Reeling from a series of devastating earthquakes a decade ago, the best things to do in Christchurch are, much like the city itself, ever evolving. Dubbed the newest city in the world, Christchurch is on the mend, welcoming back guests to share in its revival as street art and innovative building projects bloom in its streets.
As the biggest city on New Zealand’s South Island and the seat of the Canterbury Region, Christchurch is a perfect base for exploring the area a must for any New Zealand road trip itinerary. Numbered among the top tourist attractions in Christchurch are many of the things New Zealand is famous for, from the Southern Alps & hot springs in its backyard to hiking & walking trails inches from the city.
Not sure what to do in Christchurch? Plan your trip with this guide to the best places to visit in Christchurch…
Top tourist attractions in Christchurch
Christchurch Botanic Gardens
Even if you’ve got only one day in Christchurch, you’ll love checking out the beautiful Christchurch Botanic Gardens in the centre of the city.
Opened in 1863 to commemorate the marriage of Prince Albert and Princess Alexandra, the 21-hectare gardens are among the most fascinating things to see in Christchurch.
Featuring a massive collection of exotic and native plants, the Botanic Gardens are split into several distinct areas & attractions including:
- The Herb Garden: Culinary and medicinal herbs
- The Central Rose Garden: 250 different rose varieties
- The Fernery: Native NZ ferns
- The Water Garden: Lilies, irises, mature trees, and shrubs
- Cuningham House: Tropical flora in a Victorian-style greenhouse
- Gilpin House: Orchids and carnivorous plants
One of the most relaxing ways to experience the botanical gardens is via an electric-vehicle tour where knowledgeable tour guides will answer all your most pressing horticultural questions. (Tours suspended until October 2021 at time of writing.)
History & culture buffs visiting Christchurch will never regret stopping in at the Canterbury Museum.
One of the top tourist attractions in Christchurch, this popular museum focuses on the natural history and culture of the Canterbury Region and its connection to New Zealand as a whole.
The museum’s exhibits are as varied and diverse as New Zealand itself, ranging between ancient Māori artefacts to re-creations of Christchurch’s Victorian era.
The most popular attraction at the Canterbury Museum is its Antarctic collection, celebrating the nation’s most famous and daring South Pole explorers.
Entry to the museum is on a donation basis.
Among all the finest Christchurch sightseeing activities, few are more memorable than riding the Christchurch Gondola.
Scaling over 860 metres up Mount Cavendish to the Port Hills, the Gondola puts spectacular vistas at your fingertips. The views from atop stretch beyond the central city and the Canterbury Plains, reaching as far as the Southern Alps and Pegasus Bay on the Pacific Ocean.
Besides its panoramas, the summit offers a handful of its own attractions including a handful of great hiking trails, the Time Tunnel ride, and a café.
Wedged between the Southern Alps and the Pacific Ocean, the pancake-flat Canterbury Plains might seem out of place in a country known for its alpine scenery and dramatic seascapes.
Nonetheless, exploring the vast plains along the Inland Scenic Route (Highway 72) is one of the best ways to escape Christchurch city.
There’s plenty to see & do in the Canterbury Plains region including checking out the vineyards around Opihi, exploring the Victorian and Edwardian architecture in Timaru, hiking along the Waimate Walkway, and admiring Maori rock art in Raincliff.
If a day trip feels too rushed, there’s a wide variety of high-quality farm stays and luxury lodges in the area to take it down a notch in true rural New Zealand style.
Located less than two hours north of the city, the alpine village of Hanmer Springs is one of the best day trips from Christchurch and one of the city’s most coveted escapes.
Famous for its penchant for both adventure and relaxation, this delightful resort town is nestled among lovely mountainscapes and dense forests providing plenty of opportunity for enjoying outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, golfing and even skiing in the winter.
The most popular reason to visit, however, is the town’s iconic Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa.
Featuring 22 outdoor thermal pools and range of soothing spa treatments, this relaxing escape might well be the highlight of a your Christchurch visit. This family-friendly attraction is also home to a waterpark with four waterslides and the largest water ride in New Zealand, Conical Thrill.