15 Best Things to Do in Christchurch, NZ

Christchurch, NZ
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Christchurch is a progressive city that lies at the edge of the Canterbury Region in New Zealand.

Situated on South Island's east coast, it is considered the island’s largest city in land area and the country’s second-largest population.

Founded in 1848, the city was named by the Canterbury Association, one of the first European constituents to live in the region led by John Godley.

To commemorate Godley's time at the Oxford University, Canterbury’s capital city was named after the university’s Christ Church College.

From 2010 to 2011, a series of earthquakes struck the city and its neighboring areas, causing thousands of casualties and leaving millions of dollars worth of damages.

Nonetheless, the city has found ways to revive its glory and is still considered one of the country's top getaway destinations today.

As a starting point for exploring New Zealand's diverse landscape, from the ocean to the alps, there are plenty of things to see and do inside the city limits and in the surrounding Canterbury region.

Here are the 15 best things you can do in Christchurch, New Zealand:

Tour Christchurch Botanic Gardens

Christchurch Botanic Gardens
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Christchurch is dubbed “The Garden City” for its expansive and diverse collection of plants.

When visiting the city, this should be at the top of your list.

Nature lovers of all ages will enjoy this excursion, which allows them to see some of New Zealand's greatest specimens of native and exotic flora.

One of the long-time attractions in the gardens is the English oak tree planted in 1863 to commemorate Prince Albert's marriage to Princess Alexandra of Denmark.

In addition to the blooming gardens, the park also has native trees, a wide array of New Zealand flowers, and several greenhouses.

Located in the city's heart, the gardens are easily accessible and are surrounded by several parks.

Christchurch Botanic Gardens
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Ride the Coastal Pacific Train

Travel along the Pacific coast between Picton and Christchurch on New Zealand's most scenic rail excursions.

Thanks to the train's route, you'll witness New Zealand's rough and untamed coastline regions that don't receive enough recognition as a tourist highlight for visitors traveling in the country.

On your journey, you'll witness everything, from the jagged coastline and hillsides to modern vineyards and rural farmlands.

Undoubtedly, the train's rear car, an open-air carriage, is a perfect place to shoot some stunning travel photos of agricultural lands and the Kaikoura mountain ranges that you'll pass along the route.

Aquatic life is also apparent with the route’s proximity to the ocean.

At least once during the trip, you'll spot some seals, seagulls, dolphins, and even whales.

You can also grab some food and drinks, as well as souvenirs, without having to leave the trip, as they are sold aboard.

Horseback Trekking at Waimakariri River

Waimakariri River
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A 15-minute drive north of Christchurch's central city, Waimak River Horse Treks is located along the Wamakariri River in Christchurch's northern suburbs, where you can enjoy the countryside's quietness.

This river is renowned for its vast braided beds, bird colonies, and beautiful glacial blue waters in the Southern Hemisphere.

Additionally, the river was the first jet boat trials site, and jet boats are still popular among residents and tourists.

As you ride down the Waimakariri River's banks, tour guides will accompany you.

They also offer riding classes for adults and children and leasing options for your special events.

You may also exempt yourself from horseback riding and relax in the picnic areas on the riverbank.

Jet Boat ride in Waimakariri River
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Pay Tribute to the Bridge of Remembrance

Bridge of Remembrance
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If you want to pay respects to the fallen heroes of World War I, this bridge is the place to be.

On Armistice Day, November 11, 1924, Lord Jellicoe, Admiral of the Fleet and Governor-General of Australia, led the unveiling of the Bridge of Remembrance.

Located at Cashel Street, it connects the Oxford Terrace and Cambridge Terrace.

The Bridge of Remembrance is one of the two major war memorials built in Christchurch.

There are also several unit monuments on the bridge, including one dedicated to Charles Upham VC.

In 2013, it was temporarily closed for maintenance but reopened to the public on April 25, 2016.

Bridge of Remembrance
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Pray at the Cardboard Cathedral

Cardboard Cathedral
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This unique and sustainable structure is a must-see attraction in Christchurch.

The Cardboard Cathedral may be a recently built infrastructure, but it has drawn flocks of tourists in Hereford Street.

As its name suggests, the Cathedral is made from cardboard tubes, timber, and steel.

This A-frame structure was designed by prominent Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, known for his creative utilization of recyclable cardboard tubes used to create shelters for disaster victims.

This beacon of hope was constructed in 2013 as a temporary replacement for the earthquake-damaged Christ Church Cathedral.

Interior of Cardboard Cathedral
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Interact With the Fauna of Orana Wildlife Park

Capuchin monkey at Orana Wildlife Park
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As the only open-range zoo in New Zealand, Orana Wildlife Park is spread across 80 acres.

In this zoo, humans or visitors are caged instead of the other way around.

Through the caged vehicles, you can hand-feed the giraffes, lions, and rhinos.

This is also where you’ll meet New Zealand's one and only gorillas.

Animals featured in this park came from different parts of the world, so you’ll always find some animals you’ve never seen before.

There are presentations daily as well as guided tours.

After feeding the animals, you can also feed your starved appetite at its café and buy souvenir items from its wonderful wildlife gift shop.

This Park is very accessible, as it is only a 15-minute ride from the airport.

Waterbuck at Orana Wildlife Park
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Appreciate Christchurch’s Resilience in Quake City

Quake City is a museum that seeks to provide tourists a better understanding of how Christchurch and its residents were affected by – and dealt with – the earthquakes.

The Christ Church Cathedral's collapsed spire, the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament's bell, and the now-demolished railway stations' clocks are just a few of the objects that were damaged by the Canterbury quakes.

There are also educational presentations on the phenomena of liquefaction, which contributed to the catastrophic event.

By knowing the locals’ experience, you can get some ideas of what to do during and after a huge earthquake and how cities can bounce back from their devastation.

Try Velocity Karts’ Outrageous Rides

Located along Pages Rd., Velocity Karts offers an exhilarating experience for a group searching for a unique adventure.

How unique is it?

There is no other place in the world that offers this kind of activity.

This ride can only be tried in New Zealand, particularly in Christchurch!

Velocity Kartsoffersr has three types of activities: Bloo Karting, Drift Karting, and Human Foosball, which are all perfect for your team-building events.

In Blo Karting, you can ride an eco-friendly go-cart with an attached sail.

Trained staff will guide and teach you the basics before riding the vehicle.

You'll be given an option to ride for 30 minutes or one hour, with respective rates applied.

Meanwhile, in Drift Karting, you'll maneuver a front wheel with low traction rear wheels in a kneeling position.

Its smooth round concrete pads allow you to drive the vehicle.

For 10 minutes, you can unleash the drifter in you.

Visit Yaldhurst Christchurch Classic & Vintage Car and Transport Museum

Display at Yaldhurst Christchurch Classic & Vintage Car and Transport Museum
Riley from Christchurch, New Zealand, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you're a vintage car enthusiast, you'll surely love Yaldhurst Christchurch Classic & Vintage Car and Transport Museum.

John Taylor, the founder's great-grandpa, constructed the museum in 1876.

From horse and buggy to antique and classic cars to printing presses to fire engines to racing car displays, you'll see more than 160 vehicles spanning a century.

The Yaldhurst Museum has been dedicated to preserving New Zealand's heritage for over 48 years.

Its collection of more than 160 automobiles includes the 1938 International Harvester, of which there are only five in history.

Here, you'll also find the replica of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" from the 1968 musical fantasy film.

If you want to take a trip down memory lane, the Museum is only about 20 minutes from the city center.

Get Closer to the Skies With Christchurch Gondola

Christchurch Gondola
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The 10-minute ride to Gondola provides spectacular views of the Port Hills, Lyttleton Harbor, and so on.

In the distance, you can also observe the Southern Alps, Canterbury Plains, Pegasus Bay, and the Pacific Ocean.

Learn about the area's history on a Time Tunnel ride and indulge in a little shopping at its gift store while enjoying the pure mountain air.

While enjoying a bite from the café in the summit, you may take in the breathtaking panoramic views.

Christchurch Gondola
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Enjoy Fine Dining at the Tramway Restaurant

Tramway Restaurant
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Experience luxury while touring the city aboard a tramcar.

An original Melbourne tram built back in 1927, Tramway Restaurant has been exquisitely restored and refurbished as a fine-dining restaurant.

This air-conditioned restaurant on wheels can cater to up to 36 guests.

The restaurant serves a four-course dinner, in which the menu changes from time to time.

Upon arrival, you'll be served a welcome drink, followed by the actual dinner.

The built-in kitchen is also open where diners can see the professional chefs preparing their meals.

The dinner tour lasts for 2.5 hours, starting at the Cathedral Junction, circling the inner city of Christchurch, and going back to the Cathedral.

 Tramway Restaurant
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Swim With the Dolphins in Black Cat Cruises

The cruises by Black Cat, an award-winning tour operator, highlight the tour of the harbor of Akaroa, a historic French village in Christchurch.

The cruise features activities where you can swim with Hector's dolphins, which are endemic to New Zealand.

You can interact with other marine species in their natural habitats, such as penguins, seals, and seabirds.

Here, you'll also see the volcanic crater's remains that formed the magnificent volcanic cliffs.

The cliffs surrounding the port provide a haven for the dolphins.

Take note that each cruise only caters to 12 people every three hours.

That is why it is best to book this trip in advance so that you won’t get your hopes up.

Tour the City From the Skies With Christchurch Helicopter Flights

It’s not every day that you get to ride a helicopter to tour the city, so you might as well grab the opportunity by booking a trip with Christchurch Helicopters.

Christchurch Helicopters operates from ‘The Heli Centre’ in the Harewood Aviation Park located in Christchurch International Airport.

From 20 minutes up to 3 hours, you'll get to experience a ride of a lifetime as you fly from Christchurch to Kaikoura.

Aside from the city and the Southern Alps' breathtaking views, you'll also catch a glimpse of whale sharks swimming in their rich marine habitat.

Or are you planning an intimate proposal?

Book a flight to the magnificent Banks Peninsula.

The service also offers you a complimentary glass of wine in a romantic, relaxed setting as you enjoy the stunning views of nature from your chosen spot.

Enjoy Winter Wonderland in the City

June marks the start of Christchurch’s winter season.

In many parts of the city, many indoor ice-skating rinks entertain its locals and visitor.

Whether you're a pro or a beginner, everyone is welcome to enjoy the ice.

This is also the best time to learn ice skating if you are new or still a beginner.

You can play this game with your friends or sign up for the local league if you love ice hockey.

Aside from these, some venues also offer activities, such as ice disco, figure skating, and curling.

Witness the Festival of Lights in Matariki

Festival of Lights in Matariki
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Every winter, Matariki celebrates its festival of lights.

Once the Matariki star appears in the night sky, it signals the beginning of the Mauri New Year.

The Mauri once used the brightness of the Matariki stars as a symbol of whether the coming crop will yield productively or not.

This annual celebration highlights fireworks displays, music, and dancing.

Once the sun sets, your eyes will feast on the well-lighted streets and displays.

Aside from that, you can also explore the night market and food stalls selling authentic dishes and fine wines.

Final Thoughts

In Christchurch, you will experience incredible travel experiences that you'll look back on wherever you go.

With its unique offerings, a plethora of activities to enjoy, and places to visit, you’ll always find a good reason, or two, to love this place.