What to do in Christchurch (even if you’re short on time)

Canterbury Museum in central Christchurch

Have you got some free time in Christchurch? Not sure what to do or where to go when you’ve only got a few hours, half a day or just one day free? Don’t worry! No matter how much time you have to play with, Christchurch has something to offer. Here’s what to do in Christchurch based on how much time you have free.

A few hours before your flight? Head to the International Antarctic Centre

Christchurch International Antarctic Centre

Did you know that Christchurch is considered one of the gateways to Antarctica? It’s one of only 5 cities in the world from which expeditions to Antarctica are launched. You can learn all about the chilly Antarctic environment and its wildlife at the International Antarctic Centre, conveniently located within walking distance of the Christchurch International Airport. Experience a simulated Antarctic storm, ride in a real Hagglund vehicle and encounter cute Little Blue Penguins, all while waiting to catch your next flight!

Address: 38 Orchard Rd, Christchurch Airport, Christchurch 8052
Opening hours: Open daily, 9am – 5:30pm

Little Blue Penguin at Christchurch International Antarctic Centre
Source: Flickr _somaholiday

Half a day in the city? Hit the Re:START Mall and Quake City

You can’t visit Christchurch without learning about the devastating earthquakes that rocked the city in 2010-2011. Since then, the city has been getting back on track by reviving the city centre, and the best place to get a feel for that revival is with a trip to the Re:START Mall.

Re:START Mall in Christchurch

A stroll through the Re:START Mall shows you how the city has rebuilt since the earthquakes, with a brilliant new shopping hub built completely out of shipping containers. The colourful containers and its vibrant vibe invite you to walk through the quirky boutiques, book stores, food stands and more.

Quake City exhibit in Christchurch, New Zealand.

While you’re there, make sure you visit the unique Quake City exhibition. Here you can learn about the science behind the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010-2011 as well as the personal stories of those who experienced it, giving you a better and deeper understanding of Christchurch history and its people.

Address: Re:START Mall, 92-99 Cashel St, Christchurch Central
Opening hours: Open daily, 10am – 5pm

Full free day in the city? Check out how the “Garden City” got its nickname

If you’ve got a full free day, discover why Christchurch’s nicknamed the “Garden City” and wander through the gorgeous Christchurch Botanic Gardens and Canterbury Museum. Best of all, your free day will be FREE of charge too, because both the Botanic Gardens and Canterbury Museum have free entry.

Flowers on a sunny days in Christchurch Botanic Gardens
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Ideally situated near the city centre, the Botanic Gardens is the perfect place for a leisurely stroll on a sunny day and picnic on the grass, with live music performances throughout the summer. With an impressive collection of different plants and flowers, this relaxing setting will also have you pulling out your camera to capture the stunning flora around every turn.

After you’ve wandered through the gardens, your next stop should be the Canterbury Museum, right beside the Botanic Garden, to learn about Canterbury’s natural and human history and outlook for the future. With both permanent and travelling exhibitions on display, there is always something new to see and explore in one of Christchurch’s most beautiful historic buildings. And best of all, it’s free (although a donation upon entry is appreciated)!

Canterbury Museum in central Christchurch
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Address: Rolleston Ave, Christchurch Central, Christchurch 8013
Opening hours:
Botanic Gardens – open daily from 7am (closing time varies depending on time of year)
Canterbury Museum – open daily from 9am – 5pm

Got more time?

If you’ve got more than a day, you have the freedom to do any or all of the activities described above, plus plan an excursion out of the city centre. Nearby Akaroa is a popular day trip to visit New Zealand’s only historic French colonial settlement and a stunning natural harbour that’s home to a variety of marine and bird life. Get there by shuttle from Christchurch or hire a car, and then spend the day walking the peninsula tracks, enjoying a nature cruise or just wandering around the historic town.

How to get to Christchurch:

By bus: Christchurch is an overnight stop on all Stray Journeys tours that include the South Island. Since the14 November 2016 earthquake in Kaikoura, the hop-on, hop-off passes stay overnight in Christchurch as well, with the option to hop off for travellers keen to explore the South Island’s largest city.

By plane: The Christchurch International Airport is a main hub for accessing the South Island, with several flights each day from Auckland and Wellington


Have you spent free time in Christchurch? What do you think are the ‘must see’ highlights for visitors? Tell us in the comments below!

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