Updated August 10, 2020.
Have you been thinking of visiting New Zealand? It is well worth the time it takes to get there so you can experience the life, the beauty, and the history that’s all waiting for you to discover! Christchurch was a great place to start and end our road trip around New Zealand’s lovely South Island, and here are the top 10 things to do while you’re in town!
10. Visit the 185 White Chairs
You cannot visit Christchurch and ignore the lingering effects of the 2010 and especially 2011 earthquakes. Buildings are shored up, abandoned, or simply no longer exist. The loss of landmarks and monuments is too bad, but the loss of life was certainly more devastating. There is a semi-permanent exhibition of 185 white chairs—one for each person who lost their life in the February 22, 2011, earthquake. It is also just across the street from the former site of the CTV building where 115 of those people died when it collapsed.
More here: What to Know Before You Visit New Zealand
9. Visit the Bridge of Remembrance
Just down the road (and through the main shopping district, for those of you who love to shop!), you will find the Bridge of Remembrance. America doesn’t have many monuments to World War I, but a great many other countries do. New Zealand seemed to have one or more in every town, but this is certainly a lovely one. Somewhat embarrassingly, I know very little about World War I, since America’s role was much bigger in World War II, but I appreciated the effort put into this monument to make it meaningful for the people of New Zealand. It sustained surprisingly little damage in the earthquakes, according to our tour guide.
8. Eat at the OGB
I usually don’t recommend individual restaurants because people’s tastes and food preferences are so different, but I really enjoyed our meal at OGB (that stands for Old Governemnt Building) inside the Heritage Christchurch Hotel. Not only was the food wonderful, the 1910s decor was fantastic! They have indoor and outdoor seating, and the waitstaff dress up in vintage clothes, which I absolutely love. Take a look!
7. Stay at the Heritage Christchurch
Speaking of the Heritage, I highly recommend staying here. It is one of the most beautiful hotels I’ve ever stayed in. Every room is not just a room, they’re all suites! We had a two bed, two full bath suite with a proper kitchen, living, and dining area. There was even a washer and dryer in the downstairs bathroom! The fixtures are beautiful, the staff are kind and friendly, and the grand staircase boasts a stunning stain-glass window as well.
6. Go Punting on the River Avon
If the temperatures had been warmer, we certainly would have been more willing to get into one of these charming boats! All the more reason to return to Christchurch in summer.
5. Stroll through the Botanic Garden
Or run, as Steve and I did one morning! The Royal Botanical Gardens are a beautiful part of Christchurch in every season, even winter! It’s right next to the Canterbury Museum and has its own cafe, so you could certainly spend quite a lot of time here! The river runs right through it, and there are miles of trails and pathways to enjoy! And check out this incredible fountain:
4. Visit the International Antarctic Centre
What a fun experience! You can enjoy a 4-D film, experience an antarctic storm, take a ride in a Haaglund (like an Antarctic AVT!), learn about what it’s like in the Antarctic all year round, and my favorite part… watch the little blue penguins! There is even a sign on the wall next to their home that tells you who’s who and a little about their personalities.
3. Visit Quake City
Again, you cannot visit Christchurch and not be reminded of the earthquakes they suffered several years ago. At first we were completely shocked and thought it looked like they hadn’t even begun to rebuild after 7.5 years. But that is not the case at all. After we found out that 90% of their city had been destroyed, we realized that they have accomplished a great deal, and they are doing all they can–much more than it appeared at first glance! This small museum is excellent, and I would recommend starting your trip here to fully understand and enjoy Christchurch!
2. Take a Trolley Tour
Does it get more adorable than an authentic trolley tour? I think not! This hop-on hop-off tour stops at 17 sites, and the tickets are good all day. The full circuit takes 50 minutes, but you can take all day to fully enjoy the city.
Read next: How to Spend 2 Days in Christchurch
1. Take a Walking Tour
This is the #1 thing on our list for a reason! We thoroughly enjoyed our tour with Judy from Guided City Walks. She was born and raised in Christchurch, and she was an invaluable source of information for us. She took us into beautiful buildings we didn’t know we could enter, pointed out remnants of the earthquakes that have frozen in time, and buildings that have been repaired and strengthened. The tour gave us a much greater understanding of Christchurch and its progress, and it gave us even more reason to return in the future!
Which one sounds like fun to you? Tell me below!
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