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If you are looking for the best things to do in Christchurch NZ, for visiting solo, with kids or as a couple, this guide to Christchurch will have you sorted!
Christchurch is one of the best holiday destinations to experience with the family. The city comes to life with its brilliant attractions, colours, and atmosphere.
The Best Christchurch Attractions
While Christchurch is often overlooked for some of the more popular New Zealand tourist hot spots, such as Queenstown and Auckland, it’s a city well worth experiencing for a few days when you are looking for somewhere a little less fast-paced!
And just like those popular places to visit in NZ, Christchurch offers plenty of their own exciting attractions, beautiful scenery and unique history. Even if you’re heading to New Zealand for thrills, you will get your share of adrenaline experiences in Christchurch too!
Christchurch is known for its beautiful gardens, and is sometimes referred to as “The Garden City“. There are plenty of fun Christchurch activities that are perfect for children and adults alike.
While the views may not be raved about as much as the Queenstown Gondola offers, a ride up the Christchurch Gondola is well worth experiencing.
Make your way up the mountain where you can spend your time exploring the landscape up top and views from every direction.
You can easily take a hike or simply enjoy morning tea at the summit cafe while surrounded by the 360-degree views of the city, Lyttelton Harbour and beyond.
There is also a slow-motion ride at the top which is included in your Gondola ticket admission price. This ride is suited to all ages and tells the story of Christchurch as you ride around.
- Location: 10 Bridle Path Rd Heathcote Valley, Christchurch
- Opening Hours: Open daily from 10 AM – 4 PM
- Price: $30 NZ for adults and $15 for children aged 5 to 15
The Christchurch Tram is the best way to see the sights of Christchurch and learn about the city along the way.
The heritage restored trams will have you feeling like you’ve stepped back in time as they loop around the city, stopping at points of interest.
Your tram driver and tour guide will share interesting stories about the city and give you a glimpse of the parts still rebuilding from earthquakes.
You can ride a complete loop, or hop on and hop off as you please, exploring each stop that takes your fancy. There are several trams running the loop throughout the day so you don’t need to wait long for the next to arrive.
- Location: Cathedral Junction (Shop 13)109 Worcester Street, Christchurch
- Opening Hours: Open daily from 9 AM – 6 PM (reduced hours in winter)
- Price: $25 NZ for adults and currently children up to 15 years are free
International Antarctic Centre
For a fascinating experience, go and visit the award-winning International Antarctic Centre that explores the Antarctic’s mysteries.
The centre is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday only, so be sure to plan your Christchurch visit for a weekend if you’re keen for this attraction.
There’s a range of exhibitions and interactive displays that will keep the entire family entertained.
Two of the coolest (pun intended) are the Antarctic Storm, which lets you experience a simulated Antarctic storm, and the Hagglund Ride, which is a snow vehicle that goes through an Antarctic-like obstacle course.
There are also husky and penguin encounters with special behind the scenes penguin tours available too. Breakfast with penguins anyone?
- Location: 38 Orchard Road, Christchurch Airport
- Opening Hours: Open Friday to Sunday from 9 AM – 4:30 PM
- Price: $49 NZ for adults and $29 NZ for children aged 5 to 15 years
In 2010 and 2011, Christchurch experienced devastating earthquakes which heartbreakingly claimed 185 lives.
After this tragic act of nature, Christchurch has worked long and hard to rebuild itself along with the people in it by rallying together.
The Quake City museum was constructed to tell the stories of the loss, heroes, and hope from the earthquake.
It’s worthwhile to visit, to see how far the city has come since. There are interactive exhibits, artefacts from the earthquakes.
Plus learn the science behind the liquefaction phenomenon– when the ground was shaking, the ground was liquefied and it bubbled up, causing buildings and streets to sink. A truly horrifying experience!
- Location: 299 Durham Street North, corner Armagh Street, Christchurch
- Opening Hours: Open daily from 10 AM – 5 PM
- Price: Adult entry is $20 NZ and children under 15 are free
Free Things To Do In Christchurch
While New Zealand is considered an affordable destination to visit, the cost of visiting New Zealand‘s most popular attractions can be high, so having a few free activities to enjoy will help keep your budget in check!
These free things to do in Christchurch include something for all ages and are great for visits all year round.
Christchurch Botanic Gardens
The most iconic gardens found in the city are the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, which are located in the heart of the city.
Spreading across 21 hectares, there are various different gardens which the kids will love to explore and discover. Or savour the crisp New Zealand air as you enjoy a stroll with your partner.
A discovery trail is another way to spend time with kids, with self-guided trails to suit ages 4 to 10. They also host seasonal treasure hunts.
Some of the exquisite gardens you will find here are the Woodland Garden, Magnolia Garden, Rose Garden, their conservatories and more!
- Location: City Centre Rolleston Avenue, Christchurch Central
- Opening Hours: Open daily from 7 AM – 9 PM
- Price: Free of charge
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Hike Godley Head
On a good weather day, get outdoors and enjoy a half day hike to Godley Head. Hiking, known as tramping, is a popular New Zealand pastime. And why not, when they have such breathtaking scenery everywhere you turn.
The walk takes around 3 hours return and is mostly flat aside from a few short inclines. This makes it great for the whole family.
Along the way you will get breathtaking views along with some World War II remnants – bunkers and other points of interest.
Air Force Museum of New Zealand
For a fun learning experience, go to the Air Force Museum of New Zealand with the family.
The museum’s focus is on New Zealand’s military aviation history. There are fascinating interactive displays that tell amazing stories. There is also a variety of aircraft on display.
The museum has a guided tour, “Behind the Scenes”, that’s 45 minutes long and a thrilling flight simulator to experience.
- Location: 5 Harvard Ave, Wigram, Christchurch
- Opening Hours: Open daily from 10 AM – 4 PM
- Price: Free of charge
Street Art Discovery
In recent years, as a way to bring new life to a city that has suffered its share of tragedy, Christchurch has quite a collection of cool street art.
From abstract sculptures to massive murals, it can be a great chance to explore the city on foot and see what art you can discover.
Find free maps and locations of street art in Christchurch. There are paid tours available, but sometimes the best fun is getting a little lost in a new city.
More Free Things To Do In Christchurch:
- The Imagination Station
- Canterbury Museum
- Christchurch Art Gallery
- Christchurch Farmers Market (Every Saturday)
- Visit the beach
Things To Do For Kids In Christchurch
If you are looking for fun things to do in Christchurch with kids, there are plenty of great options that the whole family will love. From wildlife encounters to simple playgrounds and paddling pools, and of course, lots of wide open spaces to run off some energy too!
We spent close to 3 days in and around the Christchurch area during our South Island campervan road trip and could easily have filled extra days!
One thing is for sure if you want to keep it really simple when in New Zealand with kids, they sure do have a lot of cool playgrounds and parks, with plenty of big open spaces to enjoy the great outdoors.
Willowbank Wildlife Reserve
Most children (and adults) love spending time with animals and Willowbank Wildlife Reserve is a great place to visit for them to see some of New Zealand’s most precious native species.
Willowbank was one of our favourite attractions in Christchurch to visit with kids. We were pleasantly surprised with the size of the reserve and the many activities to fill your visit.
It’s also the perfect place to get up close with animals, with the opportunity to hand-feed farm animals, birds and many other unique characters along the way.
Some of the animals that you will get to see are the world-famous Kiwi bird, as well as Whio, Morepork, Kea, Takahe, Kaka, and the Tuatara- which is the native reptile that’s been around since the dinosaurs!
- Location: 60 Hussey Road, Northwood, Christchurch
- Opening Hours: Open daily from 9:30 AM – 5 PM
- Price: Entry is from $32.50 NZ for adults and $12 NZ for kids. Family passes are available.
Paddling Pools & Playgrounds
We’ve already mentioned the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and many of the fun attractions they have on offer, with treasure hunts and nature trails to keep them entertained.
However, the gardens are also home to a fantastic playground and paddling pool area. During the warmer seasons, kids can enjoy splashing about in the water-play zone.
There are also several other paddling pools in Christchurch to help the kids cool off during November and March each year. They are all free to enjoy!
Christchurch Adventure Park
If your children are a fan of adventure, then going to the Christchurch Adventure Park is a must.
The adventure park is based at Port Hills and the views are unbelievable.
- Location: 225 Worsleys Road, Christchurch
- Opening Hours: Open from 11 AM – 7 PM weekdays and 10 AM – 4 PM weekends
- Price: Entry to the park is free for trail walks. Adventure attractions incur costs
Orana Wildlife Park
For a safari experience, go visit the Orana Wildlife Park, which is the only open range zoo in New Zealand!
The wildlife park has many different exotic animals, like tigers, orangutans, wild dogs, Tasmanian devils, lions, and spider monkeys, just to name a few.
Orana Wildlife Park is internationally renowned for their involvement in zoo-based breeding programs for native and endangered exotic species.
- Location: 793 McLeans Island Road, Christchurch
- Opening Hours: Open from 10 AM – 5 PM daily
- Price: $36.50 NZ for adults and $9.50 NZ for kids aged 5 to 14
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Accommodation In Christchurch – The Best Places To Stay
For the best places to stay in Christchurch, check out one of these hotel options to suit every budget:
- Central City Apartments – Great for couples, central location
- Quest Christchurch Serviced Apartments – Great for families, central location
- JUCY Snooze Christchurch – Close to airport/van rentals, budget-friendly
For private homes and apartment rentals, Airbnb has plenty of options around Christchurch. These are often great for families as you are typically self-contained and have plenty of your own space for longer stays.
Or pick up your Wilderness Motorhome or book with another campervan and start your South Island road trip. This is truly the best way to see New Zealand if you have the time.
There are no free campgrounds in Christchurch however there are some within 40 minutes or some budget-friendly private campgrounds.
Use the Campermate App or one of these other useful NZ camping apps to find where to set up camp.
Day Trips From Christchurch
If you are looking for ideas to extend your stay and see beyond the city, these day trips from Christchurch are well worth making time for:
- Akaroa – (1h 20m from Christchurch) This beautiful french settlement coastal town is perfect for browsing gift stores and enjoying time on or by the water. The drive alone is worth it for the stunning views!
- Arthur’s Pass (2 h from Christchurch) Visit the highest point of the Southern Alps with wild scenery and waterfalls. The best way is to take the scenic train ride.
- Waipara Wine Valley (1 h from Christchurch) Escape to one of New Zealand’s premier wine regions and enjoy sampling local drops and delicious eats.
- Hanmer Springs (2 h from Christchurch) Hot springs are a quintessential New Zealand experience. There is also bungy jumping, jet boating and loads more fun to be had!
FAQS For Visiting Christchurch
Following the major earthquake events of 2010, 2011 and 2016, plus the recent terrorist attack in 2019, Christchurch has been given a somewhat tragic modern history.
In saying that, Christchurch is an otherwise safe destination to visit and suited to families who are looking for a less chaotic option compared to Auckland or peak ski season in Queenstown.
Take the same precautions you would visiting any other destination and follow the travel alerts in the lead up to your visit.
If visiting Christchurch from elsewhere in the world or from New Zealand’s North Island, you can fly into Christchurch International Airport.
There are bus services running between Christchurch from other major cities in New Zealand and a ferry service that connects the North and South Islands.
You won’t regret your time spent exploring Christchurch! With so many incredible sights, attractions and things to do in Christchurch, you will easily fill several days or longer in this beautiful city!
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