Where old meets new: the best things to do in Christchurch

Simultaneously historic and contemporary, Christchurch is captivating.

A punt with passengers floats down the Avon River through the Botanic Gardens, Christchurch, New Zealand.
  • Jetstar
  • January 2022

Christchurch, the gateway to the Canterbury region and the outdoor adventures of the South Island, is a beautiful, buzzing city where street art meets historic buildings and cutting-edge architecture. With plenty of green spaces and the Avon River ambling through the city, it’s a delicious mix of urban and natural, old and new. The broader Canterbury region is a buffet of lush landscapes – vineyards, mountains, glacial lakes, thermal springs and native flora and fauna.

Ride the Christchurch Tram

Jump aboard the immaculately restored, heritage Christchurch Tram to take in all the sights of Christchurch. The drivers will give you all the insider info on the city while you get the lay of the scenic land. The tram loops around 17 stops, including the Canterbury Museum and Botanic Gardens, New Regent Street, shops, playgrounds and markets. You can hop on and hop off all day. It’s the perfect way to explore Christchurch – plus kids ride for free.

A red tourist tram travels through a shopping arcade in Christchurch, New Zealand. Image credit: FiledIMAGE –stock.adobe.com
Hop aboard the Tram to sightsee around Christchurch. Image credit: FiledIMAGE –stock.adobe.com

Go punting on the Avon River

The Avon River runs through the middle of Christchurch and there’s no more iconic activity than floating down it on a punt. Punting tours are an eco-friendly and picturesque way to get to know Christchurch. You relax while a punter (in Edwardian attire, no less) does all the hard work. Leaving from the historic Antigua Boatsheds, you’ll float at a leisurely pace past the Botanic Gardens, spotting wildlife and weeping willows, and gliding under ornate bridges.

A punt with passengers floats down the Avon River through the Botanic Gardens, Christchurch, New Zealand.
Punting on the Avon is a Christchurch must-do.

Go whale watching in Kaikōura

New Zealand is a wonderland of wildlife and outdoor adventures. If you’re in Christchurch, take the opportunity to head out to Kaikōura, the whale-watching capital of New Zealand. Book a whale watching tour to catch sight of whales, fur seals and dolphins. What you’ll see will depend on the season – migrating humpback whales, pilot whales, blue whales and southern right whales all pass through this region. You might even spot an orca or, way on the other end of the scale, the super cute, super small and super rare Hector’s whale.

A humpback whale breaches, mountains in background, New Zealand.
A whale-watching tour in Kaikōura is truly memorable.

Explore Christchurch Art Gallery

With a glass exterior inspired by the flow of the Avon River, the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu is captivating inside and out. Spread over two floors, the collection spans from classic to contemporary and hosts major exhibitions from both national and international artists. The family friendly gallery has free guided tours, and onsite cafe and design store, and an excellent calendar of events to keep an eye on.

The modernist interior of the Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand. Image credit: FiledIMAGE – stock.adobe.com
Explore the different levels of the contemporary Christchurch Art Gallery. Image credit: FiledIMAGE – stock.adobe.com

Cycle the Alps 2 Ocean Trail

The Alps 2 Ocean (also known as the A2O) is New Zealand’s longest cycle trail. It runs 300km and spans from the Southern Alps to the Pacific Ocean, taking in New Zealand’s most jaw-dropping scenery on the way. (Don’t worry, it’s divided into eight sections, so you can easily tailor your ride to your time frame and ability.) You’ll cycle through stunning Aoraki Mount Cook National Park with its turquoise lakes and along dramatic limestone cliffs.

A cyclist rides on a bike path with the Southern Alps ahead, Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand.
You’re guaranteed dramatic scenery on the A2O.