Christchurch is a city in recovery. While several years had passed since the first devastating earthquake hit this major city in New Zealand, there is still a lot of work to be done. It’s a city under construction . On one side you notice several buildings in ruins and on the other you see a series of new-builds. For a structural engineer, it’s a fascinating sight to see such contrast but to a tourist, it may be a different story.
Christchurch remains one of the major gateways to the south island of New Zealand, catering to major international flights and local flights from Auckland. Is there much to see in this city after the earthquakes?
Jon and I recently spent two days in Christchurch to see this city with fresh eyes. I have been to Christchurch a couple of times for my engineering job but never really had that much time to explore the city properly. I hardly knew what it had to offer apart from shopping and dining (it is a big city after all) so this time, we took advantage of the two perfect sunny days we had to see what Christchurch had to offer.
Here’s are some idea on how to spend two days in Christchurch:
Explore the City Centre with the Christchurch Tramway
Who doesn’t love tram rides? It’s such a scenic way to explore a city. Jon and I really loved the trams in Europe (I’ll never forget the really cool yellow trams in Budapest, Hungary) so it was great to see something similar close to home.
The Christchurch Tramway was such a fun way to explore the Christchurch city centre. The historic trams are well-restored and add a lot of charm to Christchurch. The tram route is also well catered to tourists with stops along most of the famous landmarks such as the Cathedral Junction, the Avon River, Gothic-style Arts Centre, the Canterbury Museum and New Regent Street.
The Christchurch Tramway costs $25 each for adults and up to 3 children are free per adult. The day-long ticket also means that you can hop-on and hop-off as often from any of the 17 stops as much as you like.
View Christchurch from a Different Vantage Point with the Christchurch Gondola
I am absolutely fascinated with cable cars. The glass bottom cable car experience in Hong Kong is still fresh in my head! The thing I love most about these rides is the freeing sensation when your cable car slowly rises above the ground and of course, the incredible 360 degree views along the way! The Christchurch Gondola offers spectacular views of Christchurch and the unique landscape of the Banks Peninsula. On a clear day, you can see incredible views of the Southern Alps and the Canterbury Plains.
There is a shop and cafe at the top but we highly recommend going out to explore. The top of the gondola meets with the Bridle Path walkway, one of the most popular hikes in Christchurch.
The Christchurch Gondola return ticket costs $30 each for adults and $15 each for children. They also have a family pass (2 adults + up to 3 children) which costs $75.
RELATED POST: Skyline Gondola: The Best Way to See Queenstown in A Day
Take a Stroll along the Avon River
The Avon River is one of Christchurch’s most iconic sights. The Avon river flows along most of the city centre and really makes an impression as you do your city walkabout. There are a lot of interesting sights along this river walk too including the Bridge of Remembrance, the Avon Terraced Seating and the Antigua Boat Sheds. During our visit, there were a lot of people on kayaks and small boats. If you want to explore the Avon River like the old days, you can consider the punting on the Avon River tour which looked pretty cool. It was very similar to the gondolas in Venice!
Spend the Afternoon at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens
Christchurch is known as The Garden City and for good reason! We visited the Christchurch Botanic Gardens in spring and we were just in time to see the tulips and the rhododendrons in full bloom. The expanse and the layout of the Botanic Gardens is fascinating. There are so many different sections with lots of tall trees and lush green spaces. No wonder a lot of the locals seem to spend most of their weekends here! The Christchurch Botanic Gardens are open everyday from 7am and admission is free.
Dine at New Regent Street
New Regent Street is home to some of Christchurch coolest bars, restaurants and cafes including an array of boutique shops. It’s such a refreshing area with its beautiful pastel painted buildings. It reminded me so much of the shop houses in Singapore! New Regent Street is one of the stops of the Christchurch tramway and it was awesome to pass along the narrow streets on a tram car! I can just imagine what it was like in the old days (it must have been quite chaotic but in a pretty cool way)!
We could have spent hours in this area with it’s really cool vibe. But we did have to do some other sightseeing so we settled for a quick dessert at Rollickin’ Gelato which was a pretty sweet spot. What’s your favourite shop at New Regent Street?
Explore Some Fine Architecture
While many of the buildings in Christchurch, including the infamous Christchurch Cathedral are still underway for restoration, there are still a lot of interesting buildings to explore in Christchurch including the Cardboard Cathedral, The Arts Centre and the Canterbury Museum.
Another awesome building we visited is the Riccarton House, a well-restored Victorian/ Edwardian homestead. While you’re there, you can also walk along Christchurch’s last remaining tract of native forest the Riccarton Bush.
Admire the Street Art in Christchurch
Art has been used as a distraction from the damage of the earthquake and the ongoing construction in Christchurch. While some of these art pieces are just temporary, there is growing number of street art displays in the city centre alone!
Do you love Street Art? Then you have to check out the street art in Dunedin. Dunedin is definitely one of New Zealand’s best cities for street art.
Visit Orana Wildlife Park
How often does one get an opportunity to feed a giraffe? One of the highlights of our two days in Christchurch was our visit to Orana Wildlife Park, where Jon and I each got the chance to feed a giraffe! It was such a cool experience shared by many of the other park visitors, kids and adults alike (Don’t worry, we didn’t overfeed the giraffe, each of us had a tiny branch of pine to feed it!). This is but one of many animal encounters that they have.
Jon and I both love animals so it was such a delightful experience to spend the day at Orana Wildlife Park. There were heaps of awesome animals in this open-range zoo including gorillas, white rhinos, lemurs, tigers and lions to name a few. They have wide open spaces for each species and it was almost like the animals were in their natural habitat! Orana Wildlife Park also actively takes part in animal conservation. Apart from providing formal education to children on school trips, throughout the park, they provide information on how we can help save endangered animals such as keeping a dog on a leash to protect kiwi and responsible purchasing (ie only buy certified sustainable palm oil).
During our visit, I also had the chance to see my very first Kiwi bird at Orana Wildlife Park. They are quite hard to spot in the wild so it was great to finally see one. They are a lot bigger than I thought! (Too bad, we can’t take photos.)
Orana Wildlife Park is open daily from 10:00am until 5:00pm. Admission ticket to Orana Wildlife Park costs $34.50 each for adults, $9.50 for children 5 to 14 years old and free for children under 5 years old. If you are up for adventure, Orana Wildlife Park also offers a one of a kind experience called Lion Encounter. Check out the details here.
Do One of the Hikes in Christchurch
If you have a bit of time on your hands, you can do some of the day walks/ hikes in Christchurch. Some of the popular ones include: Bridle Path, Godley Head Track and the Riccarton Bush.
Wander along the Beaches in Christchurch
Christchurch, being next to the coast, is home to some nice beaches including Taylor’s Mistake Beach, Sumner Beach and Brighton Beach. On a nice day, these beaches will be ideal for swimming, sunbathing or a picnic!
Go on a Day Trip to Akaroa
Another great experience close to Christchurch is to go on a day trip to Akaroa. There is a lot to do in this area, which is ideally done as a trip on its own since there are a lot of activities but if you only have a day to spare, make sure to see the hector dolphins in Akaroa. There are also a lot of interesting shops and restaurants in this small town in the Banks Peninsula.
RELATED POST: A Romantic Weekend in Akaroa, New Zealand
Despite the devastating history of this city, there is still a lot of things to see and you can easily keep yourself entertained with two days in Christchurch! Do you have plans to visit Christchurch? What place are you most excited to visit?
Disclaimer: We were hosted by Christchurch Attractions (Christchurch City Tram Tour and Christchurch Gondola) and Orana Wildlife Park during our visit to Christchurch. All thoughts and opinions in this post are our own.