The Botanic Gardens comprise 30 riverside hectares planted with 10,000-plus specimens of indigenous and introduced plants. There are conservatories and thematic gardens to explore, lawns to sprawl on, and a cafe at the Botanic Gardens visitors centre. Get the kids active in the playground adjacent to the cafe. Guided walks depart daily from the Canterbury Museum, or you can ride around the gardens in the electric ‘Caterpillar’ train. Hop-on, hop-off tickets are valid for two days and include a commentary.
The absorbing Canterbury Museum has a wonderful collection of items of significance to NZ. Highlights include the Maori gallery, with some stunning pounamu (greenstone) pieces on display; the coracle in the Antarctic Hall used by a group shipwrecked on Disappointment Island in 1907; and a wide array of stuffed bird life from the Pacific and beyond. Don’t miss the statuesque Emperor penguin. Guided tours (donations appreciated) run from 3.30pm to 4.30pm on Tuesday and Thursday. Kids will enjoy the interactive displays at Discovery (admission $2).
Orana Wildlife Park
Orana Wildlife Park has an excellent walk-through native bird aviary, a nocturnal kiwi house and a reptile exhibit featuring the wrinkly tuatara. Most of the grounds are devoted to Africana, including lions, rhinos, giraffes, zebras, lemurs, oryx and cheetahs, and Asia is well represented with an array of Sumatran tigers. Guided walks start from the native bird feed at 10.45am and around the African lion enclosure at 2.30pm. The Orana Wildlife Park shuttle departs Cathedral Sq at 10am and 1pm daily.