With so many amazing Christchurch activities on offer, we’ve roped in Jennifer of Backyard Travel Family to help with this amazing guide. She is a real expert in all things Canterbury so you know you can trust her tried and tested recommendations.
This article first appeared on Exploring Kiwis.
Christchurch, the gateway to the South Island, celebrates its English heritage like nowhere else in New Zealand. The largest city down south, it is geographically diverse. One of its main advantages is that you can drive from the beach to the mountains in under 2 hours – and there’s so much to explore in between!
Most of the best Christchurch activities can be found outdoors and fortunately, they’re awesome regardless of when you visit New Zealand!
There are so many gems scattered across the region though, so let’s explore all of the amazing things to do in Christchurch.
Our Guide to the Very Best Christchurch Activities
Incredible Walks (In and Around Christchurch)
Perhaps my favourite activity in Christchurch is to walk (or hike) in the Port Hills.
In general, the city is flat, but Christchurch’s famous Port Hills provide a great opportunity to explore and also take in spectacular views.
These day hikes are some of the best Christchurch activities you’ll find, and best of all, they don’t cost a cent and you’ll improve your fitness in the process!
Strap on your walking shoes and prepare to be amazed as we share our favourite day walks.
The Rapaki Track takes between 90 and 120 minutes to walk and will take you up to the Summit Road. There you can enjoy beautiful views over Christchurch city, New Brighton Beach and the picturesque bays of Banks Peninsula.
Pop your camera or your phone in your bag so you don’t miss these epic scenes!
General running shoes are fine for this track, as it is a wide gravel 4WD style track – don’t worry though, no vehicles allowed so you can hike in comfort.
For this walk, there is a steep uphill at the start, reasonably flat middle section and another good steep hill near the end. The last hill looks far worse than it actually is, so don’t be too put off when you see it.
If you aren’t a fan of walking, grab a bike (like the locals do) and mountain bike to the top. This is an easy way to access Summit Road and further trails in the Port Hills.
How to get there: Just 12 minutes from the CBD, find Centaurus Road at the base of the Port Hills and turn into Rapaki Road. The track starts at the end of this road. Be aware that Rapaki Road is very narrow, so you may want to park on Centaurus Road, particularly if you have a campervan or large vehicle.
Walk duration: 90-120 minutes return.
Walk difficulty: Easy to moderate.
Godley Head Trail
If sweeping coastal views sounds like your cup of tea, head to the beautiful, and off the beaten track beach of Taylors Mistake. From there you will see the expansive Godley Head Peninsula; this is where your 3-hour walk begins.
The Godley Head track takes visitors out to the end of the peninsula, where you will find historical artefacts in the form of World War gun emplacements. Further around the Lyttelton side of the peninsula, there are old bunkers and shelters to explore.
If Antarctic history is more your thing, you’ll also find Scotts Cabin up near the Godley Head carpark. This old yellow cabin was originally transported to Antarctica to be used for weather observation and research, but in the end was never used, so it was transported back to New Zealand.
The panoramic views from up on top of the cabin are just brilliant and well worth the hike!
How to get there: Head to the end of Taylors Mistake Road and park in the beach carpark. The track is signposted from here.
Walk duration: 3 hours return.
Walk difficulty: Easy with a few short steep hills near the end of the peninsula.
The Bridle Path takes you from the Christchurch Gondola in Heathcotte, to the top of the Port Hills and down again into Lyttelton. The path is really steep, but overall quite short, so if you are looking for a solid workout and amazing views at the top, then this short walk is made for you.
The route was originally built as the main way to access Christchurch from the Port of Lyttelton, but fortunately they now have the tunnel, which makes for quick and easy access for everyday Cantabrians. If you want to see these amazing views but a strenuous walk is not for you, why not take the Christchurch Gondola to the top and walk back down?
With the best view of all Christchurch activities, you don’t want to miss this hike.
How to get there: Head towards Lyttelton and follow the signs for the Christchurch Gondola. There is a carpark just below the gondola on your right hand side.
Walk duration: 30 minutes approximately to the top. 60-80 minutes to the end of the trail in Lyttelton.
Walk difficulty: Moderate – hard (but it’s only hard for a short time, coming back down is much easier).
Adventure Activities in Christchurch
Christchurch Adventure Park
Opened at the end of 2016, the Christchurch Adventure Park is nestled in the Port Hills and offers a great combo of adventure activities. The biggest drawcard is the downhill mountain biking trails; there, you’ll find a ton of different trails, ranging from technical to flow trails (which include manmade obstacles).
The best part of the whole setup is the chairlift, so you don’t have to do any uphill climbing! Grab a single ride, a day pass or a multi pass for greater savings. Bike hire is available onsite as is all the gear you need to ensure is a safe riding experience.
If downhill mountain biking is too crazy for you, but you still want an adrenalin rush, then jump on a zipline tour whilst you’re at the Christchurch Adventure Park. These tours take 2.5-3 hours and includes New Zealand’s longest and highest zipline.
Zip through the forest and check out the amazing views of the city and Southern Alps!
How to get there: 225 Worsleys Road, about 20-25 minutes from the CBD. There is a lot of development going on out there, so there is a dirt/gravel road. Trust it, you are going the right way.
Located in Spencer Forest, right near the beach, Adrenalin Forest is a high ropes course with obstacles to test everyones fear factor. Your Adrenalin Forest experience will grant you access the course for 3 hours, where you can complete any and all adventure trails over the allocated timeframe.
The pathways start just 1m above the ground, then progresses up into the canopy, a whopping 20m in the air. Have fun climbing across bridges, rope obstacles, barrels and taking on the flying foxes, at a range of heights to challenge everyone.
On a hot day, head to the beach for a swim afterwards. Alternatively, head out birdwatching on some of the local walks. Both options are a great way to calm your nerves and relax.
Know before you go: You must have long hair tied back and closed toed shoes. There is also a minimum height requirement of 1.30m for the first 2 pathways and 1.45m to complete the whole course.
How to get there: Drive out to110 Heyders Road, Spencerville, just over 20 minutes from the central city.
If speed is more your thing, head out to Bexley Reserve on Pages Road. There, nice and close to the sea, you’ll be able to check out the Blokarts and Driftcarts at Velocity Karts.
Blokarts are a great eco-friendly option as their use has no carbon footprint and they rely solely on wind power – this is especially great as they’re located in a particularly windy part of the city (as local road cyclists will appreciate!)
These blokarts are a totally unique experience! If you aren’t a total speed demon, let them know and they can eve arrange one with a smaller sail.
The bigger the sail, the faster they go.
In addition to Blokarts, they also have Driftcarts which are an electric powered vehicle that you drive on your knees. They have an awesome course to drift around and it really is a fun experience.
Blokarts can be used from age 8 on and Driftcarts from 12 years old. They also have tandem carts and those to fit people with disabilities, so this is a sport the whole family can enjoy.
How to get there: Head out to Bexley Reserve, opposite 499 Pages Road.
One of Our Favourite Christchurch Activities: A DIY Food Tour
When you understand a culture’s food, you really start to understand the people. Christchurch is a real melting pot of cultures and this is reflected in the types of foods you’ll find on offer.
If you’ve been indulging in some of Christchurch’s best outdoor activities, you certainly have earned some tasty treats!
As a local to Christchurch, let me tell you about some of our favourite places to eat in the city.
Because there’s no better Christchurch activity than one that involves lots of delicious food!
Little High Eatery
The Little High Eatery can only be described as a modern food court, but please, do not compare it to an awful shopping mall food court, because this, it is not. Imagine if authentic food trucks had an inside space with communal seating. This is Little High Eatery.
It is modern and funky, with darker ambient lighting that makes a midday lunch feel similar to the moody vibes of a Friday night out. The music is chilled and this place is overflowing with atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere.
Inside you will find my favourite – the Bacon Brothers – with the most delicious bacon burgers (and chicken and beef). They also have some incredible vegan options, including the most delicious vegan aioli – vegan food really can be tasty here!
On top of this, you will find amazing vendors for dumplings, pizzas, freakshakes, Mexican quesadillas, sushi, pork buns, curries galore, and as an added bonus, they are a licensed premise.
Head outdoors and eat in the sun on a summers day, or should the weather be a little chilly, snuggle up under the outdoor heaters (when its just too busy to sit inside in the winter).
Little High Eatery is the best option for when you just can’t decide or you have fussy friends that you just can’t please.
Where to find it: 181 High Street, parking on site.
Glamour Cake Bakery at Lyttelton Bakery
Don’t be fooled, this is not your average kiwi bakery!
Well actually, it has a lot of your kiwi favourites, but this small bakery is a destination on its own….for one thing in particular.
New Zealand isn’t particularly known for its donuts, compared to our American counterparts, however these donuts are worth the hike. They’re destination donuts!
Young owner, Bree, turns her freak donuts into works of art, and how she doesn’t eat every single one of her creations, I do not know.
From custard square donuts to pancake stacker donuts, churro donuts to Willy Wonka donuts, lamington donuts to her recent speciality latte nutella donut… the list goes on. Follow her on Facebook or Instagram to find out her daily offerings.
Know before you go: They recommend around 10am is the best time to visit. Also be aware, they sellout mid-morning in weekends and the school holidays. You can also order takeout, so grab a spare to pop in your bag for your other exciting Christchurch activities.
Where to find it: 8 Norwich Quay (on the main road near the sea)
Fish and Chip shops are a dime a dozen in New Zealand, but there are so many it can be hard to find a good one, especially when you aren’t a local.
So here is my top tip (though I’m reluctant to share) – Theos Fisheries on Riccarton Road.
What makes this place so good is that they also sell fresh fish, straight off the boat. Because of this, you know that they are cooking up top-notch fresh fish of a very high quality.
It’s also hard to get a good chip (or french fry to the non-Kiwis amongst us) and these are just perfect! I hate a crinkle-cut chip or a shoestring fry; these are classic fish and chip chips and that totally means something.
The other thing I love is that even though they are so, so good, they are old-school affordable! To feed a family or group you’d expect to spend $20-30 in total, compared to overpriced options (that run $8 for a piece of fish and over $5 for a scoop of chips).
Affordable and delicious, it’s your perfect dose of kiwi fish and chips.
Where to find it: 82 Riccarton Road, small carpark behind the building on corner of Straven/Riccarton Road
Explore Christchurch’s Rich History
When I visit a place, it’s really interesting to learn where they came from and how the city has developed. Below I have added a few history-rich Christchurch activities to try.
If you are interested in a bit of history to help you understand the culture of this unique and resilient city, these activities are must-dos in Christchurch.
Quake City and the Christchurch Earthquake
If you have done any research on Christchurch, you will certainly know about the devastating recent events of the Christchurch Earthquake. In fact there were two major earthquakes, one on 4th of September 2010 which caused some epic structural damage but fortunately no loss of life, and the 22nd of February 2011, where 185 people tragically lost their lives.
Since these earthquakes, citizens have lived through countless aftershocks as the city has worked hard to both rebuild and recover.
As you visit the CBD and the eastern suburbs of Christchurch, you will still see a lot of construction, which makes the city look unfinished, and dusty. But in fact, think of this as the regeneration – the rebirth of Christchurch – and the positive things it will lead to.
If you drive to the suburbs of Avonside, Burwood and Wainoni, you will notice large grassed areas. They look like fields, somewhat unkept, and barren. These used to be living suburbs, filled with houses, but now the land is red-zoned and too unsafe to rebuild on.
It is seeing these things that makes me sad for what was and the families who are still affected.
If you are interested in learning more about the Christchurch Earthquake, about the stories and the heroes and how a community pulled together, check out Quake City in the Christchurch CBD.
Where to find it: 299 Durham Street North, corner Armagh Street, Christchurch
Situated on the edge of Hagley Park, near the Christchurch Art Centre is the Canterbury Museum. This museum is free, but is funded by donations, so please give the recommended $5 donation to help it along.
This is one of the best places in Christchurch to explore Māori culture and really learn about the development of New Zealand into the place it is today.
A couple of highlights in the museum would be the replica Christchurch street with old stores you can enter, the Antarctic exhibition featuring the tractor Sir Edmund Hillary used to cross Antarctica and the incredibly unique Pāua House which saw Fred and Myrtle turn their crazy pāua shell lounge into a visitor attraction in Bluff, welcoming over 1 million people to this tiny town.
Where to find it: Rolleston Ave, opposite Worcester Boulevard. Free short term parking in Hagley Park (corner Park Terrace and Armagh Street)
Ferrymead Heritage Park
Not far from the Christchurch Gondola and Bridle Path walk is the Edwardian themed Ferrymead Heritage Park. This old 1900s township is an old school time-warp into our colonial history.
Ferrymead itself is very important to Christchurch as this was where they transported goods to and from the Port of Lyttelton, over the Port Hills.
This fun experience is a great way to really imagine what Christchurch would have been like in this era, with many restored buildings such as schoolhouses, churches and local businesses, including blacksmiths and bakers.
There is a large transport collection and on weekends and school holidays there are often the large steam trains and trams running.
You can also view their large collection of tractors, fire engines, planes and old cars.
Where to find it: 50 Ferrymead Park Drive, Heathcote.
There is such a massive selection Christchurch activities to try out whilst you are visiting this incredible regenerating city – the biggest question is how you’ll figure out your top priorities!?
With some many things to do, make sure you spend more than just a couple of days visiting Christchurch’s best attractions.
The Garden City is beautiful, filled with memorable things to do, and would love your support.
Isn’t it time to start packing your bags?
Guest post by Jennifer of Backyard Travel Family, your active family travel specialists in New Zealand.
Photo credit: ChristchurchNZ, Velocity Karts and Backyard Travel Family.