Nestled between the prominent Banks Peninsula on one side and the vast Canterbury Plains on the other, Christchurch is New Zealand’s third largest city. Known for its large green spaces – complete with glorious gardens, ancient trees (some over 100 years old), world class tourist attractions and a somewhat colourful history.
As the South Island’s largest city, Christchurch attracts visitors from all around the world with many enjoying the sights and sounds of the city as well as a wonderful array of activities such as skiing, surfing, swimming, hiking and mountain biking all within an hour’s drive of the city.
What are the best things to do in Christchurch? Read on for our top highlights across the city and its suburbs.
Christchurch Central City Highlights
Christchurch’s central city provides a great range of activities and things to do all within easy driving distance. Make your way around the Garden City and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere at your own pace.
Looking for a fun way to sight-see the central Christchurch streets? Then the Tram is exactly that! Get on and get off the beautifully restored trams anytime during the entire day and travel old-style.
- The Christchurch Tram runs every day 9am to 6pm during summer, 10am to 5pm in the winter – tickets cost $25 for adults, $5 for children.
The Arts Centre
Some of the most iconic buildings in Christchurch are to be found at The Arts Centre in central Christchurch. Enjoy the regular line up of events scheduled here, or just wander about the local businesses and cafes that reside in the heritage buildings.
- The Arts Centre houses a range of businesses and shops all with their own operating hours please check the website for more information.
New Regent Street
The perfect spot for lunch, New Regent Street is a place to meet and greet friends and family and enjoy some of the delicious delights form the local cafes. Stop by Mrs Higgins for a warm cookie straight out of the oven or Rollickin Gelato for some of the best gelato you’ve even eaten!
- The New Regent Street Prescient is located in the centre of Christchurch in between Gloucester and Armagh Streets.
Margaret Mahy Playground
For the young (or just young at heart) the Margaret Mahy playground is the perfect place to burn off some energy and just have some fun! The playground comes complete with a water play area, huge slide, spider web-like climbing ropes, swings, flying fox and much more!
- Entry to the Margaret Mahy Playground is free! The playground is open all day and there are toilets on site.
Christchurch Art Gallery
A Short walk down Worcester Street from the Arts Centre, you will find the striking Art Gallery building. This architecturally designed art museum expertly showcases a variety of heritage and contemporary works through static displays, films, tours and events.
- The Art Gallery is open daily from 10am to 5pm, entry to the gallery is free although a small donation is greatly appreciated. The Art Gallery is located on the corner of Worcester Boulevard and Montreal Street.
Christchurch Botanic Gardens
Set in the grounds of the iconic Hagley Park you will find the stunning Botanic Gardens. The perfect peaceful place to spend an afternoon of fresh air and sunshine, wandering about the Botanic Gardens is simply a must do when in Christchurch.
- The Christchurch Botanic Gardens are open from 7am every day and entry is free. Look out for the on-site Visitor Centre to get a free map of the gardens so you don’t miss a thing!
Christchurch West Highlights
Over to the west of the city you will find some of the city’s best wildlife based tourist attractions including the world famous Antarctic Centre and its lovely Little Blue Penguins, along with Orana Park – New Zealand’s own open range zoo and conservation facility.
This sprawling open range zoo and conservation facility offers a modern animal friendly zoo experience with wide open enclosures allowing more natural viewing opportunities. See new Zealand’s only gorillas, orangutan and hand feed a giraffe, or see if you can spot the native kiwi in its darken purpose built enclosure.
- Orana Park is open daily from 10am to 5pm, entry prices are $36.50 per adult and $9.9.50 per child.
McLeans Island Forest Reserve
A great place for a nice forest walk or to hit the trails on your mountain bike, McLeans Forest has around 11km of walking tracks and 3 mountain bike loops covering approximately 17 kilometres. The tracks cater for all ages and abilities, and bike hire is available on site during normal working hours.
- The McLeans Island Forest Reserve is just 15 minutes from the central city and entry to the reserve is free.
Get a glimpse into life in Antarctica at this world class tourist attraction. View New Zealand’s first penguin rescue centre, enjoy a ride on the Hagglund ice vehicle or experience the chill of an artic storm – there is plenty for everyone!
- Entry to the Antarctic Centre costs $59 per adult and $29 per child. The Centre is open daily 9am to 5.30pm.
Christchurch North Highlights
To the north of the city the suburban sprawl gives way to lush green countryside and forestry plantations as you head towards the iconic Waimakariri River. This side of town is known for its wildlife, conservation and outdoor activities.
Willowbank Wildlife Reserve
A wildlife park and nature reserve featuring a variety of animals and birdlife you might find in the NZ farmyard, native to New Zealand and also a range of exotic animals to delight the littlies.
- Entry to Willowbank is priced at $32.50 per adult and $12 per child. The Park is open daily from 9.30am to 7pm.
Travis Wetland Nature Heritage Park
Spanning 116 hectares of reclaimed and restored wetlands, this Nature Heritage Park is a natural breeding ground and habitat for a wide range of native wetland plants and birds. Wander around the Park anytime between the hours of 7am to 8pm year round.
- The Travis Wetland Nature Heritage Park is approximately 20 minutes’ drive from Christchurch’s central city and entry is free.
Bottle Lake Forest Park
Similar to the McLeans Island Forest Park but on a much larger scale the Bottle Lake Forest Park offers a range of mountain biking tracks and walking trails suitable for all ages and fitness levels over a total of 1000 hectares of pine forest.
- Bottle Lake Forest Park is approximately 20 minutes’ drive from the central city – entry is free.
At the northern tip of the Bottle Lake Forest Park across the road from the Spencer Park Playground you will find the enthusiastic harness clad team from the Adrenaline Forest ropes climbing challenges. Set among the established pine trees are 7 great ropes courses requiring skill, balance and a bit of courage!
- Access to the full course for 3 hours at Adrenaline Forest will cost you $45 per adult and $30 per child.
Christchurch South Highlights
To the south of Christchurch the city nudges the bottom of the city’s most prominent geographical feature – the Port Hills. Largely set aside as a nature reserve, the Port Hills provide plenty of opportunities for hiking, biking and adventure.
Christchurch Adventure Park
Feel like some adventure in the hills? Then the Christchurch Adventure Park is the one for you. Set among the slippery slopes of the Port Hills the Park offers excellent mountain biking trails complete with a chairlift to get you back to the top (which is also great for sightseeing too!). Or check out the massive 2.5 hours zipline tour for a much less strenuous way to descend the hills.
- A Day Pass at the Christchurch Adventure Park is priced at $75 for adults and $37.50 for children. Bike hire is also available on site. Zipline tours start at $130 per adult and $90 per child.
Want to check out the fantastic views from the Port Hills? Then jump in a gondola and enjoy the ride! At the top check out the unique ‘Time Tunnel’ and learn a little about the history of the Port Hills and Christchurch.
- The Christchurch Gondola operates daily from 10am to 5pm, adults cost $30, children $15.
Ferrymead Heritage Park
Step back in time for an afternoon of old-timey fun at the Ferrymead Heritage Park and enjoy this glimpse into what life was like in Christchurch for the early settlers. See vintage machinery, and items, check out the restored buildings and there is even a Tram and steam train running on school holiday weekends.
- The Ferrymead heritage Park is open seven days a week, from 10am to 4.30pm, entry prices are $13 for adults and $8 per child.
Pack a picnic for the day and take a mini roadie on over the Lyttelton for a day out of the city. Take the scenic route up over the Port Hills or just head on through the Lyttelton Tunnel for a speedier trip. Lyttelton is a quaint little historic town with plenty of boutique cafes, shops and walking tracks to explore at your leisure.
- Lyttelton is just 20 minutes’ drive from Christchurch through the tunnel, or 40 minutes if taking the Dyers Pass Road up over the Port Hills.
Continuing on further from Lyttelton is the popular Banks Peninsula – great for those outdoor enthusiasts, beach goers or those who fancy a spot of camping. In fact locals would say the Banks Peninsula has the best camping spots around, all within easy travelling distance from the city.
- Akaroa, Little Akola, Diamond Harbour, Purau, Okains Bay and Le Bons Bay are just a few of the best spots out on the Peninsula – finding your favourite is just part of the fun!
Need reliable transport while in Christchurch? See Hitch Car Rentals for affordable car hire in Christchurch, Queenstown and Auckland.