The Must-Dos in Christchurch!
Welcome to Christchurch! It’s the South Island’s largest city; a bustling hub for art, culture, food, walks, beaches and more. While there’s so much to do in Christchurch, which is outlined in our The Complete Guide to Christchurch, we’ve whittled down the offerings to just 15 of the best things to do in Christchurch.
The activities on this must-do list are a mix of free and affordable activities, but be sure to check out 15 Free or Cheap Things to Do in Christchurch for more ways to experience Christchurch on a budget. There’s so much to do that you’ll want to stay awhile, so get some inspiration in our Christchurch hotels list or other budget accommodation list.
1. Wander Around the Botanic Gardens
Christchurch is known as the “Garden City” and for good reason! That’s why the Christchurch Botanic Gardens tops our list of Christchurch must-dos. Not only is it a super accessible activity from the city centre, but it’s also free and has lots to discover! Wander in the rose gardens, find all the water features (there are interactive ones too), do native bush walks or people-watch from under a giant oak tree. Check out 10 Beautiful Gardens & Parks in Christchurch for more gardens to visit.
Location: Rolleston Avenue, Christchurch city centre.
2. Do a Double Decker Tour of the City
As well as being the Garden City, Christchurch is also considered the most English city outside of England so there’s nothing more fitting than an open-top double-decker tour to do some sightseeing – just like in London! This is a great way to see most of the city sights and learn about Christchurch in a short amount of time. Tours are run by Hassle Free Tours, which you can find out more about Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: Tours depart from outside of the Canterbury Museum and Botanic Gardens on Rolleston Avenue, Christchurch city centre.
3. Take a Trip to Akaroa
Christchurch is not all about the city centre. For those of you with more time, be sure to add Akaroa to your Christchurch travel itinerary! The Akaroa Peninsula is not only considered the “French Town” of New Zealand, but it’s also a mecca for wildlife. As well as walks, great eateries and bike rides, getting out on the Akaroa Harbour is almost guaranteed to give you some sightings of Hector’s dolphins, little blue penguins, seals and seabirds! See more must-do road trips like this in The Best Day Trips from Christchurch.
4. Visit the Canterbury Museum
We can’t resist adding that classic indoor activity to this list of things to do in Christchurch! The Canterbury Museum is a great place to learn all about the South Island’s largest city, as well as the surrounding region, which is also out of any bad weather and free activity. Take a journey through the Canterbury region from the times of the early wildlife and early settlers called the Maori to the arrival of the Europeans. See more experiences like this in the 17 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Christchurch.
Location: Rolleston Avenue, Christchurch city centre.
5. Check Out Christchurch’s Vibrant 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, Christchurch city centre.
6. Walk or Take the Gondola into the Port Hills
The Port Hills that skirt the city is the best place to stretch your legs in Christchurch and grab some awesome views. While you have a great deal of choice when it comes to walking or biking tracks, a favourite has to be the Ahuriri Reserve and the Crater Rim walk at Sign of the Bellbird. The 4km (2-mile) track takes about 1h30min to complete one way. 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. Find out more on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: Both the Sign of the Bellbird and the gondola can be found along Summit Road, Port Hills, a 35-minute drive out of Christchurch city centre.
7. Take a Trip to Lyttelton and Quail Island
Just through the 1,970m (6,463ft) Lyttelton Tunnel is the quaint suburb of Lyttelton with its harbour being the base for some great boat trips out to Quail Island. After checking out the cafes, bars and boutiques, catch a ferry to Quail Island. Quail Island is not only full of walking tracks with some great photo opportunities, but it also has a fascinating history of being a quarantine island which you’ll have lots of opportunities to learn about on the island. What’s more, the beaches are very tempting on a sunny day. See more family-friendly activities like this in the 10 Things to Do in Christchurch with Kids.
Location: Lyttelton is a 20-minute drive southeast of the city centre. Lyttelton is on the Christchurch public transport network.
8. Feast at the Riccarton Farmers’ Market
If there’s only one place you can go to get your foodie experience in Christchurch, it has to be the Riccarton Farmers’ Market. With over 300 stalls, it’s the biggest and most popular farmers’ market in New Zealand. Try some tasty treats and drinks, all produced by passionate locals. Browse for the perfect New Zealand souvenir on the crafts stalls and more. There’s always some form of great entertainment too like live music. For more food-related activities, check out 9 Things to Do in Christchurch for Foodies.
Location: Every Sunday from 9am to 2pm, Riccarton Racecourse, Riccarton Park, 146 Racecourse Road, a 15-minute drive from the city centre.
9. 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 from Christchurch city centre.
10. Jump on Board One of the World’s Most Scenic Train Journeys
The TranzAlpine from Christchurch to Greymouth is on many lists as one of the world’s most scenic train journeys. A journey from Christchurch takes you through the Canterbury Plains to the stunning mountainous scenery of the Southern Alps as you go through Arthur’s Pass National Park. You’ll make a quick stop in the middle of Arthur’s Pass before going through the 8.5km (5.3-mile) Otira Tunnel. You’ll then journey past rainforests and lakes of the West Coast before arriving in Greymouth. Either continue your trip from there or the train soon departs back to Christchurch to enjoy all over again. Find out more about the TranzAlpine train journey on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: Christchurch Railway Station, Addington, approximately a 10-minute drive from Christchurch city centre.
11. 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. Plus, more restaurant recommendations can be found in The Foodie Guide to Christchurch.
Location: The Terrace and Victoria Street, Christchurch city centre.
12. Go to the Beach
Christchurch has a number of great beaches that we’d love to mention, but if we’re being picky then we’d say you should definitely check out Sumner Beach! It’s easy to access by public transport or car by being on the edge of the city. Plus, it’s a great place to swim, surf and explore with its interesting arches and caves. The beach is also backed with fish and chips restaurants and ice cream completing the beach experience. Check out 7 Top Surf Breaks in Christchurch for more amazing surf beaches.
Location: Main Road and Esplanade, Sumner, 20 minutes drive from Christchurch city centre.
13. Hit New Regent Street
The most photographable street in Christchurch is New Regent Street so don’t miss it when on your city exploration adventures! It’s cool, colourful and quirky! We consider the street one of the romantic experiences you can add to the 10 Romantic Activities in Christchurch for Couples.
Location: New Regent Street, Christchurch city centre.
14. Journey to The Lord of the Rings Filming Location of 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. 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 – find out more on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: Rolleston Avenue and selected Christchurch hotels
15. 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 -18°C Antarctic storm experience, it provides interesting insights into Antarctic exploration. One of the highlights is a ride in an all-terrain Hagglund vehicle. Book tickets to the International Antarctic Centre on Viator or Tripadvisor.
Location: 38 Orchard Road, Christchurch Airport, approximately a 15 to 20-minute drive from Christchurch city centre.