Since 2011, when much of Christchurch was destroyed by a devastating earthquake, visitors to the city have tended to disregard the New Zealand city as a mere gateway to more popular destinations. But after more than a decade of rebuilding, this charming and picturesque city is once again offering a multitude of experiences that make it well worth including in your South Island holiday experience. These are our top eight Christchurch must-do activities:
Punting in Christchurch is a peaceful (and romantic) way to start your adventure. These flat-bottomed boats originated on the Thames in England, and you could easily forget that you’re on the other side of the world as you drift quietly along the Avon River. Expert guides, dressed in traditional blazer and straw boater, will do all the work, standing in the back of the boat and using a long pole to propel you along as you sit back and enjoy the view. You’ll pass under beautiful bridges and through the city’s picturesque surroundings, admiring the spectacular floral displays of the city’s famous Botanic Gardens.
In the Port Hills on the outskirts of the city, Christchurch Adventure Park delivers the ultimate adrenaline rush. From flying over the forest canopy on a series of heart-pounding ziplines to mountain biking on world-class trails with breathtaking views of the Canterbury Plains and Southern Alps, the park caters to adventurers of all levels. They also offer Gravity Quad bikes available for hire, which are suitable for use by wheelchair users on a selection of mountain-bike trails. If you’re looking for a more sedate experience, you can ride the 1.8-kilometre chairlift to the top of the hill and enjoy the return journey via one of the park’s walking trails – be sure to keep an eye out for fairy doors along the way!
Christchurch is one of New Zealand’s most walkable cities – its central city is relatively compact, completely flat, and features numerous car-free paths. A walking tour is a great way to explore the city’s rich history and culture while delving into its vibrant street art scene and learning about its post-earthquake transformation. You’ll hear inspiring stories about the resilience of its people, who pulled together after the devasting earthquake and more recent terror attack to build an even stronger city and community.
Visiting Christchurch’s Antarctic Centre is like embarking on an exhilarating expedition to the frozen continent without ever leaving New Zealand. This captivating attraction, located just a stone’s throw from Christchurch Airport, provides an immersive and educational experience where you can experience a taste of life in the frozen south. From braving the bone-chilling temperatures of a polar storm to meeting adorable penguins and learning about the intrepid explorers who first ventured into Antarctica’s icy expanses, the Centre offers a unique blend of adventure and fun for all ages. You’ll leave with a much deeper appreciation for Antarctica’s harsh beauty and a better understanding of the remarkable scientific work that’s carried out in one of the world’s most remote and unforgiving environments (plus possibly a few irresistible souvenirs from the Centre’s gift shop).
Take a leisurely stroll through the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and Hagley Park, which together form the green heart of the city. The Botanic Gardens are separated from Hagley Park by the meandering curves of the Avon River: an enchanting oasis on the very edge of the CBD. You can explore the meticulously landscaped rose gardens and vibrant floral displays as well as a number of conservatories that house every imaginable plant, from cacti and succulents to ferns and alpine plants. There is a variety of outdoor sculpture works dotted around the gardens, while the playground and paddling pool have been delighted kids for generations. Neighbouring Hagley Park is comprised of three interconnected park spaces covering a total of 165 acres, where you can enjoy a leisurely picnic or take a leisurely walk in the dappled shade of towering trees. The park is also home to Christchurch’s oldest golf club, which was founded in 1873 and welcomes visitors of all abilities.
Located just over 90 minutes’ drive from Christchurch, Hanmer Springs has been a haven of relaxation for well over a hundred years. The charming alpine village is renowned for its geothermal hot springs, which are set against a backdrop of picturesque mountains and lush forests. The town’s thermal pools are a wonderful place to enjoy a restorative soak after enjoying the many outdoor activities on offer in the surrounding wilderness area, or you can unleash your inner child on the park’s water slides and rides. There’s even a world-class day spa onsite, where you can treat yourself to a variety of soothing spa rituals including massages, wraps and facials. Wine lovers should allow time en-route to visit the numerous award-winning wineries found in the nearby Waipara Valley region.
The charming seaside town of Akaroa blends French flavour with laid-back coastal vibes, where rare dolphins cruise the calm waters of the harbour and fat seals sleep in the sun on stony beaches. A few minutes’ walk from the town centre, you’ll find yourself in a magical wonderland known as the Giant’s House: a unique garden filled with extraordinary mosaic sculptures surrounding a historic house that’s filled with unexpected and remarkable features. Be sure to visit the Blue Pearl Gallery at the end of Akaroa’s wharf, where a local craftsman and his team create unique pieces of jewellery featuring the blue pearls that are unique to New Zealand abalone (paua).
Frequently listed among the world’s great rail journeys, the TranzAlpine leaves Christchurch and crosses to the West Coast of the South Island: a 223-kilometre journey that passes through some of the most spectacular scenery imaginable. From the open expanses and braided rivers of the Canterbury plains to the dense forests and towering peaks of the Southern Alps, the train passes through sixteen tunnels and crosses four viaducts during its 4.5-hour journey to Greymouth. Although it’s possible to experience the round-trip journey as a day trip, we suggest spending at least a couple of days in Greymouth to enjoy this wild and beautiful part of the South Island before returning to Christchurch.
With its distinctive blend of adventure, culture, and natural beauty, Christchurch has a lot to offer for visitors who want to add a little extra wow factor to their South Island holiday. To find out more about hidden gems and fun activities in Christchurch, talk to your personal travel manager.
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