How to spend the perfect 48 hours in Christchurch

Gain insight into the planet's southernmost continent, traditional Maori culture and the South Island's earthquake history, then enjoy great food, wine and coffee - you can do it all in this Kiwi city.

A child tries out a snow sled with a husky sitting in the back at The Antartic Centre in Christchurch
  • Glenn Cullen
  • March 2020

From chic wine bars and eclectic coffee dens to cool (literally!) museums, cultural experiences and urban adventures, Christchurch has plenty to pack into an exciting weekend getaway.

Visit the International Antarctic Centre

It turns out that -18°C is extremely cold! Fortunately, it is just a brief but enjoyable icy moment in the storm dome at the International Antarctic Centre. Christchurch has a storied history, being a regular departure point for some of the 20th century’s most extraordinary explorers, such as Robert Falcon Scott, heading to the frozen continent. Their travails are told here through image, film and hands-on displays alongside a more modern history of the coldest, windiest and driest landmass on earth.

Have an ‘obstacle course’ adventure

Australia’s “Ninja Warriors” have much to answer for. You don’t need to be carved out of granite like the contestants on the TV show but it does pay to have your wits about when you visit the Adrenalin Forest in Spencerville. Set among the towering pines is a series of eight obstacle courses that challenge your head, heart, sense of balance and fear of heights as they increase in difficulty. (Relax, you are clipped in.)

A man tackling a high wire obstacle course at Adrenaline Forest in Christchurch
Thrill seekers can get their adrenaline fix at this obstacle course.

Go on a traditional cultural tour

Let’s hear it for the poi (a Polynesian dance). And titi tōrea (stick games). They are just a couple of things you could be called upon to participate in during the Ko Tāne Māori cultural experience. The afternoon begins with a guided tour of native New Zealand kiwi and kea, followed by interactive Māori cultural experiences and performances, and concluding with a traditional hāngī (food cooked in pits) meal.

A group of Maori people doing a traditional dance
The traditional Maori cultural experience is a must-do.

Smell (and drink) the coffee

From the Congo to Colombia and a dozen countries in between, C4 Coffee on Fitzgerald Avenue has more international blends than you can poke a plunger at. Part café, part coffee emporium, part hipster hangout – it could all be a little too “now” if the brews weren’t so good and the staff so friendly.

 A barista at C4 pouring a coffee
C4 sources its beans from some of the world's best coffee producing countries.

Head to a food market

Christchurch’s natural aesthetic has not always translated into city chic but the September opening of the Riverside Market will surely bring the punters back to town. Located on the banks of the very English Avon River, it is a heaving den of 30 independent food outlets and 40 fresh produce stalls open seven days a week. Smartly furnished, it is set to become the city centre’s place to eat, drink and be merry.

Aerial shot of Riverside Market
The Riverside Market is a hub of good food and great produce.

Take in the city’s earthquake history

Christchurch wears its history of tectonic tumult on its proverbial sleeve. Quake City – an exhibition that gives perspective on the earthquakes that have rocked the region – is testament to that and to the resilience of the human spirit. The museum shares the city’s story through history, science and human emotion via the accounts of earthquake survivors.

A little girl and a lady look at an exhibit at Canterbury Museum.
The Quake City exhibition is moving and inspiring in equal measure.

Check out a cool wine bar

With more than 30 choices of local vino to try by the glass, Not Without You could be the most stacked wine bar in NZ. This after-hours gem is a whole lot more than the total of what you can tipple, however. From the wooden tables to the brews, almost everything is sourced from the region. Head there on a Friday, grab the generous cheese platter and some local smoked meats or fish and a beer and you will probably find yourself settled in for the evening.