Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island, and it's packed full of plenty for the whole family to enjoy. When you're embarking on a holiday to Christchurch, you'll find no shortage of fun things to do, whether you're looking for inner-city excitement or outdoor adventures. With its location by the southern alps, active outdoor activities are particularly popular. However, you'll still find plenty of more relaxing attractions if that's what your family is more interested in. Take a look at the best family activities in Christchurch, and discover what will work best for your unique family.
1. Explore the Air Force Museum of New Zealand
At the Air Force Museum of New Zealand, you and your kids can explore the fascinating history of military aviation in the country. You'll find several actual planes on display, many of which are open for you to explore inside, offering insight into how these machines functioned. Numerous interactive displays are available that kids, in particular, tend to enjoy. The flight simulator is also quite popular, as it allows guests to immerse themselves in a virtual experience that mimics the sensation of actually flying. It's the closest most people will get to ever actually flying a plane themselves. As a bonus, admission here is free.
2. Find thrills at Christchurch Adventure Park
When you and your family visit Christchurch Adventure Park, you'll find a wide range of activities all designed to be thrilling and adrenaline-inducing. If your family likes high-speed fun, you won't want to miss out on the ziplining and mountain biking available here. Of course, if you have members of your family who are new to mountain biking, you'll find lessons here as well. Additionally, you'll find several hiking trails in the area if you're looking to take in the picturesque wilderness here at a more leisurely pace. Adventure is available here all year long, so it's easy to fit it into your itinerary no matter when you visit.
3. See the vibrant beauty of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens
If your family is looking for breathtaking serenity, look no further than the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Here, you'll find several different kinds of themed gardens across a 21-hectare space that's perfect for kids and adults alike. Most of the gardens tend to focus on native New Zealand species of plants, but that's just the beginning of what you'll see here. You'll find a Magnolia Garden, a Woodland Garden and a Rose Garden to explore. This attraction also features the caterpillar tour, which is particularly useful if your family feels a bit tired since the tour takes place on a motorised vehicle.
4. Explore history at the Canterbury Museum
The Canterbury Museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the natural and cultural history of the area with artefacts dating back thousands of years if not longer. Much of the cultural history here showcases the Maori people and their rich history, offering a fascinating insight into who they are. You'll find more recent history as well, including a sno-cat tractor that the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition used. This museum also has an extensive historical clothing collection. Entry to this museum is free, though donations are always appreciated, so it's perfect for kids activities in Christchurch on a budget.
5. Ride the Christchurch Gondola
When you and your family take a ride on the Christchurch Gondola, you'll be met with absolutely incredible views that showcase the splendour of the city itself as well as the natural beauty of the surrounding landscapes. This gondola travels to the Port Hills summit offering a panoramic perspective of the Southern Alps as a whole at the highest point in town. Once you reach the actual peak, you'll find a cafe along with a Time Tunnel ride that showcases the local history in an exciting way that you'll have to see for yourself.
6. Take a trip on the Christchurch Tramway
While the Christchurch Tramway can be a stunning attraction no matter what your family is interested in, it's especially appealing to first time visitors. Not only will you take part in one of the oldest aspects of the city, but this heritage tramway also stops at some of the most iconic destinations in town, including the museum and the botanic gardens. Kids will like the change of pace if they're used to spending time in cars to travel. The tram runs right through the heart of the city with frequent stops, so it's easy to access and a good first stop for first time visitors looking to get an idea of the city's layout and how its top attractions relate to each other.
7. Find big fun with Halswell Miniature Trains
Just about everything is more adorable and interesting when shrunk down, and working trains are no different. At Halswell Miniature Trains, you'll find several mini trains that are not only fascinating to look at as they emulate a scale model of a full-sized train, but they're completely functional. That functionality isn't just for looks, though, as your family is more than welcome to hop on for a ride. They run on miniature tracks and cross several miniature versions of landscape features like crossings, tunnels and bridges. Tickets to these train rides are also relatively affordable, so you can visit even if you're on a strict budget.
8. Explore the mysteries at the International Antarctic Centre
The International Antarctic Centre showcases some of the most impressive features of the southernmost continent on the planet with numerous interactive displays and exhibits. While much of these exhibits simply offer information, others can be a bit more involved. For example, you'll find one that simulates what it's like to be in a storm while travelling through the Antarctic. Additionally, there's a snow vehicle ride that travels through a simulated obstacle course, showcasing what excursions to this continent involve. However, even with all this, kids tend to love the artificial indoor snow more than most other things on offer.
9. Play around at the Margaret Mahy Family Playground
You'll have no problem finding extravagant and thrilling things to do with kids in Christchurch, but sometimes all your little ones need is a simple playground. That's where Margaret Mahy Family Playground can help. You'll find plenty of activities here for your little ones to enjoy with plenty of equipment and apparatuses for your kids to play on. The playground is massive in size, with room enough for 1000 people to visit. Aside from the playground itself, you'll also find food and coffee vendors around most days, along with a water play area that's particularly useful for those hot summer days.
10. Enjoy the wide-open spaces of North Hagley Park
North Hagley Park is a popular park in town that's known for its massive size and tranquil serenity. If your family is looking to relax or your kids need a big place to run around, there's nothing quite like this park. Several walking tracks are available throughout the park, including several along the banks of the Avon River. However, keep in mind that several events are held in the park throughout the year, so be sure to check the local calendar to see what's happening before your visit. A good rule of thumb, however, is to expect an event anytime there's a major holiday.
11. Embark on a safari at the Orana Wildlife Park
When you're looking for things to do in Christchurch with kids, you probably aren't expecting to come across a safari. At Orana Wildlife Park, that's exactly what you'll find with an open range zoo that you can tour from safely within a protected vehicle. You'll find a wide variety of exotic animals, including tigers, orangutans, spider monkeys, Tasmanian devils and even wild dogs. While all impressive, visitors tend to rave about the lions more than anything else. There's a special lion encounter experience available here where visitors are safe within a caged truck as the lions are fed around them.
12. Go boating on the Avon River
The Avon River is the major waterway that runs through town. While many attractions are situated next to it, offering stunning views to enjoy, you may be more interested in venturing into the river itself. Quite a few different kinds of boat tours are available, but if you're looking for a relaxing tour, the punting boat may be your best bet. This flat-bottomed boat is operated by a knowledgeable guide showcasing everything you need to know about the river. The experience is a bit theatrical as well, with the guides wearing clothing from the Edwardian era. The stories are enough to keep the children entertained, so it's a great opportunity for the adults in your family to relax.
13. Get inspired at Quake City
In 2011, Christchurch suffered a devastating earthquake. While initially destructive, the locals worked together to rebuild and offer help to everyone who needed it. You can see a tribute to this tremendous effort at the Quake City museum. Inside, you'll find numerous fascinating displays and exhibits about the earthquake itself, but that's just the beginning. The bulk of the museum is focused on the heroes that emerged from the event, rising from obscurity to help their neighbours recover. These stories are good for inspiring adults and children alike to do more for the people around them, no matter the circumstances.
14. Step back in time at Riccarton House
Visiting Riccarton House will feel like you're stepping back in time. This massive heritage house dates back to the mid-19th century, showing off plenty of distinct architectural features. Even if you've seen some old homes before, this particular house has unique Victorian and Edwardian features offering a fascinating combination. The house is well-maintained and entirely restored, so you and your family can get an idea of what the good life was like back in the 19th century. Don't forget to check out the surrounding Riccarton Bush as well, a forest that dates back thousands of years with massive Kahikatea trees.
15. See the animals at the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve
If your family is interested in the native animals of South Island and New Zealand as a whole, Willowbank Wildlife Reserve has everything you need. Here, you'll find a wide variety of native species, including Kea, Kaka, Morepork, Takahe, Whio and plenty more. You'll even find incredible animals like the Tuatara, a local reptile with an evolutionary history that's been largely unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs. Of course, you'll be able to find plenty of Kiwi birds as well. This reserve has its own nocturnal Kiwi house you can explore. Your kids will especially enjoy feeding times where they can engage directly with these adorable creatures.