As New Zealand's oldest established city, Christchurch is a vibrant, ever-changing landscape brimming with English heritage and contemporary culture. Renowned for its beautiful gardens and old-world charm, it's a city that effortlessly combines traditional elements with innovative design and modern architecture. With a plethora of unique experiences waiting around every corner, let's dive into our ultimate guide to things to do in Christchurch.
Top Things to Do in Christchurch
Located on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island, Christchurch is a city that rewards explorers, with its array of outdoor spaces, historic sites, and cultural hubs offering something for everyone. Whether you're looking for adventure or relaxation, you'll find an activity to suit your interests here.
Explore the Botanic Gardens
Nestled in the heart of the city, the Christchurch Botanic Gardens are an oasis of calm and tranquility. Founded in 1863 with the planting of a single English Oak tree, the gardens now span over 30 hectares of lush landscapes and exotic flora. Perfect for a leisurely stroll or picnic, they also house several conservatories, a peace bell, and the enchanting butterfly house.
Visit the Canterbury Museum
Located on Rolleston Avenue, the Canterbury Museum is a treasure trove of regional and natural history. The museum's extensive collection includes Maori artefacts, Antarctic exploration memorabilia, and a replica Victorian Christchurch street. A must-visit for history and culture buffs.
Enjoy Punting on the Avon
For a quintessentially Christchurch experience, take a punting tour on the Avon River. As you glide along the water in a flat-bottomed boat, your Edwardian-dressed punter will guide you past weeping willows, woodlands, and the sprawling lawns of the Botanic Gardens. It's a romantic and relaxing way to see the city.
Take a Ride on the Christchurch Gondola
The Christchurch Gondola offers a unique perspective on the city. As you ascend Mt Cavendish in a cable car, you'll be rewarded with panoramic views of Christchurch, the Canterbury Plains, Lyttelton Harbour, and the distant peaks of the Southern Alps.
Things to Do in Christchurch With Kids
Travelling with family? Christchurch is a great destination for kids, with plenty of educational and entertaining attractions.
Margaret Mahy Playground
Sprawling over 4 hectares in the heart of the city, the Margaret Mahy Playground is one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. Named after one of New Zealand’s most loved children’s authors, it offers a magical world of play for children of all ages, with everything from water cannons and sand diggers to flying foxes and climbing towers.
Orana Wildlife Park
Orana Wildlife Park, New Zealand’s only open-range zoo, offers an exciting day out for the whole family. Get up close and personal with a diverse range of animals including lions, zebras, and giraffes. The park's main attraction is the lion encounter, which allows visitors to experience the thrill of hand-feeding these majestic creatures.
International Antarctic Centre
Take your children on a polar expedition at the International Antarctic Centre. This interactive attraction gives kids the chance to experience an Antarctic storm, ride in a Hägglund (an all-terrain Antarctic vehicle), and meet some adorable little blue penguins. It's an exciting and educational experience that brings the distant continent of Antarctica to Christchurch.
Fun Things to Do in Christchurch
Looking for an adrenaline rush or a unique experience? You're in the right place.
Test your boundaries and unleash your inner Tarzan at Adrenalin Forest, a thrilling multi-level aerial obstacle course that includes flying foxes, swing bridges and challenging balance beams. Suitable for a range of ages and fitness levels, it’s a fun-filled day out for thrill-seekers.
Visit Quake City for a moving insight into the 2010 and 2011 Christchurch earthquakes. This special exhibition uses photographs, personal accounts, and artefacts to tell the stories of those affected by the quakes. Don't miss the compelling videos of the dramatic rescues and the resilient spirit of the local communities.
Ride on the iconic Christchurch Tramway, which travels through the city's most interesting and scenic areas. The drivers provide a live commentary, sharing local anecdotes and fascinating facts about Christchurch's history and attractions. With a day pass, you can hop on and off at your leisure, exploring each stop along the way.
Free Things to Do in Christchurch
Looking to explore Christchurch on a budget? You'll be pleasantly surprised at the number of free activities and attractions in the city.
Christchurch Botanic Gardens
Find peace and tranquillity in the heart of the city at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Wander through beautifully manicured gardens filled with exotic and native plants, follow the winding Avon River, or have a picnic on one of the expansive lawns. The gardens are home to the impressive Canterbury Museum, which offers free admission and displays fascinating exhibits about New Zealand's natural and human history.
Street Art Trail
Over the years, Christchurch has become a canvas for street artists from around the world. Take a stroll around the city centre on the Street Art Trail and you'll encounter a plethora of striking murals that have turned Christchurch into a vibrant outdoor art gallery. This colourful urban adventure is one of the city's hidden gems and a great way to explore its regenerated spaces.
Just a short drive from the city centre, Sumner Beach offers a laid-back seaside escape. It's a great spot for swimming, surfing, or just chilling out. Take a walk along the coastal pathway, build a sandcastle with the kids, or enjoy the breathtaking views of the ocean from Cave Rock.
Things to Do Near Christchurch
We recommend you consider hiring a campervan in Christchurch and venture a little further afield. You'll find a host of attractions within easy reach of Christchurch.
Head out to Akaroa, a charming French-British settlement nestled in the heart of an ancient volcano. About an hour's drive from Christchurch, Akaroa is renowned for its historic buildings, craft stores, and cafés. Take a harbour cruise to see Akaroa's abundant marine life, including dolphins, penguins, and seals.
For more ideas, visit our post about Top things to do in Akaroa.
Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa
Fancy a relaxing dip in natural thermal waters? Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa is the place for you. This high-country resort town, about 90 minutes north of Christchurch, boasts a range of thermal mineral, sulphur, and freshwater pools, as well as a large family activity area.
In the winter months, snow enthusiasts can take the scenic drive to Mount Hutt for some of the South Island's best skiing and snowboarding. Known for its broad slopes and captivating views, it caters to all skill levels, from beginners to experienced skiers.
What's On in Christchurch
Christchurch is a vibrant city with a rich cultural scene and a packed events calendar. No matter what time of year you visit, there's always something happening.
World Buskers Festival
Every January, the city comes alive with the World Buskers Festival, one of the biggest street performance festivals globally. Artists from around the world come to perform in Christchurch, showcasing their talents in acrobatics, magic, comedy, and music. It's a must-see spectacle for all ages!
Christchurch Lantern Festival
Celebrating the Chinese New Year, the Christchurch Lantern Festival in February is a dazzling display of hundreds of handcrafted lanterns. The event also features traditional music, dance, and food, creating a truly enchanting experience for the whole family.
Christchurch Food Show
Foodies won't want to miss the Christchurch Food Show held annually in April. It's a weekend-long celebration of culinary delights, where you can taste and buy a huge range of local and international food and beverages, watch cooking demonstrations by famous chefs, and discover new recipes and cooking tips. Ready to taste some New Zealand food?
New Zealand Cup and Show Week
In November, Christchurch hosts the New Zealand Cup and Show Week, a highlight of the country's social calendar. The week includes horse racing, fashion in the field, live music, and agricultural shows. It's a week of glamour, excitement, and celebration.
Christchurch's calendar is packed with music festivals, art exhibitions, sports events, and cultural celebrations all year round. There's something for everyone in this dynamic city!
So, whether you're into history, arts, adventure, or nature, Christchurch will not disappoint. Come and discover this vibrant city for yourself, and remember: the best way to explore Christchurch and its surroundings is by hiring a campervan!