Top 5 Things To Do In Christchurch
It's a list with options both exhilarating and relaxing, educational and awe-inspiring
Too often the laid-back centre of Christchurch is written off as New Zealand’s most conservative and prosaic city, for it’s a misnomer like no other. Today, rising from the ashes of the 2011 quakes, there’s an energy and action about its bustling downtown that never fails to reward the visitors in its midst, while there’s opportunities in this South Island metropolis to pursue refined and recreational pursuits totally unique throughout New Zealand.
For one, Christchurch isn’t called ‘The Garden City’ for nothing. Its downtown is peppered with wide open green spaces, verdant riverside banks and curiously tropical botanical gardens, while all around the snow-tipped peaks of the Southern Alps dominate the skyline. What’s more, the town boasts a past rich with historical secrets and hidden tit bits, all of which exude from its magnificent English architecture and sprawling museum exhibits.
To get the best out of your visit, we've put together our five top activities in Christchurch, offering that perfect cross-section of the town’s cultural wealth and legendary peacefulness. It’s a list with options both exhilarating and relaxing, educational and awe-inspiring, and makes for an experience that won’t easily be forgotten.
1. Punting on Avon River
Transport yourself to the refined luxury of the English Oxbridge, where cotton-shirted, straw-hat-wearing punters glide passengers through the regal gardens of the riverbanks. This is unquestionably the best way to experience the verdant strands and unrivalled parkland beauty of downtown Christchurch, where a blooming kaleidoscope of colours explodes in the spring, the dropping branches of the majestic weeping willows dangle into the water, and the picturesque stone bridges of the Avon cross overhead.
Punting excursions in Christchurch depart from both the Antigua Boat Sheds on Cambridge Terrace and Worcester Bridge in the city every day of the year. One route around the Avon takes around half an hour, and boats are suited for groups of up to 10.
2. Christchurch Gondola
Fly high above the Christchurch cityscape, above the birds and clouds, on this iconic ‘must do’ journey that transports visitors just under a kilometre from the centre, to the panoramic peak of the nearby Port Hills.
Here guests enjoy unrivalled 360s of the Southern Alps, central Christchurch, the Pacific Ocean and the quaint harbour town of Lyttleton, nestled neatly behind the crater rim. There’s also a chance to explore the metamorphic beginnings of South Island’s unique volcanic topography, with a trip to the immersive Time Tunnel exhibition that can be found on top.
If you’re interested in travelling to the roof of the city, take bus 28 from the central City Exchange. The gondola is open 10.00 am - 5.00 pm daily, costs $25 for a return trip, and has separate ticket offers for families, bike carriers and children.
3. Orana Wildlife Park
Educational, immersive and hands-on Orana Wildlife Park has long been one of the major ‘must dos’ of Christchurch. It is home to no less than 400 individual species from right across the globe, from the colossal white rhinoceros of Africa to the elusive Sumatran tiger of the Indonesian isles, while guests can also get up-close-and-personal with some of New Zealand’s own most iconic beasts; the skink; green geckos, and the iconic kiwi bird to name just a few.
Orana Park is easily accessible just 15 minutes’ drive out of central Christchurch on the McLeans Island Road. Ticket prices vary between $9 for children and $25 for adults, and the park is open 10.00am - 5.00pm daily.
4. Air Force Museum
Take a journey into the proud and prestigious past of New Zealand’s Air Force at this sprawling collection of historical aircrafts and aviation-related artifacts. Be sure not to miss a ride on the fighter jet simulator, or the Horizon to Horizon gallery, which pays homage to the nation’s wartime bravery in the skies. If you’re lucky enough to visit on a weekend, sign up for the exclusive Air Force Adventure Tour, and experience all the hidden gems of the museum’s exhibitions.
One of the great bonuses about Christchurch’s Air Force Museum is that general entry is free, while the above mentioned organised tours cost between $8 and $10. To get here, head towards the district of Hornby on the Main South Road, turning off at Harvard Avenue and Symes.
5. Botanic Gardens
Encircled by the beautiful Avon River, these ever-growing botanical gardens have decorated the centre of Christchurch for over 100 years, making them a veritable must on any tourist trail through the town. Between the seasons, the parkland oscillates from the blooming colours of spring and the pretty white hues of the South Island winter, and visitors are invited to supplement their trip with a self-guided tour book that’s available to download online.
The Botanic Gardens are open all year round, from 7.00am, with closing times dictated by the seasons. What’s more, they are extremely easy to find form the heart of Christchurch, nestled neatly between Rolleston Avenue and the famous Hagley Park.
So, whether you chose to wallow away every day of your stay meandering on a punt down the pretty Avon waterway, or soaring high to the dramatic Port Hills ridges just outside of town, visitors armed with these top tips on Christchurch will be well placed to experience all the bucket list musts that the city has to offer.