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19 of the Best Things to Do in Christchurch: Beaches, Walks and the City Centre

19 of the Best Things to Do in Christchurch: Beaches, Walks and the City Centre

A visit to Christchurch will likely never be the most memorable part of your trip to New Zealand. You’ll almost definitely end up there at some point on your travels around the South Island though, and there are plenty of fun things to do in Christchurch including some nice beaches, hikes and the historic city centre. I’d advise you to only spend a night or two in Christchurch, and if you do that you’ll be able to pack your itinerary with some fun activities. Keep reading for my list of the best things to do In Christchurch!

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Things to Do in Christchurch: The City Centre

Christchurch’s city centre was decimated by the 2010 / 2011 earthquakes, but it’s slowly finding its feet again. Every time we visit it looks a little different, and it’s now a nice place to wander for a few hours.

Cathedral Square

The focal point of Christchurch’s city centre took a bit of a hammering during the earthquakes. The cathedral is now a blocked off ruin and plenty of the other nearby old buildings were destroyed too. These days it’s still a decent place to hang out. There are lots of seating areas, some food trucks and it’s close to most of the places listed below.

Things to do in Christchurch, New Zealand -- Cathedral Square

New Regent Street

If there was an award for prettiest street in New Zealand, New Regent Street would be in the running. Right in the heart of the central city, New Regent Street is lined with colourful shop houses dating back almost a century. It’s a cool place to go and grab a coffee, a beer or an ice-cream and there are also some nice restaurants there.

New Regent Street, Christchuch, New Zealand

The Avon River

The Avon River rambles its way through the centre of the city, through the botanic gardens and beyond. It’s the perfect place for a pleasant stroll and there are some interesting things to see along the way. My favourite spot along the Avon River is the Antigua Boat Sheds – it’s a photogenic spot and from there you can organise a punting trip.

Things to do in Christchurch, New Zealand -- Antigua Boat Sheds

Christchurch Botanic Gardens

This is one of the better botanic gardens in New Zealand and there is heaps to explore. Some of the nicer sections of the Avon River wind through the gardens and there are heaps of flowers and plants to check out if you’re into that kind of thing.

Things to do in Christchurch, New Zealand -- the Botanic Gardens

Christchurch Museum

If you’re visiting Christchurch on a rainy day, or you just want to absorb some knowledge, a trip to the Canterbury Museum is a good idea. It’s located at the entrance to the gardens, a short walk from Antigua Boat Sheds, and is full of all sorts of informative displays from various points in New Zealand’s history.

Things to do in Christchurch, New Zealand -- Canterbury Museum

Touring Central Christchurch on the Tram

If you’re short on time, or just don’t want to use your legs too much, a tour of central Christchurch on the historic trams is a fun option. We were hosted a couple of years ago and it was a great experience. The stops include most of the sights worth seeing in the city and you can even sit on the same seat as Prince Harry! If that doesn’t get you excited, I don’t know what will.

The Tram, a great way to explore some of the best things to do in Christchurch, New Zealand

Little High Eatery

Little High Eatery, a collection of small restaurants in a hawker centre style cluster, is one of the best places to eat in Christchurch. We were enticed there by Bacon Brothers (a highly rated burger joint) and ended up returning to try some of the other food on offer. There’s a nice vibe, with indoor and outdoor seating, and everything we tried there was delicious. Another good burger options are Burger Fuel or Smash Palace (temporarily closed), which are within walking distance.

Little High Eatery, Christchurch, New Zealand

Cardboard Cathedral

This odd-looking building was erected after the earthquakes as a temporary replacement for the Christchurch Cathedral. It’s a unique church and is only a short walk from the other places on this list, so you may as well check it out.

Cardboard Cathedral, Christchurch, New Zealand

Earthquake Memorials

There are a few memorials, including the 185 empty chairs (one for every life lost) display in central Christchurch. These earthquakes (especially the second one) had a huge impact on the city, both physically and psychologically and you’ll notice the influence when walking around the city.

Thing to do in Christchurch, New Zealand -- Earthquake memorials

Street Art

There are some cool street art murals in Christchurch – you’ll see heaps when walking around the central city. They come and go a bit as construction booms – I’m not entirely sure if it’s worth seeking them out specifically but they are nice to look at when making your way between the sights.

Street art in Christchurch, New Zealand

Other Things to Do in Christchurch City Centre

There are some other galleries and museums to explore in Christchurch. You could also catch a show at the Isaac Theatre Royal, a game of rugby (the seemingly unstoppable Crusaders are based in Christchurch) or go for a night of bar hopping.

Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch, New Zealand

The Suburbs

You’re unlikely to visit most of Christchurch’s suburbs, but there are a few worth seeking out. These are mostly centred on the coastline and are home to some of the best beaches in the area. Also check out the Antarctic Centre, which we haven’t visited yet so haven’t added to this list!

Sumner Beach

If it’s a hot summer’s day in Christchurch, a visit to a beach could be just what you need. Sumner Beach is a decent city beach (it has nothing on St Clair Beach in Dunedin though) and there are some nice cafes and restaurants nearby.

Sumner Beach, Christchurch, New Zealand

New Brighton Beach and Pier

New Brighton Beach is massive, but the best part to visit is the New Brighton Pier, which extends 300 metres into the ocean (apparently it’s the longest pier in Australasia). I’ve seen some amazing photos of this place at sunrise, so it might be getting up early if you’re into photography.

New Brighton Pier, Christchurch, New Zealand

Riccarton House

Riccarton House is one of the most famous old buildings in suburban Christchurch and is worth a look if you’re into history. There’s a café there and the surrounds are very peaceful. The house sits next to Riccarton Bush, one of the last tracts of native forest in Christchurch. If you’re in Riccarton, you could also check out the mall – it’s the biggest in the South Island and has everything you’ve come to expect from a mall.

Riccarton House, one of the best things to do in Christchurch, New Zealand

Orana Wildlife Park

This place is a bit of a drive from the city but it’s a great place to visit, especially if you’re looking for things to do in Christchurch with kids. We don’t have kids and we loved Orana Wildlife Park (we were hosted, just so you know!)– there are heaps of exotic animals and the zoo has done a great job housing them. Highlights include the gorillas and seeing a kiwi, New Zealand’s national symbol.

Orana Wildlife Park, Christchurch, New Zealand

The Port Hills and Banks Peninsula

For some of the best views in Christchurch, head to the Port Hills and Banks Peninsula. There are plenty of walks in this area or, if you’re feeling lazy or are short on time, you could just do the gondola.

Godley Head Track

I haven’t done all the hikes in Christchurch, but I can’t imagine any of the others coming close to the Taylors Mistake to Godley Head hike. You won’t see better coastal views in Christchurch and the scenes are quite varied. First you walk up above Taylors Mistake Beach and then along to Godley Head, where you’ll see great views of the harbour. There are also some historic gun buildings to check out.

Christchurch Gondola

For the best views of Christchurch that don’t require breaking a sweat, head up the Christchurch Gondola. The views from the top overlook the city and distant mountains in one direction, the coastline in another and the harbour and small settlements including Lyttleton in the other. There’s a restaurant at the top and there are some short tracks where you’ll see the best views. We were hosted by Christchurch Gondola back in 2018.

Things to do in Christchurch, New Zealand -- Christchurch Gondola


Christchurch’s port town features some nice places to eat and drink and is a quieter alternative to staying in the centre of the city. There are some short walks there, including the track to Corsair Bay (or you can just drive there).

Corsair Bay / Cass Bay

These two bays are a short drive (or a scenic walk) from Lyttleton and are worth checking out on a nice sunny day. There are tracks on either side of the bays and you’ll get some nice views of the harbour and Banks Peninsula.

Governors Bay and Diamond Harbour

A little further around from Cass Bay you’ll reach Governors Bay. There’s a café there with a great view and there are some short walks nearby. It’s a nice little spot and the vibe is very different to the suburban beach spots like Sumner and New Brighton.

Diamond Harbour is a great spot too. You can catch a boat there from Lyttleton or enjoy the scenic drive. There are also a few walks around Diamond Harbour if you’re keen to stretch your legs.

Tumbledown Bay

In the other direction (the main road to Akaroa) you’ll find the turnoff to Tumbledown Bay and Te Oka Bay. It’s really scenic drive and the beaches are far different than you’ll see closer to Christchurch. The road to Akaroa has quite a few places to stop, and Akaroa itself is definitely worth a visit.

Day Trips from Christchurch

I’ll be writing a full post about the day trip options from Christchurch, so I won’t go into too much detail here. Some of the best day trips include Akaroa, a cute little town with a French influence, Kaikoura (where you can see whales and dolphins), and inland areas including Castle Hill, Rakaia Gorge and beyond. It’s obviously better to spend a night or two in some of these places though, so do that if you can!

Hiking the Rakaia Gorge Walkway, New Zealand

Did you enjoy our list of things to do in Christchurch? Let us know in the comments below!

Disclaimer: We were hosted by Orana Wildlife Park and Christchurch Attractions (for the gondola and tram tour). All thoughts and opinions are our own.

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Jon Algie

I'm a South Island local -- born in Timaru and raised in Dunedin. I left the island in 2006 and returned 10 years later. Having seen a good chunk of the world I realised how special this place is -- the most beautiful island in the world! Seven years (and almost 400 posts) later I'm still helping locals and tourists alike plan their trips around the South Island.