Although still recovering from the devastating earthquake in 2010, Christchurch is a beautiful city and offers everything from museums and galleries, to contemporary cuisine, family activities and lots of opportunities to enjoy the stunning vistas that New Zealand is famous for. We’ve put together a list of Choice Hotels’ top 10 things to do in Christchurch.
1. Air Force Museum of New Zealand
This free museum documents the history of the Royal New Zealand Air Force since its formation in 1937. The collection features a diverse range of items including objects from former enemy forces and also includes two changing exhibitions each year. There are 21 aircraft on display in the museum and there is also a behind the scenes tour that takes you to another 11 aircraft stored in hangars.
2. Willowbank Wildlife Reserve
Open 364 days a year, the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve boasts the best Kiwi viewing in New Zealand with a nocturnal house. The park features both native and exotic animals along with an interactive Maori Cultural experience all in the one location. You can also enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner at the Willowbank Restaurant set in the unique surroundings of the reserve.
3. International Antarctic Centre
Experience life in modern day Antarctic, snow and ice, and even a storm at this interactive, fun and educational centre. There’s a 4D cinema, daily shows, a penguin encounter and even a Hagglund Ride which simulates real conditions experienced by scientists go through travelling around the Antarctic. This is an experience you won’t get anywhere else in the world – except of course, the Antarctic!
4. TranzAlpine Railway
The TranzAlpine scenic train journey, originating in Christchurch is considered one of the world’s most scenic train rides. The journey takes 4.5 hours in total and crosses the picturesque Canterbury plains, past the Waimakiriri River and the stunning alpine viaducts leading to Arthur’s Pass. The final destination is the dramatic town of Greymouth where you can climb the Franz Josef Glacier.
5. Christchurch Botanic Gardens
Take one of the daily guided tours through the gardens or do a self-guided visit using the Walking Guide with its suggested routes and garden information. The gardens flank the beautiful Avon River and are divided into different sections featuring sometimes rare and impressive plants.
6. Quake City
Learn about the science of earthquakes; hear the stories of how the community pulled through the 2010 fatal Christchurch earthquake. This exhibition will give you an insight into the tragedy the city experienced and how they have banded together to rebuild their homes and city. This is an informative and moving experience but may be scary for young children.
7. Orana Wildlife Park
The open range setting of this expansive zoo provides a unique setting for animal encounters. The 15 scheduled animal feedings a day give visitors the opportunity to get up close and personal with a wide range of exotic and endangered animals. There are also behind the scenes tours available if you’re keen to learn more about the conservation work and animals at the Park.
8. Christchurch Gondola
The Iconic Christchurch Gondola boasts stunning 360° views over Christchurch, an extinct volcano, a crater rim and the Port Hills of Christchurch. Hop off at the top and enjoy a meal with a view at the Red Rock Cafe. Then jump back on and enjoy the scenic trip back down to base station.
9. Cardboard Cathedral
This temporary cathedral built as a transitional cathedral after the 2010 earthquake badly damaged the original cathedral, is the world’s only cathedral made substantially out of cardboard. You don’t need to be religious to find a visit to the Cardboard Cathedral fascinating.
10. Port Hills
A drive into the Port Hills is a must do on any trip to Christchurch. Ditch the car and walk the Bridle Track for stunning vistas of the city and coastline. The track takes about 35 to 40 minutes to walk and the gradient is steep so pack a picnic- and even a bottle of New Zealand wine! And recharge at the top before taking the scenic walk back down.
Need a place to stay?
Look no further than Choice Hotels Quality Hotel Elms located only 4.5 kilometres from the Christchurch CBD and close to shopping, restaurants and cinemas. Our Christchurch accommodation features a range of rooms including standard, executive suites and even a luxury apartment. Guests also have free use of the exercise room and sauna and can enjoy a full buffet breakfast, lunch or dinner at the on-site restaurant. You can also book your stay in a comfortable Riccarton accommodation, located minutes from the Christchurch CBD, at the Quality Suites Amore. Enjoy guest laundry facilities, and a beautiful garden and terrace.