Top Things To Do In Canterbury New Zealand

On any trip finding the best activities to suit you can be a daunting task. Whether you enjoy the outdoors, art and culture, or indulgent treats, the region of Canterbury and its city of Christchurch have it all. Here are just a few of my favourite things to do in Christchurch and Canterbury!

Bay walks around Port Hills

Just a short drive from Christchurch’s centre is the beautiful area of the Port Hills. A range of gentle tracks and steeper climbs are rewarded with incredible views of the city, the surrounding bays, a peek of the port town Lyttleton, and even all the way towards the Southern Alps. A popular spot for locals, cyclists, and tourists alike, you’ll get just a taste of the wonderful New Zealand scenery.

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Port Hills Views

Spot street art around Christchurch

Christchurch CBD is a hub of arts and culture. From Christchurch art gallery to public art installations, there is a whole host of creativity across the city. The street art found throughout the area has put Christchurch on the map as one of the most popular destinations in the world for a vibrant street art scene according to Lonely Planet. With contemporary and edgy works on almost every corner, hunting down your favourites make for a relaxed, insightful, and free activity to enjoy on any day.

Dip your toes in Lake Tekapo

Around a 3 hour drive south from Christchurch is the small town of Lake Tekapo on the edge of its namesake body of water. With fantastically blue waters fed from the Southern Alps and nestled between hills and mountains, it’s the second largest lake of the McKenzie basin, following Lake Pukaki overlooking Mount Cook. A popular destination to enjoy light walks, seeing the famous Church of the Good Shepard, and stargazing at the Mount John University Observatory, spending time in Lake Tekapo is peaceful and full of family-friendly activities. On warmer days, spending time by the lake with a picnic and good book is the perfect way to unwind, and those braver visitors can even dare to try the chilly waters for a refreshing swim.

Calm waters at the lakefront in Tekapo, New Zealand
Lake Tekapo

Relax at the Hanmer Springs Hot Pools

Less than 2 hours drive inland from Christchurch is the alpine town and resort of Hanmer Springs. The perfect weekend getaway for romantic relaxation or family fun alike, the Hot Pools steal the show with their choice of naturally heated mineral waters to enjoy a soak. If more lively activity is more your thing, Hanmer Springs has that too! Needless to say you won’t be bored surrounded by picturesque views and with plenty of enjoyable and unique ways to spend your time.

Bridge over a braided river in a mountain valley
Valley of Hanmer Springs

See wild dolphins in Kaikoura 

A beautiful winding road trip from Christchurch takes you north to the coastal town of Kaikoura after around 3 hours drive. The highlight of visiting this stunning seaside location is the marine life encounters available, exploring the coastal countryside with short waterfall walks, and spotting the adorable wild seals laze by the water.  Dolphin and whale watching experiences are a must-do for many visitors to New Zealand, as the unusual geography is a haven of abundant sea creatures. Seeing literally hundreds of dolphins playfully swim besides boats, completely naturally and without encouragement is a marvel to behold. In addition to the animal sightings, visitors can even get the chance to swim amongst these fascinating and graceful creatures. A once-in-a-lifetime chance that can’t be missed!

A dolphin swims alongside a boat in Kaikoura
Playful Dolphin

Take a road trip to Arthur’s Pass

At roughly 2 hours drive from Christchurch, Arthur’s Pass is an unmissable treasure of New Zealand landscape and perfectly preserved nature. Well worth every second of the beautiful drive through the mountains, eventually reaching the tiny village of Arthur’s Pass visitors are spoiled for choice with walks, hikes, and other adventurous outdoor activities. The valley is the perfect place to escape and explore in its own right, but is also a convenient stopover on the way to or from the West Coast (read about my cross-country road trip here). Will walks to suit all abilities, it won’t be long before you catch a glimpse of snow-capped mountains and crashing waterfalls, truly in the heart of New Zealand wilderness.

Cascading waterfalls surrounded by rocks and trees
Devil’s Punchbowl Waterfall in Arthur’s Pass

Eat fish & chips in the historical town of Akaroa

A short 75km from Christchurch, access to Akaroa is by a beautiful drive along the peninsula, either by car or from one of the regular shuttle buses operated from the city. There’s plenty to do in this popular tourist spot, from boat rides, kayaking, visiting the Giant’s House, walking tracks, or getting lost in the views of this volcanic peninsula. One thing not to miss in Akaroa is sampling the fresh catch of the day at the fish and chip shop. A healthy portion means this tasty meal will set you up for all the adventures of your day!

Overcast day overlooking the hills at a bay
Akaroa

Catch an improv show at The Court

With plenty of outdoor experiences being a highlight of Canterbury and Christchurch, the chance to enjoy top class entertainment might be a welcome break. The Court theatre is home to several incredible new plays and productions, and their twice-weekly improv show Scared Scriptless is an evening of laughter and witty skits that is sure to get you giggling.

Red theatre seats with black background

Enjoy the sea breeze at New Brighton Pier

Strangely similar to the Brighton we know in the UK, New Brighton is a quick bus ride from the centre of town in Christchurch, and an easy way to enjoy some sunshine and sea on a good day. If beachy walks along the sand are your thing, this is a great spot (but bring a jacket as it can be windy!). The long pier provides beautiful coastal views, and if you’re an early bird you can catch a stunning sunrise to start your day. If you visit at the right time of year in February, the Coast to Coast race finishes here with athletes having biked, canoed, and run from the West Coast. The event is rounded off nicely with a family-friendly atmosphere and fair going into the late summer evening.

A pier extends into the sea from the beach on a cloudless day
New Brighton Pier

Discover historical coastal defences at Godley Head

A sheer cliff drop along the side of a twisty road makes for an thrilling drive to Godley Head. Less than an hour away from the city, the route along Summit Road is quiet with the main cause of traffic coming from New Zealand’s wooly creatures. Gentle sloping walks along the coastline take you to abandoned and eery bunkers used in WWII. Informative, unusual, and with the backdrop of beautiful ocean views across the Pacific this is an easy way to spend time away from busy city life.

Grab a drink at New Regent Street

Transport yourself to a Prohibition Era style outing at New Regent Street, right in the heart of Christchurch. With a choice of quaint shops, bars, and cafes, it’s the perfect place to enjoy unique and independent establishments that encompass the Christchurch character. While sipping on a refreshing beverage at 20s bar The Last Word, or people watching from The Institution, you can watch the world go by in this preserved piece of Christchurch history. Best of all, the famous heritage tram makes its way through the street and into the nearby mall, making for quite the event at every passing.

New Regent Street
New Regent Street

 

As you can see, just one region of this incredible country is enough to fill an itinerary for at least a couple of weeks depending on how in depth you’d like your excursions to be. What are your favourite Christchurch and Canterbury things to do?

Pinterest image of Mount Cook with overlay title text
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20 Replies to “Top Things To Do In Canterbury New Zealand”

  1. Yay! Lake Tekapo is a dream and I’m really loving the cool, blue waters here in NZ.

    This post is very timely. We’re currently in New Zealand right now, in North Island. I’ve been gathering places to visit in the South for our trip early next year and this was very helpful! I’ve pinned for later. 🙂

  2. I’ve never read a guide where I want to do every single thing on the list!! Lake Tahoe sounds amazing and I’d love to hike up to see views!! This makes me want to go to New Zealand even more

  3. New Zealand’s at the top of my bucket list and I love street art so will for sure be adding Christchurch to my itinerary for when I do visit. Lovely recommendations and I’ll keep this in my bookmark. Thanks for sharing!!

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