20 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's the island's largest and the country's second most populated city.

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 Oxford University, Canterbury's capital city was named after Christ Church College.

From 2010 to 2011, a series of earthquakes struck Christchurch 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 the surrounding Canterbury region.

Here are the best things to do in Christchurch, New Zealand:

Tour the Christchurch Botanic Gardens

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

The Christchurch Botanic Gardens should be at the top of your list when visiting the city.

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

One of the long-time attractions in the gardens is the English oak tree that was 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 on Rolleston Avenue, the Christchurch Botanic 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 Coastal Pacific 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 your trip on the Coastal Pacific Train, you'll spot some seals, seagulls, dolphins, and even whales.

You can also grab some food, drinks, and souvenirs without leaving the train, as they are sold aboard.

Go Horseback Trekking at the Waimakariri River

Waimakariri River
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Waimak River Horse Treks is located along the Waimakariri River in Christchurch's northern suburbs, where you can enjoy the countryside's quietness.

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

It was the first jet boat trial site, and jet boats are still popular among residents and tourists.

Tour guides will accompany you as you ride down the Waimakariri River's banks.

They also offer riding classes for adults and children and leasing options for 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 respect to the fallen heroes of World War I, the Bridge of Remembrance is the place to be.

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

Located on Cashel Street, it connects Oxford Terrace and Cambridge Terrace.

The Bridge of Remembrance is one of Christchurch's two major war memorials.

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 to Hereford Street.

As its name suggests, it 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 to create disaster victims' shelters.

A beacon of hope, the Cardboard Cathedral 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
Lisa Crawford / Shutterstock.com

The only open-range zoo in New Zealand, Orana Wildlife Park spreads across 80 acres.

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

You can hand-feed the giraffes, lions, and rhinos through caged vehicles.

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

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

Presentations and guided tours take place here daily.

After feeding the animals, you can whet your own appetites at the on-site cafe and buy souvenir items from the wonderful wildlife gift shop.

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

Waterbuck at Orana Wildlife Park
Lisa Crawford / Shutterstock.com

Appreciate Christchurch's Resilience in Quake City

Quake City is a museum that seeks to provide tourists with 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 learning about the locals' experience, you can get some ideas of what to do during and after a massive earthquake and how cities can bounce back from their devastation.

Quake City is located on Durham Street North.

Try Velocity Karts' Outrageous Rides

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

How unique is it?

No other place in the world offers this kind of activity; this ride can only be tried in New Zealand, particularly in Christchurch!

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

With 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, with 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 the Yaldhurst Museum of Transport & Science

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 the Yaldhurst Museum of Transport & Science.

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 museum has been dedicated to preserving New Zealand's heritage since 1968.

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

Here, you'll 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 Yaldhurst Museum of Transport & Science 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 Christchurch Gondola ride provides spectacular views of the Port Hills, Lyttleton Harbor, and more.

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 bit of shopping at its gift store while enjoying the pure mountain air.

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

Board the Christchurch Gondola from Bridle Path Road.

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 in 1927, the 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 and serves a four-course dinner, in which the menu changes from time to time.

You'll be served a welcome drink upon arrival, followed by the actual dinner.

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

The dinner tour at the Tramway Restaurant 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 with Black Cat Cruises

An award-winning tour operator Black Cat Cruises highlights 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.

On a tour with Black Cat Cruises, 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.

Tour the City from the Skies with Christchurch Helicopters

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 in Christchurch International Airport.

With packages ranging from 20 minutes to three 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.

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.

Experience Winter in Christchurch

June marks the start of Christchurch's winter season.

In many parts of the city, indoor ice skating rinks entertain locals and visitors.

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're a first-timer.

You can play this game with 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 or not the coming crop will yield productively.

The annual Festival of Lights in Matariki 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 surely look back on with fondness.

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.

Plan a visit to this city and bookmark this list of the best things to do in Christchurch, New Zealand!

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