Christchurch City is in the Canterbury region of the South Island, known as the Garden City, and for its English heritage. Although some of the stone-built heritage buildings were destroyed in the 2011 earthquakes there is lots of history to be explored, along with eclectic features that have sprung up as the city has revived itself. Here are our top 10 things to do in Christchurch.

1. Christchurch Botanic Gardens

Christchurch Botanic Gardens

Discover why Christchurch is known as the as the Garden City, take a stroll through the ever-changing beauty of the Botanic Gardens. Set on the banks of the Avon river these historic gardens are renowned for their beautiful trees and a vast collection of flora and fauna from New Zealand and abroad.

Find the famous peacock fountain, follow the pathways and explore duck ponds, footbridges, glasshouses and much more. Wander around yourself you take the Caterpillar Tour and discover the stories behind the gardens and their various features.

  • Prices: Free Entry; Caterpillar Garden Tour costs $20.
  • Duration: Around 90 minutes.
  • Times: 7 a.m. to 6:30 a.m.
  • Best time: Any time of the year.
  • Minimum age: No age restrictions.

2. Punting on the Avon

Punting on the Avon

Enjoy a tranquil ride through the garden city aboard a handcrafted flat-bottomed boat poled by your punter and guide, who will be dressed in Edwardian clothing. This is a particularly iconic Christchurch activity.

Relax as you cruise along with the ducks, the ride takes you through the botanic gardens, Hagley Park and parts of the city centre letting you see the garden city from a unique perspective.

  • Prices: $28 – Adults; $12 – Children, 15 and under.
  • Duration: 30 minutes.
  • Times: Summer: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. (1st October to 31st March);
  • Winter: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. (1st April to 30th September).
  • Best time: Summer and winter.
  • Minimum age: No age restrictions.

3. Take a drive on the Port Hills

Take a drive on the Port Hills

Follow the winding Summit Road and take in the best views of the city from the many scenic lookout spots. Stop off at The Sign of the Kiwi (a heritage building built on 1917 as a staging post) for a cup of tea or coffee, make your way over to Lyttelton Harbour or stop for a walk in the bush on one of the walking tracks.

You may like to take the long way back and stop off at Sumner beach.

  • Prices: Free; Tours are $129.
  • Duration: Around 5 hours.
  • Times: All day.
  • Best time: Any time as long as the weather is good.
  • Minimum age: No age restrictions. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

4. Canterbury Museum

Canterbury Museum

Experience New Zealand’s cultural and natural history. You will find loads of fascinating exhibits including the famous Paua Shell house, rare Maori artefacts, early Antarctic exploration and New Zealand’s unique flora and fauna.

Train your ear to recognise New Zealand’s unique bird calls and stroll down a Christchurch street from the pioneering days. These are just some of the things you will find, the Canterbury Museum is a great activity for all ages.

  • Prices: Free, donations are appreciated. Entry to Discovery is $2 per person (under 3 years free).
  • Duration: More than 3 hours to see everything.
  • Times: April to September (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.); October to March (9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.).
  • Best time: The museum is open throughout the entire year.
  • Minimum age: No age restrictions.

5. Christchurch Art Gallery & The Arts Centre te Matatiki Toi Ora

Christchurch Art Gallery & The Arts Centre te Matatiki Toi Ora

A popular architectural feature of the city, the Christchurch art gallery is home to some of the countries most important art collections and is known for its excellent temporary art displays. The beautifully designed building very spacious and full of natural light and features a great cafe and gift shop.

Explore the Arts Centre te Matatiki Toi Ora, the beautiful neo-gothic style, former Canterbury Collage (University of Canterbury) buildings. The centre is home to a growing range of galleries, museums, independent retailers, artisan food outlets, education spaces and events.

  • Prices: Free.
  • Duration: Around 2 hours.
  • Times: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Best time: Anytime.
  • Minimum age: No age restrictions.

6. Hop on Hop off Tram

Hop on Hop off Tram

Step aboard a restored vintage tram carriage and find all the best spots around the central city. The Christchurch tramway circuit has 17 stops (including popular New Regents Street) and you can hop on and off as many times as you like throughout the day, so you can create your own sightseeing day tour itinerary.

Tram drivers provide commentary about the various landmarks so you get to learn the stories of the city as you go. If you have kids with you, ask the driver to tell you which stop is closest to Margaret Mahy Family Playground, although it may be hard to get your kids to leave.

  • Prices: $25 per person.
  • Duration: All day.
  • Times: September to March (9 a.m. to 6 p.m.); April to August (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.).
  • Best time: Winter (May-September); Summer (October-April).
  • Minimum age: No age restrictions.

7. Christchurch Gondola

Christchurch Gondola

Enjoy a peaceful ride up Mount Cavendish and take in amazing panoramic views of the Christchurch cityscape, the Canterbury plains, the beaches of New Brighton and the hills of Banks Peninsula from your gondola cable car.

On a clear day, you can see as far as Kaikoura. The Summit Station at the top offers a restaurant so you can enjoy lunch with a view and “The Time Tunnel” ride which takes you on a journey through the history of the area.

  • Prices: $69 – Family pass (Adult + 3 children); $28 – Adult, single pass; $12 – Children.
  • Duration: 10 minutes (one way).
  • Times: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed on Christmas day.
  • Best time: Any time of the year (winter is stunning due to the dusting of snow at the top).
  • Minimum age: 5 years of age.

8. The International Antarctic Centre

The International Antarctic Centre

Christchurch is the gateway to Antarctica, the international Antarctic centre is another popular Christchurch attraction and is a fun and interactive experience of Antarctica the whole family will enjoy.

Learn about life in modern-day Antarctica, journey through Antarctica on the famous Hagglund ride, survive and Antarctic storm and hang out with little blue penguins.

  • Prices: $45 to $59 – Adults; $29 – Children.
  • Duration: 2 hours (general admission pass).
  • Times: 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  • Best time: All year round.
  • Minimum age: No age restrictions.

9. Willowbank Wildlife Reserve

Willowbank Wildlife Reserve

Get close to some of New Zealand’s unique iconic creatures including kea, tuatara and even the very shy, nocturnal Kiwi. The park is home to native and introduced animals. You will see monkeys, deer, otters, all kinds of birds and farm animals.

As you wander around the park many of the farm animals will eat right of your hand and there are even tame eels you can feed.

  • Prices: $32.50 (Adult) $12.00 (Child – Age 5-14 years, children under 5 free of charge)
  • Duration: 1-4 hours
  • Times: Winter Hours (April-September): 9.30am to 5pm Summer Hours (October-March): 9.30am to 7pm
  • Best time: All year round.
  • Minimum age: No age restrictions. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

10. Take a Day Trip to Akaroa and Swim with the Dolphins

Take a Day Trip to Akaroa and Swim with the Dolphins

The idyllic French settlement town of Akaroa is one of the most popular day trips from Christchurch among tourists and locals alike. The drive to Akaroa is 1.5 hours, the quaint seaside town on Banks Peninsula offers a host of fantastic restaurants and cafes, boutiques and gift shops.

Akaroa Harbour is home to the rare hectors dolphin, the world’s smallest oceanic dolphin. Black Cat Cruises gives you the chance to see and swim with these beautiful marine creatures, close up in their natural habitat. You will experience a once in a lifetime encounter that has been voted the #1 bucket list activity in New Zealand.

  • Prices:
    • Swimming with dolphins
      • Adult: $185
      • Children: $155
    • Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruises
      • Adult: $90
      • Children (5-15): $35 under 5’s are free
  • Duration: Swimming with dolphins – Two hours on the water (plus half an hour before and after); Akaroa Harbour nature cruises – Two hours.
  • Times:
    • Swimming with dolphins –  6:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. (all year), 1:30 p.m.
    • Akaroa Harbour nature cruises – 11 a:m. & 1:30 p.m. (all year), 11 a:m., 1:30 p.m. & 3:40 p.m. (mid-December to mid-March).
  • Best time: All year round.
  • Minimum age: Must be 8 years old to swim. No age restriuctions for akaroa harbour nature cruise.