If you visiting Christchurch with kids, here are 8 things to do here.
New Zealand has been Mass’s and my dream for a decade! We were set to come here for our honeymoon in 2009. As we all know, life has a way of changing your plans! However, we always promised ourselves that we absolutely were going to get here someday. We finally did thanks to our family world tour!
Our family arrived in the middle of the night here in Christchurch on the South Island. We booked a hotel in the downtown area so we would the freedom to move around as much as possible on foot. Believe me, Christchurch, also known as the “Garden city” has plenty to offer to fill your days! Here is what we did with our kids.
1. Take a walk down New Regent Street
We were staying right across from this lovely street. It was opened in 1932 as a pedestrian mall. The buildings are in a beautiful Spanish Mission architectural style and painted in a distinctive pastel color scheme.
You will find a variety of shops from gourmet fudge and cookies. A whisky bar, cafes, restaurants, and a diamond jeweler. If you are lucky you will also see the traditional tram go by!
2. Take a tour of the city on the traditional Christchurch tram
One of the best ways to visit the downtown area of Christchurch is by riding the traditional Christchurch tram. It takes about 50 minutes. There are 17 stops along the way where you can hop on and off. It was really helpful for us to have a better understating of where everything was. So we didn’t have to walk everywhere with our kids.
I’m sure we all know what kids like to say after walking for 10 minutes “are we there yet?”. The tram kept mine entertained for a while because it was a different way of getting around. On the plus side, the drivers were pretty funny. So it was also interesting to listen to them talk about the history of this city.
There is a great deal, in case you want to do a couple of the activities offered here in Christchurch. In fact, you will get a lower price if you buy more activities together as a package. We booked 4 activities, including the tram, which was also convenient to get us places. For more information on packages and prices click here.
3. Go punting on the Avon
Punting on the Avon is one of Christchurch’s iconic attractions.
Personally, it reminded us of the traditional gondola in Venice! We were also lucky because we were the only ones on the boat for the time we scheduled.
They gave us a hot water bag each and blankets since it was still a bit chilly. Once we were ready a Punter dressed in Edwardian fashion (striped blazer and braces, with a ‘boater’ straw hat), stood on the platform at the end of the boat. He propelled it along with a long pole, slowly down the river. The punter talked about the plants and birds that populate the area of the Botanic Garden that we were going through. It was such an enjoyable moment and we all relaxed during this boat ride.
This tradition was introduced in 1986. Young lovers, long-married couples, families, friends and individuals have always enjoyed this attraction any time of the year. For more information on packages and prices click here.
4. Take a tour of the Botanic Gardens
Our activity package included also a guided tour of the Botanic Gardens. However, you can freely walk all around it and enjoy it on your own as well.
The tour was an hour-long on an electronically powered vehicle with a very prepared guide. He gave us a lot of insight on this beautiful garden. The guide pointed out trees and plants that were not originally from New Zealand. They were put in the Garden for their beauty and to create a variety of plants from all over the world.
The Botanic Gardens are part of Hagley Park which covers 165 ha of land in the downtown area. In 1855 a law was passed which claimed that the land should be preserved forever as public park and should be open for the recreation and enjoyment of the public. What an amazing gift to this city! At the time the gardens became a place where people had a chance to meet. Since back then they had no phones, FaceTime or Skype. They would go to the garden and simply spend time, talk or play games.
Enoch Barker came to Christchurch as a government gardener. In 1863, he planted the first tree in the Government Domain. Known as the Albert Edward oak, it was planted to mark the marriage of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, to Princess Alexandra of Denmark. He also took care of developing the Gardens and their variety of plants and trees.
Our tour was perfect! The kids had lots of fun and the guide was extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the gardens, so he was able to keep our kids interested for the whole hour! Once the tour is over you can enjoy walking around the gardens, maybe let your kids free to run around or go to the playground at the park next door! In case you want to take the tour check out the page here.
5. Enjoy the view of Christchurch by taking a Gondola ride
Of course, we could not miss seeing Christchurch from a higher perspective by taking a Gondola ride up! The gondola base is in Heathcote Valley and it traverses the slopes of Mount Cavendish in the Port Hills. From the top, you can enjoy 360 views of the city. To the west Christchurch cityscape, over Canterbury Plains to high peaks of the Southern Alps. To the south and east the view of the Banks Peninsula, Lake Ellesmere, and Lyttelton Harbor and to the north the beaches of Pegasus Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Truly stunning!
We went up as soon as it opened in the morning, so we could enjoy a lovely breakfast with a view!
Once you have checked out every inch of the panorama you can take one of the walking tracks. We only did a short one, because Luca was in no mood for walking, but honestly it was just so beautiful to be out there. It was ok also if we didn’t venture off too far.
Another nice attraction while you are up there, is the Time Tunnel Experience. This ride makes you journey back 12 million years from the depth of a volcano, a forest, a short voyage on a ship and through the early settlements of Christchurch. This was extremely interesting for our kids to have a bit more of an insight into New Zealand’s past. Specially since we had just got here! For more information on packages and prices click here.
6. Learn more about New Zealand culture at the Canterbury Museum
We walked into the museum a bit by mistake since there was a photography show going on. Imagine how happy we were when we found out that it was all free!
The museum is in a neo-gothic historical building. Throughout the museum you get to learn more about New Zealand’s rich cultural and natural heritage. Particularly interesting are the Maori and early European exhibits. Our kids loved the representation of Christchurch Street in “the old days”. It felt like going way back in time. Particularly fun for them was trying to ride the bike with the huge wheel!
There was plenty to see and lots to learn!
7. Let your kid’s energy free at the coolest playground in town!
Yes! We are those parents whose kids have to absolutely try every playground they see. But let me tell you something about this one in particular: you cannot miss it! The Margaret Mahy Playground is fun for the adults as well. Mass and I went down the huge slide more than once!
The one downfall is that it is really complicated to take them away!
8. Walk around and see how the earthquake changed this city
On 22 February 2011, Christchurch suffered a magnitude 6.3 earthquake. It killed 185 people and injured several thousand. The earthquake’s epicentre was near Lyttelton, just 10 km southeast of Christchurch’s central business district. It happened almost six months after the September 2010 earthquake.
Although not as powerful as the 2010 one, this earthquake occurred on a shallow fault line that was close to the city. This is why the shaking was particularly destructive.
The earthquake brought down many buildings damaged in the previous one, especially older brick and mortar buildings. Heritage buildings suffered heavy damage, including the Provincial Council Chambers, Lyttelton’s Timeball Station, the Anglican Christchurch Cathedral and the Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. More than half of the buildings in the central business district have since been demolished. Including the city’s tallest building, the Hotel Grand Chancellor.
Today you can still see some buildings left in the same conditions as when the earthquake happened. Mostly for lack of funds or lack of ideas on what to do with it!
As we listened to the various guides talking about this we realized how these events have been painful for this city. Unfortunately, the ruins make it impossible to forget, although I don’t really think anyone wants to. An earthquake that can do all this damage reminds you how powerful nature is. In front of such a calamity, there is not much you can do.
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