Adrenaline Forest Christchurch:
If you're in the Christchurch region and looking for a bit of a rush combined with a physical challenge, then the Christchurch brand of the popular Adrenalin Forest – a fun-filled high wire/rope, zip line and flying fox attraction set amongst a great forest setting may be just what the doctor ordered. The attraction blends freedom, fear and fun into a single entertaining package and is easily reached from the Christchurch CBD in around a 20 minute drive to its spot near the coast.
Visit Arthur's Pass:
Bridging the New Zealand South Islands east and west coasts is the spectacular Arthur's Pass, which crosses over the Southern Alps and makes for one of the most scenic drives in the entire country. Passing through the aptly-named Arthur's Pass National Park, this roadway reaches over 900m in height at its greatest point and provides some awe-inspiring vantage points from which to take a slice of the the alpine scenery that can be found on New Zealand-themed postcards worldwide.
Orana Wildlife Park:
The Christchurch region's take on an open-range zoo, Orana Wildlife Park serves as one of the best general animal-focused attractions in New Zealand while also offering a range of specalised animal encounters that can be booked for more intimate experiences with various kinds of wildlife. Set amongst an expansive 80 hectare area that provides an impressive amount of space for the animals to inhabit that strive to maintain the natural essence of their native habitats in the wild. A refreshing change from the typical caged-in zoo experiences, Orana Wildlife Park provides an emphasis on interaction with the animals that you seldom get at many other similar facilities such as lion and rhino feeding. Big enclosures with lots of space mean happier and more active animals, and more active animals make for an overall more enjoyable experience than more fenced-in alternatives.
Punting on the Avon River with Welcome Aboard Christchurch:
No, we're not talking about kicking a ball or placing a bet on your favourite horse – where Christchurch's Avon River is concerned, “punting” refers to what has become one of the most iconic sights in the Christchurch region: a venice-style gondola trip down the river's serene waters. Operated by Welcome Aboard Christchurch and based from the city's historic Antigua Boat Sheds, with a punting session you'll step aboard a classic-style punt boat – a flat-bottomed boat pushed along by a pole - accompanied by a qualified punting pilot in full Edwardian-themed clothing and head on a leisurely cruise past some of Christchurch's key highlights.
Quake City Christchurch:
It takes a special kind of positivity and can-do attitude to take one of the biggest disasters in your city's history and re-purpose it into an attraction in itself, but that's exactly what Christchurch's Quake City is. While it's sad for visitors to see the devastation that has hit what is otherwise a beautiful place, the sense of optimism from Christchurch's locals that is prevalent throughout the city is even more focused here; the Quake City exhibit aims to add to the understanding of the general public of how the city and its inhabitants were affected by – and dealt with – the quakes.
It's an incredible interesting and well-curated look at the impact the natural world can have on human development, with a series of educational and entertaining displays, videos and other exhibits that aim to cater to both adults and kids alike.
Being one of the more mountainous countries you'll come across in your travels, it only makes sense that kiwis love their gondolas (or cable cars, as they're also known) as there are few better ways to get up above the city and its surrounds for some incredibly panoramic views. Christchurch's gondola is no exception in this regard, and provides the best possible vantage point (short of embarking on a strenuous height) of the cityscape, the Port Hills, the glittering harbour of Lyttleton, and even the impressive Southern Alps off in the distance. Once you've reached the top of the summit, you'll have the opportunity to participate in some activities or visit a few attractions such as the Red Rock Cafe (a fully licensed venue ideal for enjoying a refreshing beverage while soaking in some great views) or take a ride on the Time Tunnel (a short trip that showcases a reconstruction of the area's historical background).
Coastal Pacific Scenic Railway NZ:
The Coastal Pacific Scenic Railway combines travel with spectacular views, taking guests alongside both mountains and sea and is one of the best ways to get from Christchurch to many other popular South Island destinations (and vice versa). The path of the train covers all manner of landscapes and passes wonderfully close to the Pacific Ocean to the east, meaning you'll get a sample of New Zealand's rugged and untamed coastal regions which don't get nearly enough credit as a sightseeing highlight for those travelling in the country. The train travels all the way from Christchurch up to Picton (which serves as the water-based gateway to the neighbouring North Island) and where you choose to get off is entirely up to you; it's even possible to form a wholesome itinerary that will get you out and about for some exploration and then back to Christchurch within the course of a single day.
The Court Theatre:
A long-time staple of the Christchurch entertainment scene, the Court Theatre was recently relocated to premises outside the city CBD in the suburb of Addington due to the impact of the earthquakes. This has had no effect on the quality of the performances conducted at the venue, however; offering the full gamut of stage-based entertainment, the Court Theatre puts on shows that range from comedy to classical to contemporary to kids, and everything in between. Comprised of a troupe of actors who are both talented and passionate about what they do, shows at the Court Theatre are of a generally high standard and – with tremendous variety of performances – there's a show typically available to appeal to all types and tastes.
Christchurch Botanic Gardens:
Christchurch is affectionately known as the Garden City, and there's perhaps no place within its boundaries that better reflects this than its wonderful Botanic Gardens. Boasting the widest collection of both native and exotic plants in all of New Zealand, Christchurch's botanic gardens is huge; it offers a diverse array of plant life, trees, ponds and much more that's impossible to take in within a single day and which has existed for over 150 years. The gardens are easily reachable due to their location in the heart of the city and lie at the heart amongst a variety of interlocking parks that are great for letting yourself get lost in on a sunny day or relaxing for a picnic. As one of the few places in Christchurch that was unaffected by the earthquakes, the Botanic Gardens are still in tip-top condition and offer the same abundance of both plant and animal life they always have; meticulously looked after and well-maintained, they're a place of serenity and diverse and beautiful colour contrasts. The rose garden in particular is a popular highlight, especially during the spring when it's in full bloom and is full of lovely aromas.
Cashel Street "Pop-Up" Mall:
It's the Cashel Street Container mall. Dubbed the Re:START movement by local organisers, the district serves as new home to many businesses that were formerly situated in the centre of the city that were adversely affected by the quakes, and together they form a contemporary hub of activity that has to be seen to be fully appreciated. Formed almost entirely out of repurposed shipping containers that have been laid out in a modern-artistic fashion, this part of Christchurch is like few other spots in the world with a blend of bold colours, unusual layouts and prominent, proud signage. In fact, if you'd never visited the city before, you'd be surprised that Christchurch had been hit so hard by disaster at all; it's certainly not reflected in the mood of this district as it's brimming with character, live music, street performances and markets every day of the week. Each container offers its own little spin on the theme, with some host to delightful cafes and others boutique fashion stores typically decked out in vibrant colours.