By Experience Oz

What to do in Christchurch? A 5 day itinerary

By Brittney Deguara · August 2023 · 4 min read
Christchurch offers a pleasant balance of typical New Zealand activities, with its combined alpine and waterfront location offering plenty of things to see and do.

Christchurch, known as the 'Garden City', is a haven of greenery both within and surrounding the city, making it a paradise for nature enthusiasts and outdoor lovers. Crafting an efficient Christchurch itinerary can be a challenge given the wide array of activities available, especially for those with limited time. To assist first-time visitors, we've curated recommended itineraries ranging from 1 to 5 days, aimed at highlighting the essential must-see and must-do experiences in and around Christchurch.

Day 1: Explore Christchurch

Start your exploration of this captivating South Island city by dedicating your first day to leisurely walking and discovering some of its finest attractions, some of which won't cost you a dime! Depending on your location, take a pleasant stroll or catch a bus to the city center where your adventure begins. Begin with the picturesque Christchurch Botanic Gardens and Hagley Park, iconic green spaces that exude the city's garden charm. The Botanic Gardens offer a fairytale-like experience with tree-lined paths, open meadows, a serene pond, and lush flora. Expect some walking or cycling to fully embrace the garden's beauty.

Transitioning into the city, explore the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna O Waiwhetu, a free-to-enter gallery showcasing diverse collections that captivate all ages. Spread across two levels and only requiring bag check-in, the gallery invites hours of engagement with its exhibits. Progressing further, venture into the RE:start Mall—a vibrant hub initially set up for local businesses post-earthquake. Now transformed into a unique attraction, the mall houses souvenir shops, boutiques, department stores, and dining spots, simplifying your shopping and dining experience. Continue your day of discovery with a trip to the Canterbury Museum. This iconic institution, established in 1870, has become a beloved city highlight. Explore diverse exhibits that showcase the region's rich history and culture. While entry is free, donations are appreciated, making it a cost-effective family-friendly activity that promises enjoyment for all.

Day 2: Visit Willowbank Wildlife Reserve

This renowned wildlife attraction is home to New Zealand's "big 5" creatures: kiwi, tuatara, kea, takahe, and kaka. With over three decades of operation, this reserve is conveniently located just 15 minutes from the city center. Alongside these iconic animals, you'll encounter an array of charming residents such as fallow deer, wallabies, Siamang Gibbons, lemurs, peacocks, Kune Kune pigs, llamas, goats, and plenty of chickens, roosters, and chicks roaming around.

The visit guarantees not only a glimpse of these beloved animals but also a unique opportunity to spot kiwis up close. If you happen to miss them in their dark enclosure, helpful rangers are on hand to assist. Witnessing one of New Zealand's most renowned creatures is a must, and this reserve offers an excellent chance to do so. Beyond the wildlife, the Reserve also presents a cultural experience called Ko Tane. This memorable tour delves into Maori culture, traditions, and lifestyles, featuring a traditional welcome, captivating performance, and a sumptuous four-course hangi meal at the licensed restaurant. A versatile attraction suitable for all ages, the wildlife reserve also proves a delightful option for rainy days, ensuring an enjoyable experience for everyone.

Go punting on the Avon River

Concluding your second day in Christchurch, Punting on the Avon offers a charming and picturesque experience. Operating year-round with varying hours for summer and winter, this activity transports you to the Venetian canals as you're gently guided along the Avon River in a handcrafted punt. Expertly poled by a skilled punter at the rear, these comfortable punts accommodate up to 10 people per ride. Departing near Cathedral Square, the 30-minute rides can be extended to 45 minutes for a more immersive experience, complete with blankets, umbrellas, and hot water bottles during the colder months.

Day 3: Visit the Waipara Valley

About an hour north of Christchurch lies the exquisite Waipara wine region, a true haven for wine enthusiasts. Renowned for its exceptional Pinot Noir and Riesling varieties, Waipara is a haven for food and wine aficionados. The area also features various farms, from olive groves to nut farms and lavender fields, offering a delightful retreat for those seeking refined pleasures. If you're yearning for an escapade that seamlessly blends scenic beauty with delectable wine and food experiences, the Waipara region is your top choice.

Day 4: Swim with dolphins in Akaroa

A top-notch wildlife encounter awaits you nearby in Akaroa: swimming with dolphins. These waters harbor the world's smallest and most amiable dolphins, offering an unparalleled experience. Don't miss the chance to embark on this adventure with Black Cat Cruises, a local company that provides a 3-hour excursion complete with wetsuits and snorkels to meet the playful dolphin pods. Just bring a towel, swimwear, and your camera to capture this extraordinary encounter.

Day 5: Hop aboard the tram & gondola

Wrap up your final day in Christchurch with two iconic attractions that promise a fulfilling experience. Begin by hopping on the city loop tram, which covers 17 diverse locations including the Avon River, Arts Centre, Botanic Gardens, and Canterbury Museum. Enjoy the flexibility of exploring at your own pace with the tram's hop-on-hop-off feature, easily guided by the tram timetable. Then, switch gears to the gondola for a different perspective on the city. Take a ride on the Christchurch Gondola for breathtaking views of the city, Lyttleton harbour, Port Hills, and the distant Southern Alps. After reaching the summit, you can indulge in a meal at the Red Rock Cafe or delve into the region's history through the Time Tunnel ride. This comprehensive day offers enjoyment for the entire family and serves as a relaxing conclusion to your enriching week in this charming city. To unwind further, consider catching a movie at Hoyts Cinema in Westfield Riccarton before moving on.

Christchurch is a great holiday destination for couples and families alike. Without all of the hustle and bustle of its southern neighbour, Queenstown, Christchurch is a calm, cultured and cool.
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