The Best Family Activities in Christchurch
It’s easy to enjoy your time together in Christchurch. Family-friendly museums, gorgeous gardens with playgrounds, wildlife experiences and active adventures are a staple of the South Island‘s largest city, which we’ll go through for you in this list of the best things to do in Christchurch with kids. After you’ve booked your family accommodation in Christchurch, all you need to do is tick off these activities from the bucket list. There are free things to do, all-weather activities and more to suit a variety of tastes and budgets.
While you’re here, get help planning your family getaway with The Guide to Christchurch for Families.
1. Explore the Botanic Gardens
Start your visit to the “Garden City” with a visit to one of Christchurch’s most renowned gardens. The Botanic Gardens is an excellent free place to take the little ones, not only to explore an array of themed gardens but for the kids to play at the children’s playground and paddling pool in summer. Feed the birds at the duck ponds, play with the interactive water features, have a picnic or enjoy a sit down at the ilex Cafe by the Visitor Centre. For more gardens to explore with the kids, check out the 10 Beautiful Gardens & Parks in Christchurch.
Location: Access off Rolleston Avenue. Car parks on Riccarton Avenue and Armagh Street. The children’s playground can be found near the Armagh Street car park.
2. Ride the Chairlift, Find the Fairy Doors and Zipline Over the Trees at Christchurch Adventure Park
Christchurch Adventure Park offers an easy way to get views of Christchurch city without the effort thanks to their chairlift rides up the Cashmere Hills. When you get to the top, enjoy a short walk finding all of the fairy doors on the pine trees or let the kids loose in the kiddies’ mountain bike park, if you have your own bikes. For older kids, treat them to the Zipline Tour, tackling four epic ziplines with duel lines to race each other to the bottom!
Location: 225 Worsleys Road, Cracroft, approximately 8 km (5 mi) from Christchurch city centre.
3. Do the Treetop Obstacle Course of Adrenalin Forest
More active adventures await at Adrenalin Forest. This treetop obstacle course has challenges to tackle for all ages, including flying foxes (ziplines), a Tarzan jump, a wrecking ball, barrels and much more! The obstacle course provides great value for families considering you can easily spend half a day here.
Location: 110 Heyders Road, Spencerville, approximately 15 km (9 mi) from Christchurch city centre.
4. Take a Day Tour to See New Zealand’s Largest Blue Penguin Colony (or Cutest Alpacas)
While Christchurch has a few wildlife attractions that house exotic animals, for a more ethical wildlife experience, join Maossie Tours for a day trip to Akaroa and the Banks Peninsula to see wild little blue penguins in their natural habitat. After a scenic journey along with stops to try artisan food and light refreshments (all included), you’ll arrive for your Pohatu Penguins nature safari to learn about a local family’s conservation efforts and see penguin chicks that are being nursed to health before being released into the wild. Arguably, meeting and feeding the sheep at the homestead is one of the major highlights! Maossie Tours also runs a similar tour to the Shamarra Alpaca Farm, which is also fantastic for kids.
Location: Departure either from the Canterbury Museum, Rolleston Avenue or any centrally located Christchurch accommodation.
5. Experience the Polar Regions at the International Antarctic Centre
As Christchurch is one of the main launch points for travel to the Antarctic, it’s the perfect place to experience the International Antarctic Centre with all sorts of interactive activities. See if you can weather out an Antarctic storm, meet huskies, watch a 4D show, ride on an all-terrain Hagglund vehicle, learn about the remote life at the Scott Base as it snows, and the list goes on! What’s more, the all-weather attraction is one of the 20 Things to Do in Christchurch on a Rainy Day.
Location: 38 Orchard Road, Harewood, approximately 11 km (7 mi) from Christchurch city centre.
6. Take a Scenic Train Journey to Arthur’s Pass on the TranzAlpine
It’s no secret that kids love trains, so keep them happy while you enjoy the breathtaking views of the TranzAlpine journey. Watch as the Canterbury Plains transition to the mountains and braided rivers of the Southern Alps. Either take a day trip to Arthur’s Pass, the heart of the Southern Alps, to enjoy the area’s short walks before taking the train back to Christchurch or enjoy the journey all the way to Greymouth on the West Coast. Check out tickets Viator and Klook.
Alternatively, the Coastal Pacific Journey from Christchurch to Picton is a stunning coastal ride passing through Kaikoura.
Location: Christchurch Railway Station, Troup Drive, approximately 5 km (3 mi) from Christchurch city centre.
7. Enjoy Family-Friendly Walks in the Port Hills
Stick to your travel budget with ease thanks to Christchurch’s free family-friendly activities! Stretch your legs in the Port Hills which offers a couple of excellent walks recommended for families. Explore the hilltops of the Godley Head Walk, taking approximately one-hour return to walk the track. Alternatively, hike across open tussock land to the Packhorse Hut offering commanding views and an unbeatable picnic spot. The two-hour walk is better suited for older kids. Note that the track is closed between August and October for the lambing season.
Location: Godley Head Walk – Godley Head Road, approximately 22 km (14 mi) from Christchurch city centre. Packhorse Hut – McQueens Valley Road, approximately 37 km (23 mi) from Christchurch city centre.
8. Surf, Swim, Explore and Build Sandcastles at Christchurch’s Beaches
If you’re more drawn to the coast than the hills, then you have some spectacular beaches in Christchurch to choose from. Sumner Beach is a popular hot spot with caves to check out, surf lessons available for all ages and abilities, ice cream and fish and chips, or just building sandcastles, if you prefer. Alternatively, New Brighton is a local favourite and features a 300m (980ft) pier offering awesome views of the coast.
Location: Sumner Beach – Main Road, approximately 11 km (7 mi) from Christchurch city centre. New Brighton Beach – Marine Parade, approximately 9 km (6 mi) from Christchurch city centre.
9. See the Warplanes at the Air Force Museum
A free attraction that also makes an excellent rainy-day activity, the Air Force Museum of New Zealand is bound to amaze and astound the little ones with its display of warplanes. Aside from awesome aircraft displays, the museum hosts regular museum hunts ideal for kids to get them more involved. See more affordable activities in the 26 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Christchurch.
Location: 45 Harvard Avenue, Wigram, approximately 10 km (6 mi) from Christchurch city centre.
10. Ride the Christchurch City Tram
Step back in time and enjoy this old-worldly transport method around the city. The beautifully restored Christchurch Tramway is a children’s favourite, while parents are also bound to like the fact that kids up to age 15 get to travel for free! It’s a fun way to explore the city where you can hop-on and hop-off as much as you like. Check out and book the Christchurch Tramway on Viator and Klook.
Location: You can get on the tram at any of its 17 stops. The easiest to find is along Rolleston Avenue near the Canterbury Museum.
11. Let the Kids Loose at The Margaret Mahy Family Playground
Children’s playgrounds in New Zealand are pretty epic, but The Margaret Mahy Family Playground in Christchurch is on a whole different level! Funky playground equipment, food and coffee vendors with seating, free barbecues, changing rooms and all that good stuff; there’s everything your family needs here for an hour or two… or three… or four!
Location: Corner of Manchester and Armagh Streets, Christchurch city centre.
12. Learn Something New at the Canterbury Museum
[Update: The Rolleston Avenue Canterbury Museum is closed for redevelopment during 2023 (but there’s a cool street art gallery in its place). A pop-up museum is available from mid-2023 at 66 Gloucester Street].
A walk through Botanic Gardens will lead you to Canterbury Museum; a fantastic attraction to visit in the city centre, especially if you are on a budget. Learn about the natural and social history of the Canterbury region (the region of Christchurch) through vivid displays and check out the quirky living room made out of paua shells! Entry is free of charge.
Location: 11 Rolleston Avenue, Christchurch city centre.
13. Visit Quake City
This museum gives visitors a deeper understanding of Christchurch’s recent history of the Canterbury Earthquakes, while also keeping kids engaged with interactive exhibitions. We recommend visiting Quake City early in your visit to Christchurch in order to put things into perspective as you’re bound to witness the redevelopment of this city even several years later. Entry is approximately NZ$20 per person, while children go free if accompanied by an adult.
Location: 299 Durham Street North, corner Armagh Street, Christchurch city centre.
14. Paddle a Maori Waka on the Avon River
Learn to work together, all while immersing in a cultural experience, in a waka paddling tour on the Avon River. Known in Maori at “Ōtākaro“, the Avon River is not only an iconic feature of Christchurch city, but a gorgeous setting for learning to paddle a Maori canoe with Ko Tāne. Enjoy early stories of Canterbury’s local iwi (tribe) and see what it’s like to use the river’s original method of transportation!
Location: 794 Colombo Street, Christchurch city centre.
15. Take the Ferry to Quail Island
An awesome day trip for the whole family and probably one of the most underrated Christchurch attractions is Quail Island. A return ferry from the cool suburb of Lyttelton will take you to Quail Island where sights include shipwrecks, historical sites and, errr, a former leprosy colony and quarantine station… Not forgetting all the stunning beaches and bushwalks, of course!
Location: Take the Ferry from Lyttleton Harbour, approximately 13 km (8 mi) from Christchurch city centre.
16. Have a Splash (and Relax) at the He Puna Taimoana Hot Pools
If you don’t go to New Brighton for the 300 m (980 ft) pier, at least go for a rejuvenating soak in the He Puna Taimoana Hot Pools. The complex features five saltwater hot pools ranging in soothing temperatures – the family pool at a comfortable 33-36°C (91-97°F) in summer and 36-38°C (97-100°F) in winter.
Location: New Brighton, approximately 9 km (5.6 mi) from Christchurch city centre.
17. Explore the Forest on the Riccarton Bush Walk
Despite being in the middle of the South Island’s largest city, the Riccarton Bush Walk transports you to the wild side of New Zealand. Set behind the historic settler’s cottage, Deans Cottage, there are two short walks (15-minute and 30-minute return) winding through dense stands of kahikatea. Look out for fantails (piwakawaka), silvereyes (tauhou), grey warblers (riroriro) and wood pigeons (kereru).
Location: Walks start from Riccarton House, 16 Kahu Road, Riccarton, approximately 4 km (2.3 mi) from Christchurch city centre.
18. Treat Them to the Coolest Ice Cream Parlour in the City
If there’s one place for ice cream in Christchurch, it’s the punchy Rollickin Dessert Cafe right on the colourful New Regent Street. Treat the family to, ya know, ice cream and sweet treats – open every day for fun and late-night! For more evening entertainment, take a look at the 10 Things to Do in Christchurch at Night.
Location: 35 New Regent Street, Christchurch city centre.
19. Explore Mona Vale
A picturesque English-style garden, Mona Vale is an easy walk or bus trip from the city centre and well worth the visit. The garden once belonged to Annie Townend, who was thought to be the richest woman in New Zealand during her time. See plantings of English and European trees and flowers surrounding a conservatory and homestead.
Location: 40 Mona Vale Avenue, Riccarton, approximately 4 km (2.4 mi) from Christchurch city centre.
20. Ride the Christchurch Gondola
As mentioned, the Port Hills that skirt the city are the best place to stretch your legs and grab some gorgeous views in Christchurch. An easy and fun way to experience the Port Hills is by riding the Christchurch Gondola, providing access to walks, a restaurant, a cafe, a shop and more. Find out more on Viator and Klook.
Location: Summit Road, Port Hills, approximately 9.5 km (5.9 mi) from Christchurch city centre.
21. Test Your Skills at an Indoor Climbing Wall
If you’ve come to the South Island to experience its adventurous side, then let the adventure continue whatever the weather at one of Christchurch’s indoor climbing walls. The YMCA has challenging walls with the classic ropes, harnesses and shoes, as well as a Clip ‘n Climb which is ideal for kids and beginners. Alternatively, try bouldering at the dedicated bouldering centre, Uprising.
Location: YMCA – 12 Hereford Street, Christchurch Central. Uprising – 199 Ferry Road, Waltham, approximately 3 km (2 mi) from Christchurch city centre.
22. Discover Christchurch’s Family-Friendly Cafes and Restaurants
Yes, dining can be an activity too! An easy go-to with little ones in tow is the light-filled Ilex Cafe by the Botanic Gardens with proximity to playgrounds and nice little touches like a self-opening pushchair door and changing rooms in both the men’s and women’s bathrooms. Alternatively, swap fast food for the colourful and lively Burger Burger with an excellent kids’ menu and a dedicated children’s play area. Plus, don’t miss the sensory experience of Park Ranger with its lively plant decor and window seats with a view of the ever-interesting goings-on of Riccarton Road. Finally, a guilt-free option and a way to get your “five-a-day” in is to stop by the Barefoot Eatery where everything is entirely plant-based, dairy-free, gluten-free, refined sugar-free and free of any additives.
Location: Ilex Cafe – Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Burger Burger – 10 Welles Street. Park Ranger – 114 Riccarton Road, Riccarton. Barefoot Eatery – 20 Welles Street.
23. Visit the Christchurch Art Gallery
Another fantastic free family-friendly attraction in the city is the Christchurch Art Gallery. The art gallery houses some of the most important art in New Zealand that’s ever-changing making it a worthy experience for locals and visitors alike. There are free guided tours of the art gallery available daily at 11 am and 2 pm, while the art gallery also has a lively calendar of events and workshops especially for kids.
Location: Corner of Worcester Boulevard and Montreal Street, Christchurch Central.
24. Treat the Kids to Jumping and Ice Skating at an Indoor Trampoline Park
Especially if it’s a rainy day, don’t miss the indoor trampoline parks. You have two to choose from, starting with Launch Pad, which boasts trampolines for all ages (even toddlers), foam pits, a bouncy dodgeball arena, basketball hoops and a scooter race track. Alternatively, head to MoveX not only for their exciting trampoline park but to skate around the ice rink.
Location: Launch Pad – 43 Langdons Road, Papanui, approximately 5 km (3 mi) from Christchurch city centre. MoveX – 230 Maces Road, Bromley, approximately 6 km (4 mi) from Christchurch city centre.
25. Take a Day Trip to Akaroa, Hanmer Springs or Arthur’s Pass
If Christchurch is your main base for your family getaway in New Zealand, then we fully recommend taking the time to get out of its little bubble and see some of the real New Zealand. Rent a car or a campervan and do a road trip to Akaroa to see a French-inspired town combined with dolphins and penguins, Hanmer Springs to relax in the town’s famous hot pools and water park, or Arthur’s Pass for world-class mountain scenery and family-friendly short walks.
Take a look at some of The Best Car Rental Companies in Christchurch or The Best Motorhome & Campervan Rentals in Christchurch, as well as places to visit in The Best Day Trips from Christchurch.
Location: See the link above for locations and travel times to each destination.
26. Soak in the Scenery from a Hot Air Balloon
A unique yet exciting way to take the skies is on a hot air balloon ride with Ballooning Canterbury. Soak in the scenery of the vast Canterbury Plains without engine noise, without obstructions. Drift with the wind as you float over lush pastures lit up with the golden glow of the sunrise. At the end of the experience, you’ll be treated to orange juice and a seasonal fruit platter. Alternatively, Adventure Balloons in the nearby town of Methven also offers incredible ballooning experiences. Find out more on Viator and Klook.
Location: Ballooning Canterbury – 2136 Bealey Road, Hororata, approximately 55 km (34 mi) from Christchurch city centre. Christchurch accommodation pick-up is offered. Adventure Balloons – Main Street, Methven, approximately 95 km (59 mi) from Christchurch city centre.
27. Experience the Thrills of a Jet Boat or Airboat Ride
In New Zealand, you’re never too far from a jet boat ride and the same goes for Christchurch with Alpine Jet Thrills. Just 15 minutes from the city, their “Braided Shallows” 20-minute jet boat experience takes you along the braided waters of the Waimakariri River with exciting speed, twists and 360-degree spins. Alternatively, try their US-style fan-powered airboat to explore the shallows. See how these experiences compare to the 20 Best Places to Jet Boat in New Zealand.
Location: 1 Main North Road, Kaiapoi, approximately 15 km (9.3 mi) from Christchurch city centre.
28. Shop and Delight the Senses at the Riverside Market
A shopping experience that’s different enough to keep the kids’ senses ignited, the Riverside Market is a permanent indoor market awash in street food and laneway shopping. There are more than 75 vendors to try their fare, browse their eco-products, try on their attire, sample their cosmetics and more.
Location: 96 Oxford Terrace, Christchurch city centre.
29. Be Treated to a Luxury Family Picnic
There’s no place more fitting than the “Garden City” for a picnic! Enhance the experience among the lush gardens, riversides and parks of Christchurch with Christchurch Luxury Picnics. From family gatherings to birthday parties, the team will create bespoke picnic setups that cater to your individual needs and preferences. With a focus on using locally sourced and sustainable products, CLP is not only luxurious but also environmentally conscious. See more experiences like this in the 10 Best Foodie Experiences in Christchurch.
Location: Anywhere in Christchurch; they bring the picnic to you!
30. Try Blokarting!
Try something new in Christchurch, like harnessing the power of the wind in blokarting! Like sailboats on wheels, this New Zealand invention has you riding around the specially designed course of Velocity Karts. The well-trained team there will get your kids (aged eight and up) racing around the course in no time! Plus, there’s a playground next door for more fun once you’re done.
Location: Bexley Reserve, Pages Road entry opposite 499 Pages Road, Bexley, approximately 7 km (4.3 mi) from Christchurch city centre.
31. Check Out New Zealand’s Coolest Library
We know what you’re thinking; The library? Seriously? But wait, Christchurch’s library is pretty darn cool and well worth checking out with curious kids. Tūranga has so much going on between its Production Studio with 3D printers to try, as well as sewing and embroidery machines! Or if your kids are into a different type of crafting, see their Audio/Video Studio or Creative Space for the latest art workshops. There’s a cafe on-site and, oh yeah, there are books too.
Location: 60 Cathedral Square, Christchurch city centre.
32. Solve Christchurch’s Escape Rooms
A fun way to bond as a family in Christchurch is to hit the escape rooms. See if you can find the clues, solve the puzzles and crack the codes all before the time runs out! You have two escape rooms to choose from, Codebreakers with our favourite being the blindfolded challenge, and Escape Artists which is a top choice for families.
Location: Codebreakers – 166 Saint Asaph Street. Escape Artists – 7/120 Hereford Street, Five Lanes BNZ Centre.
33. Check Out the Gardens of Halswell Quarry
What was once a quarry used for the development of Christchurch has been transformed into an attractive recreational area. Halswell Quarry is located on the edge of the city, easy to find if driving along Kennedys Bush Road. Enjoy a myriad of short walks around the old quarry which features six sister-city gardens and a Canterbury botanical collection.
Location: Kennedy’s Bush Road, Halswell, approximately 12 km (7.5 mi) from Christchurch city centre.
34. Play Tenpin Bowling, Indoor Mini Golf, Laser Tag and More
Spend some downtime as a family at the arcade, of which you have a few exciting options in Christchurch. Head to one of the Timezone complexes either in Riccarton or Hornby, complete with arcade games, glow-in-the-dark mini golf, bumper cars, laser tag and bowling lanes. Speaking of bowling, Zone Bowling also has a cool bowling alley, as well as its own laser tag arena and arcade games.
Location: Timezone Riccarton – Rotherham Street, Riccarton, approximately 5 km (3 mi) from Christchurch city centre. Timezone Hornby – 13 Chalmers Street, Hornby, approximately 10 km (6 mi) from Christchurch city centre. Zone Bowling – 5-21 Iversen Terrace, Waltham, approximately 3 km (2 mi) from Christchurch city centre.
35. Catch a Family-Friendly Event
If you happen to be in Christchurch at the right time, you might just catch one of the family-friendly events and festivals that occur every single year. New Year’s in Hagley Park, the Matariki festival of Tirama Mai in Victoria Square, some of the events of The Bread & Circus Festival (World Buskers Festival), and more. For more festivals and events, check out our New Zealand Calendar: What’s Going On? and Top New Zealand Events This Year.
Location: All over Christchurch!
More Things to Do in Christchurch with Kids
That’s it for our list of the best things to do in Christchurch with kids. For more experiences that don’t necessarily fall into the “family-friendly” category but may be suitable for your tribe nonetheless, check out these lists:
- 45 Best Things to Do in Christchurch
- 26 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Christchurch
- 10 Beautiful Gardens & Parks in Christchurch
Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in The Travel Guide to Christchurch for Families, while more NZ advice can be found in The Travel Guide to New Zealand for Families.