The largest metro area in the South Island, Christchurch is referred to as New Zealand's Garden City. Home to one of the biggest public parks in the country, Christchurch is also known as the gateway to the South Island. Boasting a plethora of activities both inside and outside the town centre, there is something here to suit every visitor.
One such attraction is the International Antarctic Centre, located at the International Airport. From here the bases in Antarctica are replenished and there are unique displays of what life is like in this chilly environment - including native little blue penguins.
You could also wish to visit Quake City for insight into the devastating Christchurch earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, then take in the sights on a city tour. Drive an hour in any direction to ski, mountain bike, wine taste, whale-watch, bungy jump or play golf. Explore the French settlement of Akaroa, tucked inside Banks Peninsula. An eclectic mix of British and French architecture, this seaside town has a whimsical charm and is the perfect place to escape.
In the Heathcote Valley, just fifteen minutes from the heart of Christchurch City, ride the Christchurch Gondola for nearly a kilometre to the collapsed rim of an extinct volcano - which exploded six million years ago. Take in the panoramic 360-degree views of the central city, Lyttelton Harbour, Banks Peninsula, Canterbury Plains and the distant peaks of the Southern Alps. Wander the summit complex and choose one of many nature walks or visit the Time Tunnel - a dramatic reconstruction of the history of the Port Hills and Christchurch.
The International Antarctic Centre aims to recreate the atmosphere and environment of Antarctica, providing visitors with an interactive, fun and educational experience. Feel the full Four Seasons of Antarctica, where you'll experience a custom-built snow and ice experience, then warm up in the Scott Base interior exhibit, a replica Antarctic field camp or other informative displays in the gallery. You'll also learn about life in modern-day Antarctica, view real little blue penguins and experience a thrilling ride in a Hagglund all-terrain vehicle.
Learn about Christchurch's fascinating history from the back of a 1960's London closed roof double decker bus. You'll hear about the pioneering days right through to present time, including the devastating earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. On the tour you will view some of the areas affected by the earthquakes and see how Christchurch is preserving some of its iconic heritage buildings, as well as hearing about the city's rebuild and vision for the future.
Journey to the remote and beautiful Mt Potts high country station, home of Mt Sunday. See how this spectacular mountain was transformed into Edoras - the capital city of the Rohan people from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Marvel at its rugged unspoiled beauty and breathe in the clear mountain air, while you indulge in a gourmet sparkling wine picnic.
Experience three of Christchurch's iconic attractions in one day, the Gondola, Tram and Punting on the Avon River. The historic tram is a delightful way to explore the inner city, through the Spanish style buildings of New Regent St and the regenerating city centre. You'll also enjoy a bird's eye view of Christchurch and the Canterbury region including all the distant peaks of the Southern Alps when you ride the gondola to the top of the Heathcote Valley. Punting on the Avon River takes you through the city's green belt, a relaxing way to explore what is affectionately known as the 'Garden City'.
A truly unique dining experience in the heart of Christchurch. You'll board a historic colonial-style dining tram for an unforgettable moving four-course restaurant experience. Journey along the inner city tram loop taking in the regenerating central business district as you enjoy gourmet cuisine and a complimentary drink. Lasting two and a half hours, you'll take three laps of the tram line passing New Regent street, The Avon River, High Street and Victoria Square.
Get up and close with the locals in the beautiful seaside town of Kaikoura. This full day tour includes a scenic drive from Christchurch over the Canterbury plains before arriving in Kaikoura. Once in Kaikoura, you will visit a lookout to enjoy the breath-taking views. Next you will make your way around to a Seal colony before heading into Kaikoura for some free time to explore and enjoy lunch. Board a modern catamaran for an exciting Whale Watch tour. This tour offers up-close encounters with the Giant Sperm Whale. A typical Whale Watch encounter may include Fur Seals, pods of Dusky Dolphins and endangered Wandering Albatross. To finish the day you will enjoy the scenic drive back to your Christchurch accommodation.
Nowhere else in New Zealand will you find such a wide range of New Zealand wildlife so close to you. Willowbank provides you with a "Kiwi Guarantee" and is home to New Zealand's largest and most accessible kiwi viewing area. With this unique experience, you will see New Zealand's natural splendour first hand, and view Kiwis that are not hidden behind glass. You will explore one of the most complete selections of New Zealand native and introduced wildlife in natural bush surroundings. Much of the Willowbank wildlife wander free and is able to be petted and fed.
Choose to explore the reserve yourself, or for an up-close Kiwi experience, you can take a guided tour.
The Coastal Pacific train journey travels between Christchurch, the South Island's largest city and the delightful port of Picton. This journey is a scenic feast of New Zealand, with the Kaikoura mountain ranges on one side of your train and the rugged Pacific Ocean coastline on the other. Along the way you pass though the town of Kaikoura world famous for its resident whale population and its whale watching tours.
Travel through some of New Zealand's finest horticultural and farmland areas, and see amazing wildlife such as dolphins, seals and penguins from the comfort of your train carriage.
One of the world's most scenic train journeys, the Coastal Pacific travels through 22 tunnels and crosses 175 bridges. As on The TranzAlpine, The Coastal Pacific includes an open air viewing carriage where all your senses are awakened with the clean, fresh, sea air.
Ko Tane is a living Maori Village at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, where Maori culture and conservation meet to give you a unique glimpse into the way of life of the South Island Ngai Tahu Maori people before the arrival of the Europeans. Experience the thrill of the wero, the traditional challenge to visitors, as you are brought into the sacred precinct of Tane, Maori God of the Forests. Hear the haunting traditional call, the Karanga, performed by a wahine (woman) as the powhiri (ritual of arrival) begins, allowing you to enter our hidden enclave.
You will be invited to take part in a performance of the haka (men) or the poi dance (women), and be entertained by the songs and games performed by the kapa haka (Maori cultural performance) group. You will dine and enjoy a four course hangi cooked dinner (earth oven).
Trams played an important role in transporting the people of Christchurch until 1954 when they were phased out. In 1995 the Tramway historical society brought the beautiful trams back to the city centre for the public to enjoy. Take the delightful journey from the top of New Regent Street near the junction with Armagh Street, through the quaint pedestrian-only arcade with it's Spanish style buildings and sunny cafes, and then through Cathedral Junction which is home to several of the city's restored hotels. Turning right at Worcester Street it then heads west through Cathedral Square, across the Avon River, past the Art Gallery and into Worcester Boulevard at the end of which the Arts centre and Botanic Gardens await. A commentary is given by the tram driver and you can hop on and off at the stops as you please throughout the day. It's a great way to explore the main city centre attractions.
Relax and enjoy the tranquil Christchurch Botanic Gardens as you are expertly guided along the Avon River on an authentic Edwardian punting tour. You will be set aboard a handcrafted flat-bottomed boat, poled along by your punter from the platformed till at the rear end of the boat. This private punt allows you to have the boat to yourselves for a 45 minute romantic ride offering an extra special experience. You will enjoy the spectacular flora that the Garden City is famous for and view the many exciting developments that are under way as part of Christchurch City's rebuild.
The International Antarctic Centre aims to re-create the atmosphere and environment of Antarctica, providing visitors with an interactive, fun and exciting experience of the "Great White South".
You will be hosted by an Antarctic Guide and taken through backstage areas. See how the quarantine area works, learn about Penguin feeding and husbandry and take your Penguin knowledge to the next level.
The centre only house's rescue penguins. These are birds that have got into trouble in the big wide world or may be suffering from physical disabilities. Expert veterinarians assess each bird and those that don’t have the ability to defend themselves will find themselves amongst feathered friends at this penguin sanctuary.
Quake City is a unique multi-sensory attraction aimed at informing, engaging and educating visitors about the Canterbury earthquakes. See an active liquefaction volcano and learn about the science of earthquakes. Hear about the incredible resilience of our communities. Be captivated by the stories and photographs of emergency service teams during the aftermath of Canterbury’s major earthquakes. View iconic objects such as the Cathedral Spire. Open daily from 10am to 6pm.
Your chance to navigate 10kms of one of NZ’s most beautiful rivers, this exhilarating grade 5 adventure will get your heart pounding. Starting off on the calmer upper stretches of the Rangitata river, you’ll have plenty of time to perfect your paddling skills and warm up through the grade 2 & 3 rapids before arriving at the grade 5 section of the Rangitata Gorge. At this point you can choose if you want to continue rafting through the thunderous rapids, tight gaps and rocky outcrops of the Gorge itself or would rather walk around and admire them from the side. To cool off after all the action, there’ll be a chance to go for a surf and take a dip in the calmer sections.
Explore one of the world’s premier military aviation collections at the Air Force Museum of New Zealand. Since 1987 the museum has preserved and presented the history of New Zealand Military Aviation for commemoration, inspiration, learning and enjoyment. The collection items number in the millions – from aircraft, engines and assorted parts to medals, weapons, pin-ups and parachute-silk wedding dresses. At the Air Force Museum you can marvel at the collection of 28 classic aircraft, be inspired by the bravery of present and past servicemen, servicewomen and their families, fly a simulator, experience life in the Air Force and step back in time into a replica 1940’s home.
Journey to the alpine national park in the heart of the Southern Alps on the world famous TranzAlpine train. Experience the spectacular Otira Gorge, the native forests, mountain vistas and the mighty Waimakariri River. View Cave Stream Reserve (Narnia country), Castle Hill Rocks and the high country. Guided walks can be taken to experience the varied landscapes and ecologies.
Located just 15 minutes from the city centre, Christchurch's 75 acre Botanic Gardens host the finest collection of exotic and indigenous plants to be found anywhere in New Zealand. The impressive collection of plants provide a tranquil oasis, from the spring drifts of daffodils, spectacular summer roses and herbaceous border, stunning autumn leaf display and cosy conservatories to warm up in over winter, there's something to delight in every season. The New Zealand Garden also offers an accessible glimpse into the country’s unique wilderness to lose yourself in throughout the year.
The par 72 championship course is home to the HSBC NZ PGA Championship. Designed by John Darby in consultation with New Zealand golfing legend, Sir Bob Charles, the course combines elements of links golf inspired by the great Scottish courses with parkland golf, more reminiscent of Florida. Playable year-round, the course meanders around a succession of spring-fed lakes and trout-filled streams, with uninterrupted views of the spectacular Southern Alps. There are five tee positions to suit players of all abilities.
Set in 80 hectares of tranquil grounds, within a 15 minute drive from Christchurch Airport, Orana Wildlife Park is New Zealand’s only open range zoo. Orana specialises in providing unique animal encounters in an open range setting. Get up close and personal with the wonderful animals! Experience the thrill of hand feeding a majestic giraffe, seeing a tiger search for food, or travelling through a pride of lions. Visitors can meet endangered New Zealand native wildlife such as kiwi (New Zealand’s national icon), tuatara (a unique native reptile) and kea (the world’s only mountain parrot). View a wide range of native gecko species and pet friendly domestic animals in the Farmyard area. Fifteen scheduled animal feeds occur daily and each presentation is accompanied by a talk from a wildlife guide. At Orana Wildlife Park there is something to entertain everyone.