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Christchurch the odd, the unusual and fascinating

  • 4 minutes

Canterbury, New Zealand

Best bits, hidden Christchurch

Delve into strange, odd or unique things in Christchurch. View a poignant 185 empty chairs memorial to the devastating 2011 earthquake. Stay in an original jail cell complete with very strong steel bars or ogle a house decorated with paua shells (note Canterbury Museum is closed temporarily). Escape rooms figure large in the Christchurch entertainment scheme with the city supporting three operators’ imaginative offerings. Christchurch Port Hills is home to an underground bunker designed to hold the WWII military secrets and check out a cafe where skeletons decorate the walls.



Addington prison

Budget accommodation doesn’t get better than this atmospheric hostel. The prison is now Jailhouse Accommodation. The gothic revival architecture (1864) is evocative of another era. Stay the night in a cell (including the original solitary confinement room). There are lots of slightly shabby iron bars and gates adding to the sense of lockup.


Escape rooms

Christchurch is a hot destination for adrenaline seekers wishing to scream, be scared out of their wits and challenge the senses in an escape room. Three operators invite visitors to experience an adrenaline induced experience.

  • Find your way out in 1 hour with a quirky story line offering clues with Escape Artists NZ.
  • Code Breakers in the CBD have six rooms designed as puzzles to get your detective cap firmly on. Code Breakers The Lost Hut in Antarctica is a firm favourite.
  • Ferrymead Heritage Park has a delightful way to dine and solve a mystery simultaneously. Get dressed up and The 1970’s and the mysterious murder of Farley’s International Circus’ fearless lion tamer.
Christchurch Escape Room, Code Breakers @codebreakers
Adrenalin Forest @adrenalinforestNZ

The Adrenalin Forest challenge, Christchurch

Challenge your physical abilities. Based on army training courses is an epic obstacle track nestled among mature trees delivering delight to adrenaline seekers. The course has tree climbing, suspension bridge crossings, rope swinging and flying foxes high in the forest canopy. Adrenalin Forest is suitable for children over 1.4 meters in height. Get the tape measure out and the family booked.

Bunsen cafe

The chemistry for socialising is the slogan for Bunsen. The cafe is fun, odd and definitely an amazing place to grab the holiday vibe. Skeletons adore the walls with antique medical equipment looking more like torture chamber screws. Bunsen is located in a former clock tower of the Christchurch Arts Centre and was a chemistry den in the 19th century. Fascinating and the menu is great as well.


Bunsen cafe @BunsenLtd
Bunsen cafe @BunsenLtd
Sumner Beach, Christchurch, New Zealand
Sumner Beach, Christchurch

Cave Rock – Sumner Beach

The volcanic formation is a popular playground for visitors with its slightly spooky ambiance creating a fission of excitement to a day at the beach. Maori mythology and legend portrays the cave as the carcass of a stranded whale. The whale was the victim of magic and forever trapped. The original name Tuawera means to ‘cut something down’ and is a reference to the many people who supposedly died from eating the flesh of this cursed whale. An excerpt from the Christchurch library resource, “The Story of Tuawera, Tūrakipō, a chief of Ōpawāho sought Hineao, a daughter of Te Ake of Akaroa for a wife. She spurned his advances so Tūrakipō cast a spell of death upon her. In revenge for Te Ake her father went to the hill overlooking Sumner and sent forth mighty karakia against Tūrakipō and his people. In answer to his prayers a whale was stranded on the shore which the people of Tūrakipō eagerly cut up and feasted upon. Those who ate the whale fell asleep and subsequently died.”

Enjoying find out weird things to do in Christchurch?

New Zealand has plenty of unique, odd and fascinating corners to visit, check out Hotels with Ghosts in NZ – Best Bits. Discover ghostly places for selfies and you got the makings of a great photograph. Check out Images, ghosts, abandoned objects, the art of decay – Best Bits for more photographic tips.


Imagine a 1960’s coin operated ex-commercial washing machine that now pumps out a beat to dance to. After a crowdfunding campaign the beloved DANCE O MAT is in its new central city location, 211 Manchester St in Christchurch. Choose your music, pop in the coins and the music starts. The new Dance-O-Mat operates between 7am and 1am daily. It uses an adapted ex-laundromat washing machine – pop in a two-dollar coin in the slot and the fun commences. There is 30 minutes of lighting and sound with music linked to your own Bluetooth device. Mobility friendly, yeah dance in your wheelchair or buggy.

“DIMINISH AND ASCEND” welded aluminum sculpture by New Zealand artist David McCracken. The shining staircase to nowhere is located in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Now the staircase is a handy perch for ducks and birds who frequent the Botanic Gardens. The razor sharp peak has been known to cause fatal injuries to the birdlife who unwittingly have flown into the art installation.

@Gap Filler Dance-O-Mat!

Paua shell house

Fred and Myrtle’s house in Bluff was an oddity with the entire structure covered with repurposed paua shells. Over 1000 shells adorned the house with visitors flocking to the Flutey’s home to view the decorated walls. Canterbury Museum purchased the collection and now you can pop into the Flutey’s home for a quick peek. (CLOSED temporarily)

185 empty white chairs sculpture in Christchurch New Zealand
185 empty white chairs sculpture in Christchurch

185 empty chairs memorial

A visual reminder of loss with empty chairs were originally massed together on the former site of the Oxford Terrace Baptist Church. 185 Empty Chairs. Chairs donated from victims’ families, friends and colleagues, were hand-painted white. The memorial has been relocated next to St Paul’s Trinity Pacific Presbyterian Church. (CLOSED)


Cracroft Caverns & Reserve, Christchurch

The Port Hills have World War II underground tunnels. Designed to protect operational military activities the large chambers are now part of an electronic system monitoring earth movements. The cloak and dagger origins are occasionally open to the public.

The Christchurch City Council runs tours of the military bunkers tunnelled deep into the Port Hills, but the walks are not actively promoted. Visitors follow a park ranger along a steep unmarked path to a steel door which is dramatically opened. Today the University of Canterbury has apparatus monitoring the earth’s movement. The area above the tunnels is a reserve. The Cracroft or Cashmere Cavern is located 30 m beneath the Banks Peninsula. The Cracroft Reserve offers sweeping views from a viewing platform at 200 metres. While enjoying the view, think about what is underneath.

For more holiday inspiration about Things to do in Christchurch places to visit, attractions, activities & heritage check out the section about the Arts Centre and the Teece Collection. Cool antiquities lurking in the corners of New Zealand. Who knew.

Last but not least for a special selfie location scroll through Selfies, 29 places, locations to visit for a photogenic snap in Christchurch.

Christchurch transitional cathedral rows of empty chairs, the selfie, take a seat and respect the location, NZ
Christchurch transitional cathedral rows of empty chairs, the selfie, take a seat and respect the location, NZ

Travel pack information

Godley Head track

  • Abandoned bunkers, military installations and an epic walking track are now currently closed due to asbestos


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