchester and Kilmore streets, 185 White Chairs pays tribute to those who lost their lives in the February 2011 earthquake. It was created by Christchurch artist Peter Majendie.

This art installation was once on display at Madras Street, but it was moved in December 2020 because a new sports stadium was built there. In its former location on Madras Street, the 185 chairs were laid out like gravestones in a cemetery but at their new home, and to mark its 10th anniversary, the chairs are now laid out in a semi-circle. This new layout signifies how the city has moved on, and come back stronger from the 2011 earthquake.

There is no fee to enter the 185 White Chairs permanent art installation, making it one of the best free things to do in Christchurch CBD.

10. Riccarton Bush Walk

Riccarton Bush is the only area of podocarp forest left in Christchurch. There are two walking tracks that you can take here; the first is just a 15-minute return walk (460 meters/1,509 feet) and starts at Riccarton House and then follows around historic Dean’s Cottage. There are a few information boards along the track which tell about the plants and birds found in the area. You may even spot some of the birds the forest is famed for such as fantail, kereru, silvereye, and grey warbler.

A slightly longer walking route is to add on the boardwalk which is a turn-off from the shorter track described above – this will take 30 minutes to complete and is 900 meters (2,953 feet). On your return to Riccarton House be sure to check out the many exotic trees planted here such as oak, eucalyptus, and conifer trees.

11. Travis Wetland Nature Heritage Park

Travis Wetland Nature Heritage Park at sunset
Travis Wetland Nature Heritage Park at sunset

Travis Wetland Nature Heritage Park is the last remaining freshwater wetland in Christchurch. In fact, Christchurch was built on a swamp, so this Heritage Park is a very important part of the city’s history. As well as that, Maori tribes of the past used this area as a mahinga kai (a food gathering area).

There’s an easy loop walking track here that starts at the Beach Road parking lot, it’s mostly flat and gravel-covered and is suitable for strollers or wheelchair users. On your walk, you may be lucky enough to see wildlife like eel, fish, and kereru as well as lots of birdlife such as pukeko, fantail, swallow, kingfisher, and the white heron. 

In fact, the wetlands here are home to the second-largest population of birds in Christchurch, behind The Estuary. Also, keep an eye out for interesting trees and plants like manuka, the tall baumea reed, and the spider orchid.

The Travis Wetland Nature Park is open from 8 am to 8 pm. It’s completely free to visit.

12. Check out the local markets

Fresh fruit and veg at the Lyttelton Farmers Market
Fresh fruit and veg at the Lyttelton Farmers Market

A great activity to try if you’re after a cool cheap activity in Christchurch is to hit up one of the many markets throughout the city. Below I’ve listed some of my personal favorite markets:

Held each Saturday from 9 am to 1 pm, Christchurch Farmers Market on the grounds of Riccarton House and Bush has been serving the locals of Christchurch since 2003. There are loads of food stalls (over 60 to be exact) to choose from so be sure to come with an empty stomach. You can try all types of food here from pancakes to dumplings to handmade chocolate, there’s even freshly caught salmon on offer.

Lyttelton Farmers Market is one of the biggest farmers markets on the South Island, it is held each Saturday from 10 am – 1 pm on London Street, Lyttleton. You can certainly do your weekly food shop here if you wish with fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, meats, cheeses, and more all on sale. Lyttleton Farmers Market opened in 2005 and is a not-for-profit business.

On a Friday night, one of the best places to go in Christchurch is to Food Truck Friday held in the New South Brighton area of Christchurch. Held each Friday in the spring and summer months (September to March) from 5:30 pm – 8 pm, here, some of Christchurch’s best food trucks and stalls come together to delight both locals and tourists. There’s food from around the world available here.

All of the markets are free to visit, but you’ll want to bring at least some cash to buy food – I really doubt you’ll be able to leave empty-handed!

13. Taste wine in Waipara Wine Region

Grape vines in the Waipara Wine Region
This is one gorgeous place to taste wine!

Just an hour’s drive from Christchurch is the Waipara Wine Region. It’s considered one of the best wine regions in the country because the weather here is ideal for wine growing – it has the highest summer temperatures and lowest rainfall of any of New Zealand’s wine regions. Most commonly grown in the Waipara is Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Riesling. Some of my favorite wineries in Waipara include Waipara Springs, Waipara Hills, and Terrace Edge Winery. 

In fact, this is New Zealand’s “fastest-growing wine region”. It’s hard to believe that the first vines were only planted in the Waipara in 1975, and now there are over 1300 hectares of vines! 

A great cheap way to explore the Waipara is to drive here yourself. As I mentioned, it’s just an hour’s drive from Christchurch, so it’s easily doable – just make sure you have a designated driver! Pegasus Bay on Stockgrove Road offers free wine tastings, but buying a bottle of their wine is encouraged – I love their Riesling. While Waipara Hills offers a tasting flight of several of their best wines for the cheap price of $10 NZD – advance booking is required for this.

If you have a bigger travel budget you can join a guided winery tour (so you don’t have to drive). Most tours depart from Christchurch and are between 4-5 hours in duration. These boutique wine tours typically include a light lunch like a sharing platter to be enjoyed at one of the scenic wineries. 

Did you know – the Waipara is one of the most popular stops on the drive from Picton to Christchurch!

14. Visit Sumner Beach

Sumner Beach, Christchurch
The stunning Sumner Beach!

Sumner Beach, just a 20-minute drive from Christchurch, is a gorgeous 400-meter-long (1,312 feet) white sand beach. It is typically safe to go swimming at Sumner Beach, and lifeguards are on duty between November and March. But there are strong currents at times from Avon Heathcote Estuary, so be careful and only swim between the flags.

Sumner Beach also has a busy boardwalk promenade that runs the length of the beach and is home to excellent restaurants, cafes, and even some boutique stores. One of the best free things to do in Christchurch is to head out here and walk the promenade on a warm summer day – the place is usually bustling and vibrant!

Scarborough Beach, at the east end of Sumner Beach, is a popular local surf beach especially. Be warned though, the breaks are big here, and it’s not usually advisable for swimming..

15. Quake City

A display at Quake City in Christchurch, New Zealand
One of the touching displays at Quake City.

Quake City is an emotional exhibition in Christchurch that remembers those that died during the devastating 2011 earthquake. It also aims to educate its visitors about earthquakes and teach them how to prepare for them. 

At Quake City, you can view lots of items that were discovered during the clean-up after the earthquake, including the “jaws of life” aka the hydraulic spreaders used to rescue people from the rubble. You can also listen and read about the stories of those who witnessed the earthquake first-hand.

Educate yourself on the science behind earthquakes through interactive boards throughout the museum. You can also learn all about the fascinating process of liquefaction (when soil is reduced by the earthquake, leading to buildings and other objects sinking into the ground.) 

Quake City is very family-friendly, and kids especially love the interactive boards. It is located at 299 Durham Street North, Christchurch Central. The entrance fee is just $20 NZD per adult and children under 15 are free!

16. Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial

Flowers lay at the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial
This is a very touching place to visit in Christchurch. Photo credit: Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial

The Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial is the official area of remembrance for those who lost their lives in the devastating 2011 earthquake. On the dark day of 22nd February 2011, 185 people lost their lives!

The memorial follows along both sides of the Avon River in downtown Christchurch and can be accessed from either Cashel Mall or the Bridge of Remembrance.

The Earthquake National Memorial was opened in 2017, which was the 6th anniversary of the earthquake. The design of the memorial is poignant as it contains the names of all the victims of the earthquake. It is also purposefully located to get sunlight most of the day.

There are several steps down to the river where you can sit and reflect. So, even though it’s a place of remembrance, it’s also a lovely place for you to sit by the Avon River and reflect on the earthquake. 

Like many of the activities in this blog, the memorial is completely free to visit.

Did you know – the design was commissioned by artist Grega Vezjak who won the bid over hundreds of others.

17. Visit the Christchurch Botanic Gardens

The Christchurch Botanic Gardens
Such a beautiful place to enjoy a walk!

One of the largest public gardens in New Zealand (at a huge 52 acres!) is The Christchurch Botanic Gardens. You can easily spend a few hours wandering through the different sections here, each section is dedicated to a different season. For example, in the summer section, there are hundreds of roses in bloom, while in the spring section, you’ll be treated to lots of bright daffodils. It is one of my favorite places in Christchurch to go for a walk!

You can also visit one of the many conservatories on-site, which is a great place to escape the cold during the winter. Walking around the gardens you will notice there’s lots of unique art on display too. For the kids, there’s a playground and a paddling pool – which is open in the warmer months from November to March!

The Botanic Gardens Visitor Center, which is where you will enter the gardens on Rolleston Avenue, has a cafe and gift shop plus an interesting exhibition that tells the history of Christchurch through plants and flowers.

Entrance to the Christchurch Botanic Gardens is free and they’re open from 7 am until late (this changes depending on the season.)

18. Check out New Brighton Pier

New Brighton Pier in Christchurch, New Zealand

Just a 15-minute drive from the CBD in the suburb of New Brighton, you can’t but miss New Brighton Pier, which is the longest ocean pier in Australasia at 300 meters (984 feet) in length. The pier was constructed in 1894, but it was a wooden pier. That wooden pier was demolished in 1965 and the new concrete pier you see today opened to the public just under 25 years ago in 1997.

There’s a very photogenic library (that has won many awards), a cafe, and a restaurant at the beginning of the pier.

But what makes New Brighton Pier such a popular spot for photographers are the hundreds of LED lights installed underneath the pier, which transform the many concrete pillars holding up the pier into a range of colors from green to blue to red. At night, these colors are then reflected on the water below, which is a very cool photo opportunity!

This is one of the most famous free things to do in Christchurch – especially amongst photographers!

19. Air Force Museum of New Zealand

Air Force Museum of New Zealand
Air Force Museum of New Zealand!

Another one of the most interesting free things to do in Christchurch is to visit the Air Force Museum of New Zealand. It is the national museum for the Royal New Zealand Air Force and is home to the force’s largest collection. It’s situated in a former airbase in Wigram, which is a 10-minute drive from Christchurch CBD.

There are over 100 years of aviation history on display here, including objects pre-WWI, WWII, the post-war period, and up to the present day. The museum holds regular “Museum hunts”, which is a great way for the family to explore the museum together and learn all about the air force’s history. 

There’s a shop and cafe on-site as well.

20. Christchurch Art Gallery

The Christchurch Art Gallery
The gallery is such a cool place to explore for art lovers! Photo credit: Depositphotos Filedimage

The Christchurch Art Gallery originally opened in 1932 but it was almost completely ruined by the 2011 earthquake. It just opened its doors to visitors once again in 2015 after it underwent extensive renovation works. I think it’s one of the most beautiful buildings in Christchurch – it catches your eye with its stunning glass and metal exterior. In fact, its design is said to mirror the flow of the nearby River Avon.

There are nine exhibition areas within the art gallery featuring both local and international artists, and the gallery also runs lots of events throughout the year.

And the best part? It’s completely free to visit! The Gallery is located at the corner of Worcester Boulevard and Montreal Street. It is open every day from 10 am to 5 pm and open late until 9 pm on Wednesday.

Did you know – the Christchurch Art Gallery was an Emergency Operations Center in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. It housed hundreds of city workers up until the end of August 2011.

21. Take a walk down New Regent Street Precinct

A beautiful street in Christchurch NZ
Christchurch is a lively place to visit! Photo credit – TravellingLight

Named time and time again as New Zealand’s prettiest street, Regent Street Precinct is located in the center of Christchurch and is pedestrianized. There are over 40 shops on the street, most of which are restaurants and cafes but there’s also a jeweler, an eye-wear store, and a dance supply store. On a sunny day, there’s no better place to be than sitting outside at one of the many cafes with a cup of coffee and watching the world go by!

As for where to grab a bite to eat on New Regent Street Precinct, check out Twenty Seven Steps, one of the best restaurants in Christchurch, is located here. Ally & Sid is a great coffee shop that also serves up some delicious toasts and smoothie bowls perfect for a light lunch. Grizzly Baked Goods is always a great shout for fresh bread or something sweet. Gin Gin is the place-to-be, serving up 80 different types of gin it’s a gin-lovers idea of heaven!

Did you know – Regent Street is the only remaining heritage street in Christchurch. It is considered to be Spanish Mission style and was constructed in the 1930s. The street did suffer huge damage in the 2011 earthquake and was reopened to the public two years later in April 2013.

22. Check out cafes around the city 

A cup of barista made coffee
Mmmm coffee!

The coffee culture in New Zealand is one of the best in the world, in fact, some of the best coffee I’ve ever tasted has been right here in New Zealand! So, it comes as no surprise then that Christchurch, the second-largest city in the country, has some of New Zealand’s best cafes.

First up, and a must-try in my opinion, is C1 Espresso on 185 High Street. Your food is delivered by pneumatic tubes, which you can watch overhead. It’s one of the coolest coffee shops I’ve ever been to (P.S. the coffee is fantastic too)!

Table At Monk’s at 282 Madras Street is a local favorite, with locals flocking here every weekend for their famed Lemon Ricotta and Blueberry Waffle. A great vegetarian option is Monk’s Veggie Breakfast. Besides the food, the interior is so cozy that you’ll find yourself wanting to spend a few hours here. In Summer or on warmer days try to nab a table on their patio.

Also, worth-visiting in the CBD is Child Sister on 277 Manchester Street for arguably the best brunch options in Christchurch.

Slightly further afield and well worth a mention is Saturdays Cafe, which has an awesome waterfront location and serves up excellent coffee as well as delicious food items like their Banoffee Pie Waffles or Smashed Avocado Bagel.

23. Drive Arthurs Pass

Otira Viaduct Lookout on Arthurs Pass, New Zealand
Otira Viaduct Lookout on Arthurs Pass, New Zealand!

One of the best and most scenic drives in New Zealand is the journey from Christchurch over Arthurs Pass. The Arthurs Pass drive itself is only 45 km (148 ft) long, but it takes around an hour to get to the starting point from Christchurch and another hour to drive it, so I advise spending the night in Arthurs Pass if time allows. It’s considered a difficult drive too because the road climbs up to 900 meters (2,953 feet) in height and there are lots of narrow bridges along the route.

One of the best places to photograph on Arthurs Pass is the Otira Viaduct, an impressive 440-meter (1,444 feet) long bridge. Stop at the car park just off Highway 73 for the best photo of the bridge (pictured above.) 

One of the other must-see stops on Arthurs Pass includes Bridal Veil Falls, a stunning waterfall that’s 108 meters tall (354 feet). It’s a short 10-minute walk from the car park to the falls, so it’s a good quick stop. If time allows, a stop at Devil’s Punchbowl is also a must! This 131-meter tall (430 feet) waterfall can be reached via a 20-minute walking track that begins at the car park.

If you’re a keen hiker, then there are loads of excellent hikes on the drive through Arthurs Pass. Some of my favorites include Avalanche Peak, which will take 5-6 hours to complete it’s rated as a difficult 6 km trail (3.7 mi). There’s an easier walking track, called the Arthurs Pass Walking Track, that starts from Arthurs Pass Village and passes waterfalls and mountain scenery along the way.

All of the attractions on Arthur’s Pass are free to visit, so you can drive there from Christchurch for cheap – you’ll only need to pay for fuel!

24. Visit Otamahua / Quail Island

Another cheap activity that you can easily do from Christchurch is to hop on the ferry from Lyttleton to Quail Island, which costs just $15 NZD each way for an adult and $7.50 NZD for a child.

To use its Maori name, Otamahua, the island is named after the Quail (known locally as the koreke), which is now extinct. The island is filled with unique native flora and fauna as well as many native birds like the kingfisher and fantail. You may even spot the cute little blue-eyed penguins at one of the beaches on the island.

A day trip to Quail Island is the perfect way to spend a sunny day in Christchurch. The waters here are ideal for swimming (although a little cold at just 13 Celsius/55 Fahrenheit) and the beaches are stunning and uncrowded.

You can book your ferry tickets to Quail Island online in advance.

Did you know – early European settlers used Quail Island as a quarantine island for lepers? It was even used by explorers Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton, who used Quail Island to train their huskies and ponies before exploring Antarctica.

25. Willowbank Wildlife Reserve

Monkeys at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve
My favorite is the monkeys! Photo credit: Willowbank Wildlife Reserve

Wildlife lovers will thoroughly enjoy this fun, but cheap, activity in Christchurch! The Willowbank Wildlife Reserve is home to plenty of animals that you can observe. The reserve is huge and is divided into 3 categories: farmyard, New Zealand, and Zoo/Exotic animals. 

You can see alpacas, llamas, miniature horses, Clydesdale horses, peacocks, and more in the farmyard section. While, the New Zealand section is home to possums, tuatara, and native birds like kaka, kea, and the morepork. The New Zealand section is also where the North Island Brown Kiwi Sanctuary is. Finally, in the Zoo/Exotics section, there are emus, iguanas, gibbons, and a ring-tailed lemur.

Willowbank was the first place in the world to open a glass-free nocturnal house for kiwis. The Nocturnal House is open from 10:30 am every day. As mentioned, there’s no glass-like in other kiwi sanctuaries across New Zealand, and you are guaranteed to see the elusive kiwi!

Willowbank Wildlife Reserve is just a 20-minute drive from downtown, it’s open daily from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm. Visiting costs only $32.50 NZD per adult, $12 NZD per child (but children under 5 are free) – which is great value for money because you can easily spend the whole day here!

Where to Stay in Christchurch

Crowne Plaza Christchurch
The Crowne Plaza Christchurch is a beautiful centrally located hotel. Photo credit: Crowne Plaza Christchurch

Christchurch, although not a large city by international standards, is for New Zealand. As with any large city, picking the right place to stay for you is really important. There are lots of different areas to choose from when deciding where to stay in Christchurch. The two main choices are either out by the airport for a convenient trip back home or in the heart of the city where all the action happens.

One of the best places out by the airport is the Jucy Snooze Christchurch. It’s actually located within walking distance of the airport! Another cool hotel close by is the Commodore Airport Hotel Christchurch. Although a short drive away they offer a free shuttle and have amazing reviews.

In the city center, the Crown Plaza Christchurch is perfect for those wanting a typical luxury stay. It’s a large hotel with amazing views of the city. For budget travelers, the social but comfortable Urbanz is a good option. Although cheap, it’s located in the heart of the city and only a couple of minutes’ walk from Hagley Park.

Additionally, there are plenty of Airbnbs and holiday homes to rent for a few nights in Christchurch. You can’t pass up the opportunity to stay in a luxury 3-bedroom home (like this one) right near the beach with incredible views!

Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand

A motorhome by the beach
Me and my trusty campervan!

Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!

You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:

  • Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to book a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
  • Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It is what most budget backpackers get for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping! You can easily compare campervans, prices, and book on the website Motorhome Republic. We also have a 5% discount code (DTRAVEL5) with Mad Campers, which you can use at checkout.
  • Motorhome – A motorhome is larger and more comfortable than a campervan. Many motorhomes will comfortably sleep 6 or more people – perfect for a family visiting New Zealand. Motorhomes are the most expensive option, but with one, you won’t ever need to stay in a hotel and you’ll save money that way. Motorhome Republic is my suggested website for booking a motorhome in New Zealand simply because they are a reliable company and the website is super easy to use! We are also partnered with Kiwi Motorhomes, which is well known as the top motorhome rental company in New Zealand. You can get 5% off using the code Queen5. For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!

Thanks for reading!

bailey smiling at the camera in a brewery in Arrowtown
Thanks for reading!

I’m sure after reading this you’re filled with lots of excitement for your upcoming trip to Christchurch. As you can see, there are loads of amazing things to do in the city – most of which are either free or cheap!

Thanks so much for taking to time to read my blog! I really hope you found this guide to Christchurch helpful. If you did, then don’t run away just yet. Plan more of your upcoming trip by browsing My Queenstown Diary or checking out these blogs:

Best stops between Christchurch and Kaikoura

Best stops on the drive between Christchurch and Dunedin

Things to do in Lake Tekapo