Top 10 Things To Do in ChristchurchWednesday, June 13th, 2018.
Christchurch is the third most populous area of New Zealand, sitting just behind Wellington for number of residents in its urban area. It is a tourist hub filled with great attractions and is situated amidst many spectacular mountainous and picturesque areas of the South Island. This makes it not only a wonderful place to visit per se, but also an excellent base for exploring other wonderful locations in an island that is choc-a-bloc with amazing and varied sights and places of interest.
Here are twenty of the best things to do or see in and around Christchurch, but it really only touches the surface of a vibrant place that is making a comeback after large earthquakes decimated parts of the city only a few years ago. The rebuild, as it is fondly known, is being used as an opportunity to build on the best parts of the city, introduce exciting new developments and to complete a vision of a regenerated city that will endure well into the future. Christchurch is, quite simply, starting to flourish. And a visit to New Zealand would always feel incomplete without it being one of the first places to include on your itinerary.
If it is spectacular views you desire, the Christchurch Gondola is one of the must see attractions in New Zealand. Although suffering a temporary two year closure as a result of the Christchurch earthquakes, the popular tourist spot reopened in March 2013. Extensive renovations have rejuvenated the site to make it even better than it was before.
The Gondola takes you on a relaxing 10 minute journey up the iconic Port Hills during which there is plenty of opportunity to enjoy the beautiful 360 degree panoramas that surround you. Whether it’s the soaring peaks of the Southern Alps, the dramatic Lyttelton Harbour nestled in an ancient volcanic crater, or the expansive Canterbury plains, there is natural beauty as far as the eye can see.
At the summit you can take a stroll along the observation deck and soak in the unforgettable scenery that comes with being 500 metres above sea level. There is also the opportunity to step back in time and take a journey on the Time Tunnel ride which reconstructs the history of Canterbury through a series of enthralling displays and videos. Before savouring the ride back down, be sure to check out the excellent range of snacks, light meals and beverages at the Red Rock café as well as the high quality souvenirs available at the aptly named “Shop at the Top”. The summit’s excellent function centre has also become a popular venue for weddings and other celebrations.
Located only a fifteen minute drive from the central city, the Christchurch Gondola is easy to access and provides free parking. For those without a car there is a Gondola Shuttle that operates multiple times a day as well as the convenient number 28 bus.
Taking a ride on an iconic Christchurch Tram is a must do for any tourist, with millions having taken the journey over the years. Despite suffering damage to the loop and overhead wiring in the earthquakes, the attraction has been expertly repaired and is fully functioning once more.
The beautifully restored vintage Trams offer a glimpse of Christchurch’s heritage. Trams have been operating in Christchurch since the 1880s and after its first electric line opened in 1905 it boasted the most extensive electric tramway system in New Zealand. With the trams dismantled in the 1950s, you can’t escape the feeling of history as you ride in them today.
The Christchurch Trams provide the best way of viewing the historical sites of the central city, with your ticket permitting you to hop on and hop off at any of the seventeen stops. The trams travel through sites such as Cathedral Square (which hosts arguably Christchurch’s best bar in the OGB), the Avon River, Canterbury Museum and Hagley Park. As you ride around the driver provides commentary that is both entertaining and informative about the sites, the history of the city, and the profound impact that the earthquake has had. The tour gives an extraordinary visual insight into how the city has responded and what it still needs to do, backed up by the provision of exceptional audio video content showing Christchurch both before the earthquakes and what we might expect in the future.
There is even a Restaurant Tram which offers a unique mix of sumptuous evening dining and sightseeing in an elegant air-conditioned tramcar. The four course dinner tour lasts around two and a half hours and includes a welcome drink on arrival.
Orana Wildlife Park
Orana Park is New Zealand’s only open-range zoo and is home to over 400 animals from more than 70 different species. It is located over an area of 80 hectares and provides a wonderful day out for people of all ages who will experience an array of memorable encounters with the most spectacular of creatures.
Orana Park boasts many majestic and fascinating animals. To begin with, New Zealand’s only gorillas are housed in a $6M Great Ape Centre opened in July 2015, including two critically endangered species of great apes. Then there is the thrill which comes from an up close and personal encounter with a lion. You can jump into vehicles with the keepers who feed the lions while you get the chance to appreciate their size, beauty and strength. It is common for these magnificent animals to jump atop the vehicle allowing you to get eye to eye with them from the safety of the vehicle. You can also hand feed a giraffe, staring up at its long neck and doleful eyes as its massive tongue takes the food right out of the palm of your hand. Orana Park hosts six white rhinos and you can watch these gentle giants from mere feet away as they thunder towards you to take a feed of hay. Don’t forget to take a peek in the Nocturnal Kiwi House at our native bird, the Kiwi.
These are just a few examples of the experiences you can take away from Orana Park. The Park is owned and operated by Orana Wildlife Trust and is well renowned for its work on breeding programmes for endangered species. By coming along you are directly supporting their efforts.
The Park is located an easy fifteen minute drive from Christchurch airport and is open every day from 10am to 5pm, only taking a break on Christmas day.
Punting on the Avon
Punting on the tranquil Avon River is an enchanting experience for young and old alike, and is a perfect activity for families and groups. Sit back and relax in your velvet cushioned seats and let your informative guide take you on a leisurely 30 minute return journey as you take in the sights and smells of Christchurch. The boats are beautifully handcrafted and the punter looks the part in traditional Edwardian dress.
There are two spots to choose to depart from. The first is the Antigua Boat sheds which provides excellent views of the delightful Hagley Park, traversing through the Botanic Gardens and allowing you to take in the lovely floral displays from the comfort of the boat. The second departure point is from the city, enabling you to take in the latest developments as the rebuild continues at pace. Whichever option you choose the trip is a magical ride that provides you with a unique and charming perspective from which to view the ‘Garden City’.
Punts have a capacity of ten and so you will likely be sharing your journey with others; however for those who want something more romantic or private you can charter a punt to yourselves. These go a little longer at 45 minutes and are particularly special. If it’s your wedding day be sure to ask for a canopy and wedding decorations.
Punting on the Avon is not simply a summer activity; it is also popular in the winter months, with not only blankets and umbrellas on hand but also hot water bottles available to cosy up to. During the warmer months (October to March), punting is available from 9am to 6pm and during the cooler months (April to September) it can be done from 10am to 4pm. Punting is available every day of the year and bookings are recommended.
Christchurch Museum (Canterbury Museum)
The Christchurch Museum is an endlessly fascinating tourist attraction for those interested not only in the cultural heritage of Christchurch but New Zealand as a whole. The museum is housed in a magnificent architectural building that was opened in 1870 and only suffered minor damage in the earthquakes.
The museum offers a splendid array of internationally recognised long-term displays on a wide variety of topics. For example you can learn about the history of Maori settlers in Canterbury; see a Maori village scene reconstructed, including poignant displays of carvings, jewellery, weapons and clothing; and explore the amazing displays of our native birds in the Bird Hall, including those which are rare and extinct. Make sure you delve into the historic memorabilia of Antarctica including the exploration of the intrepid Antarctic pioneers such as Ernest Shackleton, the first motorised crossing of the continent, and the large collection of stunning photographic images of the area.
The Museum also runs the special earthquake exhibition, Quake City. This exhibition explores the science, the personal stories, and the emotions from the tragic events of September 2010 and February 2011.
There is always a new special exhibition on at the museum as well. From September 2016 to the end of April 2017, for example, there has been a display about our national airline Air New Zealand which recently celebrated its 75thanniversary. This particular exhibition takes you through New Zealand’s aviation history right from Richard Pearse’s first flights in New Zealand in the early 1900s through to present day.
The Christchurch Museum is the kind of place in which you can easily spend a few hours. Even though it is free it thrives on your donations, so be sure to show your appreciation by throwing a few dollars their way. And if all that learning makes you peckish, you can enjoy some tasty snacks at the museum café as well.
New Regent Street
Some people have called New Regent Street New Zealand’s most beautiful street. Designed in the 1930s with a Spanish Mission revival style, this street is the only remaining heritage streetscape in Christchurch since the earthquakes struck. Indeed it is listed as Category One on the New Zealand Heritage List which is reserved for historic places of special or outstanding historical or cultural significance. New Regent Street only allows pedestrian access, effectively making it a pedestrian mall. This only serves to heighten the atmosphere of heritage which permeates the street.
It is highly recommended that you meander slowly down the street and appreciate the aesthetics of the delightful buildings in their soft pastel colours, as you pop in and out of its funky stores. In fact the street’s design is so quintessentially perfect that the colours of the buildings can also be seen to match the colours of the daisy chain expertly incorporated on one side of the footpath.
The boutique stores themselves allow you to indulge yourself in a number of ways. Whether it’s gourmet fudge, diamond jewels or a stylish haircut and a manicure there is some self-pampering to be had! You also can’t go wrong by meeting friends for a tipple at the whisky and cocktail lounge bar, The Last Word, which also offers craft beer and boutique wines. Business is booming on Regent Street since it was reopened after restoration and strengthening work as a result of the earthquakes.
Located in the central city, New Regent Street is one of the stops on the tram route, as Prince Harry experienced on his visit in 2015, and is only a short walk from a number of other tourist attractions. It is a 10 minute walk from the Metro Central Bus station and there is also parking nearby.
Margaret Mahy Playground
If you have kids, or even if you are just a child at heart (there are after all no age restrictions!), the Margaret Mahy playground is for you. Named after one of New Zealand’s best loved children’s’ writers, from which the inspiration for this project was born, the playground has been described as the city’s coolest government-led project to date.
The playground is a new addition to Christchurch, having formally opened in December 2015 amid literal screams of delight from the children who attended. And it is little wonder they love it so much given the influence that children had on the project, with many playing a large role in its design and thereby catering to the desires of the age ranges who will utilise it most. The playground is the largest in the southern hemisphere and arguably the best in New Zealand. It cost $3 million as part of the $20 million outlay to develop the block.
Sitting on the corner of Manchester street and Armagh street, the Playground has four distinct zones: the forest zone, the plains zone, the wetlands zone and the peninsula zone. There is also a story arc which includes tales from Margaret Mahy and Elsie Locke, another famous New Zealand writer. Exciting features of the playground include a double flying fox, a climbing web of huge nets suspended in the air, slides which are both eight metres long and four metres wide, trampolines, water cannons, giant seesaws, and sandpits.
If you feel like taking a break from enjoying the physical aspects of the playground there is also a BBQ area along with a picnic area and a number of food carts and other stalls to enjoy a coffee and a bite to eat. If it’s hot, be sure to cool down with some yummy real fruit ice cream.
The Antarctic Centre
Antarctica is one of those places shrouded in mystery and intrigue, in part due to its hostile and largely uninhabited environment. It is after all a continent with extreme weather, ice that stretches out as far as the eye can see in all directions, and stunning geological formations. The continent is also a place of fascinating ecology that is associated with some of the most well-known explorers.
The Antarctic Centre, located next to Christchurch International Airport, allows you to visit ‘Antarctica’ without even leaving Christchurch! Advertised as the World’s best Antarctic attraction, it combines an educational experience with fun and enjoyment. And there are many aspects to the Centre, providing something for everyone.
There is the snow and ice experience in which you put on a jacket and overshoes that are provided to you and get a taste of what it might be like to be in the middle of an Antarctic blizzard and experience a wind chill factor of -18 degrees Celsius. Check out the Penguin encounter with 26 Little Blue Penguins that were rescued and looked after since they were chicks. Feeding times occur twice a day. In addition, you can enjoy the 20 minute Hagglund ride which is an authentic simulation of going across ice and over mounds in Antarctic conditions.
There are many other aspects to the attraction to absorb such as the Antarctic Gallery where you can take in a wide variety of Antarctic related knowledge. Built in 1992 it is still one of the must see tourist spots in Christchurch 25 years later. It is open every day of the year from 9am to 5.30pm, includes a quality café and souvenir shop, and offers a free Penguin Express shuttle to drive visitors between the city and the attraction multiple times per day.
Court Theatre (and other theatres)
The Court Theatre is a Christchurch treasure which loses none of its charm, authenticity or down right top quality from its move to Addington during the Christchurch rebuild. It is New Zealand’s largest and longest running professional theatre company and hosts a veritable range of productions from popular musicals and Shakespearian tragedy to hilarious comedy and edgy drama. There is something for everybody.
On top of the impressive array of plays put on by the Court Theatre, there is also the Court Jesters who perform an improvised comedy night, “Scared Scriptless”, every Friday and Saturday night. Scared Scriptless has many similarities with the TV show “Whose Line Is It Anyway” so be sure to shout out your suggestions as the evening thrives on the performers’ interactions with the audience. Be prepared for a lot of laughing!
Located only a short drive from the city, the Court Theatre has two playing spaces and a capacity of slightly fewer than 400 seats, providing an intimate experience and a seat from which you will be assured to have a good view of the stage. A pre-show meal of hand-made wood-fired pizzas in the foyer is a very popular option and can be ordered online before heading along.
The Addington location, only a short drive from the city, is actually a converted grain store which didn’t take long to pop up after the earthquakes and only serves to highlight the Christchurch public’s appetite for the arts. And despite its incongruous beginnings the building’s décor is both imaginative and sophisticated. There is also free and convenient on-site parking for over 100 cars.
The Court Theatre is not the only excellent theatre option in Christchurch. The Isaac Theatre Royal has had its dome restored recently at a cost of $30 million and is firmly part of Christchurch’s art heritage. The old building is beautiful and often hosts a number of show-stopping plays, sometimes with the added bonus of being accompanied by the superb Christchurch Symphony Orchestra. For Arts’ lovers, Christchurch is a deceptively happening place.
Willowbank Wildlife Reserve
Willowbank is renowned for its large collection of native and introduced New Zealand wildlife. The approximately five hundred animals at the reserve roam in natural bush settings and specially designed enclosures in close proximity to the people who visit. One of the highlights is the Kiwi viewing area which is New Zealand’s biggest and most accessible place in which to watch our most famous native bird. The Kiwis are not displayed behind glass but are instead in a nocturnal house, enabling a strong up close and personal feel for visitors. Kiwi tours are a superb addition to the experience in which you can be taken right into the heart of the breeding program.
The Reserve consists of three animal sections. “Wild New Zealand” contains fascinating exotic wildlife such as wallabies, capuchin monkeys and lemurs to enjoy. “Heritage New Zealand” presents livestock and other farmyard related creatures such as the llama. And “Natural New Zealand” has a whole host of native animals and birds. As well as the previously mentioned Kiwis there is the beautiful but endangered takahe, the large forest-dwelling native parrot – the kaka, and the tuatara which lived amongst the dinosaurs. You can also hand feed the long-finned eels which grow up to a massive two metres in length.
Beyond the animals there is an authentic Maori cultural experience: Ko Tane. You will be welcomed onto the Maori village by a warrior, learn about the lifestyles and hunting techniques of the Maori people, and understand the basics of the haka, a traditional war dance. It provides an interactive and fun cultural journey.
Willowbank is open from 9.30am until 7pm daily, has an award winning restaurant on site, and is an intimate and magical location located only five minutes from the airport or fifteen minutes from the city centre.
Christchurch has an understated but highly active shopping scene. There are many very good quality shops and there are also numerous places to get a bargain. Some examples are listed below.
Ballantynes is New Zealand’s first ever department store and offers high quality merchandise. It has a vast array of departments and includes a cosmetic hall with the widest range of beauty products in the south island. The store also offers services which go the extra mile: appointments for personal shopping, GST free shopping, extensive online shopping, tailors who perform prompt alterations and both national and international delivery.
Westfield Mall is the largest mall in the South Island and, as a result of two large developments in relatively recent times, it boasts both a four-level carpark and the Hoyts Cinema multiplex featuring New Zealand’s second-largest projection screen and cinema seating for almost 2,000 people. The mall houses all kinds of popular shops and attracts 16 million customers a year. It has late nights on Thursdays and Fridays which goes until 9pm.
Dress-Smart Hornby is the only dedicated outlet centre in the south island, with over 50 outlet stores. There are the favourites such as Barkers, Peter Alexander, Adidas and Puma; and there are top fashions, jewellery and accessories to suit every need. There are many stylish stores for you to peruse and purchase from and it is handily located only a ten minute drive from the airport.
The Tannery is a boutique emporium in Heathcote that has only specialist shops, and therefore no chain stores. Products are generally designed to be ethical, high-craft purchases. Food options include fine-dining and quaint cafes and there is a deluxe cinema showing independent and foreign films for the discerning movie goer, as well as selected mainstream fare.
The Colombo is another boutique shopping area and provides a combination of stylish retailers, an arts cinema, European-style bars, gourmet food and even its own Farmers’ Market with pop-up stores. Many of the boutique shops are centred on fashion, beauty and homeware. The Colombo is very much the opposite end of the spectrum to your standard shopping mall.
The remains of the Christchurch Cathedral in the city centre serve as a powerful reminder of the devastation of the Christchurch earthquake. When the earthquake hit, the Cathedral’s spire and part of the tower were destroyed and the structure of the rest of the building was badly damaged. Christchurch is currently deciding whether to reinstate the Cathedral or get rid of it altogether, but while it does so, the Cardboard Cathedral is a beautiful but temporary place for Christchurch residents to come together and pray.
The Cardboard Cathedral is the world’s only cathedral made substantially of cardboard and its triangular stained glass window design, which incorporates images from the original rose window in the Christchurch Cathedral, is a great sight to behold. Structurally it uses a large number of 60-centimetre diameter cardboard tubes and eight shipping containers form the walls. While you are exploring the building be sure to sit in one of the 700 seats and enjoy the tranquillity as you give yourself the time to truly appreciate the majestic building. There are guides who can provide you with informative tours of the building, and if you time it right you may be able to observe choir practices or evening services.
The building, which rises 21 metres above the altar, is open from 9am to 5pm daily and closes at 7pm during the summer months. Whilst at the Cardboard Cathedral it is highly recommended that you go behind the building and check out the 185 chairs earthquake memorial, with each chair representing one person who died in the Christchurch earthquakes. It is a poignant tribute to those who tragically lost their lives.
Open every day from 7am to 6.30pm the historic Botanic Gardens are another must see attraction in Christchurch. Christchurch is fondly referred to as the Garden City because of its many lovely parks, gardens and tree-lined streets; and the Botanic Gardens are the best of the lot. You can either take a stroll through these historic gardens or you can join one of the great tours on offer.
The Botanic Gardens are 21 hectares in area and are located next to part of the Avon River. It is made up of a number of different gardens, each with unique and delightful displays of exotic and native plants. Some examples are: the Central Rose Garden with more than 250 varieties of stunning roses, the Heritage Rose Garden which contains a wide selection of modern, old garden and wild roses, the Herb Garden which has many plants used in cooking and medicine, the Fragrant Garden which was specially designed around the sense of smell, the eponymous Azalea and Magnolia Garden, and the New Zealand Garden with its many native flowers.
In addition to gardens, the Botanic Gardens also contains a number of other attractions. You should visit the conservatories which provide yet more visual feasts of such things as tropical plants, ferns, gentle streams and cacti. There is a playground and paddling pool to keep the children entertained, a visitor centre which hosts a café, a permanent exhibition which reveals Christchurch through plants and gardening, a working nursery, a reference library, a herbarium and potting sheds. Finally, check out the Memorial Rotunda that commemorates some of the victims of World War One and which once repaired will again showcase a multitude of musical talent.
Enjoy the nightlife
Located in the Old Government Building – built 1913 (the equivalent of Christchurch’s “Taj Mahal”) – formerly used as government offices until the late 80’s. Transformed to private residences in 1992 is the reason it survived the earthquakes. As part of the conversion from offices to residences a huge amount of strengthening works were undertaken. Nick Inskter has turned the OGB from a quiet building to the epi centre of the Christchurch bar scene. The OGB bar is arguably Christchurch’s best bar. It is a MUST visit if you enjoy a drink and live music.
St Asaph Street provides one of the best locations for young people in Christchurch to party until the early hours. Baretta Bar & Restaurant has a spacious outside area and a beautifully designed interior. There is plenty of space to get your groove on to pumping tunes and is a particular favourite when the weather is nice. Next door is Engineers, Christchurch’s only rooftop bar and a popular location for the younger crowd, usually featuring a DJ and high energy techno music. Empire Bar adds an Asian flavour to the city and has both intimate booths and a bright blue function room upstairs.
Away from St Asaph Street there are many other areas in which you can enjoy the nightlife. The Bog on Victoria Street has live Irish bands to enjoy a good old-fashioned shindig while supping on a Guinness, and is located right next to the Christchurch Casino. The Casino itself also features the Monza Sports Bar which is a stylish sports bar and one of the top spots for somewhere to watch live sport. Also nearby is Cruz where you will find many of the gay community have fun while listening to the classic music from the 70s up to the present day. The Dirty Land is another Victoria Street favourite which is not in the slightest bit dirty! Instead it has a dark moody edge and wicked cocktails.
Stranges Lane is a new entertainment precinct in Christchurch that is a hot place to be for late night revelry. Located on Lichfield Street there are restaurants and bars that offer outdoor seating and an eclectic mix of styles to mix and mingle with your friends.
Riccarton plays host to a good time with The Craic Irish Bar offering perhaps the best time of the lot. If you are there on a Wednesday night you should get stuck into the karaoke and release your inner talent! Fox and Ferret is a gastro pub which is rocking on Friday and Saturday nights. Otherwise it is an excellent place for a quiet beer with friends.
With its well-priced drinks, an outdoor courtyard and a friendly vibe Aikmans in Merivale is an ideal venue for a night out. Zanzibar next door is also spacious and enjoyable. Both venues have plenty of seating for people to chill out with friends over a few drinks.
Christchurch also has a couple of quirky bars that come highly recommended. Smash Palace on High Street is an old bus expertly converted into a bar and Retropolitan Social Club in Addington is like a time warp as its décor and food recreates the 70s. There are many other places to go for a drink in Christchurch’s vibrant nightlife scene, all with their unique selling points and style.
Go on a day trip
There are many great day trips from Christchurch. The South Island’s variety and stunning scenery provide a veritable trove of places to explore within a comfortable driving distance.
Hanmer Springs is an approximately 90 minute drive and is renowned for its thermal hot springs. The Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa have a number of different pools ranging from cosy warm rock pools and a swimming pool to 40 degree sulphur pools with hot water jets which are perfect for soothing any aches or pains. There is even a water slide for the more adventurous. It is open daily from 10am to 9pm and only closes for Christmas Day. Beyond the hot pools Hanmer is also well-known for bike rides (whether you’re a beginner or an expert), an incredible range of walks suitable for anything from leisurely scenic strolls to full day hikes, and adrenaline activities. It is also a picturesque village sporting a number of boutique stores.
Kaikoura is about a 2.5 hour drive from Christchurch and is paradise for all nature lovers. The seaside town, although itself affected by earthquakes, is functioning well and has all of its tourist attractions still operating. The most famous of these of course is the Whale Watch boats which provide the special opportunity to see Sperm Whales in their natural habitat. Whale Watch has a 95% success rate so if you are unlucky enough to not see one, you will get an 80% refund. There are also whale watching helicopter flights as well. Kaikoura is also home to a seal colony, the newest museum in New Zealand and sea based activities such as kayaking, canoeing and snorkelling. Kaikoura is also the perfect place to enjoy a delicious meal of fish and chips before heading back to Christchurch.
Only 75 kilometres from Christchurch, the historic French and British settlement of Akaroa is an enchanting spot to spend a day. Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruises allows you to watch and learn about the rare Hector’s dolphins as well as seals and penguins, and visit Cathedral Cave which has a remarkable volcanic formation. In addition, there is the largest little penguin colony on mainland New Zealand and The Giants House which has a plethora of outstanding creative and colourful sculptures and mosaics.
Arthurs Pass, only 2 hours from Christchurch, provides you with a completely different landscape and an opportunity to soak in the unique vegetation of the West Coast with its large amount of native bush. Arthurs Pass is yet another location with walks, waterfalls and mountain bike tracks in abundance.
Air Force Museum
The Air Force Museum in Christchurch has many galleries, exhibitions and experiences to whet your appetite for New Zealand’s aviation history. The biggest highlight is probably the Aircraft Hall in which there are a number of vintage aircraft to take in, some which are in their original form and others which have been restored. You will see the oldest surviving complete RNZAF aircraft and another which carried the Queen during her coronation tour of New Zealand in 1953-54. You can get inside a Vampire jet cockpit, encounter a World War Two bomber’s gun turret and watch historic newsreel film of RNZAF history. The Aircraft Hall can also be booked for hosting a private function.
In the exhibitions you can learn about life as a Prisoner of War, including being caught, interrogated and locked up. You can also gain an insight into Canterbury from the perspective of World War One, as there are many poignant personal stories which form the bedrock of Christchurch’s war effort.
Have a go on the Flight Simulator in which you can either assist members of the Resistance to escape in France or destroy as many enemy battleships as possible in the Norwegian fiords. Take a free half-hour guided tour that operates three times a day to see what goes on behind the scenes and discover more machines in the reserve collection.
The Air Force Museum is handily located in Wigram and is open daily from 10am to 5pm with the exception of Christmas Day.
Go to a sports game
If you are a cricket fan, there is no better spot to watch the Black Caps play a test match or one day international than at the renovated Hagley Oval. Having never previously had an international cricket ground that didn’t double as a rugby stadium, the Hagley Oval has excelled itself as a location to watch ball meet willow. Lying back on the banks in this picturesque spot, or even setting up on a deck chair in one of the allocated spots, is reminiscent of some of New Zealand’s most traditional and beautiful grounds such as Basin Reserve in Wellington or at the Queenstown Events Centre. Capacity is a lot smaller than all-seater stadia, adding to the ground’s charm but encouraging you to buy early before all tickets are snapped up by Christchurch’s loyal patronage. If you can’t get to an international game it’s still worth going along to watch Canterbury in action.
If instead you’re after a rugby game then head along to the AMI stadium to watch the all- conquering Crusaders team. The AMI stadium is yet another symbol of the city’s resilience as it was built in under 100 days and replaced the previous AMI stadium which was damaged beyond repair in the earthquakes. Not only does the current AMI stadium host provincial and international rugby games it can also be used for concerts, such as the visit of Bruce Springsteen in February, in which the stadium capacity is extended from 18,000 to 30,000.
There are many other sports to feast your eyes on should you so desire. The Canterbury Rams Basketball team play at Cowles Stadium and the Mainland Tactix Netball team play at the CBS Canterbury Arena. And if you fancy a game of golf there are plenty of great spots such as Clearwater to show off your skills. Canterbury loves its sport and is currently in the midst of building a new and improved QEII, providing swimming pools and fitness facilities as replacements for those lost in the earthquakes.
Sumner / Taylors Mistake / Godley Head
Sumner is a delightful coastal suburb of Christchurch which is separated from the rest of the city by its volcanic hill ridges and cliffs that come down to the sea shore. Cave Rock, an unusual volcanic formation, dominates the beach. Sumner Beach is a particularly great area for children to play as they can explore the cave, search for sea creatures in the rock pools, jump in the paddling pools that form around the cave when the tide is out, and have plenty of space to run around in. Enjoy the gorgeous views and be inspired before allowing some time to spend in the endearing Sumner Village.
You can head further round from Sumner to Taylors Mistake where you can enjoy a surf on the secluded beach before starting one of the best walks in Christchurch: the Godley Head Coastal Walk. Or if you are feeling fit, it is also a superb run. As you walk along you are treated to panoramas of Pegasus Bay, the Kaikoura Mountains and the North Canterbury hills. You will go past a number of quaint baches at Boulders Bay and if you are lucky you might spot a penguin or dolphin in their natural environment.
Godley Head also has an area steeped in military history where you can view the World War II coastal defence battery with its tunnels, historic buildings and gun emplacements and marvel at the strong coastal fortification in general. As a defence heritage site, it is right up there. The walk is a three hour round trip of medium difficulty.
Although technically not in Christchurch, Lyttelton Harbour is only a 20 minute drive from the city. As you drive through the impressive Lyttelton Tunnel you are greeted with the spectacular sight across to Diamond Harbour. Lyttelton is the place for taking a cruise from which you can watch the Hector’s dolphins frolic in the water. Only found in New Zealand, it is the world’s smallest dolphin and an incredible sight. You could also hire a jet ski and enjoy the wind on your face as you go looking for the dolphins yourselves.
A must do while in Lyttelton is to take a short ferry to the largest Island in Canterbury: Quail Island, which was declared a recreation reserve in 1975. It is over 80 hectares in size and boasts many different species of birds, and you can even spot lizards like geckos and skinks on a good day. The history and culture on Quail Island is considerable with the restored quarantine barracks and ships’ graveyard to be seen. There are also a great many walks to enjoy.
Lyttelton is a vibrant and colourful town with Victorian houses, quirky shops and restaurants, and on Saturday mornings a very popular Farmers Market with a slightly alternative vibe. No wonder it is so popular with the range of gourmet choices and sumptuous local fare on offer.
Adrenalin Forest and outdoor activities
If it’s thrills and spills you’re after, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Christchurch’s Adrenalin Forest. Adrenalin Forest is a highwire obstacle course that is situated on approximately four hectares of forest, is more than 20 metres off the ground and exceeds two kilometres in length. It is a place where you can swing, jump and fly among the treetops to your heart’s content.
There are Tarzan swings, rope bridges to negotiate and there are even flying foxes from one canopy to the next. There are six courses at increasing difficulty levels, including about 100 fun-filled and challenging activities you can conquer. It is also mechanically impossible to fall from the rope course so you can feel completely safe in testing your limits as far as they will go.
Adrenalin Forest is open all year round with opening hours between 10am and 2 or 2.30pm, depending on the month.
When it comes to rushes of adrenaline, there are also plenty of outdoor activities to get the heart pumping. Whether it’s leisurely canoeing and kayaking the city’s beautiful rivers while enjoying the views, or traversing the bends on a jet boat, there is plenty of water action available. You can try some off-road motor/quad biking over rough terrain and enjoy a horse trek over the hills.
Why not give sky diving a go and experience the blood rush of freefalling through the sky at 200 km/hr. A more sedate but equally worthwhile activity is to take a tramp or a walk in one of Christchurch or its surrounding region’s many quality trails. Nor would you ever regret booking a magical hot air balloon flight over the great panoramas of Canterbury.
The great outdoors has so much to offer in Christchurch, with plenty more options to consider than are included here.
Christchurch is host to a large number of delicious spots for eating out that caters to every budget.
At the higher end, there’s restaurants like King of Snake which offers fantastic Asian cuisine, including a mouth-watering range of flavours. There is an inviting ambience to the place and the décor is authentic and stimulating. If you’re wanting to finish your night off with the best desserts in Christchurch, Strawberry Fare is the place to be! It is well renowned for its wide array of sumptuous desserts but also boasts an excellent menu for main meals, ranging from Duck Confit to House Cured Salmon Gravlax.
In the mid-range try the huge pizzas at Winnie Bagoes, the superb Indian food at one of the Corianders’ franchise, an excellent steak at Speights Ale House, Joe’s Garage or Lone Star or an exceptional Thai meal at Buddha Stix. They all serve wholesome family food and are spacious enjoyable locations in which to have a meal.
If it’s tasty, inexpensive and large portions you’re after, you can’t go wrong with the delicious Chinese at North and South or to bring a bottle of wine to Chopsticks and enjoy the Chinese/Malaysian fare.