Christchurch is the third largest city in New Zealand behind Auckland and Wellington. The beautiful coast, hills and natural habitat makes Christchurch one of the top tourist attractions in the country. Whether you’re a local or tourist, you may be overwhelmed with all the things there are to do in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The best things to do in Christchurch, New Zealand include visiting the International Antarctic Centre and hiring a campervan to drive along the coast. You can also take in incredible views at New Brighton Pier, Christchurch Botanic Gardens, and Orana Wildlife Park. The Christchurch Adventure Park and Gondola Ride are the perfect activities for sightseers and thrill seekers in Christchurch.
Make sure to stop by He Puna Taimoana for a hot pool plunge after a day of activities around the city. Follow along as we highlight 15 things to do in Christchurch, New Zealand so you have an unforgettable trip!
1. Visit the International Antarctic Centre
The average world traveler won’t likely get to visit Antarctica. However, in Christchurch, New Zealand locals and tourists alike get the chance to experience one of 5 gateways to Antarctica. The International Antarctic Centre in Christchurch offers a unique mixture of informational entertainment, adventure, and wildlife appreciation.
Key attractions include the Storm Dome which accurately replicates the scenery and weather conditions you would find in the Antarctic. Animal lovers will appreciate the Penguin Rescue exhibit which includes feedings each day from 10:30 AM to 3:00 PM, and that’s an adorable image you won’t forget.
The 4D Theatre and Generation Antarctica video experiences feature impressive short films that are informative and fun. General admission costs NZ$59 (USD 37.38), and this gives you access to each of the exciting attractions.
2. Hire a Campervan
Driving throughout Christchurch, New Zealand, and taking in the natural beauty at your own pace is an incredible experience. There is no better way to do so than in a campervan. This gives you the chance to explore key landmarks in the area with consistent transportation that also provides lodging.
Hire a campervan in Christchurch if you want to take a vacation on your own terms without having to rely on others for transportation. Whether you visit campgrounds and parks or drive along the coast, you won’t forget the experience. Daily rates typically start around $700 but it depends on the model, size, and capacity of the campervan.
The winding roads, beautiful hills, and coastal views throughout Christchurch are best experienced in a campervan.
3. Visit the Port Hills
The Port Hills sit between Christchurch and Lyttleton, and they provide some of the best views in New Zealand. You can reach a peak height of 1,879 feet (573 meters) at Ōmawete-Coopers Knob, the highest stop on the hills. The Port Hills provide a 360-degree panoramic view of the gorgeous topography in Christchurch.
You can drive the Port Hills, but the hiking trails are an incredible way to take in the beauty. The best walking trails along the way include the Bridle Path, Godley Head, and Victoria Park. Whether you drive or visit the walking trails, make sure to bring a camera to document the unparalleled views.
4. New Brighton Pier
The original Brighton Pier was a sight to behold, but the New Brighton Pier improved upon it greatly. Originally, the first pier built in 1894 was made of wood which meant it couldn’t last forever. It closed in 1965 and was rebuilt in the same location and reopened as the New Brighton Pier in 1997.
The New Brighton Pier sadly suffered earthquake damage in 2011, but it reopened in 2018 after extensive repairs. It measures 980 feet (300 meters) which makes it the longest pier in Australasia. This beautiful region encapsulates parts of Australia and New Zealand in the Pacific Ocean.
It’s worth visiting New Brighton Pier year-round, but nothing compares to the fireworks show held each year on November 5th. The fireworks show is in honor of Guy Fawkes Day, and the colorful display over the ocean is unforgettable.
5. Orana Wildlife Park
Orana Wildlife Park is widely regarded as one of the best zoos in New Zealand, and it’s with great reason. The park is dedicated to preserving rare animals, and they even breed endangered animals on the property. A popular destination for families, there are over 1,000 animals to see at Orana Wildlife Park.
Guests spend an average of 4 hours at Orana Wildlife Park, but you can easily spend 5 hours there if you want to see everything. You will see everything from giraffes and gorillas to majestic white rhinos! Adult admission starts at $39.50 and entry for kids between 5-15 years old costs $12.50.
6. Canterbury Museum
The rich cultural history of Christchurch, New Zealand is important to experience when you’re in the area. Look no further than the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch to understand and appreciate the region’s history. Exhibits highlight everything from local insects and extinct regional animals to the history of the Women’s Suffrage Movement in the area.
You don’t have to pay to get into the Canterbury Museum, but they accept donations.
7. Willowbank Wildlife Reserve
The native animals in New Zealand are incredible, and there are few better places to appreciate them than at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. Meet some Kiwis in person and get to know the official bird of the region. They primarily focus on conservation, and guests can come and see what they do and learn about the many breathtaking animals in New Zealand.
Admission for adults is $34.50, and children’s admission costs $13. Whether you come for the lemurs, capybaras, or kiwis, you will get up close and personnel with wild animals like never before.
8. Walk Along Sumner Beach
Sumner Beach in Christchurch is located right by Sumner Township, and it provides unforgettable views. The beautiful rock formations and view of the Pacific Ocean make Sumner Beach the perfect play to take a walk. Sumner Township is an idyllic suburb of Christchurch that is quiet, and it’s a nice relaxing stop during your busy trip.
It spans 8 miles (13 kilometers), and Sumner Beach is perfect for a daytime or nighttime stroll.
9. Hot Pool Plunges
He Puna Taimoana is home to several relaxing saltwater hot pools that you can’t miss during your Christchurch vacation. Many of the best activities in Christchurch involve walking around, so stopping into the hot pools is the perfect way to unwind. Between the heated pools, steam room, and sauna, you won’t want to leave He Puna Taimoana.
Tickets for adults cost $18-$21, and children’s tickets cost $13-$16 per session. They only run four sessions per day, so make sure to book your appointment in advance.
10. Christchurch Adventure Park
If you’re an extreme sports enthusiast, you can’t pass up the chance to visit Christchurch Adventure Park. Home to an exciting zipline course and several mountain biking and hiking trails, there is something for everyone. It’s not for the faint of heart, however, as the longest zipline at the course spans 3,280 feet (1 kilometer).
The chairlift is another fun attraction. While it’s less extreme than the ziplines, it’s a great way to take in the beauty of Christchurch. The sightseeing package costs $22 for adults and $12.50 for kids, and the zipline tour costs $120-$199 for adults and children, respectively.
11. Christchurch Botanic Gardens
Christchurch Botanic Gardens is home to a lively collection of plants that you must see to believe. They have a perfect mixture of local plants and exotic plants from throughout the world. Guests are encouraged to walk throughout the gardens at their own pace.
However, the Peace Train is a great way to give your feet a rest and cruise through the property to soak in the beauty. It’s free to ride and the 8-minute journey is a blast. You can visit Christchurch Botanic Gardens for free, and this gives you access for 3 hours.
12. Explore New Regent Street
Explore New Regent Street and mingle with locals during your trip to Christchurch, New Zealand. It’s the perfect place to find a souvenir to bring home. There are also many bars and restaurants to visit as you walk along the charming street.
The street I located in the city’s center, so it’s a great central hub to explore the rest of the city. It’s a perfect stop between activities to pick up a trinket, have a cup of coffee, or eat some local cuisine.
13. Christchurch Art Gallery
With all the natural beauty in Christchurch, it’s important to take some time to appreciate the local art. The Christchurch Art Gallery features a vast collection of local art that says as much about the region’s history as it does about the artists. It briefly closed after the earthquake in 2011 and reopened stronger than ever with regular events and new additions all the time.
While the building looks quite modern, you will find art that dates back hundreds of years. It’s the perfect destination before or after a long day of sightseeing in Christchurch, and admission is free!
14. Visit Local Markets
The many impressive local markets in Christchurch give you the chance to support local businesses during your trip. Check out the Riverside Market and Christchurch Farmer’s Market for authentic local food and goods. The New Brighton Seaside Market provides beautiful beach shows and it’s a great place to find souvenirs among the many stalls.
However, the Riccarton Market is the most well-known market you will find in Christchurch. It’s the biggest outdoor market in the country, and they host up to 200 vendors or more on busy days.
15. Christchurch Gondola
There’s nothing like taking a gondola tour and looking out over the many amazing landmarks in Christchurch. First, you ride a tram through the city as your tour guide provides key information for historical context. Do a quick search and you’ll find a tour company that offers a tram and gondola tour that takes up to 3 hours and provides plenty of value.
After that, you will go on the thrilling gondola, and it’s not for the faint of heart. The gondola brings you up 2,828 feet providing a thrill ride and breathtaking views. You will get to see Christchurch, Lyttleton Harbour, and the Southern Alps like never before.
The Tram and Gondola Combo package costs roughly $42 (NZD$ 70) for adults and $11 for children. Otherwise, you can simply ride the gondola for $24 (NZD$NZD$ 4040) per person.
So, What Should I Do When I Visit Christchurch, New Zealand?
Make sure to take advantage of the beautiful scenery when you visit Christchurch, New Zealand. Check out the International Antarctic Centre and mingle with penguins! Hire a campervan and drive throughout the Port Hills or along the coast to see Christchurch on your own terms.
Don’t miss out on the natural beauty you will find at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, Orana Wildlife Park, and Sumner Beach. It’s also worth checking out the Christchurch Art Gallery and Canterbury Museum to learn about the history of the region. Christchurch is one of the best places to visit in New Zealand, and there is no shortage of fun activities!