Christchurch has transformed into a captivating urban centre: a place to discover great historic and modern architecture, a chance to explore street art and new retail concepts, and an opportunity to enjoy a food and drink scene where creativity is the key ingredient. This is all topped off by a growing number of adventure activities that deliver a huge view of the city while you get your thrills.
The urban renewal throughout central Christchurch is truly captivating. Exciting modern low-rise architecture is popping up to complement the city's beautiful historic landmarks.
Where to go and what to see in Christchurch
Be ready to roam when you arrive in Christchurch, because there's architectural, retail and hospitality excitement waiting around every corner. The new urban plan that's unfolding includes laneways, pedestrian-only precincts, imagination-fuelled playgrounds and revamped historic sites that tell extraordinary stories. In this ever-evolving city, your eyes will be wide with wonder.
Discover a perfect blend of heritage and innovation
The urban renewal throughout central Christchurch is truly compelling. Exciting modern low-rise architecture is popping up to complement the city's beautiful historic landmarks. Retail and restaurant precincts have been reshaped to include open streetscapes and cosy new laneways full of energy and character. Even the pedestrian lights have embraced innovation, with sensors and built-in intelligence to minimise waiting.
In Oxford Terrace, a row of bold new buildings with restaurant balconies and on-street dining areas overlooks tiered public spaces and gardens along the river bank. In contrast to this modernity, the beautifully restored 1930s buildings of New Regent Street are painted in their original pastel shades. You can make the most of inner city Christchurch sightseeing by travelling on hop-on hop-off historic trams that trundle slowly through the modern precincts, as well as the arts and museums districts.
Out of town by the airport, the International Antarctic Centre blends high-tech attractions with real world experiences to create one of the top Christchurch attractions. Here you can ride in Hagglund Antarctic vehicles, meet the resident rescue penguins, experience an ice voyage in 4D, step onto the ice for an arctic storm and browse displays to learn about the history of Antarctic exploration and Christchurch's ongoing role as the gateway to Antarctica.
Immerse yourself in creative arts
Creativity is a big part of Christchurch culture. As you wander the streets you can't help but be impressed by the scale and quality of street art from local and international artists. The striking, glass fronted Christchurch Art Gallery is free to visit and houses a vast collection of important works, from classics to modern art. To get the most from your experience, you can join a free guided tour or listen to audio guides on your smartphone. Close to the gallery, the historic Arts Centre building is home to small exhibitions and shops selling exceptional local art and crafts. Modern and abstract art lovers should also head to CoCA, the Centre of Contemporary Art on Gloucester Street.
Live theatre has been strong in Christchurch for generations. Before you visit, check what's on at The Court Theatre and book ahead to avoid disappointment. It's home to New Zealand's oldest and largest theatre company and there's always a great range of shows to choose from. Another Christchurch favourite is the Isaac Theatre Royal, a beautifully restored Edwardian theatre built in 1908 that showcases music, musicals, comedy, dance and drama.
Explore the great outdoors
In the city centre, a low speed limit, wide footpaths, pedestrian-only streets, parks and ample cycle lanes make Christchurch easy to explore. The botanic gardens and Hagley Park are handy central green spaces for communing with nature. You can also glide along the Avon River in canoes, kayaks, row boats or romantic Edwardian punts.
The Port Hills deliver hiking and mountain biking adventures with spectacular long range views. If uphill treks are not your thing, check out the Christchurch Gondola or the chairlift at Christchurch Adventure Park, where you can also hire mountain bikes and descend a range of trails or sign up to experience New Zealand's longest and highest zipline rides. It's high on the list of fun things to do in Christchurch. For adventure in the treetops, with challenging bridges, nets, swings and flying foxes, head to Adrenalin Forest in Spencer Park, about 20 minutes north of the city.
Head out on day trips to explore the region
The Canterbury region is full of day trips within an hour or two of Christchurch. To the north, in the celebrated vineyard and foodie region of Waipara, you can taste award-winning wines and sample delicious flavours from artisan growers and producers. A guided tour from Christchurch makes it easy to relax and discover the local's secret favourites.
The Banks Peninsula is well within reach for a day trip from Christchurch, intoxicating in its size and remoteness. With more than 40 bays, many with white-sand beaches, this peninsula is one of New Zealand’s most unique landforms. At its centre is Akaroa, a French-settled town full of boutique shops and restaurants. Cruise among Akaroa Harbour’s world-renowned wildlife, including the Hector’s Dolphin, the world’ smallest dolphin.
Inland from Waipara, at the picturesque town of Hanmer Springs, you can soak, play or pamper yourself at a magnificent thermal pool and spa complex, complete with hydroslides. Hanmer Springs is also the adventure capital of Canterbury with quad biking, bungy jumping, jet boating and river rafting tours to satisfy your inner daredevil.
Kaikoura, less than three hours north of Christchurch, is loved for its marine animal encounters. You can see whales, dolphins and seals by boat, or from the air in a helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft. There are guided kayak tours to meet the resident fur seals up close. You can also choose to snorkel with the seals or pods of dolphins, with all the necessary gear provided.
West of Christchurch, beyond the rolling plains decorated with braided river beds, there are spectacular mountain ranges, rocky gorges, thundering rivers and native forests. Arthur's Pass National Park in the Southern Alps is only two hours by car or you can catch the TranzAlpine train. The famous winter ski fields and terrain parks of Mount Hutt are only 90 minutes from the city and six popular Selwyn ski areas are even closer.
Best time to go
Because many of its attractions are cultural, Christchurch is a great experience in any season.
How much will it cost?
Not including air travel and hotels, you should allow about NZD $100 to $150 a day per person for food and entertainment.
There are no mandatory vaccinations required for visitors to New Zealand.