Christchurch is often described as the most English of New Zealand's cities. But for all its self-consciously inherited charm, it can hold its own as a thoroughly modern New Zealand city.
Kiwi art has pride of place in the city's gallery, the wildlife reserves teem with native animals, and the multitude of great cafes, restaurants and bars that fill the city center prove that Christchurch has a special charm of its very own.
Day 1: Christchurch Meander
Get around and see the sights in style on a hop-on hop-off tram tour, running from the Botanic Gardens to the River Avon. Enjoy the central city highlights, including Cathedral Square, Victoria Square, the floral clock, Christ's College, Arts Center with craft market, and the Bridge of Remembrance. Visit the Big 5 most popular attractions in Christchurch: Antarctica's beautiful icy wilderness has been re-created at the International Antarctic Center, view native kiwis at the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, ride on a historic Christchurch tram, take a relaxing two-hour harbor cruise, and soar to the summit on the Christchurch Gondola with breathtaking 360-degree views of the city, Canterbury Plains and Banks Peninsula.
In the evening, combine dinner with sightseeing on the Tramway Restaurant Tour, not only a culinary delight but also a trip back in time, or discover Maori culture and savor a traditional hangi dinner at the Tamaki Heritage Village, as guests traverse 20 acres of land and 180 years of New Zealand history.
Day 2: Get Outdoors
It's easy to see why New Zealand is the world's outdoor activity capital. Think of an active pursuit, and you'll find it here: swimming with dolphins, jet-boating, white-water rafting, horse trekking, eco-cruising, fishing, and that's just for starters. The sensation of floating over the patchwork farmland at dawn is something you'll never forget when you go hot-air ballooning. Frolic with Dusky Dolphins and whales in Kaikoura , ride a horse on the Banks of the Waimakariri River, or use Christchurch as a base to go skiing at Mt. Hutt, with a stunning backdrop of snow clad peaks and staggering views to the Pacific Ocean. Discover the historic town of Akaroa, the only French settlement established in New Zealand.
Day 3: Day Trips from Christchurch
Christchurch is brilliantly positioned for multi-day South Island excursions. Choose from three-to seven-day tours taking in the Scottish influenced city of Dunedin, the rugged, unspoiled landscape of Otago on the journey to Queenstown, cruising majestic Milford Sound and admiring the magnificent Franz Josef Glacier. Ride the rails aboard the TranzAlpine train on a stunning rail journey through the Southern Alps, or take a gorgeously scenic day trip to Mt. Cook, New Zealand's tallest mountain, through the spectacular scenery of the Canterbury Plains, MacKenzie Basin, Lakes Tekapo and Pukari and the Tasman Glacier.