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Travel Guide

Things to do in Christchurch places to visit, attractions, activities & heritage

  • 6 minutes
In this Article
TOP 11 ATTRACTIONS IN CHRISTCHURCH

Christchurch
Holidays start here … the backyard is where fun happens

In this Article

EXPERIENCES, THINGS TO DO IN CHRISTCHURCH, SOUTH ISLAND

Christchurch, holidays start here with an array of activities from slow lane travel to adventures where you set the challenges.

TOP 9 MUST DO ATTRACTIONS

Tram – Interactive Tour of Christchurch @Michelle Gates
Tram – Interactive Tour of Christchurch @Michelle Gates

1. VINTAGE TRAM HOP ON HOP OFF

Start with a hot favourite, the vintage Tram – Interactive Tour of Christchurch. The tram is a must do activity. The 2.5km route encompasses  city highlights.  With seventeen stops there is access to most main attractions.  The train stops adjacent to the Visitor Information Centre, recently relocated to the refurbished historic Arts Centre precinct. The ‘i’ Site can provide guides to street art installations, pop up exhibitions as well as commercial galleries. Consider purchasing a combined ticket for a caterpillar garden tour and/or the Port Hills gondola as well as the tram ride.   Tickets can be directly purchased from the tram conductor or the Visitor Information Centre.

TIP: Definitely a transport option for families.

2. INTERNATIONAL ANTARCTIC CENTRE

Out of town by the airport, the International Antarctic Centre blends high-tech attractions with real world experiences to create one of the top Christchurch attractions. The Centre actively encourages child participation with a chance to experience the actual below freezing temperatures of the frozen continent.

Here you can ride in Hagglund Antarctic vehicles, meet the resident rescue penguins, experience an ice voyage in 4D, step onto the ice for an arctic storm and browse displays to learn about the history of Antarctic exploration and Christchurch’s ongoing role as one of a few global gateway cities to Antarctica.

International Antarctic Centre, New Zealand @trip
International Antarctic Centre @trip
Christchurch Botanic Gardens, New Zealand
Christchurch Botanic Gardens

3. BOTANIC GARDEN

Uncover one of Aotearoa New Zealand premier public gardens with its extensive gardens showcasing the best of New Zealand’s planting tradition. The garden is enhanced with the Avon River flowing alongside.

TIP: Hop aboard the Garden caterpillar tour, it’s free and lots of fun. In winter you are supplied with a cosy rug keeping you toasty warm.

4. CHRISTCHURCH ARTS CENTRE & SHOPS

A perfect location for a crafty exploration of what the city has to offer with the tram stop, the adjacent Botanic Garden and Canterbury Museum. The heritage buildings now house a variety of speciality art and craft stores together with a well resourced visitor centre.

Christchurch Art Centre, New Zealand
Christchurch Art Centre
Punting in the rain, River Avon, Christchurch, New Zealand
Punting in the rain, River Avon

5. PUNTING ON AVON RIVER

Punting – Iconic Avon River Tour.  Experience life the way it should be – relaxed, tranquil and thoroughly enjoyable! Sink back into the velvet cushions of your boat as the Edwardian style punter glides you down the Avon River, passing the trailing willows and leafy banks of the stunning Christchurch Botanic Gardens. This is an iconic Christchurch experience.   I felt majestic being punted on the river,  I floated past the gardens and simply soaked up the atmosphere of a quiet, silent river trip.

Punting, of course, is all about people power,  not an engine in sight.

TIP: Punting is popular, booking is essential to ensure you do not miss out. Boat trips are either 30 minutes or 45 minutes.  Private punting is available.

6. GONDOLA RIDE UP THE PORT HILLS

Combined with a vintage tram ticket hop aboard the gondola and get whisked above the suburbs of Christchurch. The Gondola travels nearly a kilometer to the Crater Rim of the Port Hills. There are numerous photo moments as you are smoothly transported up to the Port Hills.  The hills’ local walking trails along the ridge lines dividing Christchurch from the Lyttelton Port provide an opportunity for couples to indulge in a romantic picnic above the city.

Christchurch gondola in the sunset light, New Zealand Christchurch gondola in the sunset light
Gondola ride, Christchurch, New Zealand @Caroline Godinho Gondola ride @Caroline Godinho

7. CHRISTCHURCH’S EATING SCENE

Delve into the bustle of Riverside market. Fresh produce, speciality stores and artisan bakeries share the indoor space of Riverside. Grab some foodie treats and enjoy sitting with the locals on the precinct’s stairs leading to the Avon River. The city tempting you to indulge in sticky buns or enjoy a plant based treat from an organic store. Little High is a contemporary space where pacific fusion meets contemporary kiwi fare from curley fries to pork coriander dumplings. An alternative outdoors / indoors space food destination. The choice is yours.

Read more about Christchurch is a brunch, lunch and anything in between.

Little High Eatery @littlehigheatery
Little High Eatery @littlehigheatery
The SALT district, Christchurch, New Zealand @saltdistrict
The SALT district @saltdistrict

8. MARKETS AND LANEWAYS

Shopping in Christchurch is a pleasure with a compact city, laneways to explore, indoor / outdoor markets, emerging and established arts and crafts scene and the energy of a city that has re-emerged from a devastating earthquake in good heart.

TIP: Riverside markets is a must-go destination with SALT a close second for lovers of funky sustainable goods.

9. CHRISTCHURCH ADVENTURE PARK

Play at a premier adventure park. Grab a zipline and float above the forest observing mountain bikers testing their skills on the various trails. There are challenging suspension bridges, nets, swings and flying foxes.

Adventure Park @zipchristchurch
Adventure Park @zipchristchurch

OUTDOOR ADVENTURES – CHRISTCHURCH

Christchurch’s backyard is Canterbury. Canterbury is where adventure beckons . Reignite the senses and ski at a world-class alpine resort, play golf against a skyline of the Southern Alps, bungee jump off a historic bridge in the Rakaia gorge, raft Canterbury braided rivers in Hanmer Springs, mountain bike, hot-air balloon the Canterbury plains, wind surf, whale watch in Akaroa and visit internationally-acclaimed wineries and gardens – all within a short drive of the city.

CITY VIEWS

Avon River, Oxford Terrace is a series of stunning contemporary buildings with street dining and balconies overlooking tiered public steps / seating / gardens as the Avon River serenely flows. Visitors are invited to sit, relax and soak in the view of a river and gardens.

Christchurch Gondola view, New Zealand
Christchurch Gondola view

New Regent street is a homage to art deco with pastel colours and building facades tempting visitors to linger in the many cafes. Sydenham is where a gritty inner suburb is now a funky popular destination for locals and visitors with its cafes, contemporary buildings and heritage past seemingly folded together.

Pedestrian precincts are marked with light-filled laneways and clearly designated shared pathways encourage exploration on foot or by bike. The flat city offers an intriguing way to explore the centre city on foot or by e-scooter, while a hop-on/hop-off historic tramway provides a relaxed city loop experience past key attractions.

WALKS

Discover Christchurch walks from Avon River loop to Quail Island shipwreck trail. Find the reimagined Halswell quarry or interesting New Brighton Estuary edge boardwalk. What to pack for a picnic lunch, check out Christchurch market hopping and shopping – Best Bits.

Best 6 short walks in Christchurch

Discover Christchurch walks from Avon River loop to Quail Island shipwreck trail. Find the reimagined Halswell quarry or interesting New Brighton Estuary edge boardwalk. What to pack for a picnic lunch, check out Christchurch travel guide for markets and pop up stalls.

learn more
Quarry Rim Track, Halswell, Christchurch, New Zealand @Accessibel Sensibel
Quail Island @shchavelev.pavel Павел Щавелев
Awaroa Godley Head Loop Track @DOC

GARDENS & PARKS

Explore the great outdoors

In the city centre, shared wide pedestrian / cycle pathways, pedestrian-only streets, parks and plenty of cycle only lanes make Christchurch a pleasure to navigate. Highlights include the Botanic Garden, Hagley Park as city green spaces. Glide or kayak the Avon River as it meanders through the city. Find a high point on the Port Hills and explore shared walking / cycling trails with sweeping views of the Canterbury Plains and Southern Alps. Reach the top of the Port Hills whisking yourself up on the Christchurch Gondola.

Read more about 9 Christchurch public parks & gardens to visit, trip guide: Best Bits. The city continues to be known as the Garden City and for good reason. It is beautiful.

 

FAMILY FUN

FAMILY AND FRIENDS – WHAT TO DO WITH THE KIDS

Discover nearby WILDLIFE PARKS. Who needs to go on safari when Christchurch has wildlife parks within driving distance. This is a must go destination for kids with the animals up close and personal. There are award winning playgrounds, The Groynes with its walking trails, playgrounds and boats and Hagley Park to kick, jump and skip in.

For the outdoors walks and cycling trails check Christchurch top 6 short outdoor escapes. Christchurch is a city built for walking with cycling a popular local activity.

For more tips what to do with the kids check Christchurch holiday inspiration for families, trip guide: Best Bits.

The Groynes, Christchurch, New Zealand @guwan_tim_jung
The Groynes @guwan_tim_jung

THINGS TO DO FOR FREE

Picnic outdoors or wonder how to solve the puzzle of enormous lego pieces in the Imagination Station at the Christchurch Public Library. Enjoy orienteering courses at The Groynes for a nominal fee or enquire at the visitor centre when the next free guided walk departs. Check when the next festival is happening and get the walking shoes ready to explore outdoors.

Read more Christchurch things to do for free. Remember to check out the local delis for the making of a great picnic lunch.

ART & HERITAGE

Immerse yourself in creative arts. Creativity is a big part of Christchurch culture. As you wander the streets you can’t help but be impressed by the scale and quality of street art from local and international artists. The visually impressive layered glass Christchurch Art Gallery is free to visit.  Nearby is the heritage Arts Centre of Christchurch is home to small exhibitions and shops selling exceptional local art and crafts. Live theatre is part of the thread of Christchurch with The Court Theatre a benchmark for talented artists to aim for. Isaac Theatre Royal, a beautifully restored Edwardian theatre (1908) hosts a variety of music events, comedy, dance and school drama plays.

Read more Christchurch Street Art. Quirky photo opportunities and amazing what creative art can achieve in abandoned places.

ART GALLERIES & THEATRE

Read more about Christchurch art galleries, artisan outlets & art scene. For art buffs Christchurch is a must-go destination. Imaginative design and contemporary architecture has played an important role in the post-earthquake recovery of Christchurch.

 

Akaroa Beach on the Banks Peninsula, Akaroa, New Zealand
Akaroa Beach on the Banks Peninsula

BANKS PENINSULA & AKAROA

The natural spaces of the Banks Peninsula beckon visitors to plan day trips to explore beyond the city boundaries. Camping is a favourite pastime for local visitors with plenty of opportunity to enjoy the treats Akaroa offers while getting away from it all. Check out 8 camping places on Banks Peninsula, Akaroa, travel guide: Best Bits for inspiration about where to go camping. The Banks Peninsula over 40 bays encourages visitors to Christchurch to contemplate a day exploring further afield.  At the heart of Banks Peninsula is Akaroa, one of New Zealand’s French settlements.

AKAROA

Akaroa is Frenchness reinterpreted Aotearoa New Zealand style. The colonial charm of an original French settlement is retained in the picture postcard village of Akaroa with its picture board houses and shops. Enjoy crisp pastries and French inspired deli treats. Enjoy a  Black Cat Cruise on the harbour to find life, including the smallest dolphins in the world – Hector’s dolphin.

Read more 10 holiday ideas for families in Akaroa, what to do & see: Best Bits. Akaora has plenty of attractions for kids from swimming with dolphins to The Giant’s House with its café, a contemporary art gallery and a terraced garden filled with sculptures and mosaics. For heritage buffs check out Akaroa cemeteries guide, 5 activities, things to see & do: Best Bits.

Hollyhock in front of a colonial house, French style colonial homes, Christchurch, New Zealand

To find Akaroa culinary delights check out Akaroa 7 street food destinations. Everybody deserves a crisp Danish while on holiday or where to get the best fish n chips.

 

MARKETS & SHOPPING

Release your shopping spirit and explore the streets of Christchurch. The flat compact city is a shoppers heaven with international labels sitting cheek by jowl with vintage and second hand stores. From clothing to winter holiday wear to art and crafts Christchurch is fun.

Read more about Christchurch market hopping and shopping. There are several great weekend markets to choose from.

CHRISTCHURCH FESTIVALS

@breadandcircusnz
@breadandcircusnz

Christchurch has developed a reputation for hosting festivals. Heritage festivals, books, storytellings and ideas festivals, garden events, walking festivals exploring the city and beyond, street art festivals including entertainment and pop up theatre, festivals supporting summer music events are part of the rich tapestry of entertainment the city has to offer.

  • KIDSFEST (WINTER). Most of the events are free with attractions from Polar Night at the Museum and fun adventures in the city.
  • The World Buskers Festival is held in Christchurch (mid summer) and there are many ad hoc acts free for passersby to enjoy. Eclectic, from magic, comedy to street theatre the festival is street entertainment at its best. There are multiple shows around the Arts Centre, Cathedral Square and New Regent Street.
  • Christchurch Lantern Festival celebrates Chinese New Year and the Avon River precinct is decorated with hundreds of lanterns. There are shadow puppets, acrobats and live music. Food trucks with delectable Asian foodie treats tempt visitors to try something new or an old favourite.
  • Christchurch Walking Festival (September – October). Christchurch Walking Festival is a great chance to get out of tracks, often guided walks, and on trails you might not have tried before
  • Christchurch Heritage Festival: Celebration of the heritage of the city – walks, open days, exhibitions, performances
Christchurch Lantern Festival, Christchurch, New Zealand @Stuff
Christchurch Lantern Festival @Stuff

ROMANCE IN THE GARDEN CITY, THINGS TO DO

Waipara Valley trail @VisitHurunui
Waipara Valley trail @VisitHurunui

A city with a meandering river flowing through its heart is a city built for romance and couples. The nearby Port Hills and adventures of ziplining and skydiving await. Then there is the opportunity to hot air balloon over the Canterbury Plains with a glass of bubbles as a reward. For wine trail buffs enjoy a day exploring what the North Canterbury, Hurunui wine and food trail has to offer visitors.

Read more about Christchurch romantic places. Some things are meant to be on holiday and one of those moments is punting on the Avon River. It is an unforgettable romantic thing to do.

WHERE TO EAT & DRINK IN CHRISTCHURCH

Unearth the local favourite brunch locations. Explore Sydenham and relish your relaxed lunch at Hello Sunday. Wander through Boxed Quarter and visit The Welder  or Little High Eatery with its shared food stall spaces and shared fusion experiences. Christchurch eateries are justifiably a key attraction. Consider a trip to Hurunui to go foraging for truffles or join a cooking workshop.

Read more about Christchurch brunch, lunch 7 places to eat. Definitely holidays are made easier with the foodie treats sorted.

Christchurch Tramway Restaurant @ChristchurchAttractions
Christchurch Tramway Restaurant @ChristchurchAttractions

CHRISTCHURCH NIGHTLIFE

@carltonbar1863
Carlton Bar and Eatery @carltonbar1863

Christchurch nightlife is a speak-easy bar, a basement that is hard to find, a rooftop bar with a view and a tramcar where dinner is served. Read more about where to find a craft beer, a rooftop bar or where the grownups go to play at night.

CHRISTCHURCH

Holidays start here … fun happens in the the backyard.

DAY TRIPS

The Canterbury region spoils visitors with choice. The Hurunui district choice ranges from Hurunui Road Trips – Routes & Itineraries – Best Bits to Hanmer Springs, a resort hot pools spa town.

Family Sea kayaking off Kaikoura, New Zealand
Family Sea kayaking off Kaikoura

Kaikoura is a marine wildlife encounter with the whales, dolphins and seals a safari experience. Kaikour offers guided kayaking tours to get up close and personal with fur seals and bird life. Choose whether to snorkel with dolphins and seals in Akaroa.

Explore inland Canterbury on a road trip passing through picturesque towns such as Waimate with its Knottingley Park and Victoria Park. Enjoy Ashburton, its interesting transport museums and Geraldine with its heritage streetscape, delis and foodie market finds.

Enjoy winter sports from the comfort of Methven and consider the possibility of a world class TranzAlpine train trip through the Arthurs Pass to the West Coast. Arthur’s Pass National Park in the Southern Alps is only two hours by car. Plan a Duntroon day road trip, travel guide, things to see & do finding extraordinary rock formations.

Lyttelton and Banks Peninsula, Akaroa

Lyttelton offers plenty of things to do with galleries, shops wrapped around the historic main street. The eclectic nestled in an eclectic main street. Linger and enjoy the arty vibe of a port town Lyttelton. The impressive road tunnel whisks visitors from Christchurch CBD in 20 minutes to the busy port town.

Holidays with kids Akaroa is an ideal holiday destination for local and overseas visitors due to the mix of activities from polished tourist attractions such as swimming with dolphins (check ethnic statement of any operator offering a wildlife encounter), kayaking the harbour or guided town tours to eclectic cemetery tours. There are free activities for families on a budget from exploring rock pools or finding quirky outdoor sculptures on the Children’s Walk. Together with camping options Banks Peninsula is a favourite family holiday destination.

@TheBritishLyttelton
@TheBritishLyttelton

GETTING ABOUT AND AROUND CHRISTCHURCH

City reimaginated, Christchurch, New Zealand
New Regent street Spanish Art Deco

Flat, wide smooth pathways are designed for both pedestrians and cyclists. Walking tours, is a guided tour of the inner city suitable for most fitness levels. You are not faced with steep hills and valleys. It is a city of squares, grids and signposts. Walk Christchurch is managed by volunteers. The walks are not ‘free’ ; a donation is encouraged for visitors using Walk Christchurch volunteer services.  Self guided walks can be used in conjunction with the Christchurch Tram heritage trail as a base to explore the city. Check the Travel Pack Section for downloadable guides and maps.

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Lake Pukaki, motorhome, New Zealand

HOP ON & HOP OFF BUS

Hop on and hop off the bus is a classic way to get to know a place. Step on board to the classic 1960’s London Open Top Double Decker buses for a fun and informative tour of Christchurch. Learn about Christchurch’s fascinating history from the pioneering days through to modern day times and learn how Christchurch is recovering from the Canterbury earthquakes which has now become a major event in New Zealand’s history. The experience includes a 1 hour Tour around central Christchurch on New Zealand’s only Open Top Double Decker and a 2 hour Tour on a closed top Double Decker visiting places of interest in greater Christchurch.

A Hop-on, Hop-off option is available at Sumner Beach and The Tannery Retail Emporium.

@HassleFreeTours
@HassleFreeTours
Urban Wheels, Christchurch, New Zealand @Tripadvisor
Urban Wheels @Tripadvisor

SEGWAY TOURS

Christchurch Segway Tours and Hire | Urban Wheels.  The Tour begins with tuition on riding a Segaway before gliding through the Cultural Precinct which includes the Art Gallery, the Arts Centre, the Botanic Gardens and the Museum.  You are encouraged to continue through Hagley Park, before heading out to the suburb of Fendalton and the historic Mona Vale Homestead and then onto Riccarton House & The Deans Cottage.

CYCLING AND BIKE TRANSPORT

Christchurch is flat as well as a relatively compact city.  It is a great place to cycle your way around.  There are various companies renting both electric and pedal power wheels. The hire company can meet you at pre-arranged sites for delivery and collection of bicycles. Check out Christchurch cycle map published by Christchurch local government.

GONDOLA

Gondola – Christchurch’s Top Activity. Suspended above the suburbs of Christchurch, the Gondola (otherwise known as a cable car) whisks you nearly a kilometer to the Crater Rim of the Port Hills.  Perfect panoramic photo moments while you float above the Port Hills. The hills include favourite local walking trails along the ridge lines dividing Christchurch from the Lyttelton Port. Remember to experience the Time Tunnel, a dramatic reconstruction of the history of the Port Hills and Christchurch.

@ChristchurchGondola
@ChristchurchGondola
@MetroCanterbury
@MetroCanterbury

CHRISTCHURCH PUBLIC BUS NETWORK

Christchurch has a comprehensive public bus service. For maps and timetables check beforehand to avoid delays or changed routes.

Where does Metro travel?

There are 29 Metro services in the Greater Christchurch network, from high frequency buses crisscrossing and orbiting the city, and routes that reach nearby towns in the Waimakariri and Selwyn districts. Check out the Metro Network Map to see which routes run through your neighbourhood.

Read more about the metrocard and routes.

Plan your trip

Turn up at the right time for your ride, every time, with our new, real-time journey planning and Next Bus tools. Head to go.metro.co.nz to plan your trip and see when the next bus is due.

GETTING AROUND CHRISTCHURCH WITH A RENTAL CAR

Do you need a vehicle to enjoy a holiday in Christchurch, South Island?

You do not require a vehicle for a short Christchurch holiday. If your visit is focused on a city exploration.  Christchurch is a compact city with an excellent public transport network,  a well established taxi service as well as paths and maps to guide walkers around the newly rebuilt Christchurch.

TIP: Christchurch Airport | Christchurch – Canterbury If you decide on out of town explorations in a rental car bookings are recommended due to the high demand for vehicles.

@ChristchurchAirport
@ChristchurchAirport
A Boutique Hotel in the Heart of Christchurch, NZ @Hotel 115
A Boutique Hotel in the Heart of Christchurch @Hotel 115

WHERE TO STAY

Families, kids or fancy free and just the two of you. Christchurch is an ideal base for a South Island holiday exploring Canterbury, the Southern Alps, Banks Peninsula (Akaroa) or Hanmer Springs.

TIPS

  • Select your MUST GO attractions
  • Investigate hop on and hop off bus route and/or vintage tram route, especially useful if you do not have a vehicle

CITY CENTRE LOCATION

  • Sightseeing major attractions
  • Cafes & restaurants
  • Nightlife
  • No vehicle
  • First time visitors

TIP

City centre suburb Merivale and Riccarton are a great alternative to the city centre especially for visitors with a vehicle. Both suburbs are on busy public transport routes with Hagley North Park acting as a public space.

Christchurch Art Centre, New Zealand
Christchurch Art Centre
Christchurch Cathedral earthquake damage, Christchurch, New Zealand
Christchurch Cathedral earthquake damage

WEEKENDS – COUPLES

  • City Centre is ideal. Your break can embrace city attractions without the need of a vehicle.

TRAVELLING WITH KIDS

Riccarton location is ideal when travelling with kids (nearby Hagley North Park & major shopping mall for essentials)

FOR ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS CHECK OUT

WEATHER

Christchurch Central Weather Forecast and Observations

Summer is from December to March February with warm days and extended daylight hours. Summer temperatures between 21c to 26c. Winter kicks in with chilly blasts in June through to late August. Winter temperatures between 14c to 10c. During the night there are regular frosts.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

The best time to visit Christchurch is October to April. Spring is a peak season with the garden city offering visitors a glorious botanical display of colour. Year round Christchurch has something for everyone with plenty of indoor entertainment.

Rose Garden arches at the Botanical Gardens in Chrictchurch, New Zealand
Rose Garden arches at the Botanical Gardens in Chrictchurch

TRAVEL PACK INFORMATION

Māori oral history and archaeological evidence points to people inhabiting the Canterbury area since the 12th century. Christchurch became a city by Royal Charter in 1856, making it the oldest city in New Zealand. Many of the city’s original Gothic buildings dated from this period. Christchurch, bordered by the Port Hills and the Pacific Ocean, is situated on the Canterbury Plains with the Southern Alps as a majestic backdrop. You have a city framed by mountains and the ocean.

Known traditionally as “The Garden City”, the Avon River flows through the centre of the city and urban parks. The river is home to an iconic visitor attraction punting on the Avon.

More recently however, Christchurch has been rebuilding and revitalizing itself following the Canterbury Earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 and making way for some of the most innovative and creative projects in the world. This is a chance to visit a city on the brink of reimagining itself alongside history and heritage.

The journey is worth it.

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