Things to do for partners, family, pre and post touring

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Experience Christchurch

Renowned for the timeless beauty of its parks and gardens, Christchurch is now a city focused on the future. It is rebuilding post-earthquakes for a new generation, while carefully restoring its heritage.

Christchurch is the international gateway to the coastal and alpine playgrounds of New Zealand’s South Island. Nestled on the picturesque Canterbury Plains between the Pacific Ocean and the spectacular Southern Alps, it is the perfect hub from which to explore some of the country’s most stunning mountains, forests, lakes, rivers, harbours and beaches.

Local Attractions

Buskers Festival

A great variety of free and ticketed events mainly in the central city, both during the day and in the evening Jan 10th - Feb 3rd


Practice your swing at one of almost 60 golf courses in Christchurch and the wider Canterbury region. No matter what your ability there are options to suit, from world-class Championship courses to delightful country courses, many with stunning scenery of the Canterbury foothills and Southern Alps. There is even a golf course right in the middle of Christchurch city, in Hagley Park, one of the world's largest inner city parks.


There are many stunning rivers and lakes throughout the Canterbury region offering the opportunity to fish for trout or salmon. Professional guides can show you the region’s top fishing spots and provide transport, equipment, licences and tuition if required. Deep sea fishing or diving charters are available along the Canterbury coastline.

Catfish are a pest in NZ. If you catch any, you have to kill it and NOT return it to the water. You can catch as many as you like as long as you kill it immediately after catching it. Catfish by DOC and NIWA. Recent article.

You can't fish, feed, take or kill any fish or marine life at Marine reserves. There's two marine reserves off Akaroa / Banks Peninsula. Akaroa and Pohatu Marine reserves.

Botanic Gardens

Christchurch is known as New Zealand’s “Garden City”, with one acre of parkland and gardens for every eight acres of developed and residential land. The Christchurch Botanic Gardens, on the banks of the Avon River, are home to one of the finest assortments of native and exotic plants in New Zealand

The Arts Centre

The former site of the University of Canterbury, this is a series of stone Gothic Revival buildings in the central city, held in trust for the people of Canterbury and its visitors. Cafes, galleries etc - a favourite place for a wander.

Margaret Mahy Playground

Alongside the Avon River, just a couple of blocks from Cathedral Square, lies the most fun to have come out of the post-quake Rebuild. In the biggest playground south of the equator, more than two hectares are devoted to supplying the means for play and adventure of all sorts, appealing to a wide range of ages.

More about the Margaret Mahy Playground: Oct 2018 article, Wikipedia, Trip Advisor. NZ Institute of Landscape Architects


Akaroa is a historic French and British settlement nestled in the heart of an ancient volcano. Explore the village with its colonial architecture, galleries, craft stores, and cafés. An hour and a half drive from the centre of Christchurch, the route is a scenic road that winds through the hills of Banks Peninsula. There are many tours departing from the centre of the city that will take you out there, include a few activities, and bring you back in the afternoon.

The drive to Akaroa itself is great, but once there, check out the cute little cottages up the side streets; have a coffee in one of the many waterfront cafes, or:

  • Hire a kayak from one of the kiosks on the water or take a guided tour.
  • Take a nature cruise and see dolphins, penguins and an abundance of sea birds.
  • Swim with dolphins: the worlds smallest, rarest and friendliest dolphins, the Hector Dolphins
  • The "Giant's House". Quirky original artworks, sculptures and mosaics in a terraced garden.

Punting on the Avon

Glide along the water through the Botanic Gardens and Hagley Park in luxury in a traditional English punt. A skilled gondolier will gently guide you downstream on the Avon River, providing commentary as you pass by iconic Christchurch attractions.

Helicopter Scenic Flights

Enjoy a magnificent scenic helicopter flight over Christchurch, Pacific Ocean beaches and the harbours and hills of Banks Peninsula. Or, fly above the mighty Southern Alps and Canterbury High Country for scenic flying at it's best.

International Antarctic Centre

Shelter in an ice cave, ride in a genuine Antarctic all-terrain vehicle or brave the wind, snow and ice of an Antarctic storm at Christchurch’s International Antarctic Centre. Don’t miss the penguin encounter, the 4D movie experience, and the wonderful Antarctica exhibits

Wildlife and other animals

Hector Dolphin
Hector Dolphin is the world's smallest and rarest dolphin. They can be seen around South Island. notably near the Banks peninsula. There's a few tourist activities including Taking boat cruises to see the dolphins and swimming with the dolphins. DoC, Wikipedia. Black Cat Cruises appear to have good reviews.
There's a kororā ( aka little blue penguin colony in Banks peninsula. Little blue penguins. Pohaty Penguins offfer tours. I haven't been but the reviews look good.
kororā at the International Antarctic Centre - This is a sanctuary for rescue penguins.
Kiwi, Kea, Kaka, Weka, Kakariki, Tuatara
Kiwi at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. Kiwis are nocturnal creatures. However there is an opportunity to view a kiwi in real life at Willowbank wildlife reserve.
The Brown kiwi can also been seen at the Nocturnal House at Orana Wildlife Park.
NZ Natives at Willowbank and Orana Wildlife parks.
Cat Cafe
Catnap Cafe is a cat cafe in Christchurch. Google Map link, The Press' Aug 2018 review article, TripAdvisor, Facebook,

Hot Air Ballooning

Escape to a world of peace and tranquility as you soar high above the Canterbury plains, with magnificent views over the Canterbury foothills, the mighty Southern Alps and over to Aoraki Mt Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain.

Jet Boating

Experience the spectacular scenery of the Waimakariri or Rakaia Rivers at speed on an exhilarating jet boat ride. Twist, turn and surge through narrow gorges and braided shallows, against a backdrop of the towering Southern Alps.

Tranz Alpine train journey

Climb aboard one of the world's most famous train journeys, between Christchurch and Greymouth. Stunning scenery will take your breath away. Make it a day trip, or choose a scenic escape for overnight packages with accommodation and activities.


The Port Hills have a world class mountain bike park.


There are many tracks around the city and in the nearby countryside.

For further info, checkout Christchurch's official tourist info site They provide a free booking service for accommodation, activities and transport throughout Christchurch, Canterbury and New Zealand.

Day Tramp in the Alps

Take a shuttle bus to Arthur's Pass village. Many scenic walks in the area. Warning: This can be a challenging alpine environment, make sure you are prepared, suitably dressed, good walking shoes and clothes as weather is extremely changeable. Check the weather report before you go and register your intentions at the DoC visitor center.


NZ Transport Agency for planning journey times, road conditions. They deal with state highways. There's links to apps there that you can install to get alerts in real time.

Local councils within towns have the info on local roads. Example NZTA's map shows the Christchurch Motorways that they work on but not the roads. Christchurch Transport has info public transport, cycling and traffic updates.

Three-day sample itinerary

Check the weather report at

Day One: Sightseeing on the Avon

A quintessential introduction to Canterbury incorporates a stroll through the beautiful Botanic Gardens on the banks of the Avon River to discover why Christchurch is called ‘The Garden City’. Or enjoy the view from the water, taking a traditional water gondola and punting down the river in luxury. Then jump on a historic tram for a loop to see some of the brilliant artwork and design projects underway in the central city.

Thermal pools or thrill-seeking Continue on to the alpine spa village of Hanmer Springs (just under 2 hours drive), and spend the afternoon relaxing in the natural thermal pools or indulge in a spa treatment. Alternatively, venture into the nearby Waiau Gorge for an afternoon of excitement. Thrillseekers Adventures specialises in jet boating, white water rafting, canoeing, bungy jumping, quad biking and mountain biking experiences for incentive groups.

(Discount available for Heritage Hotels Hanmer: [This code is valid throughout January 2019])

Day Two: A flight to remember

Wake early for a majestic hot air balloon or helicopter ride over Canterbury. Flights depart in time for you to watch the morning sun roll in over the plains. Once you are back on solid ground, enjoy a celebratory glass of chilled bubbly.

Classic country charm

Depart mid-morning for Terrace Downs High Country Resort. Enjoy a gourmet barbecue lunch while overlooking the stunning foothills of the Southern Alps before playing a round of golf on the resort’s championship course. If golf is not for you, there are plenty of other activities to keep you occupied. Try your hand at clay pigeon shooting, archery, go salmon or trout fishing, take a horse trek or indulge in a spa treatment at The Spa.

Finish the day off with dinner at one of the resort’s three on-site dining options before retiring to your suite.

Day Three: Rolling plains and highland lakes

Sit back and enjoy a sightseeing drive through the Canterbury plains, passing the mirror-like lakes of the MacKenzie High Country and the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd on the shores of Lake Tekapo. Stop for lunch at Peppers Bluewater Resort before taking a relaxing soak in the hot pools overlooking the lake.

Cosy luxury or Alpine adventure

Travel by coach or chartered plane to the renowned Hermitage Hotel at the base of Aoraki Mount Cook, New Zealand’s tallest mountain. Whether you’re up for adventure or simply want to cosy down by the fire, all guests are catered for at the Hermitage. Afternoon activities include alpine 4WD tours, heli-hiking, mountain hikes or a scenic flight over the nearby glaciers, or head out on the mighty Tasman Glacier Lake for a boat trip, fly fishing or kayaking adventure.

Southern skies stargazing

After a sumptuous dinner, make the most of the clear mountain air for a fantastic final night of stargazing. Take a guided tour from Mt Cook village or Lake Tekapo to experience the magnificent night sky within the [Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, the largest gold-rated reserve of its kind in the world.

Visit a "Lord of the Rings" location

The fictional location Edoras was set on Mount Potts Sheep Station in the headwaters of the Rangitata River.

Plan on a full day trip there and back from Christchurch - and the last part of the journey is over unpaved roads in an isolated area. No cell phone coverage is available in the area. Warm and waterproof clothing should be carried as weather in this region is changeable. Note, the film set is no longer there! (directions via Openstreetmap).

A short walking track takes you from the roadside to the low peak. From the peak you have views of the wide braided Rangitata river, the wide expanses of the native grasses in the river basin back to the snow fields and glaciers and peaks of the Southern Alps.

(There are of course heaps of other LOTR locations throughout New Zealand)

Further afield

New Zealand is full of things to do. The hardest thing for you, will be deciding what to do first. Every region will provide you with a unique experience. So stay a little longer to make sure you get to see more of 100% Pure New Zealand.

North Island

Shop for designer clothes, scale New Zealand’s tallest building (The SkyTower) and savour fine food and wine in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. Situated alongside three sparkling harbours and flanked by black sand beaches and native forest to the west, this multicultural hub offers the perfect mix of urban chic and outdoor excitement.
Meander through themed public gardens and along riverside trails in Hamilton. This heartland city offers an eclectic mix of metropolitan culture and rural charm and is famed for its proximity to must-do attractions like Hobbiton Movie Set and the Waitomo Caves.
Hobbiton Movie Set
About 10 kilometres southwest of Matamata, in the Waikato. Unlike other LOTR filming locations this is 'as you remember it' from the films.
Immerse yourself in Māori culture and exhilarating outdoor adventure in Rotorua. Built amidst a geothermal landscape of steaming geysers and bubbling mudpools, this tourist hotspot is home to many quintessential Kiwi experiences, from white water rafting and offroad 4WD to spine tingling Māori cultural performances.
Enjoy a guided wine tour through the celebrated vineyards of Hawke’s Bay. The city of Napier is New Zealand’s Art Deco centre and has fantastic history, a picturesque shoreline, and just the right climate for delicious orchard fruits.
Dine on fine food, craft beers and world class coffee in the harbour side city of Wellington. Dubbed the “coolest little capital in the world” by Lonely Planet, Wellington also offers top opportunities for wildlife spotting and cultural discovery at the renowned national museum, Te Papa

South Island

Just under 2 hours from Christchurch, Hanmer Springs is home to natural thermal pools, extensive forests and many adventure sports options - and a main street filled with boutique shops, cafes and eateries.
Explore the long golden beaches, alpine lakes and enchanting forests of the Nelson region by kayak, car or bicycle. Home to three national parks, this region is a favourite holiday spot for New Zealanders and so beautiful you’ll never want to leave.
Marlborough Sounds
Discover the many coves of the beautiful Marlborough Sounds on a cruise, or cycle through vineyards on a wine-tasting tour. A visit to Marlborough is incomparable, glorious sunshine, delicious food, and luxurious resorts make this area a joy to visit.
Find inspiration amongst the unforgettable landscape of Queenstown. This four-season resort is known as the adventure capital of the world. It also offers plenty of opportunity for lakeside dining, boutique shopping and tours of the region’s rich gold mining history.
Broaden your mind in Dunedin, home to grand old buildings and New Zealand’s oldest university. See penguins, sea lions and albatross on the nearby Otago Peninsula and experience one of the great scenic train journeys on the Taieri Gorge Railway.
Selwyn District
The Selwyn district stretches across the Canterbury Plains and is bounded by the Rakaia and Waimakariri Rivers, with Arthur’s Pass National Park in the Southern Alps to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east.

For further info visit the official NZ tourist site.