10 Best Day Trips From Christchurch

Friday, September 6th, 2019

Read about '10 Best Day Trips From Christchurch' on USAVE, the place for all things car rental.

Day trips can be a great way to see some of the countryside without having the hassle of relocating your accommodations as you go. Staying in Christchurch and want to know the best places to head out for a day of adventure and fun? We are here to help! Read on for our 10 best day trips from Christchurch – courtesy of locals in the know.

1. Akaroa

Distance From Christchurch 80 km, 90 minutes’ drive

The most popular destination out on Christchurch’s Banks Peninsula, Akaroa is a quaint little French inspired settlement nestled on the shores of a beautiful sheltered harbour. The township regularly hosts local events to take part in, or enjoy the colonial architecture and explore the boutique shopping.

Heading out on the water is definitely a must-do while visiting Akaroa, take a harbour cruise and keep an eye out for the local dolphins, give kayaking or stand up paddle boarding a go or head out for a penguin tour.


  • Hiking. Walking the Banks Track is one of the best things to do if you have the time to fit it in. (It is a three day hike). The track is a private walking track and is only open from October through to April.
  • Cooking. Taking part in a cooking class at The Akaroa Cooking School is top of any foodies list and will certainly not disappoint – and the best part is you get to eat your culinary creations! Classes accommodate up to 16 people, booking ahead is recommended to avoid disappointment.
  • Sightseeing. Take in the beautiful Bays and stunning scenery of the Akaroa Harbour on a unique Harbour Cruise from the team at Black Cat Cruises. Catch a glimpse of the smallest penguin in the world, the White Flippered Blue Penguin, Hectors Dolphin, fur seals and much more!
  • Stargazing. Check out the “wooden tents with see through roofing” at the Onuku Campground just 6 km from the Akaroa Township for something a little different on the accommodation scene. These wooden structures allow you to enjoy stargazing as you fall asleep – $50 per night for two people.

Akaroa Lighthouse

2. Kaikoura

Distance from Christchurch 180 km, 2.5 hours’ drive

An easy day trip for those who enjoy a spot of fishing or just getting out and about, Kaikoura is known for its rugged coastline and giant crayfish! Sampling the local seafood is a must – take you pick from mussels, crays, whitebait, traditional kiwi ‘fish ‘n’ chips’ and more.

Look out for the resident fur seal colony, and more recently see the effects of the earthquakes where the coast line has risen by up to 3.5 metres in places.


  • Hiking. The Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway is an easy yet scenic way to get some fresh air and enjoy some of the rugged Kaikoura coastline. The walk takes around 3 hours and hugs the top of the cliffs as it makes its way around the tip of the Peninsula.
  • Fishing. Take to the water and enjoy a fishing charter with the team at The Rodfather. Diving and fishing options are available along with hunting safaris and clay bird shooting if you are interested? Fishing charters are either half day or full day with your catch carefully filleted and kept cool for you to take home with you.
  • Crayfish. Nins Bin is the place to go for the freshest Crayfish cooked to perfection with fantastic ocean views in the background. Head down State Highway 1 about 20 kilometres past Kaikoura to find them – you can’t miss it.

Kaikoura Coastline

3. Hanmer Springs

Distance from Christchurch 130 km, 1 hrs 45 minutes’ drive

Hanmer Springs is a small inland alpine-style village very popular as a weekend getaway, overnighter or day trip from Christchurch. The village offers the perfect mix of boutique shopping, eateries, wide range of accommodation and activities for all ages.

The thermal spring’s pools and spa are the star attraction along with some excellent walking tracks, jet boating, horse riding, rafting, quad biking and bungy jumping and there is even some good skiing nearby during the winter months.


  • Soak And Swim. Soak away your aches and pains in the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa at the end of a hard day on the slopes, hiking in the hills or just for fun! There are a range of pools to choose from, including children’s pool, hydroslides, and lap pool and lazy river – each pool set at its own individual temperature.
  • Walking/Hiking. The Hanmer Forest Park is the place to go for a wide range of walks and hikes to suit everybody. Choose from short pushchair friendly strolls through the forest, to 1 -2 hour walks, and right up to full day tramps.
  • Bungy. Jump from the 135 year old historic Ferry Bridge and make your trip to Hanmer Springs one to remember. There is a minimum age requirement of 12 years and you get a free tee-shirt – prices start at $169.
  • Skiing. Just 20 km from the village is the Hanmer Springs Ski Area, complete with its own lift, rope tow and fixed grip learners tow. Snowfall permitting, expect to find a good beginners area, along with the majority of the slopes at an intermediate level. Lift passes are fairly cheap – at just $60 for the day.

Hanmer Springs Houses

4. Greymouth/Hokitika

Distance from Christchurch 244 km, 3.5 hours’ drive

Visiting the West Coast can be a bit of a mission for just a day trip but it can be done! Get on the road early and enjoy one of New Zealand’s most scenic drives at your own pace. Stop off on the way for some epic roadside pics and a visit to the Arthurs Pass village at the mid-way point.

Try and squeeze in a visit to both Hokitika and Greymouth while you are there, and the famous Punakaiki Rocks of course!


  • Pancake Rocks. Head up the coast from Greymouth for about 40 minutes and you will find these fantastic rock formations set amidst the rugged coastline. Blow holes and limestone rocks resembling a stack of pancakes and a lovely little walk await – get an awesome selfie when the waves crash against the rocks!
  • Tree Top Walk. Take to the tree tops and view the lush New Zealand forest from a whole different perspective on the West Coast Treetop Walk. Just 15 minutes from Hokitika this canopy walk is suitable for all ages and is enclosed on both sides for safety, entry costs are around $30 per person.
  • Shantytown. Well worth a look if you have the time, Shantytown offers a glimpse of the past with an informative look at Greymouth’s colourful gold mining history. Find a working steam train, museum and mining and forestry relics on site.

Hokitika Oceanfront

5. The TranzAlpine Train

Distance from Christchurch 200+ km, 5 hours’ travel time

A day trip with a twist, taking the TranzAlpine train to Greymouth or the shorter option of Arthur’s Pass and back can also be a great choice. This world famous scenic train journey is absolutely stunning in the winter when the snow line is low and offers up some breath taking shots for the holiday album.

The full trip to Greymouth takes approximately 5 hours, refreshments are available on board. Taking the half trip to Arthurs Pass is approximately 2.5 hours. If you depart at Arthurs Pass you can spend the day there returning on the train at 4.30 ish or arrange bus transport back to Christchurch (always pre-book these to ensure availability).


  • Beautiful Views. Take in some of the South Island’s best cross-country scenery and see parts of the countryside you would not see by car. 15 tunnels and a 72 metre viaduct are just part of the fun!
  • The Open Air Viewing Carriage. Step out into the open sided viewing car and feel the wind in your hair as you whizz past the mountains, fields and towns.
  • Southern Alps. See the mighty Southern Alps up close and personal from the comfortable viewing carriages and enjoy good coffee and snacks as you travel.
  • Otira Tunnel. At 8.5 km long this tunnel is a vital part of the railway and its construction was an impressive feat for those involved. Don’t miss the great commentary on this portion of the journey – the stats and construction facts are fascinating.
  • The On-Board Commentary. A very informative commentary provided via headphones for free kicks in as you pass certain areas on the journey. This commentary is a really good way to get more out of the trip and helps you to understand points of interest along the way.
  • Arthurs Pass. If stopping at Arthurs Pass take the short walking route to the 130m Devils Punchbowl Waterfall, or ask at the Arthur’s Pass Village Centre for more walking tracks in the area. Keep an eye out for the Kea, NZ’s only alpine parrot. See below for more on Arthurs Pass.

6. Arthurs Pass

Distance from Christchurch 150 km, 2 hours’ drive

One of the best places to go for high country hiking and beautiful alpine scenery, Arthurs Pass is a stunning destination in its self. There are some amazing bush walks and beautiful waterfalls, steep gorges and rocky mountains to view along the way.

The local Department of Conservation Visitor Centre has advice and information on walks in the area, always be prepared for sharp changes in weather conditions when hiking in the mountains. Stick to the well-marked tracks and trails and do not attempt to cross any rivers or waterways.


  • Arthur’s Pass National Park. One of three original national parks in all of New Zealand, the Park is visited by outdoor enthusiasts year round for its stunning scenery and challenging hiking tracks.  
  • Skiing. Arthurs Pass acts as the entrance to Temple Basin Ski Resort, widely considered one of the best ski fields for intermediate to advanced skiers and snow boarders. This unique ski area requires a 400 metre vertical hike to reach its base and it’s pretty raw – there are no groomed slopes there.
  • The Village. Enjoy a hot coffee while you relax in the peaceful surrounds or the Arthurs Pass Village. Feel like staying for longer than the day? There are several accommodation options to choose from. Keep an eye out for the cheeky native Kea bird on your travels!

7. Timaru

Distance from Christchurch 165 km, 2 hours’ drive

An easy drive from Christchurch, a day trip to Timaru is a good one for those looking to take a slower pace and just enjoy the journey. Timaru is a seaside town with a laid back vibe and some great little cafes and restaurants.

Spend some time at the South Canterbury Museum, the Botanic Gardens, Centennial Park or the waterfront at Caroline Bay. If you feel like getting a bit of an adrenaline hit why not try canyoning or rafting? The town also has an artistic vibe with locally owned boutique galleries and interesting sculptures located throughout the town centre.


  • Caroline Bay. The perfect spot for taking a stroll, soaking up some sun or playing with the kids. There is also a small Aviary worth a look, an awesome sandy beach and miniature trains running on the weekends!
  • Canyoning. If spending 5 hours slipping and sliding your way down the Kaumira Canyon sounds like you then Big Rock Adventures are the people to see for the ultimate canyoning experience just 30 minutes’ drive north of Timaru.
  • Horse Trekking. Peel Forest Horse Trekking is a great way to spend some time in the great outdoors without too much personal exertion. Suitable for all ages and experience levels the treks start at 1 hour and go up to multi day options. 

8. Tekapo

Distance from Christchurch 227 km, 2 hours 50 minutes’ drive

Taking it to the South, Tekapo is an alpine village situated on the shores of the Lake of the same name – Lake Tekapo. The small township provides a laid back feel to the day with a sprinkling of cafes and accommodation options ranging from holiday homes, motels, and hotels through to the impressive Peppers Bluewater Resort.

Tekapo is a hive of activity during the winter months with skiers and snowboarders settling in for the best rides of the season and during the summer months it is popular with tourists and travellers enjoying the local countryside and water activities on the lake.


  • Stargazing. The Mount John Observatory is one of the best places in New Zealand to view the night ski in all its glory. The Observatory offers evening tours as well as an onsite café during the daylight hours.
  • Skiing. There are two great options for skiers and snowboarders in Tekapo, the Roundhill Ski field is about 30 kilometres from the Tekapo township and Mount Dobson ski fields are a 45 minute drive away. Both of these ski fields have good slopes for beginners, intermediate and advanced skiers and boarders.
  • Ice skating. Tekapo is home to its very own outdoor ice skating rink – the perfect spot to enjoy the wintery surrounds while having fun with the whole family. Admission prices include all day entry – just come and go as you please.
  • Relaxing. Next door to the ice skating rink are the Tekapo Springs Hot Pools, these pools are also outdoors and offer the perfect opportunity to relax and unwind. Enjoy the superb alpine views and snow tipped trees as you soak away your cares and worries.

Lake Tekapo NZ

9. Banks Peninsula

Distance from Christchurch roughly 160 km for the round trip, 3 -4 hours driving time

While Akaroa is usually the focal point for most visitors to the Banks Peninsula, there are plenty of other lesser known places to explore. A really great day trip idea is to follow the road around the small bays and coves starting from Governors Bay.

Each Bay has its own personal charm and different sights to see – take a picnic lunch and find your favourite today!


  • Purau Bay. A small sheltered pebble lined beach awaits good for swimming in the summer months.
  • Port Levy. A long sheltered bay complete with distinctive jetty that featured in the Peter Jackson movie ‘Heavenly Creatures’.
  • Pigeon Bay. Stretch the legs on the Pigeon Bay Walkway. At 14 km return, this track offers some really nice coastal views and is considered relatively easy (allow 4- 5 hours return).
  • Little Akaloa. A great little place to launch the boat, the Domain has toilets and a camping ground for tents and a couple of tennis courts.
  • Okains Bay. A really lovely spot for taking a stroll along the beach or swimming in the summer. There is a well set up camping ground with good facilities set among the trees and a beautiful white sand beach with sheltered inlet great for the kids.

10. Mount Thomas Forest Park

Distance from Christchurch 70 km, 1 hours’ drive

For something a little closer to home, the Mount Thomas Forest conservation area sits at the foothills of the Southern Alps a short scenic drive inland from Christchurch. This one is perfect for those who don’t want to spend all day in the car and love a peaceful scenic walk amongst the trees.

The Mount Thomas area spans roughly 10,000 hectares and is full to the brim with birdlife, with native birds including the fantail, bellbird, silvereye, tomtit, greywarbler, and kereru or wood pigeon commonly spotted among the trees.


  • Walking And Tramping. The Mount Thomas Tracks (a combination of three smaller routes) will take you on a nice loop walk through the best of the Mount Thomas area. This track is considered better suited to advanced hikers due to its steep inclines and takes around 4 -7 hours depending on fitness levels.
  • Hunting. There are Red Deer and wild pigs to be found within the Mount Thomas conservation area, these animals are able to be hunted if you obtain a permit to do so.
  • Mountain Biking. Mt Richardson (situated within the Mount Thomas Conservation area) is the place to head for if you have a day of mountain biking in mind. The Mount Richardson mountain biking track is considered a Grade 4 or advanced level track for people with a moderate level of fitness. Allow 3 hours one way.

Enjoy the best Christchurch and Canterbury has to offer with the convenience of a reliable rental car from the team at USAVE Car Rental. Give us a call today to hire a car and hit the road!



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