It may be New Zealand’s oldest city, but tthere’s nothing old-fashioned about Christchurch! The largest city on the south island, Christchurch combines heritage, culture and exhilarating activity with its very English feel.
Whether you want to dig into all the city has to offer, or use it as a base to explore the natural landscape of the Canterbury region, consider making Christchurch your base on your next New Zealand trip.
If you are looking for the best things if you only have two days in Christchurch, this is the post for you! Discover what to do with 48-hours in Christchurch.
Christchurch’s iconic cathedral and surrounding square is considered the heart of the city.
The 19th-century neogothic structure had been Christchurch’s namesake and defining symbol until it was destroyed on February 22 2011 when a magnitude 6.2 earthquake destroyed a large number of buildings, already weakened by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake just weeks prior.
While you can no longer climb the Cathedral – 10-years on and the rebuilding of the cathedral is still ongoing – many new businesses have sprung up in the Square and adjacent streets surrounding.
Discover the City Centre by Tram
Hop on and explore Christchurch heritage style! The Christchurch Tram Tours offer a fun experience combining history and sightseeing onboard a beautifully-restored heritage tram (some of which originally ran in Melbourne!)
The all-day hop-on hop-off tickets allow you to visit the central city sights at your leisure. With 17 stops, including the Canterbury Museum, Riverside Markets, Cashel Street, Arts Centre and more, you’ll never be far from your accommodation or where you want to go.
If you enjoy the tour, consider booking a spot to dine on the tram as it trundles around Christchurch city centre. This is one activity that needs to be booked ahead of time and best of all, it’s a great family-friendly activity in Christchurch!
Enjoy the Avon River
Weaving it’s way through Christchurch, the Avon River is a wonderful place to spend a few hours.
Christchurch has a distinctly English feel and history, so why not do as the English do and go Punting on the Avon?! Admire the beautiful Christchurch Botanic Gardens or the changing face of the city centre as you are expertly guided gently along the Avon River on a 30minute boat ride. It’s an eco-friendly (human-powered!) and family-friendly way to enjoy the city.
Explore the Cultural Precinct
Across the Avon river from Cathedral Square you’ll discover the cities cultural precinct, inclding Christchurch’s glass-fronted art gallery.
Wander through the maze of speciality shops that occupy the original University of Canterbury campus. If you are visiting on a weekend, the Arts Centre Market fills one courtyard with more than 8 stalls. Or be part of history and watch the world’s longest-running movie, cult classic Gloomy Sunday, which has been showing for eight years at the Arts Centre’s intimate Academy Classic cinema. The film screens daily.
While here, explore the Canterbury Museum to learn more about the region. Entry to the museum is free; donations are appreciated.
Have a night out on Regent Street
Lined with pretty pastel-hued buildings, New Regent Street is a happening thoroughfare where you’ll find the city’s hippest cafes, restaurants and bars. Be sure to grab a glass of New Zealand’s world-renowned wine to enjoy dinner or enjoy in some of New Zealand’s great micro brews!
Mountain views and biking combine
Start your day sky high when you ride the Christchurch Gondola up Port Hills to enjoy scenic views 500 metres above sea level! The views are spectacular. From the gondola you’ll be rewarded with views of the city and the Banks Peninsula landscape. You can even take in the Southern Alps and the Canterbury Plains when the weather is good.
Enjoy a coffee or meal at the Summit Cafe before taking on one of the walking tracks, including the easy but steep bridle path that will take you back down to the gondola base station. This walk takes approximately one hour for the one-way downhill journey.
For the adventurous, mountain biking is incredibly popular in Christchurch, and there’s no better place to bike down than Port Hills!
Cool down at the International Antarctic Centre
Christchurch is one of only five official gateway cities to Antarctica in the world (it’s less than a 6hour flight from here), which gives you a good idea of the scientific importance of the International Antarctic Centre.
Striking the perfect balance between showcasing its role in scientific research while offering enough fun-filled activities to keep visitors engaged, while you visit the International Antarctic Centre you can learn about the first expeditions and the future of the frozen continent. Experience an Antarctic storm in the storm room, meet penguins and huskies, or ride the Hägglund – the amazing all-terrain amphibious Antarctic vehicle they use on Antarctica!
The audio guides have been narrated by the late Sir Edmund Hillary (well worth paying the extra NZD$6!) and there’s also a new audio-visual film about the continent which is fascinating.
Catch the Penguin Express from Cathedral Square to the International Antarctic Centre for an action-packed family-friendly experience!
Meet the locals
The Willowbank Wildlife Reserve is a great place to get up close with local New Zealand wildlife! Divided into three sections: farmyard, New Zealand and exotics, the reserve is home to a wide variety of animals.
The most popular area is the birds. With a huge number of native bird species including Kaka, Kea and the iconic Brown Kiwi.
A visit to the Nocturnal House allows visitors to see kiwis up-close as they explore their home and dig into the earth for worms.
Willowbank is also the home to the South Island’s only Māori Cultural Performance and Hāngī dinner. Learn how the Māori hunters lived, be entertained with a 45minute kapahaka performance, including poi dances, haka, stick games and weapons display; and finally, enjoy a four-course hāngi dinner to celebrate an excellent 48-hour trip to Christchruch!
Where to stay in Christchurch
Sudima Christchurch City – 550 Memorial Avenue, Harewood, Christchurch – This brand new 5-star boutique hotel in Christchurch is perfectly positioned on Victoria Street amidst an array of cafes, restaurants and bars, and is a short walk from beautiful Hagley Park and Christchurch’s CBD. As a contemporary hotel, it features luxe rooms and apartment-style rooms, a stylish restaurant & bar and an elegant day spa. All guests have access to free streamed movies, Amazon Echo Dot, and complimentary WiFi.
Distinction Christchurch Hotel – 14 Cathedral Square, Christchurch Central City – The recently renovated Distinction Christchurch Hotel is a luxurious urban escape ideally located in the heart of the city, amongst the buzz of the rejuvenation of Cathedral Square. Complimentary WiFi and on-site gym access are also available. This luxury Christchurch accommodation only a few minutes’ walk from the Avon River, Botanical Gardens, and the Christchurch Convention Centre. The best thing about this property? The Distinction Christchurch Hotel is 100% NZ owned and operated!
The MUSE Christchurch Art Hotel – 159 Manchester Street, Christchurch Central City – The MUSE is a place where culture, business, and art come together. Fitted with designer chic surroundings, local art throughout and all the luxurious comforts you’d expect in a boutique hotel in Christchurch, such as complimentary WiFi, onsite Gym, and Rain Shower. Located centrally in Christchurch this accommodation is sure not to disappoint!
How to get from Christchurch Airport to city centre
Christchurch Airport is located about 12 kilometres north west of the city centre. There are three options to get you from the airport to city centre.
Bus: There are two bus lines serving Christchurch Airport: the number 29 and the Purple Line. Tickets can be purchased from the bus drives and cost $8.50 for adults (one-way) and $4 for children (one-way). There is a discount for return trips. Plan your bus trip from Christchurch Airport.
Rideshare: Uber, Ola and Zoomy are the top rideshare services in New Zealand and all can be used on your journey from Christchurch Airport. There is a designated rideshare pickup zone at the airport. Exist the terminal and follow the signs to the Rideshare Pick-up Zone, located being the Express Park building. An airport fee of $5 does apply on each journey.
Taxi’s are the fastest way to get from Christchurch Airport to the city, taking just 15-20minutes, but also the most expensive with rides ranging from $45-$65 depending on where you want to go. The airport taxi rank is located directly outside the terminal or can be pre-booked through one of the local taxi companies.
Airport shuttles are fantastic for solo travellers or group travellers. The van or taxi is shared with other passengers travelling from the airport to Christchurch’s city centre. The journey is approximately 30-minutes and is door-to-door service. With prices beginning at $19 for the first person and an additional $5 for every person after, it’s an affordable way to get into the city! Book your Christchurch airport shuttle with one of these businesses.
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