I’ll be completely honest (as usual): we did not have a great first impression of Christchurch, New Zealand. The 2010 and especially 2011 earthquakes destroyed 90% of Christchurch’s buildings. Ninety percent. That is an almost unimaginable amount of ruin. But all these years later, they are rebuilding at an alarming rate!
As visitors who didn’t realizes the circumstances, it took us a while to see this diamond quite literally waiting in the rough. My hope and intent is that this itinerary will help you enjoy Christchurch to the absolute fullest, and with no delay!
Get breakfast at your accommodation or swing by one of the many fantastic cafes around Christchurch. New Regent Street is home to many, but you’ll find them throughout downtown as well!
Stop 1: Quake City Museum
NZ$20 (Save $2 by purchasing your tickets at the Christchurch iSite!)
Open 10:00am-5:00pm Daily
This fantastic museum should certainly be your first event in Christchurch. You cannot visit Christchurch today without seeing the aftermath of the earthquakes. It’s very important for visitors to understand what happened and what’s being done all these years later. And believe it or not, the museum is also quite entertaining! You can create your own earthquake, rebuild Christchurch, and more!
Some of the highlights for me were the timeline of other major earthquakes in the Canterbury region; the short security camera video showing the moment the February 21, 2011, earthquake (that 40 seconds went on FOREVER); and seeing artifacts from the many once-grand churches that crumbled. Of the seven major historic churches in town, only one still stands.
Stop 2: Lunch
There are plenty of lunch options all over town, so choose a cuisine that will fill you up and keep you satisfied. You have quite a walk ahead of you, but it will be most worth your while! Find out where to eat in my What to Eat on New Zealand’s South Island blog post!
Stop 3: Christchurch Guided Walk at 1:00pm
Tours daily 10:00am and 1:00pm October-April; 1:00pm May-September (book at Christchurch iSite by 11:45am during July and August)
This is hands-down the best thing we did in Christchurch. The Canterbury Museum is the starting point, but walking around the rubble while having someone point out the new construction and restoration is an even better way to appreciate Christchurch and its rebirth! The tour goes beyond that to show you even more charms of the “Garden City,” as Christchurch is known. Our tour guide, Jane, was born and raised in Christchurch and is a fountain of knowledge!
Stop 4: Explore the Christchurch Botanical Gardens
Open 7:00am-6:30pm Daily
Your tour will start and end just outside the Christchurch Botanical Gardens, so this is a perfect opportunity to enjoy its beauty. There are acres to explore, and several benches to rest upon and enjoy the greenspace and colorful flowers. Be on the lookout for a variety of birds as well!
Stop 5: Supper at Fiddlesticks
This was definitely an information-heavy day, so you’ve earned a fabulous supper! Fiddlesticks is just a couple of blocks away from the Botanical Gardens, and you’ll find both friendly service and delicious local food here. You won’t leave hungry, but make sure you save room for dessert!
Begin your second day in Christchurch with breakfast at Ilex Cafe in the Botanical Gardens or at the Museum Cafe inside the Canterbury Museum, both of which open at 9:00am.
Stop 1: Canterbury Museum
Open 9:00am-5:00pm Daily
You may have stepped inside the Canterbury Museum yesterday on your walking tour, but I encourage you to explore further. This free museum does a great job of both showing and telling the history of the Canterbury region, including the Maori people, the long-extinct Moa, and the region’s European founding in the 1850s.
There is also a moving and informative exhibit on World War I and its lasting affects on the region. To my embarrassment, I knew very little of the first World War until the last couple of years. America’s involvement in World War II was much greater and much longer, and it so overshadowed the First, but I am learning more and more about the importance and cost of World War I, and this museum’s exhibit was enlightening!
Stop 2: Punting on the River Avon
Summer Hours 9:00am-6:00pm
Winter Hours 10:00am-4:00pm
Admittedly, Steve and I did not have this on our list of must-dos, seeing as it was quite chilly in Christchurch during our visit. However, we would have likely made time to enjoy it had we known they take care of their patrons in all weather with warm blankets for the cold, umbrellas, and waterproof blankets for rainy days! It looked like great fun, and you will enjoy live commentary by your dapper, costumed punter!
Stop 3: Lunch on New Regent Street
After an enjoyable time on the Avon, you’ll find a charming lunch on the beautiful New Regent Street. There are many cafes and shops there, all quite popular, and with good reason! There was scaffolding up when we were there, so I did not get a great picture, but the colorful buildings and ornate architecture will be sure to impress when the scaffolding comes down!
Gondola: NZ$28; Open 10:00am-5:00pm
International Antarctic Centre: NZ$59; 9:00am-5:30pm
You should end your visit to Christchurch in a grand way, and either of these two options will fit the bill! You can organize and pay for either with the Christchurch iSite Centre, including transportation to both. The Gondola ride will escort you to breath-taking views of Christchurch, the Canterbury Plains, the Pacific Ocean, and the Southern Alps!
We took advantage of the FREE shuttle to the International Antarctic Centre, just across the street from the Christchurch International Airport, and planned this for our last day in Christchurch. We took our luggage and stored it in the Centre’s large storage lockers! Ee enjoyed learning about the Antarctic, took a ride in an Antarctic vehicle called a hagglund, watched a 4-D movie, and best of all—we got to watch the little blue penguins!
Are you ready for your own Christchurch getaway? Tell me below! Want more? Check out my New Zealand Page!
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