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33 BEST Things to do in Christchurch, New Zealand (2024 Guide!)

33 BEST Things to do in Christchurch, New Zealand (2024 Guide!)

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Christchurch is one of the largest cities in New Zealand and is a place I recommend exploring on any road trip around the South Island! Thanks to its international airport, for many travelers, Christchurch will most likely be the beginning or end of your epic New Zealand adventure. That means visiting the city is unavoidable and, to be honest, that’s a good thing!

As someone who’s lived on the South Island for quite a while now, I’ve been lucky enough to visit Christchurch more than a few times. It’s just a 3-hour drive from Queenstown to Christchurch, and with epic views and plenty of stops along the way, it’s such a fun drive!

Christchurch itself is a city worth exploring, filled with impressive things to see and do. Better yet, even if you hate big cities, I’d still recommend taking a short drive outside the city limits and trying out some of the best things to do on the South Island. It’s true what they say, Christchurch is just full of activities!

To help you plan your trip and convince you to stay a little longer, here are the 33 best things to do in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Things to do in Christchurch

1. Ride the Christchurch Gondola

Views from the Christchurch Gondola
Views from the top of the Christchurch Gondola!

The Christchurch Gondola may not be as famous as the Queenstown or Rotorua Gondola, but it’s one of my favorite sights in Christchurch. I’m sure you’ll be surprised by the views from the top, with Christchurch City, Canterbury Plains, Lyttelton Harbour, and even the Southern Alps, all to be seen from the top of the summit, which is 1460 meters (4790 feet) above sea level. 

The views on the journey up the gondola are pretty spectacular, as you’re awarded 360-degree views of the Pacific Ocean and Pegasus Bay. It’s a kilometer (0.62 mi) from the base station to the top of the summit, and the whole journey in the cable car should take 10 minutes. FYI – each gondola fits four people.

Once you hop off the gondola at the top, why not hop on the Time Tunnel Ride (a firm favorite with kids)? On this 7-minute ride, you can learn all about the history of the area. What’s great is that entry to the Time Tunnel is free with your Gondola ticket. There’s also the famous Red Rock Cafe and a Gift Shop located in the building.

The Christchurch Gondola is famous both for sightseeing and as a way to transport hikers up to one of the many walking tracks on Mount Cavendish. One of the most popular short walks at the summit is the Cavendish Bluff Lookout, which is a 1 hour and 20 minute (4.5 km/2.8 miles) return walk. 

This hike enjoys mostly native forest views but also has views down to the town of Lyttleton in certain sections. It is considered a moderate track as there are a few tough uphill sections and narrow cliff edge corners.

The Crater Rim Walkway is another popular walking track that averages 4 hours in duration. This walk can be done in sections, for example, from Sign of the Takahe to Sign of the Kiwi, which is 3.2 km each way (2 miles). This track follows through native forest with great views over Lyttleton Harbour in the clearings. 

Walking along the Summit Ridge as part of this hike is a great way to see evidence of the area’s volcanic past, with uniquely formed hills to be seen all around.

A gondola ticket costs $40 NZD per adult, and you can book your ticket online in advance to save time. The gondola is located a 15-minute drive from Christchurch CBD in Heathcote Valley.

2. Hike the Godley Head Trail

Bailey hiking along the Godley Head Trail in Christchurch, New Zealand
Such a beautiful spot for a walk!
Bailey on the Godley Head Trail in Christchurch, New Zealand
Godley Head Trail in Christchurch, New Zealand

Godley Head is the perfect place to escape the city and explore nature. It’s absolutely stunning, and one of the best hikes on the South Island is located here – the Godley Head Loop Track.

The Godley Head Loop Track is a 9.3 km (5.8 miles) moderate walking track that should take 3 hours to complete. The track boasts views of Christchurch, the Kaikoura Ranges in the distance, the Banks Peninsula, and many WWII historical sites. The track starts at Taylors Mistake Car Parkand near the beginning of the trail, you’ll see the remains of old cave houses built into the cliffs.

Gun platforms, observation posts, and the Godley Head coastal defense battery are the highlights of this track. Did you know the coastal defense battery found here is one of the top 10 coastal defense sites in the country and was built in 1939? The gun platforms also surprised me, as they feature interpretive graffiti that highlights the critical role of the Women’s Auxiliary Army in defending the area during WWII. 

Next to the gun platforms, there’s an underground magazine (a place to store gun cartridges and shells, as well as being home to motorized hoists that lifted the ammunition to the guns). Here you can easily spend a while reading over the information boards that tell the fascinating story and history of the area.

Shortly after the gun platforms, the track comes to Godley Head parking lot, where there are toilet facilities. From here, you can continue uphill to a lovely viewpoint above Breeze Bay. Keep an eye out for dolphins and seals here!

The trail then goes nicely downhill to Breeze Col, where you can follow the Black Rock walking trail for 15 to 20 minutes before you come to a sign for Pilgrims Way Track. You’re nearly finished now – so keep on going to get back to where you started at Taylors Mistake parking lot.

The track is well signposted and is very popular during the summer months – because you are mostly exposed to the elements on this track, come prepared with water in the summer and rain jackets in the colder months.

P.S. – 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 and $7.50 NZD per child per night.

3. International Antarctic Centre

Blue Penguins at the International Antarctic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand
Aren’t they cute! Photo credit: International Antarctic Center

The International Antarctic Center near Christchurch Airport is a unique and must-do activity for my fellow animal lovers while you’re in Christchurch! The center offers a fun and educational glimpse into life in Antarctica. It is one of the most popular attractions in Christchurch, especially with families.

Experience the Storm Dome, which gives a real feel of the cold weather in Antarctica. There’s also a Penguin Rescue Center where you can see blue penguins up close, as well as a 4D Cinema, and the opportunity to ride a Hagglund (an amphibious Antarctic vehicle).

One of my favorite features of the International Antarctic Center was the aptly named ‘cuddle zone’. Here, you can cuddle fluffy huskies (what’s not to like?). Huskies are an essential part of life in Antarctica, as they are used to pull the dog sleds – a vital mode of transport there.

The National Antarctic Center is open every day of the year from 9 am to 5.30 pm. Ticket prices start from $59 NZD per person. I recommend allowing between 2 and 5 hours here.

4. Wander the Christchurch Botanic Gardens

Bailey walks among flowers at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens in Christchurch, New Zealand
Get lost in the flowers!
Bailey with a huge tree in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens
And see the huge tree!

The Christchurch Botanic Gardens are a whopping 52 acres (21 hectares)! It’s a great place for a walk on a nice day, especially with a good cup of coffee from one of Christchurch’s many delicious cafés

Each part of the botanical gardens is dedicated to a different season. For example, there is an abundance of roses growing in the summer section, and in the spring section, there are lots of beautiful daffodils in bloom. 

You can also explore one of the many conservatories on-site to escape from the cold during New Zealand’s winter months. There’s also lots of unique art on display throughout the gardens as well as a playground and a paddling pool for kids, which is open in the warmer months from November to March!

Bailey at the Christchurch Botanical Garden, in Christchurch, New Zealand
Being in the city means you’ll be close to the botanical gardens!

The Botanic Gardens Visitor Center, which also marks the entrance to the gardens on Rolleston Avenue, has a café and gift shop as well as an exciting 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).

5. Christchurch Adventure Park

A person ziplines at the Christchurch Adventure Park
Is there a more spectacular place to zipline! Photo credit: Christchurch Adventure Park

This one is for the adrenaline junkies! The Christchurch Adventure Park is actually one of the top places to zipline in New Zealand, where you can enjoy several high-speed ziplines that also boast views of the Southern Alps and the Pacific Ocean. That is, if you can see the views – you do go pretty fast on the zipline! 

There are four ziplines at Christchurch Adventure Park, and all are more than 150 meters (492 feet) high up in the air. So if you’re afraid of heights, maybe give this one a miss. On this ziplining tour, you’ll get to experience it all and can reach speeds over 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph)!

The entire experience lasts around 2 and a half hours, and you’ll be joined by your two professional guides who will make sure you have a fun and safe time. Tickets for this experience cost $145 NZD and can be booked online here. It’s a must if you’re all about trying fun (and a little scary) new activities!

Whilst you’re here, why not try out the longest chairlift in New Zealand? It’s 1.8 km (1.1 miles) in length and takes you to the start of the ziplining area. But you can choose to book this on its own as a sightseeing experience if ziplining isn’t for you. 

Once you hop off the chairlift, be sure to pause at the viewpoint nearby and take some stunning photos of the Christchurch cityscape.

Mountain biking is extremely popular at Christchurch Adventure Park, with 46 different mountain bike trails, ranging from beginner-friendly trails to fast-paced technical trails. If you don’t have your own bike and gear, you can rent it here.

6. Visit the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial

Bailey walks along the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial
The Canterbury Earthquake Memorial.

The Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial is the official area of remembrance for those who lost their lives in the devastating 2011 earthquake. Sadly, 185 people lost their lives due to the earthquake on 22nd February 2011, and hundreds more were injured. 

The memorial follows along both sides of the Avon River in downtown Christchurch. You can access it from Cashel Mall or the Bridge of Remembrance.

The site was opened in 2017 on the 6th anniversary of the earthquake. The design is powerful and contains the names of all the victims of the earthquake. It is also purposefully located to get sunlight at most times 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 beautiful place for you to sit by the river and think. The design was commissioned by artist Grega Vezjak who won the bid over hundreds of others.

Without a doubt, this is the most powerful and moving place to visit in Christchurch!

7. Eat your way around Riverside Market 

Bailey walks through the Riverside Market in Christchurch, New Zealand
There are so many vendors!
View from the second floor looking down at the Riverside Market, Christchurch, NZ
It’s a vibrant place to visit!

The Riverside Market is a HUGE indoor market in the CBD, and there are more vendors here than I can count! But in a nutshell, you can expect to find fresh local produce, unique arts and crafts, and lots of yummy eateries.

The market stalls close at 5 pm on Sundays and 6 pm during the week, but the restaurants stay open much later, so you can grab dinner here. I recommend coming just before 6, so you get a chance to check out all of the vendors, and then stick around to enjoy an evening meal. There are also several bars to choose from, and the Kaiser Brew Garden has over 20 beers on tap, so it was basically my idea of heaven! 

They also occasionally host live music events at the market, so don’t forget to check out their live events page to find out what’s on.

8. See the city by tram

A tram travels through Christchurch, New Zealand
A tram travels through Christchurch, New Zealand

Have you ever ridden a historic tram? It’s such a cool and unique way to explore a city! When you think of trams, you may think of cities like San Francisco or New Orleans, but you can explore the city on board a tram right here in Christchurch. 

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

The knowledgeable tram driver will tell you all about the city’s historical sites, as well as the general history of the city. For example, would you believe the tram line in Christchurch was built back in 1880? At just $35 NZD, it’s a fun and cheap way to spend the day, and you can reserve your seat online here.

You can also bundle many activities into one tour with this half-day discover Christchurch tour for $362 NZD, which includes a ride on the tramway, a gondola, and a ride down the Avon River in a punting boat. That’s not all! There is also a food tasting and much more sightseeing along the way.

9. Visit the viewpoints on Summit Road

View of Christchurch from Summit Road, New Zealand
View of Christchurch from Summit Road, New Zealand
Bailey at Ohinetahi Viewpoint next to Sign of the Bellbird in Christchurch, New Zealand
View of Governors Bay!

Our next activity will have you heading out of the city center and making your way to Summit Road, where there are some excellent viewpoints and walking trails.

One of the best views of Christchurch city can be seen from the Sign of the Bellbird viewpoint, which can be reached via a 4 km (2.5 miles) walking track or by driving. Ohinetahi Reserve, Lyttelton Harbour, and Canterbury Plains are all to be seen from the viewpoint here. 

If you want to hike here, the trail begins at The Sign of the Kiwi (more details on this further down in this blog post) and is approximately 3 hours in duration, and is considered to be moderate in difficulty.

The Sign of the Bellbird is a historic tearoom 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.

Bailey enjoys the view from Ohinetahi Viewpoint
Come and see for yourself!

If you’ve got your own set of wheels, the Bowenvale car park is another viewpoint on Summit Road that you can drive right up to and park, and then enjoy amazing views of the entire city, and it’s free!

The viewpoint is 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) outside of central Christchurch, and it takes about 20 minutes to drive there. Simply head along Colombo Street to get out of the city and onto the road that leads to Bowenvale. When you see the Sign of the Kiwi Cafe, take a sharp left and follow the road right up to the viewpoint for a spectacular city panorama. 

Hot Tip: If you already plan on visiting Sign of the Kiwi Cafe (next up in this blog), these viewpoints are nearby, so you might as well stop there too while you’re at it!

10. Enjoy a coffee with a view at Sign of the Kiwi Café

Bailey at the Sign of the Kiwi Cafe in Cashmere, Christchurch
Sign of the Kiwi Cafe!
View of Christchurch from Sign of the Kiwi Cafe in Cashmere, Christchurch
The view while I enjoy my coffee! Oh, and I’m not even sitting outside!

High up also off Summit Road, with an excellent view of Port Hill, Lyttleton Harbour, and the Christchurch area is the Sign of the Kiwi Café. The drive up is winding and steep – so drive carefully. 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 miles) each way.

The Sign of the Kiwi Cafe is located in an old stone building steeped in history. They serve up really good coffee, freshly baked goods (everything is baked fresh that day!), as well as hot breakfast and smaller lunch items.

I highly recommend trying the Kiwi Stack from the all-day breakfast menu, which comes with poached eggs, avocado, spinach, and bacon on a crostini. You also can’t go wrong with their award-winning scones.

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

There is also loads of seating – both indoor and outdoor, and during the summer months there’s even an ice cream shop. The view from here is one of the best in Christchurch, so as you can imagine, it can get jam-packed – especially on weekends. 

The Sign of the Kiwi Cafe is open from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm Monday to Friday, and closes half an hour later on the weekends.

11. Go Jetboating

Bailey from My Queenstown Diary jet boating in Queenstown
Me jet boating in Queenstown

Another great activity for adrenaline lovers in Christchurch is a speedy jet boat ride on the Waimakariri River – locals call it ‘The Waimak” for short, as it’s quite a bit of a mouthful to say!

This heli and jet boat experience will have you feeling like you’re in a James Bond movie, with the entire experience lasting around 1 and a half hours in total. This is great for those who are a little shorter on time, and honestly, it’s still plenty of time to take in the sights from the water and sky!

The meeting point for this tour is right by the airport, which is about a 20-minute drive from Christchurch CBD. There’s nothing quite like seeing the city and all the gorgeous nature surrounding it from the sky, so don’t forget to take plenty of photos (though, maybe put it away once you’re on the jet boat!).

The helicopter will take you to Waimakariri River, where you will meet your jet boat driver and hop on board for a thrilling ride!

Tickets for this experience cost $420 NZD per person, which means it’s definitely not the cheapest activity on this list. But then again, how often do you get to say that you went on such a movie-like action adventure? If quality experiences are what you’re looking for, this is well worth considering. You can check available dates and book your place on the tour here.

12. Visit Sumner Beach

Bailey stands on a rock overlooking Sumner Beach in Sumner, Christchurch
Sunmer Beach!
Bailey out the front of the Bohemian Café in Sumner, Christchurch
The Bohemian Café is one of the best!

Sumner Beach is a 400-meter (1,312 feet) white sand beach located just a 20-minute drive from Christchurch CBD – it’s also one of the best day trips from Christchurch!

The beach also features a busy boardwalk promenade that follows the length of the beach and is home to great cafés, restaurants, and boutique-style stores. Visiting in the summer is easily one of the best things to do in Christchurch.

It is typically safe to go swimming here, 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.

Scarborough Beach, located at the east end of Sumner Beach, is one of the most popular surfing beaches, especially with locals. The breaks are big here, but it’s not advisable for swimming unless you’re a strong swimmer.

At low tide, you should also go and explore Cave Rock. You can even scramble through the cave and then head up to a viewpoint where you can admire Sumner Beach from above. There’s also a plaque that commemorates Joseph Day, a heroic local figure who captained the Sumner Lifeboat for 13 years and saved a lot of people from drowning during that time.

But there’s more to do here than just swim, surf, and chill because the entire area is super cute! If you’re spending the day here, make sure to visit Bohemian Bakery for amazing pastries that are the perfect balance between flaky and soft. There are some really nice boutiques and a cinema that’s been around since the 1930s.

13. Willowbank Wildlife Reserve

Monkeys at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve
My favorites are the monkeys! Photo credit: Willowbank Wildlife Reserve

Wildlife lovers simply have to visit Willowbank Wildlife Reserve! The reserve is divided into 3 categories: farmyard, New Zealand, and zoo/exotic animals. 

You will meet alpacas, llamas, miniature horses, Clydesdale horses, peacocks, and more in the farmyard section. Basically, all the animals you’d expect to find on New Zealand farms.

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. With so many animals to see, this is easily a top activity in Christchurch.

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!

The Willowbank Wildlife Reserve is part of the nationwide program “Operation Nest Egg.” This program promotes and encourages the incubation of the different kiwi species (the Rowi, the North Island brown kiwi, the Haast tokoeka, and the great spotted kiwi). As a result, Willowbank has a record of 100 eggs incubated in one season and over 600 kiwis released back into the wild.

Willowbank Wildlife Reserve is open daily from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm, plus it’s located a 5-minute drive from Christchurch Airport and 20 minutes from downtown. The Kiwi Nocturnal House is open from 10.30 am daily.

Related Read: One of the best things to do in Queenstown is a visit to the Kiwi Birdlife Park!

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14. Visit the New Brighton Pier

Bailey walks the New Brighton Pier in Christchurch, New Zealand
I had bad weather the last time I went!
New Brighton Pier in Christchurch, New Zealand
I still love it though!

The New Brighton Pier is the longest ocean pier in Australasia at 300 meters (984 feet) in length. The pier was built back in 1894, but it was originally made of wood. That pier was demolished in 1965, and the new concrete pier you see today opened to the public in 1997. There’s an architecturally pleasing library (that has won many awards), a café, and a restaurant at the beginning of the pier, too.

But what makes New Brighton Pier so photogenic are the hundreds of LED lights installed along the underside, which turn all the concrete pillars underneath the pier into a series of colors from red to green to blue. These colors are then reflected on the water below – making for a very cool photo come nighttime!

The lights were installed to mark the 10th anniversary of the construction of the new pier – and the pier is now permanently lit up – a visit here is one of the most famous free things to do in Christchurch.

The best time to photograph New Brighton Pier is at sunset or after dark. With that said, it’s also a beautiful place during the daylight to go for a stroll. It’s just under a 15-minute drive from Christchurch CBD to New Brighton Pier. 

15. He Puna Taimoana Hot Pools

Bailey enters the He Puna Taimoana Hot Pools in Christchurch, New Zealand
On a windy day, the warm pools are amazing!
Bailey relaxes in the He Puna Taimoana Hot Pools in Christchurch
It’s too hard to get out!

If you are looking for a relaxing soak in some hot pools, then you simply can’t miss the He Puna Taimoana hot pools. These hot pools are also located on the beach in New Brighton, right next to the jetty, so you get scenic views while you soak.

But despite their prime location, they’re also super budget-friendly, and you can enjoy a luxurious soak with ocean views without breaking the bank. In fact, it’s only $18 – $21 NZD per adult, depending on if you go during peak times or not, and Christchurch residents can save $4 NZD.

Plus, you also get access to the steam room and sauna, so basically, you get a really nice spa-like experience for a fraction of the cost! 

But since these hot pools offer so much bang for your buck, they do book up fast. You can reserve a time slot in advance via their website to make sure you’ll get to soak in the soothing mineral waters. They have four 90-minute slots available per day between 10 am and 5:30 pm. 

For me, the cherry on top of my whole experience at the hot springs was that one of my favorite cafés in Christchurch, Saturdays, is right next door, so you can grab one of their tasty, Insta-worthy brunch plates before or after your soak and enjoy yet more ocean views while you eat. In fact, I included both Saturdays and the hot pools on my 1-day Christchurch itinerary – check it out if you’re planning a fun day in the city.

16. Ride the TranzAlpine Train to Greymouth

The view from the TranzAlpine Train to Greymouth
Take in the views from the comfort of your carriage!

The TranzAlpine train journey from Christchurch to Greymouth is known as “New Zealand’s most scenic rail journey.” It departs on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from Christchurch and takes in stunning landscapes like Arthur’s Pass and the Southern Alps. 

The one-way journey will take 4.5 hours (it covers a distance of 223 km/139 mi), and you can return the same day, but I highly recommend spending the night in Greymouth.

Arthur’s Pass train station is particularly scenic, and here the train stops for a little while so that you can take photos of the huge mountains surrounding the station. The infamous Old Brunner Mine can be seen from your train window, which was where a devastating mining disaster happened in 1896, the worst in the country’s history.

There are open-air viewing areas on the train, so you can take some great photos, but the windows by your seat are large, so you can still take some great shots from there. There’s a café on board too – ideal for snacks and refreshments on the long journey.

Tickets for the TranzAlpine train journey cost $265 NZD for a one-way journey, and you can check availability and book your tickets online here.

Related Read: If you’re looking for an epic road trip, be sure to drive from Christchurch to Franz Josef via Arthur’s Pass – it’s stunning!

17. Christchurch Art Gallery

Bailey inside the Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand
Most of the exhibits are not photos!
Bailey looks at a display the the Christchurch Art Gallery in New Zealand
But some aren’t!

The Christchurch Art Gallery was opened in 1932 and back then was called the Robert McDougall Art Gallery, named after a generous donor. Unfortunately, the Gallery was devastated by the 2011 earthquake and only reopened to the public in 2015 after extensive reconstruction works. 

Today, it is admired as one of the most beautiful buildings in the city, with a stunning glass and metal exterior that is supposed to mirror the flow of the nearby River Avon.

There are nine exhibition areas here featuring work from both local and international artists, and the museum also runs lots of events throughout the year, including family-friendly ones.

Christchurch Art Gallery is located at the corner of Worcester Boulevard and Montreal Street. It is open seven days a week from 10 am to 5 pm. It is also free to visit!

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.

18. Enjoy New Regent Street Precinct

Bailey at the New Regent Street Precinct in Christchurch, New Zealand
New Regent Street Precinct in Christchurch, New Zealand
Bailey enjoys brinch at a cafe at the New Regent Street Precinct in Christchurch
Brunch at Belle (café & micro roastery)

The Regent Street Precinct is a pedestrianized street in central Christchurch which was built all the way back in the early 1930s. It’s home to more than 40 shops and restaurants built in the Spanish Mission architecture style. For a shopping street, it’s very photogenic, and it’s named time and time again as “New Zealand’s prettiest street.”

Among the 40 stores (most of which are restaurants or cafés) there’s a jeweler, an eye-wear store, and a dancewear store, among others. Most of the cafés and restaurants here have outdoor seating – adding to the cool, relaxed vibe of the street. 

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. I also love the coffee and breakfast at Belle (pictured above.)

Gin Gin is a cocktail bar serving up 80 different types of gin, and is a great nighttime spot for gin lovers or anybody who wants to listen to good music in a cozy atmosphere.

Did you know – Regent Street is the only remaining heritage street in Christchurch! The street suffered extensive damage in the 2011 earthquake but was reopened to the public two years later in April 2013.

19. Bungy Jumping

A person bungy jumps at Hanmer Springs Bungy
Would you take the leap of faith? Photo credit: Hanmer Springs Attractions

Bungy jumping is a classic New Zealand experience popular all over the country – it’s also one of the best adventure activities in Queenstown (my hometown!) So naturally, it’s also one of the best things to do in Christchurch too!

The only bungy jump in the Christchurch region is this 35-meter jump (115 feet) over the Waiau River. Here, you’ll jump from the historic Waiau Ferry Bridge towards the blue, ice-cold water below. Of course, you won’t get wet unless you want to, but if you do, the bungy master can make it so that your hair or head will touch the water.

Because the jump is not as high as other bungy jumps in New Zealand, it’s great for beginners. You can ease yourself into the world of bungy jumping here in Christchurch! On top of that, they have a tandem option, so you don’t have to go alone. It is worth noting that children can enjoy this experience, but they must be over 10 years of age. 

At the end of your jump, you will get a certificate, and you can pay extra for a video or photos of your bungy jumping. Allow 30 minutes for this experience. 

This bungy experience in Christchurch is actually located in Hanmer Springs, a 1.5-hour drive from Christchurch CBD. A single-person jump is $169 NZD and the tandem is $338 NZD. You can check your dates and book in your jump online here.

Fun Fact – In New Zealand we spell it “bungy”, not “bungee” like elsewhere in the world.

Related read: If something more relaxing is more your style, take a drive to some of the best hot springs in New Zealand!

20. Travis Wetland Nature Heritage Park

Bailey surounded by ducks at Travis Wetland Nature Heritage Park in Christchurch
It was so wet when I went!
Bailey looks through a lookout at Travis Wetland Nature Heritage Park
Just looking for birds!

The Travis Wetland Nature Heritage Park is a huge 56.5 hectares (140 acres) and is the last remaining freshwater wetland in Christchurch. You may not know this, but Christchurch was built on a swamp, so this Heritage Park is a very important part of the city’s history. 

Historic Maori tribes used this area as a mahinga kai (a food gathering area). Interestingly, the Travis Wetland Nature Heritage Park is surrounded by quite a built-up area, which you don’t expect.

There’s a lovely loop walking track here that starts at the Beach Road parking lot. The trail is primarily gravel-covered and flat, and so is suitable for strollers or wheelchair users. It offers great views of the wetland along the way where you can spot 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 also free to visit.

21. Go on a wine tour

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, one of the most iconic wine regions in New Zealand. The climate here is perfect for wine growing because it has the highest summer temperatures and lowest rainfall of any of the country’s wine regions. 

Some of my favorite New Zealand wine is from Waipara – with the best varieties grown here being Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Riesling.

The Waipara is considered to be the country’s “fastest-growing wine region.” Would you believe the first vines here were only planted in 1975, and today there are over 1,300 hectares (3,212 acres) of vines! 

What I love too is that most of the wineries here are family-run. Of the 90 wineries in Waipara, most are smaller, family-run businesses. Some of my favorite wineries in Waipara include Waipara Springs, Waipara Hills, and Terrace Edge Winery. 

If you want to taste the delicious wines, why not join a guided winery tour (so you don’t have to drive)?

This particular tour is one of the best wine tours you can do in Christchurch. It is a boutique tour that takes you to a couple beautiful wineries in the stunning Waipara region.

One of my favorite things about this small-group tour from Christchurch is that there’s a maximum of 6 people per tour. It also includes lunch, and all wine tastings are included in the price, all for just $190 NZD per person! Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or simply fancy tasting the region’s best wines, this is a great way to spend an afternoon. You can check availability and book online here.

Related Read: The Waipara wine region is located en route when driving from Picton to Christchurch, a fun road trip on the South Island.

22. Adrenalin Forest Obstacle Course

On the Adrenalin Forest Obstacle Course in christchurch
It’s really high, but I felt safe with a harness on! Photo credit: Adrenalin Forest Obstacle Course

A unique activity in Christchurch is the Adrenalin Forest Obstacle Course in Christchurch. The obstacle course is like a huge playground in the trees and includes a flying fox, a Tarzan jump, and a wrecking ball.

You will be given a detailed introduction to the obstacle course before embarking on your treetop adventure, and of course, you will have the best safety gear on at all times. You can try out over 100 different challenges, varying in difficulty level from child-friendly to very high (100 meters/328 feet) above the ground) obstacles! 

This is the perfect way to conquer your fear of heights in a safe environment. The best part is, tickets to the obstacle course are only $46 NZD and can be booked online in advance here. You can easily spend around 3 hours on the course, making it a true workout!

23. Go whale watching

A wale reaches the water in Kaikoura, New Zealand
Whales are such majestic creatures!

The town of Kaikoura, a 2.5-hour drive from Christchurch, is famous for its abundant wildlife, especially fur seals, dusky dolphins, and whales. So, why not book on a whale watching tour for a fun and unique day out?

With pick-up and drop-off from your hotel in Christchurch, this full-day tour also includes a wine tasting on your return journey to North Canterbury. Lunch is optional, and you can pay a little extra if you want it included. 

On the whale-watching cruise from Kaikoura, your local guide will tell you all about the marine life in the area and why there are so many creatures found in this area. You will likely see fur seals, dolphins, and sperm whales, but a sighting isn’t guaranteed. The best time to spot whales in Kaikoura is between November to March.

Tickets for this full-day whale watching experience cost $385 NZD per person including lunch and $350 NZD without lunch. Whale watching is a pretty popular activity though, so don’t forget to book your tour in advance to avoid missing out!

If you have more time, consider spending a few nights in Kaikoura. The drive from Christchurch to Kaikoura is epic and once there, you can enjoy all the amazing things to do in Kaikoura!

There is even this overnight tour that you can book from Christchurch to Kaikoura. This tour includes transport, a night in a 5-star hotel in Kaikoura, as well as a whale-watching boat tour. It’s actually good value considering it is an overnight tour, at $685 NZD per person. It can be booked online here.

24. Swim with dolphins

A dolphin jumps from the water in Kaikoura, New Zealand
Seeing the Dusky and Hector Dolphins is really cool!

I bet you didn’t know that you can go swimming with wild dolphins in Akaroa Harbor, a 1.5-hour drive from Christchurch CBD! On this full-day tour (allow 9 hours), you will be transported from Christchurch to Akaroa and hop on a boat cruise from Akaroa Harbor. 

When the hector dolphins are sighted, you’ll get suited up in your wetsuit, flippers, and snorkel gear (provided free of charge) and jump in to swim safely with these magnificent, intelligent creatures. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and one of my favorite activities from my time in New Zealand.

You are also highly likely to spot fur seals and penguins on the cruise, so it’s a bit of a wildlife tour and dolphin diving experience all in one!

As part of the tour, you will also have time to explore the gorgeous town of Akaroa with its colonial-era buildings and scenic harbor. As well as that, a cheese tasting in Barry’s Bay is included in the price.

Pick up and drop off to central Christchurch is provided, and the tour costs $340 NZD. You can check out availability and book your spot on this tour online here.

25. Coastal Pacific Journey – Christchurch to Picton by Train

A view from the window on the Coastal Pacific Journey with The Great Journeys of New Zealand
Check out those views! Photo credit: The Great Journeys of New Zealand

The Coastal Pacific train journey is another gorgeous train ride in New Zealand that’s well worth checking out. The scenic train travels along Kaikoura’s coastline, starting in Christchurch and ending in Picton (or vice versa).

The highlight of this train journey is that it features a whopping 98 km (61 miles) of stunning South Island coastline. You may also recognize Picton as the ferry’s departure point to the North Island (into Wellington).

The train tracks are so close to the Pacific Ocean that you feel like you could reach out and touch it at times. Of course, when you’re this close to the ocean, expect to see fur seals and dolphins frolicking in the ocean from the comfort of your seat.

There is GPS-enabled audio available, and headphones come with every seat, so you can learn all about the sights you’re seeing as your train passes through. 

The train departs at 7 am on select days of the week from Addington Station in Christchurch. The journey takes 5 hours and 13 minutes one way, so I highly recommend spending the night in the lovely town of Picton and returning to Christchurch the next day – there are plenty of fun things to see and do in Picton.

Tickets for the Coastal Pacific train journey cost $184 NZD per person and can be booked online in advance here!

26. Drive Arthur’s Pass

Bailey looks over Arthurs Pass on the Bealey Spur Track, New Zealand
Bailey looks over Arthur’s Pass on the Bealey Spur Track, New Zealand
Bailey looks out at the Devils Punchbowl Waterfall on Arthurs Pass
Devil’s Punchbowl Waterfall on Arthur’s Pass

One of the best and most scenic drives is the journey from Christchurch over Arthur’s Pass. The trip is only 45 km long (28 miles), but it takes around an hour to get there and drive it from Christchurch, so I advise spending the night in Arthur’s Pass if time allows. 

This dramatic road climbs up to over 900 meters (2,953 feet), in fact, Arthur’s Pass is the highest pass over the Southern Alps. The highway itself is an example of great engineering involving bridges, viaducts, and redirected waterfalls. 

Some of the must-see stops on Arthur’s Pass include Devil’s Punchbowl, a 131-meter tall (430 feet) waterfall you can get to via a 20-minute walking track that starts at the parking lot. It’s one of the best hikes on the South Island.

Bridal Veil Falls is another one of the best waterfalls in New Zealand. It’s a little smaller than the previous at 108 meters (354 feet), but worth the stop nonetheless. The 10-minute walk into the falls is very pretty too. 

Bailey walks Castel Hill on Arthurs Pass, New Zealand
Castle Hill on Arthur’s Pass, New Zealand
Bailey at the summit of Avalanche Peak on Arthurs Pass, New Zealand
Avalanche Peak on Arthur’s Pass, New Zealand

One of the best places to photograph on Arthur’s Pass is the Otira Viaduct, an impressive 440-meter (1,444-feet) long bridge. You can stop at the car park just off Highway 73 for the best shot of the bridge. 

If you’re a keen hiker, then driving Arthur’s Pass must be done, that’s because there are loads of excellent hikes on this stretch of road. Some of my favorites include Avalanche Peak, a difficult 6 km (3.7 mi) trail that will take between 5 – 6 hours to complete, and the easier Arthur’s Pass walking track that starts from Arthur’s Pass village and takes in beautiful waterfalls and mountain views along its route. 

Speaking of Arthur’s Pass Village, you’ll stop here at the end of your drive – refuel at Arthur’s Pass Cafe and Store with some tasty snacks!

Note: You’ll need wheels to drive Arthur’s Pass. You can rent a car here, or read about the best campervan rental companies in Christchurch to pick your home-on-wheels. I also put together these tips on renting a vehicle in Christchurch that will help you out!

Related Read: For another epic road trip, check out the drive from Christchurch to Mount Cook – there are some beautiful places to check out along the way!

27. Check out all of the street art

Street art in Christchurch
Street art in Christchurch
The Brockworth Street Art Gallery
The Brockworth Street Art Gallery

There’s some amazing street art in Christchurch – in fact, Lonely Planet even ranked it as a street art capital, alongside famously edgy cities like New York and Berlin. This is largely a result of the 2011 earthquake, which gave Christchurch’s artists the resolve to make the streets beautiful once more. 

The Brockworth Street Art Gallery is one of the most famous places to see street art in Christchurch. It’s a cool collection of street murals that line the Brockworth walkway. Created by artists Damian Holt, Courtney Brown, and Zac Harding, these murals are bursting with color and quirky character, making it a fantastic spot to snap some Instagram-worthy pics.

You can find it at 33-35A Riccarton Road, between the Nandos restaurant and Mobil gas station. 

Honestly, though, there are even more impressive murals around the Christchurch CBD. It’s a really walkable city anyway, so it’s easy to stroll around and check out all of the nicest pieces.

The Riverside Market is home to a huge mural commemorating the earthquake victims, and there are 8 giant model spray cans on the intersection between Manchester and Lichfield Streets in the city center which have been decorated by local artists. Keep exploring and see just how much art you can find! 

28. Air Force Museum of New Zealand

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

The Air Force Museum of New Zealand is the national museum of the Royal New Zealand Air Force and is home to the force’s largest collection. It is located at the former airbase in Wigram, just over a 10-minute drive from the center of Christchurch.

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. History lovers and those interested in New Zealand’s role in WWI and WW11 will particularly enjoy looking at all the artifacts on display. 

They hold “Museum hunts” regularly, which is a fun way for the family to explore the museum together and learn a lot about the Air Force’s history. 

Open daily from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm, there’s a shop and café on-site, and admission is also free!

29. Quake City

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

Quake City is a moving permanent exhibition to remember the lives lost during the 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, and also to educate the public about earthquakes and how to prepare for them. 

At Quake City, you will see lots of items found 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, and know how to prepare yourself in case of another earthquake. You can also learn all about liquefaction (when soil is reduced by the earthquake, leading to buildings and other objects sinking into the ground). 

You will also be taught how to be prepared for earthquakes. Quake City is very family-friendly, and kids especially love the interactive boards.

Quake City is located at 299 Durham Street North, Christchurch Central. 

30. Go on a scenic flight

Garden City Helicopters over Christchurch
Photo credit: Garden City Helicopters over Christchurch

The best way to see any city, I think, is from the sky, and that’s where this 20-minute scenic helicopter flight comes in! On this tour, you’ll see the rebuilding of the city from a bird’s-eye view after the earthquake and some of the ruins still to be rebuilt. 

See the famed ruins of Christchurch Cathedral from a unique angle – high above, and other famous city sights like the massive new sports stadium currently under construction at Madras. You will also fly over pretty Sumner Beach and Lyttleton Harbor.

In my opinion, this is one of the best things a couple can do in Christchurch because it’s both exhilarating and romantic. Be sure to bring a good camera on the helicopter tour because you’ll get some epic shots being that high up in the sky.

Tickets for this tour cost $315 NZD per person, and it’s safe to say that this will be one of the most memorable experiences of your trip! You can check availability and book your space on the tour online here.

31. Go on a Lord Of The Rings Tour

Mount Sunday in New Zealand
The view of Mount Sunday and surroundings near Christchurch

What truly put New Zealand on the world tourism map was the release of the Lord of the Rings movies, which showcases the best of New Zealand’s scenery. 

Most of the scenes from the films were shot on the South Island, and on this full-day tour from Christchurch, you will get to explore Edoras (from the Lord of the Rings Two Towers movie). It was the capital city of the Rohan people in the movie, and these sprawling plains, with the dramatic mountain peaks in the distance, really are a sight to see.

Edoras is actually the top of Mount Sunday in Hakatere Conservation Park, there’s a narrow gravel road up to the summit (aka Edoras) that starts from the small town of Mount Somers. It’s a 1.5-hour drive from Christchurch CBD. 

Your guide will show you exclusive photos of how they transformed this rural mountaintop into Edoras – the before and after photos will leave you saying, “Woah, how did they do that!”. 

Pick up and drop off at your hotel in Christchurch is included, as well as a picnic lunch with wine. You can select your dates and book your spot on this tour online here.

32. Visit Otamahua / Quail Island

One spot that many travelers actually miss is just a short ferry ride from Christchurch CBD, known as Quail Island or Otamahua to the locals. It is named after the Quail (known locally as the koreke), which is now extinct.

Did you know that 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 this small island to train their huskies and ponies before exploring Antarctica.

Today the island is abundant with native flora and fauna as well as many native birds like the kingfisher and fantail. In fact, Quail Island is a nature lover’s paradise! You may even spot the cute little blue-eyed penguins near one of the beaches on the island.

Quail Island is the perfect way to spend a sunny day as the waters are calm, and the beaches are stunning and peaceful. The water temperature, though, is just 13 °C (55.4 °F)! So, why not pack a picnic and enjoy a full day on the island – away from the hustle and bustle of Christchurch CBD.

Ferries to Quail Island depart from Lyttleton and you can book your tickets online in advance. They cost $20 NZD for adults each way and $10 NZD for children under 16.

33. High Country River Trail Horse Trek

Rubicon Valley Horse Treks
Photo credit: Rubicon Valley Horse Treks
Rubicon Valley Horse Treks 1
Photo credit: Rubicon Valley Horse Treks

If you aren’t someone who wants to hang out in the city too much during your time in Christchurch, a great way to escape is out in the high country on horseback. One great way to do so is on a two-hour riverside horse trek that will show off views of Torlesse Basin en route to the Otarama lookout point, which looks out at the snow-fed Waimakariri Canyon, a very impressive sight to look at.

These tours go in small groups of up to 6 people, so your experience will feel like a personalized experience, and it’s also an activity that kids 12 and older can be a part of. Priced at $133 NZD per person, you can expect this tour to last 2 hours. It’s a great option that won’t take up the whole day! You can book your spot in advance here.

Where to Stay in Christchurch

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

Although not a large city by international standards, Christchurch is big for New Zealand. As with any large city, picking the right place to stay is really important.

There are lots of different areas to choose from when deciding where to stay in Christchurch. To help you narrow it down, I’ve included my top choices near the airport, in the city center, and just outside the city.

By the airport

One of the best places by the airport is the Lylo Christchurch. It’s actually within walking distance of the airport! It’s also 2 minutes from a retail center and the International Antarctic Center. They have luggage storage, laundry, and a communal area with a kitchen. There are a variety of rooms with prices starting at $117 NZD. You can book this super convenient hotel through Booking.com.

Another cool hotel close by is the Commodore Airport Hotel Christchurch. Although a short drive away, it has a free shuttle, free parking, and amazing reviews. Rooms come with a balcony or garden access to get that fresh air before a flight. They also have a restaurant, bar, and indoor pool. You can expect to pay between $250-$350 NZD per night. For luxury right by the airport, reserve a room at the Commodore Hotel online.

City center

In the city center, the Crown Plaza Christchurch is perfect for a luxury stay. It’s a large hotel with amazing views of the city. You can grab a coffee at the on-site cafe or cozy up by the bar’s fireplace with a cocktail. It has a gym, restaurant, and spacious rooms. You can snag prices as low as $209 NZD when you book in advance online.

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 from Hagley Park and New Regent Street, which is full of bars and restaurants. It’s a trendy, modern space with a pool table, kitchen, laundry, and on-site bar. Dorm rooms cost about $41 NZD, and private rooms are $109 NZD. You can book this budget-friendly hotel on Booking.com or through Hostelworld.com.

Just outside the city

If you don’t mind staying a few minutes outside of the city center, I recently stayed at Tasman Holiday Parks Christchurch and loved it! It’s a holiday park, so perfect for those with a campervan or motorhome, but they also have newly renovated rooms and apartments available for a great price! There are plenty of facilities, including kitchens, BBQs, and a pool. Stays start at $114 NZD and can be booked online here.

Related Read: Check out the BEST beaches in all of New Zealand!

Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand

Bailey stands in front of a right green JUCY campervan
JUCY is one of my favorite campervan rental companies (read below for a discount code!)
Bailey stands behind her Mad Campers campervan cooking in the kitchen at Piha Beach
I also really like Mad Campers!

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 rent 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’s what most budget travelers use 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…and be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime! My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY because they have a huge selection of campervans to choose from, plus multiple pick-up/drop-off locations. You can browse JUCY’s campervan selection online here. Alternatively, you can easily compare all campervans available in NZ on Motorhome Republic here.

EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve managed to snag a discount code for 5% off for my readers if you book your JUCY or Star RV campervan or motorhome before the end of June 2024! Simply click here to select your JUCY campervan, or click here to select your Star RV motorhome, and then use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off – it’s that easy! One thing to note is that this code is only valid for travel before Dec 21, 2024.

Thanks for reading!

Bailey poses for a photo at the New Regent Street Precinct as a tram passes by
Thanks for reading!

You may think Christchurch is “just another big city” but after reading this list, I’m sure that opinion has changed. This gorgeous city is filled with amazing things to see and do!

Thanks so much for taking the 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:

15 Best Stops on the Drive from Queenstown to Christchurch

8 BEST Shore Excursions from Lyttelton, New Zealand

20 Things to do in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

50 BEST Hikes in New Zealand