What to Do in Christchurch: The South Island’s Second-largest City!
Christchurch is on the itinerary of most travelling the South Island. New Zealand’s second-largest city has a wide range of activities and attractions to suit any type of traveller and budget, from picturesque gardens to explore to unique sightseeing tours. Christchurch has a colourful history, from the early Maori settlers of Ngai Tahu to the 2010/11 earthquakes to now being a vibrant reviving city and important connection to the Antarctic. Discover it all through the activities listed here in this list of things to do in Christchurch.While you’re here, you might also be interested in the 15 Free or Cheap Things to do in Christchurch.
1. Wander Around Hagley Park and the Botanic Gardens
Christchurch is known as the “Garden City” and you’ll certainly see why once you discover Hagley Park and the Botanic Gardens. Hagley Park is the city’s central park and the main hub for community and sports events. On the edge of Hagley Park, the Botanic Gardens has much to explore including a pinetum, rose garden, water and rock gardens, riverside woodland, herbaceous borders, native trees and the Cuningham House conservatory with some amazing displays of tropical plants. Check out the 10 Beautiful Gardens & Parks in Christchurch for more gardens to visit.
Location: Rolleston Avenue
2. Check Out the Art Scene
Christchurch has a vibrant art scene with countless murals to discover across the city! Once you’ve finished checking out the street art, head to the Christchurch Art Gallery boasting a lively exhibition programme. The art gallery is free-entry and even open late nights on Wednesdays, making it one of the amazing 10 Things to Do in Christchurch at Night.
Location: Corner of Worcester Boulevard and Montreal Street
3. Go Walking or Mountain Biking in the Port Hills
For those looking for a bit of adventure and epic scenery in Christchurch, set your sights on the Port Hills. Enjoy hill walks ranging from one hour to three hours, taking the panoramic views of the city and even the Southern Alps on a clear day. Even if you’re not much of a hiker, you can always take the Christchurch Gondola, providing access to walks, a restaurant, a cafe, a shop and more.
Location: Access via Bridle Path Road, Rapaki Road, Victoria Park Visitor Centre, Kennedy’s Bush Road, Summit Road and more. Take Bus no. 12 or 14 from the city centre.
4. Walk Along the Avon River
The Avon River meanders through the centre of Christchurch. The walkway along the banks is a great way to see some of the city highlights, such as the Antigua Boat Sheds, the Bridge of Remembrance, the Worcester Street Bridge, the Kate Sheppard National Memorial and much more. There are many entries and exits points along the river to make the walk as short or as long as you like.
Location: Montreal Street, Cashel Street, Hereford Street and more.
5. Ride the TranzAlpine Through Arthurs Pass
The start/end of one of the world’s most scenic railway journeys is right here in Christchurch. The TranzAlpine Express goes through the magnificent scenery of the Canterbury Plains, through the Southern Alps, and across to the lush rainforests of the West Coast. Either take a one-way trip to Greymouth, taking around 4 hours, or travel back to Christchurch for an 8-hour ride. There are open viewing carriages, a cafe carriage, commentary, the scenery and more to keep you entertained through the journey.
Location: Christchurch Train Station, Addington
6. See the City Sights by Tram or by Double-decker Bus
Sightseeing in Christchurch can be done in unique and fun ways! Choose either a hop-on-hop-off double-decker bus with Hassle-Free Tours or on the historic Christchurch Tramways with Christchurch Attractions. Learn about the history of Christchurch and the Canterbury Earthquakes as you travel around the inner city or opt to see some of the picturesque suburbs, such as Sumner Beach, the Port Hills or Mona Vale Gardens.
Location: Rolleston Avenue
7. See a Kiwi Bird and Watch a Maori Show at the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve
Sitting side-by-side, the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve and Ko Tane Maori Cultural Performance Experience makes a great day or evening out in Christchurch. See New Zealand’s national icon, the kiwi bird, in a special nocturnal house free in a viewing uninterrupted by glass. You’ll also see New Zealand wildlife like kea, tuatara, takahe, kaka, as well as livestock animals. Amp up the experience with a Maori cultural performance where you’ll take part in a welcoming ceremony, enjoy a traditional hangi meal and learn Maori legends through song and dance.
Location: Hussey Road (off Gardiners Road)
8. Discover Great Eateries and Bars
Whatever your mood, budget or taste, there’s something yummy to try in Christchurch. Visit The Terrace to find Christchurch’s newest bars and restaurants along the Avon River. Alternatively, head to Victoria Street with a real mix of eateries, from Mexican to Latin to Asian fusion. For those of you on a budget or looking for some amazing street food, be sure to check out our recommendations in Cheap Eats in Christchurch.
Location: The Terrace & Victoria Street
9. Journey to Edoras
There are many fantastic tours exploring the South Island that depart from Christchurch, but one that combines breathtaking scenery with a nerdy theme is the Hassle-Free Tours’ Lord of the Rings Tour. You’ll journey through the Canterbury Plains to the stunning alpine region of Mt Sunday, also known as Edoras in The Lord of the Rings movies. You’ll get the opportunity to pose with props at a filming location, as well as learn about the flora and fauna of the area. The tour is approximately nine hours and included lunch, refreshment stops and commentary throughout the day.
Location: Rolleston Avenue and selected Christchurch hotels
10. Visit the International Antarctic Centre
Christchurch is an important connection between many countries and the Antarctic, so it’s only fitting to have the International Antarctic Centre based here. While the attraction is a bit “Disney” like with 4D theatre and a -18C Antarctic storm experience, it provides interesting insights into Antarctic exploration. One of the highlights is a ride in an all-terrain Hagglund vehicle.
Location: 38 Orchard Road, Christchurch Airport