Activities Guide To Christchurch
While Christchurch may be a city still rising from the ashes, it’s a place that has managed to retain many of the traditional activities and pastimes that have always made it such a pull on the South Island circuit. But it’s also a city where energy and relaxation meet and converge. From laid-back punt rides through regal downtown gardens, to high-adrenaline speed boats on the Rakaia River, Christchurch is bubbling with things to do, both edgy and traditional.
Parks & Gardens
Christchurch’s nickname, “the green city”, is well earned. This is a place peppered with gardens and green areas, brimming with flora and fauna, from the downtown parks to the outer-city enclaves of more rugged nature. The largest of the lot, Hagley Park, dominates no less than 165 hectares of the central city, while the aged oak clusters of the Botanic Gardens form one of the oldest regal green areas in town - complete with winding walkways and intriguing sculptures. Also close to the centre, the Ashburn Domain is a family-friendly getaway, and the Mona Vale another exquisite example of Christchurch’s classic ‘English garden’ character.
Punting on the Avon
There’s perhaps no better way to enjoy the serenity of Christchurch’s iconic River Avon than with a day punting on the waterways here. Routes through the Botanical Gardens will take you down some of the most beautiful sections of this river’s meandering course through central Christchurch, while some trips will encompass sections of downtown and the infamous damage zones left in the wake of the 2011 earthquake. A punting trip will start at the Antigua Boat Sheds on Cambridge Terrace, or at the Worcester St Bridge dock area.
The Christchurch Gondola
After a brief closure the Christchurch Gondola has been reopened to offer visitors the opportunity for unrivalled panoramas across the cityscape once more. A trip on the gondola will take around 10 minutes and encompass just under one kilometre of Christchurch’s metropolitan area. The culmination of the ride comes in the form of the magnificent Port Hill ridges, which mark the boundary between the city and Lyttelton Harbour in the south. On clear days the formidable rises of the Southern Alps will pepper the horizon. It’s one of the best visual introductions to the remarkable geography of New Zealand’s South Island.
Around Christchurch there’s a real variety of ski options. The closest can be found at the Springfield Porters ski field, which is well-geared for intermediate riders and can cater well for absolute beginners (there’s a well-established ski school). Further afield (around 90 minutes’ drive from Christchurch), Mount Hutt is one of the dominant ski destinations west of the Canterbury plains. The resort here forms the largest skiable area in all of South Island, with challenging rides for every skill level and a wealth of off-piste terrain options. If you’re willing to travel even further and into the very heart of the island, the four separate ski fields at Mount Cook Mackenzie offer some of the least touristy slopes in all of the Southern Alps.
The stony soils and unique microclimates that dominate throughout Canterbury have made it one of New Zealand’s premier and oldest wine regions. If you’re looking to do some tasting, expect a lot in the way of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris; there are a few spots worth a mention. The family-run Pegasus Winery is set in the picturesque Teviotdale Hills, while the Mud House Winery and Café is another North Canterbury local favourite. Both serve food, and the former has regular entertainment events in the on-site natural amphitheatre. In the Waipara Valley, Greystone Wines organise regular wine tasting and workshop-style sessions, as does the winery at Waipara Springs. There are also occasional sessions held at the Terrace Edge Winery a little further west into the valley.
While there are a number of great golf courses in the Christchurch region, there are three that are really worth a mention. The award-winning Clearwater Golf Resort is a magnificent championship-level course between the city and the airport, while the Terrace Downs Golf Club is a 72-par links-come-parkland course that’s been open since 2001. The most central is the Hagley Golf Course that’s nestled neatly in the park of the same name in the central city district. Green fees may vary and both Terrace Downs and Clearwater host professional competitions throughout the year.
Fishing & Fun on the Rivers
Close to Christchurch, the Rakaia River cuts through the Canterbury plains. It’s revered as one of the best spots for salmon fishing in the whole of South Island, and enjoys a long season from November to March. If you’re visiting in February, be sure not to miss the annual Rakaia Salmon Fishing Competition, which has been a national pastime since its establishment in 1983. If you’re after something a little more fast-paced then Discovery Jet run high-speed trips down the Rakaia River. But be warned, they aren’t for the faint-hearted.
This post-colonial fishing town is perfect for the visiting Francophile. French influence is evident on every corner, from the culinary offering to the street names themselves. Akaroa is also a veritable hub of ecotourism and outdoorsy activity in the region, and a perfect jump off point for those looking to do some sailing, windsurfing or one of New Zealand’s famous wildlife cruises. More recently the town has become known for its rich offering of artisan crafts and proliferation of quirky boutiques. At around 90 minutes’ drive from Christchurch central, it’s a perfect option for an out-of-city stay.