You will find no shortage of things to do in Christchurch and the surrounding Canterbury region.
This beautiful part of New Zealand is bordered in the west by the Southern Alps and in the east by the Pacific Ocean. It is New Zealand's largest region, with a huge range of outdoor activities to tempt you.
Christchurch, New Zealand's oldest city, is a centre of art, culture and beautiful gardens, and is affectionately known as the "Garden City". The regional landscape is dominated by New Zealand's highest mountain, Aoraki Mt Cook , and the Southern Alps, a range larger even than the European alps. These majestic mountains are your constant companion as you travel down the South Island.
Huge sperm whales cruise the Kaikoura coast, around 2 hours north of Christchurch. Dolphins play in nearby Akaroa harbour, and at Arthur's pass, the gregarious alpine parrot, the Kea, entertains tourists. But a word of warning. The Kea has a liking for rubber and plastic and many a visitor has been left embarassed trying to explain damage to their rental car to the hire company.
Christchurch, is the South Island's largest city, with a population of more than 350,000 people, and amazingly, over 700 parks. It's also home to two significant annual flower festivals, held in February and March.
Christchurch is located on the South Island's east coast.
Christchurch has an international airport with direct flights (at the time of writing this) to and from Australia, Fiji, Singapore, Rarotonga and Guangzhou.
Connections from other parts of the world are made through Auckland airport on the North Island, then with domestic connections to Christchurch.
If you are traveling by car from the North Island, the Inter Island ferry travels from Wellington on the North Island, to Picton on the South Island.
Please be aware that access along State Highway 1 from Picton to Christchurch was affected in late 2016 by earthquakes and that route was closed pending extensive repairs.
An alternate inland route via State Highways 1, 63, 6, 65 and 7 is available but adds significantly to travel times.
Please see our State Highways map.
With such a variety of attractions it's hard to know where to start.
Fortunately, we can help. You can search a huge range of activities by clicking HERE.
But, based on our own experiences, and reviews from our customers, we've been able to narrow it down to a list of the very best attractions in and around Christchurch.
So below (in no particular order) are our Top 8 Things to do in Christchurch
See the amazing views from the Christchurch Gondola
This is one of Christchurch’s leading attractions, and once on board it’s easy to see why.
The gondola makes its way up the Port Hills to the summit of Mount Cavendish, where fabulous views of the countryside unfold.
As you near the crater rim of an extinct volcano, the lush Canterbury Plains stretch into the distance and nearby Lyttelton Harbour glistens below.
On the horizon the magnificent Southern Alps reveal their snow capped peaks, enticing you to head south on your vacation.
Once at the summit you can ride the Time Tunnel to see a great video about Christchurch, pause for a snack at the café, or browse through the gift shop.
If you like photography, you’ll get some great snaps from up here.
Shuttle buses run regularly from the city center to the Gondola base.
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Sit back and relax, punting on the Avon River (and check out the upgrades available)
No, it’s not England, but Christchurch also has an Avon river, and it runs through the city center.
If you want a relaxing activity, then this is perfect.
Sit back as your punter steers you serenely along the Avon, through the center of the city and the Botanic Gardens in a traditional narrow punt, sharing stories about local history and sights.
And if the weather is a bit off, there’s no need to worry, as they supply blankets, brollies, and even hot water bottles if needed.
You can also choose from a range of upgrades like a tour of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, a ride high above Christchurch on the Christchurch Gondola (awesome views), or a hop on, hop off tour on a tram through central Christchurch.
We had a great time on our 30 minute ride, loved the ducks on the river, and even spotted a couple of trout in the water.
First they name a river the Avon, then they add double decker buses!
No, no it’s not London.
But Christchurch does have an English feel to it, and this great three hour tour is the perfect way to see some of what makes this such a special city.
The tour is split into two parts.
For the first hour, you join an open top double decker bus for a tour of the city center. See Hagley Park, the Bridge of Remembrance, and learn about the city’s recovery from the quake of 2011.
You’ll then join a closed top double decker bus for a two hour tour taking in the seaside suburb of Sumner (with some time on the beach), the fabulous views from the Port Hills (we loved looking out towards the snow capped Southern Alps), and the lovely Mona Vale Gardens.
What a great way to experience some of Christchurch’s best sights!
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All aboard for one of the best train journeys in the world (and do you like jetboats?).
After being collected from your Christchurch motel, you are whisked away in the comfort of an air conditioned coach, across the lovely patchwork of the Canterbury Plains, to Springfield, where the TranzAlpine train awaits.
Sit back and relax on the TranzAlpine as it weaves its way through the Waimakariri Gorge, into the Southern Alps, on its way to the alpine village of Arthur’s Pass.
Here you will catch up again with your driver for a short tour of the village, before enjoying lunch.
After lunch you’ll marvel at the Otira Viaduct, designed to withstand the incredible seismic forces in the region.
Along the way you may be lucky enough to see the cheeky, gregarious native parrot, the Kea. These intelligent birds are well known for their love of rubber and plastic, particularly on motor vehicles!
From here you descend into the foothills of the alps, before joining a thrilling jetboat ride along the Waimakariri River. The pace then slows slightly as you visit a working sheep farm, where you’ll witness sheep shearing, mustering, and even have time for some afternoon tea.
Then it’s back on your coach for the return journey to your motel.
It’s a big day, but what a great trip.
To learn more, just click on the button below:
Dine in style on the Tramway Restaurant Dinner Tour of Christchurch
This is a really unique way to see central Christchurch whilst enjoying a nice meal with a few drinks.
Christchurch Tramway Restaurant takes you on a two and a half hour city center tour, aboard a beautifully restored tram.
As you hop on board you receive a welcome drink, before sitting to a great four course meal (including tea and coffee).
You can choose from a selection of dishes, and just sit back and relax, listening to expert commentary about the city, as the sights slip slowly by (I can feel the serenity)!
Your route takes you past some of the central city’s best landmarks including Hagley Park, the Botanic Gardens, the Avon River, and Canterbury Museum, to name just a few.
Your tour concludes at Cathedral Junction.
This is just a really nice experience.
To read reviews and check availability, just click on the button below:
Visit Edoras - are you a L.O.T.R fan?
If so, here’s the perfect opportunity for you to immerse yourself in one of the prime film locations, Edoras (Mount Sunday).
Your 9 hour adventure begins in Christchurch, where you will be collected from your motel, then transported by four wheel drive vehicle to Mount Sunday, perhaps better known to you as Edoras, capital city of the Rohan.
The trip to Edoras takes you over rocky terrain and across streams until, there you are!
Take in the stunning views from the peak of Edoras. View closely held exclusive pictures of the set under construction.
Have your picture taken with replicas from the movie, like Gimli’s axe, Aragorn’s sword, and the Rohan flag.
Relax with champagne and a picnic lunch, and learn from your expert guide about how this wonderful location was magically transformed into Edoras.
This is a must see for all Lord of the Rings fans.
Don’t miss it.
Now this is cool! Visit the International Antarctic Centre
The International Antarctic Center, located near Christchurch airport, is definitely the coolest way to learn about Antarctica, without actually going there.
It’s an award winning, interactive experience for all the family.
On our last visit, we “froze” in the wind chill room, laughed at the penguins as they frolicked in their pool, and were amazed at the stories told about exploration in the deep southern continent.
We loved the Hagglund ride, the 4D cruise, and the Happy Feet 4D!
Kids love the International Antarctic Centre, so if you are in Christchurch we highly recommend a visit.
You can check availability, read reviews, and learn more by clicking on the button below:
See dolphins, seals and lots more on the Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise.
Come aboard your sixty foot catamaran for this amazing nature cruise on the pristine waters of Akaroa Harbour.
Learn about the volcanic history of the harbour, and keep your eyes peeled for lots of local wildlife, as your captain takes you on a journey of discovery.
Over the course of your two hour cruise you’ll see native marine birds, ancient lava flows, New Zealand Fur Seals, and may even spot the tiny White Flippered Penguin, the world’s smallest.
But of course the highlight of the cruise are the remarkable Hector Dolphins, who accompany the boat regularly and delight visitors with their antics. Between October and March, the young calves can often be seen.
You’ll also stop to look at a local salmon farm, home to the well known Akaroa salmon.
With extensive viewing decks your assured of uninterrupted views.
If you are keen to learn more about the local marine life, this is the perfect way to do just that.
These cruises book out quickly, so don’t delay, click on the button below to read reviews, and check availability.
Maori first arrived in the region about a thousand years ago. Originally occupied by Ngati Mamoe and Waitaha iwi (tribes), Ngai Tahu from the North Island eventually took over as the dominant South Island tribe. Maori rock art sites throughout southern Canterbury provide a key to early Maori history.
Otautahi (the area where Christchurch sits) was a low swampy region that attracted Maori because of its good supply of a variety of foods such as eel, whitebait, fish, pigeon and swamp hen.
Kaiapoi, just north of Christchurch, was one of the largest Maori settlements, and was a major trading centre for West Coast pounamu (greenstone / jade).
European sealers and whalers were early visitors to the region, and the first group of European settlers arrived in Lyttelton harbour in 1850. Christchurch became a 'city by royal charter' in 1856.
To learn about Maori heritage, why not take in a Maori cultural show.
Things to do in Christchurch - Nature and Wildlife
Between mountains and sea, Canterbury offers diverse wildlife and nature attractions.
Kaikoura - in spectacular coastal alpine scenery between Christchurch and Picton - translates as 'a place to eat crayfish'. This little town with abundant seafood and marine life offers many eco-tourism activities such as whale watching tours , where visitors can see different species - including huge sperm whale - at different times of the year. Dusky and rare Hector's dolphins, and fur seals are common, along with many sea birds and other marine life.
Around 2 hours drive from Christchurch is Akaroa, a lovely seaside village on Banks Peninsula. Akaroa has lots of cafes and restaurants, and is a good place to spend a day or so.
Perhaps its most famous residents are its Hector's dolphins and other marine life that includes seabirds, seals, and white-flippered blue penguins. If you want to get up close with the dolphins you can even swim with them.
Akaroa also has a good variety of accommodation.
Arthur's Pass national park - the main alpine crossing between the east and west coasts - has impressive alpine scenery, unique native flora and fauna. The network of mountain tracks take walkers to native alpine plants and wildlife, including the cheeky kea - the world's only alpine parrot.
Of all the things to do in Christchurch, the amazing TranzAlpine train journey which travels between Christchurch, on the east coast, and Greymouth, on the west coast, has to be at the top of your list. It has been described as one of the great train journeys of the world.
Travel over deep gorges, raging rivers, and into the Southern Alps on this amazing journey.
We have an option available that combines the best of the
Tranzalpine train journey with a guided tour through the stunning
Arthur's Pass National Park.
This area attracts 'astro tourists' drawn to one of few places on earth where it's still possible to view a starlit night sky devoid of light pollution.
Things to do in Christchurch - Adventure and Outdoors
Canterbury's vast plains, alpine and coastal landscape, and favourable atmospheric conditions make it one of New Zealand's finest hot air ballooning locations.
Aoraki Mt Cook National Park is a world-renowned climbing and hiking destination. Glaciers cover 40 percent of the park and there are 23 peaks over 3,000m, including towering Aoraki Mt Cook. Mount Cook village, at the bottom of the mountain, is a base for climbers and hikers.
This spectacular location has to be on your "to do" list in New Zealand. The scenery will take your breath away, and Mt Cook village is a great base from which to see the region. Things to do include a visit to the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, 3D cinema and planetarium, a glacial lake trip, or a 4WD adventure. There are also numerous walks in the area.
One word of advice. Don't forget your camera and a large capacity memory card!
Hanmer Springs, to the north of Christchurch, has adventure and relaxation. Adventure activities include mountain biking and hiking trails, trout and salmon fishing, jet boating, bungy jumping and quad biking. At famed Hanmer Springs thermal pools and spa , visitors can relax in thermal sulphur and hot rock pools.
Things to do in Christchurch - Art and Culture
The region's founders set the scene 150 years ago for today's thriving art and culture scene when they planned a central cultural precinct providing for education, art, science, government, religion, history and recreation - all within an area of less than one square kilometre.
Canterbury museum, at the head of the cultural precinct, holds almost two million items of regional, national and international significance. The collection covers everything from Canterbury's first people - Moa hunter Maori - to European settlers' cultural and economic development, family and local history.
The Arts Centre, located on the old University of Canterbury site, is seen as one of New Zealand's most significant historic and cultural attractions. The centre comes alive at weekends with an arts and craft market, live entertainment, and international food stalls. Home to more than 40 shops, art galleries, art house cinemas, bars and cafes, the centre is a wonderful place to visit.
Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, an impressive modern building in the cultural precinct, has art collections, educational facilities, and a sculpture garden. Nearby attractions include the Centre of Contemporary Art, Botanic Gardens and iconic Christchurch Cathedral - all easily accessed on foot or by tram.
If art and culture are high on your list, you will find lots of things to do in Christchurch.
Things to do in Christchurch - Seasonal Highlights
Canterbury has 10 main ski fields for skiers and snowboarders, all within easy distance from
Christchurch. At the foot of the Southern Alps, Mt Hutt (2086m) is the largest, most developed ski field in the region, and claims New Zealand's longest ski season.
Porters ski field, close to Christchurch, is a family friendly mountain with runs suitable for everyone from beginners to extreme skiers and snowboard riders. Skiing is one of the most popular winter things to do in Christchurch.
Interesting Facts - Things to do in Christchurch
* Christchurch is known as "the garden city", and amazingly, is home to 740 parks. These cover an area of around 3,000 hectares.
* The region contains the longest bridge in the Southern Hemisphere, the Rakaia bridge (1.8km long).
* Aoraki Mt Cook (3,754m) is New Zealand's highest mountain.
* The word Aoraki means "cloud piercer".
* Canterbury is New Zealand's largest region and covers around 42,000 square kilometres.
You will never be short of things to do in Christchurch.
Click on the following link to view a wide range of things to do in Christchurch
State Highways Map South Island