Christchurch, New Zealand, which is famous for its English heritage, is a city found on the east coast of the South Island. The beauty of the city’s vast, lush and natural surroundings has earned for it numerous names. It is referred to as the Garden City because of the several parks and gardens that are just too enticing not to be explored.
The city boasts of a diverse and exotic wildlife that became the perfect setting for the popular movie “Lord of the Rings”. Besides seeing the actual location of middle earth, Christchurch offers much more eye-popping scenery and nature inspired outdoor activities that will make your vacation complete. Let’s take a stroll down one of the city’s marvelous hiking trails as we begin a new adventure.
Read on to find out about the best things to do in Christchurch, NZ:
Mount Cook or Aoraki is New Zealand’s highest mountain which measures 3,724 meters (12,217 feet) above sea level. It is one of the most splendid mountains you’ll ever see. To explore the mountain, it is recommended you go along with a tour group that will take you to the base. The entire trip will take 11 hours from your hotel to the base and that includes stops for sightseeing and a lunch break. The highlights of the travel between Christchurch to Queenstown are the stunning views of Lake Tekapo that is fed by melting glaciers.
You will be taken to visit the UNESCO listed World Heritage Site Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park where there is a charming village located. Have lunch at the Hermitage Hotel where they offer a 3 course buffet. You could also enjoy some afternoon tea in the quiet village of Omarama and have a remarkable view of the Southern Alps.
Duration: 12 hours
Enjoy a visit to North Canterbury’s 4 wineries and half a day of wine tasting. Wine lovers will definitely enjor a tour of 4 of the boutique wineries located in North Canterbury. Upon departing Christchurch, the tour will take you thru the upcoming Waipara wine region with stops at the Pegasus bay, Waipara Springs, Waipara Hills and Torlesse Wines with free tastes of a vast selection of quality red and white wines in between the stops. Let’s raise our glasses and say “Cheers” to that!
Duration: 5 hours 30 minutes
Enjoy an exciting ride on a jet-boat through the Waiau Gorge. The full day trip starts from Christchurch, then Thrillseekers Canyon and ends in Hanmer Springs, a resort village. Thrillseekers Canyon is a narrow passage that leads to the white-water rapids. The jet boat speeds into the gorge, skims over the rapids and shallows and even does 360 degree spins. The ride is equally exciting and exhausting!
What better way to end the day but to soak in the relaxing thermal pools of Hanmer Springs. The natural volcanic sulphur spring waters are fed into pools with massage jets providing a therapeutic relief to your whole body, making you come back for more. There are various pools with a wide range of temperatures. These waters are rich in minerals that could treat a wide range of injuries and conditions. The pools are situated outdoors so you have a view of tall redwood trees and lush green surroundings that are truly relaxing. After the spa treatment, have a delicious lunch at the Garden House café. That is a day well spent!
Duration: 8 hours 30 minutes
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4. Canterbury Museum
The Canterbury Museum welcomes visitors to explore the rich cultural heritage of Canterbury, New Zealand. The exhibits educate the visitors about the past and present history of Christchurch and the neighboring regions. The museum is open from 9am to 5pm all days of the week. The museum does not charge an entrance free but donations are highly appreciated. The museum is located in the city’s central Cultural Precinct. It was established in 1867 by Julius Von Haast, its first director, and whose personal collection had formed the museum’s foundation.
Address: Rolleston Ave, Christchurch Central, Christchurch 8013, New Zealand
Website: Canturbury Museum
5. Air Force Museum of New Zealand
Enjoy a fascinating trip thru the military aviation history of New Zealand. The museum does not charge an entrance fee but will appreciate donations for its upkeep. It is open every day from 10am to 5pm except on Christmas Day. You will be given a 30 minute guided tour to learn how aircraft vehicles and engines work and behind the scenes museum work in restoration and preservation of their aircrafts.
There is a lot to do in the museum aside from viewing the awesome display of the aircrafts. You can ride a flight simulator to have a feel of what it was like to pilot a World War 2 aircraft. There is a museum hunt and group activities for families and kids. There is also a self-guided tour of the former historic air-base, the Historic Wagram.
Air Force Museum of New Zealand
Address: 45 Harvard Ave, Wigram, Christchurch, New Zealand
Website: Air Force Museum of New Zealand
6. Christchurch Botanic Gardens
It is like a modern day Garden of Eden in the heart of Christchurch, New Zealand! The Christchurch Botanic Gardens offers you a visual treat of New Zealand’s extensive collection of flora and fauna. It was first opened in 1863 when the first English oak was planted to commemorate the marriage of Danish royalties named Prince Albert and Princess Alexandra.
Since then the Friends of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens render volunteer work to provide services and create activities like daily walking tours for the benefit and upkeep of the gardens. Entrance to the gardens is free but any monetary donation is greatly appreciated. All funds that are raised by the volunteers are for use in the special projects of the gardens.
The gardens are situated next to the Avon River. There are several gardens within the property all of which exhibit various types of plants which are found in different parts of New Zealand and from all over the world. It features the Botanic Gardens Visitor Center which has a gift shop and café with an interactive exhibit about the history of plants in Canterbury. The Herb Garden is beside the curator’s house where you will see various herbs for medicinal and culinary purposes. There is the Heritage and Central rose gardens, a conservatory, an area for bird watching, a Fernery, the Rock, Erica and Water gardens and that is just to name a few. This place is truly a paradise for nature lovers.
Christchurch Botanic Gardens
Address: Rolleston Ave, Christchurch City Centre, Christchurch 8013, New Zealand
Website: Christchurch Botanic Gardens
7. Orana Wildlife Park
Orana Wildlife Park is the only open-range zoo in New Zealand. It is located on the outskirts of the city and was opened to the public in 1976 by its owners and operators, the registered charity organization Orana Wildlife Trust. The park was created to provide the locals and visitors of New Zealand with a high-quality location for recreation, to conserve exotic and endangered wildlife, and to educate people about conservation and environmental concerns. Plus, guests who visit the park contribute directly to their conservation efforts.
The park has over 400 animals and 70 different kinds of species. It offers unique close encounters with some of the park animals. You can see the only gorillas in New Zealand, hand-feed majestic animals such as giraffes, enjoy encounters with rhinos, and see birds such as kiwis and keas. They also offer scheduled presentations daily, so you’ll be able to see lions, cheetahs, monkeys, and more. While here, opt for a guided walk or board the Safari Shuttle for a fun tour.
Orana Wildlife Park
Address: 793 Mcleans Island Rd, Mcleans Island, Christchurch 8051, New Zealand
Website: Orana Wildlife Park
Christchurch is a city known for its natural wonders. But besides strolling around this “garden city”, there are also other exciting ways to experience nature at its best. Jet boating is one activity that will surely hype your adrenaline up if you’re in Christchurch and looking for a fun-filled adventure! Simply choose from either “Canyon Discoveries” or “Braided Shallows” which will both explore the Waimakariri River. Canyon Discoveries, departing an hour away from the city, will take you through the foothills of the Southern Alps while in Braided Shallows, you’ll get to experience spins and turns in the shallow areas of the river. These jet boating activities allow you to not only appreciate nature from afar but also to really experience it up close.
Jet boating excursion on the Waimakariri river
Duration: 30 minutes to one hour
Price: 43 USD
One of the significant places in the movie Lord of the Rings, is the mythical city called Edoras. It was actually filmed in the peaceful countryside of Mount Sunday. To get to the mountain you can join a round trip tour group or ride to the peak in a 4 wheel drive. A LOTR guide will orient you with how the location was transformed into the mythical city of the Rohan people in the movie. The tour guide will show you the photos and the actual replica of the props taken from the famous trilogy movie. You could take selfies with Gimli’s axe, Aragon’s sword and the flag of Rohan. You will also enjoy awesome 360 degree views of the rugged terrain.
Hike up the very same trail that the cast walked on in the movie. Remember that scene where they kept walking for days on a grassy hill and suddenly snow capped mountains appeared right before their very eyes? Yes that’s the one! The tour usually ends with a picnic lunch which includes some delicious Champagne.
Duration: 9 hours
One of the best ways to explore Christchurch is to take the bus! Not just any ordinary bus, but by the classic Routemaster double decker bus! There are two kinds of double decker buses, the open top and the closed top. The tour starts by taking the open topped bus on a 1 hour sightseeing tour of the city where you will see famous landmarks like Hagley Park, New Regent Street, and the Bridge of Remembrance. There is a live narration of the city’s history and the significance of the sights as how the city recovered from the devastating 2011 earthquake.
Then you transfer to the closed top double decker bus that takes you to a 2 hour tour outside the city center. The tour will take you on a trip to the Sumner beach with enough time to soak up and swim while enjoying a stunning view of the southern mountains. Then you will travel up to the top of Port Hills to get a good view overlooking the city and Canterbury Plains. You then travel to Mona Vale Gardens and take a walk around one of the city’s most beautiful gardens before heading back to the city proper.
Duration: 1 to 2 days
Get on board the distinct blue train which is the Christchurch Tramway Restaurant. This is a fabulous way to tour the city while you ride the fastidiously refurbished heritage tramcar. You ride in luxury for 2 and a half hours on this mobile train restaurant that allows you to view important sites of the city while dining in style.
You are given a welcome drink once you get on the train. The tramcar can fit 2 to 4 people in one table for a maximum of 36 guests seated comfortably in an air-conditioned room. You will enjoy a sumptuous 4 course dinner while you pass by the city’s landmarks like the Hagley Park, Canterbury Museum, New Regent Street, Avon River and Christchurch Botanic Gardens. The dinner tour is capped off with desert and your choice of coffee or tea. Now you have an idea where to take your special someone on a unique romantic dinner tour of the city.
Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes
The magic of the mountains
Christchurch is filled with a mountainous terrain that absolutely takes your breath away. The magical beauty of these mountains takes you to a different dimension where everything is green and earthy, which is almost like a myth in our modern world. A destination you would like to be at when you are dead tired of the urban city life. Its deep English heritage is evident in its city structures, the trams and buses and their traditional wine and tea time habits. If you would like to visit a place where you will feel refreshed and grounded, Christchurch in New Zealand is where you would want to be.
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