Christchurch may not have the same “big city” vibe as Auckland, the thrill-seeking adventures of Queenstown, or the vibrant and hip culture of Wellington, but Christchurch definitely has its own definition of fun and beauty to offer!
While not as hyped or frequented as these major cities in New Zealand’s North Island, Christchurch provides a look into the less popular (but equally interesting!) South Island. Not only does the city enjoy the island’s scenic backdrop of rolling hills, lush flatlands, and coastal waters, it also naturally embraces an active yet relaxing lifestyle that is uniquely its own.
Whether you’re a visiting tourist or a local-since-birth, we hope our guide on the best Christchurch activities helps you explore and appreciate our beautiful hometown!
Spend a relaxing day at Lovoir Day Spa
One of Christchurch’s most sought-after features as a city is its relaxing and uplifting environment, and that includes its retail shops promoting health, beauty and wellness. For the ultimate self-care treat: Lovoir Day Spa.
Upon stepping into our day spa, you’ll be instantly greeted by a calm and comforting ambiance, soothing refreshments, and our friendly team of beauty therapists. If you’re unsure about what service you want, we’ll guide you through our premium treatments – from relaxing facials to full-body massages to eyebrow and eyelash enhancements and other basic salon services. You can also shop our wide range of beauty products for the skin, hair, and overall health.
Whatever the case may be, you can look forward to safe, top-quality treatments from the experts at all things beauty. You’ll be sure to leave our day spa feeling and looking your best!
Stroll around Christchurch Botanic Gardens and Hagley Park
There’s a reason why Christchurch is dubbed as New Zealand’s “Garden City”. Its abundance of greenery and public parks is perhaps its most defining feature, one that everyone should experience first-hand.
Christchurch Botanic Gardens is arguably the city’s most famous attraction. It is a beautifully maintained collection of exotic and native plants housed in different gardens, conservatories and lawns around the 21 hectares of land. Other attractions include a paddling pool and playground, a climatological station, and memorials.
Just a walk away is Hagley Park, another popular spot for leisure and recreation. Its 350 acres of greens, lakes, and nature trails are great for walks, bike rides, or even just a relaxing picnic under the sun. It is also home to many sports venues like the Hagley Golf Club, the Hagley Oval cricket ground, several netball courts, as well as open-air events like concerts and circuses.
Walk along the Avon River
From Botanic Gardens and Hagley Park, locals and tourists can easily make their way towards the Avon River.
The eastern side of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens is bounded by a two-kilometre loop of the Avon River, which further extends to Hagley Park. As such, a walk along the river can be another fun addition to your day of exploration.
Apart from enjoying the riverside views, punting on the Avon River is another classic Christchurch pastime, providing a relaxing way to see the city from a different perspective.
Visit Museums and Art Galleries
Adjacent to the Christchurch Botanic Garden is the Canterbury Museum, another beloved city attraction. It displays Maori and colonial artefacts, Antarctic exploration exhibits, and more, which are great ways to appreciate the city’s rich history.
While you’re at it, you may want to visit the Christchurch Art Gallery to continue your cultural trip around the city. The art gallery showcases various collections from its personal art collection to international exhibitions.
Other popular museums and galleries in Christchurch include:
- The Air Force Museum of New Zealand, which presents the history of New Zealand military aviation. They also offer a 45-minute guided tour to take guests around various collections.
- The International Antarctic Centre, which showcases Antarctic exhibits and visitor attractions like simulated snowstorms, encounters with husky dogs and penguins, vehicle rides, and many more.
Experience the city through the Christchurch Tramway or Christchurch Gondola
The historic Christchurch Tramway offers a unique way to explore the Christchurch city centre. Originally built as a mode of transport in the early 1900s, it is now treated as a tourist attraction, passing key landmarks like the Cathedral Square, the Arts Centre, and New Regent Street. The latter is known for its Spanish mission-style architecture and boutique shops.
Another fun way of experiencing the city is through the Christchurch Gondola, a cable car system that travels from Heathcote Valley to the top of Mount Cavendish. You’ll get spectacular views of Christchurch’s scenic terrain.
Enjoy outdoor activities and adventures
An active, outdoor lifestyle is one of the best things Christchurch has to offer! Although a fully-functioning, commercialised city, it remains surrounded by so much nature, which significantly shapes the daily life of the community.
As seen in the geography of the city, it is embraced by natural lands and waters that offer an assortment of fun activities for both locals and tourists.
- To the southeast is the Banks Peninsula, where visitors can take dolphin watching tours.
- The Port Hills, between Christchurch and Lyttelton, offer excellent walking and mountain biking trails to enjoy stunning views over the city and coastline.
- East of the city centre is Pegasus Bay and the Pacific Ocean, thus giving way to sandy beaches and coastal recreational areas for people to enjoy.
- Adventure activities like hot air ballooning and jet boating are also popular in and around the city, while public parks and nature trails are good areas for outdoor play and sports.
Appreciate New Zealand’s wildlife
New Zealand as a whole is a well-known destination for experiencing wildlife. It is home to many unique and native birds, fish, reptiles, frogs, bats, and marine mammals. So if you’re making a trip down to Christchurch, you definitely need to visit these popular wildlife parks!
- Willowbank Wildlife Reserve is a wildlife park and nature reserve that houses 95 different species, which are a mix of New Zealand natives, exotic animals, and farm animals.
- Orana Wildlife Park is the only open-range zoo in New Zealand and lies on the outskirts of Christchurch. Its 80 hectares of land are filled with a variety of common and unique animals, from geckos and swans to tigers and lions to gorillas and giraffes and many more in between.
Explore the rest of New Zealand’s South Island
Christchurch serves as a gateway to the wider Canterbury region and the Southern Alps, making it a convenient location to explore the rest of New Zealand’s South Island – an underrated destination for breathtaking landscapes, beautiful beaches, and tons of nature activities and adventures.
From the city, here are some nearby attractions you can easily visit:
- The famous Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park for a fun day in nature.
- The country’s adventure capital, Queenstown, which is just a 6-hour car trip away and even shorter by plane.
- The Southern Alps, a vast mountain range that you can traverse via car, bike, or hike.
- The nearby Canterbury ski fields, which offer excellent winter sports opportunities.
Eat and drink your way through the city
Apart from the typical tourist activities, Christchurch can simply be enjoyed for its culinary scene. The city is filled with traditional and innovative restaurants, quaint cafes, and mouthwatering markets, eateries, and bars.
For food, popular dishes include seafood (crayfish, salmon, oysters, mussels, scallops), meats and barbeques (lamb, pork, and venison), barbeques, potato pies, pavlova, and more. So whether you want to enjoy local New Zealand cuisine or a fusion of international food, there’s something for everyone! Here are some notable areas to check out:
- Victoria Street, a popular “eat street” in the city, is lined with must-try restaurants and bars.
- Stranges Lane is a well-known dining destination with an open courtyard shared among different establishments.
- Addington, Merivale, and Fendalton are suburbs frequented by foodies, thanks to its vast selection of casual neighbourhood spots, fine dining restaurants, cafes, pubs, and all types of cuisine.
- The Terrace houses an excellent selection of restaurants with views of the Avon River, a great place for hours of eating, drinking and socialising.
- Fresh food is served in markets around in the city, such as Christchurch Farmers’ Market, Riccarton Market, Lyttelton Farmers’ Market and Akaroa Market.
Christchurch is also known for its coffee, beer, and wine. You’ll find tons of coffee roasters, breweries, wineries, bars and pubs serving an array of traditional and craft drinks.