Christchurch on a budget: best things to do

Planning a budget-friendly break in Christchurch? We’ve got some handy hints just for you.

View of Christchurch cityscape on a sunny day with park in the foreground, city buildings and snow-capped mountains in the background, Christchurch, New Zealand.
  • Jetstar
  • May 2022

It really doesn’t cost much at all to get to the best of Ōtautahi Christchurch. There’s street-art galore and museums and galleries, beaches close by, and cute towns for low-fi day trips. Here’s how to make the most of your trip without breaking the bank.

Get beachy at New Brighton

Just a quick 15-minute bus trip east of Christchurch gets you to the beachy hangout of New Brighton. There’s the iconic, super ‘grammable New Brighton Pier, and swathes of beautiful coastline to soak up. Explore the cafe scene, go walking the wetlands or lash out (affordably) and spend a couple of hours at He Puna Taimoana – a complex of five heated pools that look out onto the beach. Every Saturday there’s a seaside market in the pedestrian mall too.

Sunrise over the ocean at New Brighton Beach with the pier in the distance, Christchurch, New Zealand.
Sunrise at New Brighton Beach is a photographer’s dream.

Kayak on the Ōtākaro Avon River

The Ōtākaro Avon River meanders through the middle of green, gardened Christchurch and gives you the feeling that you’ve wandered into a Merchant Ivory movie. Watching people punting down the river dressed in Edwardian clothes leaves you seriously convinced you’re in a movie. If punting is out of your budget, a more affordable good time is to hire a kayak and paddle yourself down the river. It’s a whole lot of fun, even without the straw hat.

People in yellow kayaks paddle on the Avon River through the Botanic Gardens, Christchurch, New Zealand.
Paddling down the Avon River makes for a dreamy day out.

Follow the street art trail

An open-air gallery that doesn’t cost a cent, Christchurch is emerging as a major street-art city. Following the (sometimes fleeting) works of street artists is the perfect way to get off the beaten track and discover the artistic heartbeat of the city. The YMCA building is a mindbender worth checking out, along with many others. Watch this Space run street-art tours, highlighting new works and the stories behind them and the artists. Check out their crowd-sourced map that pinpoints new works.

Cyclist riding past a mural by Jacob Yikes, inspired by Alice in Wonderland, on the side of the Alice Cinema, Christchurch. Image credit: Miles Holden
Alice in Wonderland by Jacob Yikes, on the side of the Alice Cinema. Image credit: Miles Holden

Picnic in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens

It’s no surprise that the Garden City has pretty amazing Botanic Gardens. It’s well worth packing a picnic (stock up at the Christchurch Farmers Market if you’re there on a Saturday) and spending the day soaking up the historic 21-hectare gardens. There are 10 different gardens to discover, many dotted with artworks, and the Avon River weaves through the grounds. Don’t miss the Magnetic Observatory and its fascinating scientific history.

Green reeds and trees surround a section of river at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, New Zealand.
Just one pocket of the gorgeous Botanic Gardens in Christchurch.

Explore the Canterbury Museum

Set in a magnificent historic building, the world-renowned Canterbury Museum presents a captivating display of New Zealand's heritage. Its natural and human history collections make up permanent exhibitions that cover subjects as diverse as the Christchurch earthquakes, Antarctica, historic Christchurch and local birdlife. Then there are special exhibitions, photographic showcases and live cultural events such as cabaret and poetry readings. Entry is free (but donations don’t go astray).

The ornate historic exterior of the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, New Zealand.
This grand building holds a whole host of historic treasures.