things to do
Where else in the world can you ski in world-class alpine resorts in the morning, whale watch on the Pacific Ocean in the afternoon and then relax and unwind in a thermal spa in the evening?
Christchurch is the main city in Canterbury province - an area greatly blessed with stunning alpine scenery and a host of sightseeing and outdoor adventure activities based on resort towns like Arthur’s Pass, Kaikoura and Hanmer Springs.
Christchurch has something fresh each day for every visitor, from cutting-edge adventure to complete relaxation, with options in between for heritage, culture, performing arts, shopping, wining and dining. City side attractions begin with the Art Gallery in Gloucester Street, a stunning structure of bold architectural spaces and New Zealand’s most significant new gallery. The Art Centre is another ‘must see’ attraction - a collection of 40 craft studios, galleries, shops, theatres, cinemas, cafes, restaurants and bars within the neo-Gothic stone cloisters of the original university buildings.
Elsewhere in the city you can discover the rich cultural heritage of the ‘City of the Plains’ in the Canterbury Museum and the Ferrymead Heritage Park. The International Antarctic Centre is a favourite attraction. Its new exciting features include a realistic Snow and Ice blizzard experience and rides on a 16 seat Hagglund tracked snow vehicle. A spectacular ride on the Christchurch Port Hills takes you by gondola to the summit of Mt Cavendish for views of the city, plains, mountains and Port Lytteton far below.
Wildlife Tours are a special Christchurch feature including cruises on Lyttleton Harbour to view the world’s smallest and rarest dolphin - the Hector’s dolphin. An even closer encounter with some other aquatic species can be had in the Southern Encounter Aquarium in the city. Land based creatures from around the world are at home in the Orana Wildlife Park, New Zealand’s largest conservation park. You can get real close to our rare native birds like the kiwi and kea at the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve.
Adventure activities abound across the pancake-flat plains and in the Southern Alps. White water rafting, bungy jumping, jet boating, sky diving, heli-biking, heli-skiing, tramping, fishing and hunting are all quite accessible from Christchurch. Hot air ballooning is a top class experience here. You take off from the city centre as the sun rises out of the Pacific Ocean and fly towards the snow-capped mountains in total silence.
Day trips through Canterbury can take in wondrous sights such as mighty sperm whales broaching in the sea off Kaikoura. Also the thrill of crossing the Alps on the Tranz Alpine Express railway or winter skiing on one of the ten ski fields within 3 hours drive from Christchurch. Akaroa offers a delightful day excursion to sample wines and cheeses in this romantic French colonial seaside village. So too does Hanmer Springs, a luxury retreat with ten outdoor thermal pools and all the pampering of therapeutic massage you have ever desired. Beyond the plains lie more magical south island gems like Mt Cook, Queenstown, Wanaka and Milford Sound.