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A City Guide to Christchurch

New Zealand isn’t short on incredible experiences, whether you’re venturing across its undulating landscapes or exploring the unique towns and cities. And no matter your itinerary, no visit to the Land of the Long White Cloud is complete without taking in Christchurch. It’s taken years for this South Island city to recover from the devastating earthquake of 2011, but now it is firmly – and happily – on the mend. Unsurprisingly, resilience, creativity and regeneration are a big deal in this energetic metropolis and, when the sun is shining, it’s one of the most uplifting places in the country.

Having recently visited for myself, I recommend staying here for a day or two, before embarking on a wider New Zealand adventure. Here’s how you should spend your time in spirited Christchurch:

Ride the Christchurch Tram

The Christchurch Tramway is a heritage institution in the city. Hop onboard (and off and back on as you like) and you’ll find yourself immersed in the city’s culture and history, while also getting your bearings. The loop tour is perfect for some laid-back sightseeing and takes in 17 stops around the city, including the Avon River, the Botanic Gardens and New Regent Street.

Soar skywards in the Christchurch Gondola

For 360-degree views across the city and beyond, head for the Christchurch Gondola. During the 10-minute cable car ride you’ll be able to look out across the Canterbury Plains, soak up the Southern Alps and admire the Banks Peninsula – beloved for its pretty bays and coves. At the summit, the postcard-worthy vistas continue; you can even take them in while enjoying a coffee and a snack at the Red Rock Café.

Meet New Zealand’s ‘Big 5’ birds at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve

New Zealand is renowned for its vibrant birdlife. At the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve you’ll be able to observe some of its best known avifauna: kiwi, tuatara, takahe, kaka and kea – aka the ‘Big 5’. The sanctuary is also home to alpacas, pigs, iguanas, otters, lemurs, gibbons and more, offering a great option for a family day out.

Go punting along the Avon River

This has to be one of Christchurch’s most iconic pastimes. It’s one of its most relaxing and romantic experiences too – cruising along the tranquil waterway, watching the world go by, with an Edwardian-dressed guide at the helm. You’ll get to see the city from a completely different vantage point too and, on a warm day, there are few better ways to spend your time here.

Stroll around the Botanic Gardens

Stretching through the heart of Christchurch for more than 50 acres, the Botanic Gardens is one of the most celebrated attractions in the city. A walk around the gardens promises rose gardens, sand dunes, wetlands and well-manicured lawns – no matter the season. In fact, this is a place to be experienced year-round, from the new blooms in springtime and the fall leaves during the autumn, to the perfect summer picnic spots. As for the colder months, the gardens look beautiful in the crisp winter sunshine.

Learn about the icy continent

Located next to Christchurch International Airport, the country’s award-winning International Antarctic Centre is a great way to get to know the frozen continent to the south. You can feel the chill of an Antarctic storm, take a ride on a Hägglund (an all-terrain amphibious Antarctic vehicle), meet huskies and little blue penguins, and feel like you’re really in Antarctica with the 4D theatre experience! Perfect for children and big kids alike, this is a really fun stop-off en route to the airport or city centre.

Visit Christchurch as part of your New Zealand holiday – chat to your Flight Centre Travel Expert for itinerary ideas now!

Written by Alexandra Cronin (Gregg)

Once a roving local news reporter and now a travel-obsessed writer/sub, I'm head-over-heels for nature, wildlife and the ocean. When I'm not getting up close to animals and sea creatures, I'm seeking out the sets of my favourite TV shows around the world. 

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