The city of Christchurch makes a great base for exploring New Zealand’s central South Island coastline and the region of Canterbury. With three days in the area, you have time to discover city sights, explore the great outdoors, and even head to the Southern Alps. Here are some ways to experiencing the region’s most popular attractions in three days.
Day 1: Christchurch Meander
On your first day in town, take some time to explore town with a hop-on hop-off tour on a historic tram and see central city highlights, including Cathedral Square, Victoria Square, Christ's College, and the Bridge of Remembrance. In the afternoon, go punting on the Avon River, which runs through the botanic gardens, then take a gondola ride up the Port Hills and enjoy breathtaking 360-degree views of the Canterbury Plains and Banks Peninsula.
In the evening, combine dinner with sightseeing on the Tramway Restaurant, an eatery on wheels that offers a unique trip back. Alternatively, head to a Maori village for a traditional “hangi” dinner and a dance performance that illuminates centuries of New Zealand’s indigenous history.
Day 2: Outdoor Adventure
There are plenty of outdoor activities within easy reach of the city, and options range from white-water rafting to horse trekking, eco-cruising, and fishing. Take in the patchwork scenery of the local farmland from the sky on a helicopter tour, or get your adrenaline going on a rafting trip on the Waimakariri River, which boasts a variety of rapids. Alternatively, book a guided tour of the Waipara wine trail to go tasting at some of Canterbury’s many wineries, or take a jet boat trip through Waiau Gorge and relax with a soak in the Hanmer Springs thermal pools.
If you’re looking for a family-friendly adventure, you can take a trip into the heartland to visit a working sheep farm and see a sheep shearing demonstration, see the blue penguins at the International Antarctic Centre, or learn about kiwis at the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve.
Day 3: Day Trips from Christchurch
Christchurch is brilliantly positioned for day trips to a variety of locations. Fans of The Lord of the Rings can journey to Edoras, while history buffs can head to the historic town of Akaroa, the only French settlement in New Zealand; some Akaroa tours include a harbor cruise and the chance to see the region’s Hector’s dolphins.
To get into the mountains, take a quick ski trip to Mt. Hutt, which offers stunning views of snow-clad peaks and the Pacific Ocean. Alternatively, head to Mt. Cook, New Zealand's tallest mountain; tours to the mountain take you through the spectacular scenery of the Canterbury Plains, MacKenzie Basin, Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki, and the Tasman Glacier.