3 Days In Christchurch – The Ideal Itinerary
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Often thought of as the gateway to the South Island, Christchurch is one of those must-visit destinations for all travelers – intrepid or otherwise. Enjoy everything from stunning landscapes and scenery through to adrenaline-pumping adventure activities – the choice is yours!
Wondering what to do in Christchurch for 3 days? Then we have got you covered. Take a look at our ideal itinerary below with extra options for those who prefer more adventurous activities and those who prefer to soak up the sights and relax.
Day 1 Explore Christchurch Central City
On your first day in Christchurch, you’re going to want to get out and explore the city, see a few of the sights, check out the ruins at Cathedral Square, wander along the riverfront cafes and check out the famous Arts Centre buildings and Art Gallery on Worcester Street.
Once you’ve found your favourite coffee shop for breakfast it’s time to sort out your activities for the next three days. We have put together this handy guide on how to spend your time in Christchurch with a selection of activities for the more adventurous traveler as well as some great choices for the avid sightseer out there.
3 Best Christchurch Adventure Activities
Raring to go and want to hit the ground running…. or climbing as the case may be? Then these adventure activities are for you! You should be able to easily fit at least two of these into your day – always book ahead to avoid disappointment.
1. International Antarctic Centre
Want to see what it’s like to be in the middle of an arctic storm? The International Antarctic Centre offers you this exciting opportunity along with the chance to see New Zealand’s smallest penguin species up close in their Penguin Rescue area. Plus you get to ride on the Hägglund all-terrain amphibious Antarctic vehicle!
The Antarctic Centre is one of the most popular attractions in Christchurch, it provides a very unique peek into life in the arctic and some amazing stories of the intrepid Antarctic explorers that have gone before us. Don’t miss saying hello to the famous dogs that have accompanied people on such perilous missions – the Husky’s!
- Location. 38 Orchard Road, Christchurch Airport
- Price Indication. Adults $49, Children $29
- Time. Allow approximately 3 hours, check out the Antarctic Centre timetable here to make sure you don’t miss anything.
2. Adrenalin Forest
Taking to the trees on this one, the team at Adrenalin Forest will provide you with all the gear and instruction needed to climb, crawl, clamp and clamber through the treetops on their purpose-built high ropes course.
Adrenaline Forest provides an excellent half-day activity for all ages. The course is broken into a variety of short courses designed with increasing degrees of difficulty so you can just complete the bits you are comfortable with or do the whole lot and you get to zipline through the trees to the finish!
- Location. 110 Heyders Road, Spencerville
- Price Indication. Adults $45, children $30
- Time. Allow 3 hours for the full course.
- Extras. Take water and snacks with you there are no shops in the immediate vicinity.
3. Margaret Mahy Playground
For the young (and young at heart) the Margaret Mahy Playground is the place to be. Enjoy some time in the sun at this playground of epic proportions complete with dedicated water play area, giant slide, flying fox and much more!
The Margaret Mahy Playground is a good one to squeeze in where you have a bit of downtime, or if you’re an early riser, first thing in the morning while you wait for the rest of the city to get up and running.
- Location. Corner of Manchester and Armagh Streets, Central City
- Price Indication. It’s free!
- Time. Allow at least an hour.
3 Best Sightseeing Activities In Christchurch Central
Prefer to take in the sights at a somewhat slower pace? Then check out our best sightseeing activities in Christchurch.
1. Punting On The Avon
One of those iconic activities specifically associated with Christchurch, punting on the Avon River is the perfect sightseeing activity for a quiet summer’s afternoon.
Enjoy gliding along the tranquil river accompanied by your very own period dressed ‘punter’ and see the beautiful trees, shrubs and flowers of Hagley Park from a whole different perspective. Keep an eye out for the resident ducks and wildlife as you go and feel free to ask questions of your punter as they provide a live commentary along the way.
- Location. 2 Cambridge Terrace, Christchurch Central City
- Price Indication. $30 for adults, $15 for children
- Time. Allow 30 minutes for a group tour, 45 minutes for a private tour.
2. Christchurch Tram City Tour
Another unique to Christchurch experience is the Tram City Tour, enjoy riding the lovingly restored trams as you make your way around the sights of Christchurch. Make the most of the hop-on-hop-off feature and explore the tops sights as you go.
There are 17 stops on the tour, including the Canterbury Museum, Botanic Gardens, Margaret Mahy Playground, the Riverside Market, Arts Centre and New Regent Street boutique shopping and café area.
- Location. You can get on or off at any of the 17 stops along the tour, see here for Christchurch Tram route map (scroll down the page).
- Price Indication. $25 per adult, children ride free with a paying adult.
- Time. Allow 50 minutes for the full Tram City Tour, more if you plan to get off and on as you go.
3. Botanic Gardens
Speaking of Tram stops, one of the best ones is the famous Christchurch Botanic Gardens! Nestled among the borders of the expansive Hagley Park you will find the beautiful Botanic Gardens. These gardens are the perfect way to spend a lazy afternoon in the sun and fresh air.
Don’t miss the Azalea and Magnolia gardens, Heritage Rose Garden and the conservatories as you make your way around the many walkways. Grab a map (and a coffee) from the Visitor Centre and explore!
- Location. City Centre, Rolleston Avenue, Christchurch Central City
- Price Indication. It’s free!
- Time. Allow 1 to 2 hours, the conservatories are only open from 10 am to 4 pm daily.
- Extras. See a map of the Botanic Gardens here.
Day 2 Roadie To Akaroa On The Banks Peninsula
Today it’s all about heading out of the city to explore the beautiful landscapes in the wider Canterbury area. Akaroa and the Banks Peninsula are on the agenda with an overnight stay on the list or you can return to Christchurch for the night, as it also makes for an easy day trip if you prefer.
Akaroa is the destination but as with many road trips it’s all about the journey! The following suggestions are our top picks for the day but feel free to make it up as you go!
3 Best Adventure Activities Banks Peninsula And Akaroa
Once you have arrived at Akaroa and checked in to your accommodation for the night it’s time to explore this quaint little seaside town, here are some great choices for the active relaxer out there!
1. Kayaking At Akaroa
Head on over to the Akaroa Adventure Centre for flexible kayak hire (they also offer stand up paddleboards, pedal boats, mini-golf, and bike hire if you are interested). If it’s a kayak tour you are after then Akaroa Guided Kayak Safaris are the people to see.
Guided kayak tours are a great way to learn more about the area and its wildlife along with getting to go some of the best places you may not stumble across on your own.
- Location. Rue Lavaud, Akaroa
- Price Indication. $22 per hour for kayak hire, $130 per person for guided tours.
- Time. Allow 3 hours for a guided tour, flexible kayak hire is available per hour.
2. Swimming With Dolphins
What better way to see the famous dolphins at Akaroa than to get right in the water with them! Swimming with the dolphins in Akaroa is one of those things you simply must do when visiting the area – it will be your most memorable experience!
Swimming with the dolphins is a weather dependent activity so it pays to book in advance. Wetsuits and gear will be provided, but you are welcome to take your own if you like. You will need swimwear and a towel. Optional photo packs are available to purchase after your trip.
- Location. Akaroa Main Wharf, Akaroa
- Price Indication. $185 for Adults, $155 for children aged 8 to 15 years.
- Time. Allow 3 hours for the entire experience.
3. Hiking In Akaroa
Akaroa is lucky to have a wide range of walks and hikes for all ages and abilities. Grab an Akaroa Village Walks brochure from the Visitor Centre and you will be set for a morning of wandering about and seeing the sights or for a more adventurous all-day option we recommend the Misty Peaks walk which will take you around 7 hours for the roundtrip.
Enjoy choosing something to suit your schedule or fitness level or for our top picks we would go with the Lighthouse and Monument one hour loop walk, Woodhills North and south combined walks and the Akaroa Bush Backdrop walk.
- Location. The Akaroa Visitor Centre is located at 65 Rue Lavaud, Akaroa
- Price Indication. All of the walks in Akaroa are free!
- Time. Up to 2 hours for the township short walks and 7-8 hours for the full day Misty Peaks walk.
3 Best Sightseeing Activities In Akaroa, Banks Peninsula
Prefer to see the dolphins from the comfort of a boat instead? Then take a look below for our choices for a dolphin sightseeing cruise.
1. Dolphin Sightseeing Cruises
Taking an ocean harbour cruise to see if you can spot the wide range of wildlife in the Akaroa bays is a great option. On a good day this might include the cute White Flippered Penguins, some New Zealand Fur Seals, the rare Hector’s Dolphins, Albatross and many other resident sea birds.
There are several companies offering dolphin spotting cruises in Akaroa, the top three (in our opinion) are the EcoSeeker tours and Black Cat Cruises and the team at Akaroa Dolphins. Each has its own merits and slight differences – the choice is yours!
- Location. Depending on your tour operator either the Akaroa Main Wharf, or Daly’s Wharf at 1 Rue Balguerie in Akaroa.
- Price Indication. $90 – 95 per adult, $35-40 per child
- Time. Allow 2 hours for a dolphin harbour cruise.
2. Pohatu 4WD Scenic Nature Tour
If you prefer to keep your feet on solid ground then the Pohatu 4WD Scenic Nature Tours are the ones for you. The guided tours take you up into the Wild Side Conservation area to one of the largest mainland colonies of White-Flippered penguins and observe the monitoring of nesting sites.
Choose from 2 hour or 4 hour tours or there is even an overnight option where you can wake to the early morning sounds of the sheep in the nearby paddock. These tours are carried out in 4 wheel drive vehicles and include complimentary tea, coffee and muffin along with a knowledgeable local guide.
- Location. 8/2 Rue Balguerie, Akaroa
- Price Indication. $105 per adult, $65 per child for the 4 hours 4WD tour.
- Time. Allow 2 – 4 hours depending on your tour choice.
3. Akaroa Cafes, Restaurants And Bars
While not exactly defined as sightseeing it’s impossible to visit Akaroa without enjoying the search for the best place to eat and enjoy the local produce. The café scene is very much a part of Akaroa’s iconic brand and is definitely not to be missed.
You will want to sample some of the beautiful fresh Fish and Chips at some point – that’s a given. But there are also a wide range of other great food and beverage options in Akaroa. Let’s be honest – they are all great but if we had to choose our top picks are the HarBar Beachfront Café and the Waffle Haus Akaroa.
- Location. Wander along the Rue Lavaurd and take your pick!
- Price Indication. Expect to pay around $30-40 for a main meal, $20 for fish and chips.
- Time. As long as you want!
Day 3 Its Up The Port Hills We Go!
It’s time to get your hiking boots on and get out in the great outdoors! The Port Hills provide locals and visitors with an outdoor adventure playground right on the doorstep. You will find plenty of hiking, biking and other activities along with some of the best views Christchurch wide.
Whether you are returning from an over night stay in Akaroa or from the Central City you are going to need to know what there is to do on the Port Hills. To help you decide we have put together this handy guide to the best adventure style activities and the best activities for sightseeing.
3 Best Adventure Activities Port Hills
Grab a big breakfast to fuel up for the day and let’s get out there!
1. Taylors Mistake – Awaroa / Godley Head Walk
Getting out of the city confines for this one, head on over to the beach side suburb of Sumner and grab a coffee and snack at the Ocean Café and Bar at Scarborough Park before tackling the steep road over the hill and down into the bay known as Taylors Mistake.
This beautiful little bay is the beginning of one of the most scenic walks in Christchurch the Awaroa/Godley Head Walk. This relatively easy going walking track takes you out and around a loop of the Godley Head with stunning ocean views and a visit to the historic Godley Head Gun Emplacements along the way. Packing a picnic lunch or snack is a great idea!
- Location. The track begins at the Taylors Bay Car Park, follow the signs to the Pilgrims Way Coastal Track.
- Price Indication. It’s free!
- Time. Allow 3 hours to complete the loop track, longer if you plan to stop along the way.
2. Christchurch Adventure Park
Taking it up a notch, the Christchurch Adventure Park is the perfect place to spend an afternoon tearing up the trails, or whizzing down the zipline. You will find the Adventure Park on the Port Hills, complete with its very own chairlift back to the top so you can ride the downhill trails again and again.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a bike with you, mountain bike rental is available on site along with protective gear including helmet, knee pads, elbow pads and gloves. The full zipline adventure consists of 4 ziplines in total, including the highest and longest ziplines in NZ. You can choose to do only one zipline if you are short on time.
- Location. 225 Worsleys Road, Cracroft, Christchurch
- Price Indication. Full Zipline $130, Long Ride Zipline $75 per adult, $45-90 for children
- Time. Allow 2.5 hours for the full zipline experience, 1.5 hours for the Long Ride Single Zipline Tour. And at least 3 hours for the mountain biking.
- Extras. Participants must weigh between 27kgs (60lbs) and 125kgs (276lbs), be a minimum of 122cm (4ft) tall. Children under 13 years of age must be accompanied by a person aged 16 or older.
3. Christchurch Paragliding
Enjoy the best seat in the house with a paragliding adventure from the Port Hills. Soar high above Taylor’s Mistake Bay and the Scarborough Cliffs, see Lyttleton Harbour, Sumner Beach and the city from above with this epic adventure activity.
Paragliding is something that is weather dependent and of course is going to be best experienced on a clear day, booking ahead is necessary. Christchurch Paragliding are the people to see, with extended flight times and competitive pricing.
- Location. The take-off site is 10 minutes’ drive from both Lyttelton and Sumner Village.
- Price Indication. $200 per flight.
- Time. The aim is to stay in the air for 20-25 minutes, allow at least an hour for the entire experience which includes training.
- Extras. Weight limits are a minimum of 30 kg, and a maximum 110 kg. There is a height requirement of being taller than 130 cm.
3 Best Port Hills Sightseeing Activities
Making it more about seeing the sights here are the top 3 sightseeing activities on the Port Hills.
1. Mini Coastal Road Trip
Returning from the overnight stay in Akaroa the best way to travel without retracing your steps is around the coast through Diamond Harbour, Governors Bay and Lyttelton. From Akaroa this will mean taking the Duvauchelle Stock Route turn off at Duvauchelle and then the Pigeon Bay Road back up over the Hill and down towards Pigeon Bay.
There are a number of great little bays to explore including Okains Bay and Little Akaloa if you have the time to make some detours or continue on to Pigeon Bay to stay on track. From Pigeon Bay it’s down to Port Levy and on to Purau for some scenic photo ops, then on to Diamond Harbour for lunch.
From Diamond Harbour you can take an interesting detour via ferry out to explore the nearby Quail Island. Enjoy a walk around the island and its historic attributes or just climb up to the top and enjoy the views. Booking ahead is advised, ferry trips are weather dependent.
From Diamond Harbour it’s a short drive around the bays, through Governors Bay and back to Lyttelton. See below for things to do in Lyttelton, and then its just 15 minutes drive through the tunnel and back to central Christchurch.
- Highlights. Okains Bay, Pigeon Bay, Diamond Harbour, Quail Island, Lyttelton.
- Price Indication. It’s free!
- Time. Allow just over an hour to drive straight from Akaroa to Diamond Harbour, and approximately 2 hours to get back to Lyttelton.
A visit to the port side township of Lyttelton is a great way to sample some of the fantastic fresh produce and boutique shopping Canterbury has to offer. Don’t miss the famous Lyttelton Farmers Market on a Saturday morning if you can work it in or just enjoy the outing for a late lunch or brunch.
If returning via our coastal roadie from Akaroa you will eventually end up in Lyttelton otherwise there are two ways to get to Lyttelton, through the tunnel or up over the top of the Port Hills. While we recommend the scenic road trip over the top, the time you have available might be the deciding factor; through the tunnel it will take just 15 minutes from Central Christchurch and around 49 minutes to go over the Dyers Pass Road across the top of the Port Hills.
- Location. The Lyttelton Farmers Market is located on London Street, Lyttelton.
- Price Indication. It’s free to go to Lyttelton however you won’t be able to resist the great café food and markets while you are there!
- Time. Allow at least two hours.
3. Christchurch Gondola
By far, the easiest way to get to the top of the Port Hills, the Gondola is a serene sightseeing experience perfect for those who prefer to make their way to the top without all of the hiking, biking, and driving.
Taking a trip up the Christchurch Gondola is a must-do when seeking out the best views of the city and beyond. Once you reach the top enjoy a ride through the Time Tunnel and its visual reconstruction of the region’s history, stop by the Red Rock Café for a coffee and snack and take a short stroll outside to really soak up the views.
- Location. 10 Bridle Path Road, Heathcote Valley
- Price Indication. Adults $30, Children $10
- Time. Allow about an hour for the round trip. More if you plan to take a walk while you’re up there.
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