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New Zealand

Christchurch & Canterbury

Things to do

Can-Do Christchurch

Stretching from the Pacific Coast to the Southern Alps, New Zealand’s Canterbury region is a place of vibrant contrasts that appeals to all kinds of holidaygoers. Whether you’re looking for an urban adventure, keen to enjoy a range of outdoor activities, or simply want to marvel at sublime scenery, a Christchurch and Canterbury holiday’s sure to deliver.

Located about a third of the way down the South Island’s east coast, Christchurch is New Zealand’s second largest city. Sizable earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 left many buildings destroyed and, in certain parts, entire neighbourhoods had to be abandoned. However, the city coped creatively and, these days, is managing to flourish in the wake of disaster. While scaffolding will remain a common sight on a Christchurch holiday for years to come, it’s interspersed with colourful street murals as well as loads of lovely parks and gardens.

Christchurch is also a great base from which to explore the wider area. The likes of Kaikoura, Hanmer Springs and Akaroa, on the Banks Peninsula, are all within day-tripping distance. But, with so much to see and do in these places, it’s worth considering an overnight stay. Just outside the city, you’ll find the delights of the North Canterbury wine region. Boasting almost a hundred vineyards – many of them independently owned and family run – it’s famed for its pinot noirs, chardonnays and rieslings. Or, if you fancy trying white-water rafting, you can spend a day riding the rapids at Rangitata Gorge.

While the coast near Christchurch is beautiful – and a fantastic place to spot dolphins – to experience some of the best parts of a Canterbury holiday you’ll need to travel inland. Wind your way through the lush farmland of the Canterbury Plains and past the vivid turquoise water of Lake Tekapo, and eventually you’ll make it to the breathtaking Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. Home to the highest peak in New Zealand, here you can climb, hike and stargaze. And while you can’t ski on Aoraki/Mt Cook itself, there are other slopes you can whizz down during a holiday to Christchurch and Canterbury, if you happen to be going in winter.

Things to do

Hanmer Springs

Mount Cook

Best time to go

Things to do in Christchurch

Christchurch was devastated by earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 but, over the past decade, has been continuously rebuilding and is now more vibrant and creative than ever. Known as the Garden City, it’s got hundreds of parks and green spaces, including 30 blissful riverside hectares of spectacular flowers at the Botanic Gardens, and is considered to be the most English of all New Zealand’s urban centres. While many heritage buildings were sadly destroyed in the quakes, or had to be demolished because of them, there are still a number of fascinating galleries and museums that are worth visiting during your Christchurch holiday.

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About an hour from Christchurch you’ll find the Banks Peninsula – one of New Zealand's most unique landforms. Formed by two giant volcanic eruptions approximately eight million years ago, it’s home to two large harbours as well as numerous other bays and coves. The quaint village of Akaroa, known for its historic buildings and French colonial charm, is a highlight here. It’s also the departure point for various boat tours which head out into the surrounding waters to spot sea life including rare Hector’s dolphins, white-flippered penguins, orcas and seals.

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Hanmer Springs

The pretty little town of Hanmer Springs, about a 90-minute drive from Christchurch, should feature somewhere on your Canterbury holiday itinerary. Surrounded by majestic mountains, this alpine spot is the South Island’s top thermal resort. There are more than 20 open-air hot pools – as well as a number of private indoor ones – at a range of temperatures, where you can ease tired muscles and soak your troubles away. Alternatively, if you fancy something a little less soporific, take a spill on the waterslides or splash about with the kids in the activity pool.

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If you want to indulge in yet more R&R when you’re done with the pools, head to the spa. Or, if you’d prefer to reinvigorate, you can go hiking in the mountains, rafting down the Waiau River or jet boating in Waiau Gorge. And, if your holiday to Christchurch and Canterbury happens to fall in winter, you can check always check out the pistes at Hanmer Springs Ski Area.

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Aoraki Mount Cook

Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is home to New Zealand’s tallest mountain and also its longest glacier – the mighty Haupapa/Tasman Glacier. This outdoor playground is therefore an excellent place for both climbing and hiking, with loads of trails weaving their way past alpine tarns, herb fields and glacial lakes. It’s also the starting point of the 300-kilometre Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail, which runs to Oamaru on the Pacific Coast.

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While this place is spectacularly beautiful during the day, things get even more impressive once the sun goes down. That’s because Aoraki Mount Cook forms the majority of New Zealand’s Dark Sky Reserve. Far from the bright lights of towns and cities, it’s home to some of the darkest skies in the world. So if you’re looking for somewhere to go stargazing during your Canterbury holiday, this is it. Alternatively, you could always head to the Mount John Observatory in nearby Tekapo, where experienced guides will share the science and stories of the Southern Sky.

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Best time to visit Christchurch & Canterbury

Canterbury has a number of different climate zones, all of which are influenced by the Southern Alps and their effect on airflows. Christchurch enjoys a temperate climate, characterised by mild summers and cool winters. From December to January, highs are around 21°C and lows tend to be about 11°C, while June to August sees highs of 11°C and lows of 1°C.

Temperatures in spring and autumn are somewhere in the middle but, as in the UK, spring generally sees more hours of sunshine. It’s likely that you’ll experience some rain during a Christchurch holiday, though, whichever month you go. Like many places in New Zealand, it’s no stranger to wet weather, with rain being distributed fairly evenly throughout the year.

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If you’re keen to do some skiing or snowboarding during your Christchurch and Canterbury holiday, you’ll want to visit in winter or early spring. Canterbury has a number of ski resorts – Mt Hutt being the biggest and, arguably, best – and the season typically runs from mid-June to mid-October.

Show More
Show Less

Things to do

Things to do in Christchurch

Christchurch was devastated by earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 but, over the past decade, has been continuously rebuilding and is now more vibrant and creative than ever. Known as the Garden City, it’s got hundreds of parks and green spaces, including 30 blissful riverside hectares of spectacular flowers at the Botanic Gardens, and is considered to be the most English of all New Zealand’s urban centres. While many heritage buildings were sadly destroyed in the quakes, or had to be demolished because of them, there are still a number of fascinating galleries and museums that are worth visiting during your Christchurch holiday.

Show More
Show Less

About an hour from Christchurch you’ll find the Banks Peninsula – one of New Zealand's most unique landforms. Formed by two giant volcanic eruptions approximately eight million years ago, it’s home to two large harbours as well as numerous other bays and coves. The quaint village of Akaroa, known for its historic buildings and French colonial charm, is a highlight here. It’s also the departure point for various boat tours which head out into the surrounding waters to spot sea life including rare Hector’s dolphins, white-flippered penguins, orcas and seals.

Show More
Show Less

Hanmer Springs

Hanmer Springs

The pretty little town of Hanmer Springs, about a 90-minute drive from Christchurch, should feature somewhere on your Canterbury holiday itinerary. Surrounded by majestic mountains, this alpine spot is the South Island’s top thermal resort. There are more than 20 open-air hot pools – as well as a number of private indoor ones – at a range of temperatures, where you can ease tired muscles and soak your troubles away. Alternatively, if you fancy something a little less soporific, take a spill on the waterslides or splash about with the kids in the activity pool.

Show More
Show Less

If you want to indulge in yet more R&R when you’re done with the pools, head to the spa. Or, if you’d prefer to reinvigorate, you can go hiking in the mountains, rafting down the Waiau River or jet boating in Waiau Gorge. And, if your holiday to Christchurch and Canterbury happens to fall in winter, you can check always check out the pistes at Hanmer Springs Ski Area.

Show More
Show Less

Mount Cook

Aoraki Mount Cook

Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is home to New Zealand’s tallest mountain and also its longest glacier – the mighty Haupapa/Tasman Glacier. This outdoor playground is therefore an excellent place for both climbing and hiking, with loads of trails weaving their way past alpine tarns, herb fields and glacial lakes. It’s also the starting point of the 300-kilometre Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail, which runs to Oamaru on the Pacific Coast.

Show More
Show Less

While this place is spectacularly beautiful during the day, things get even more impressive once the sun goes down. That’s because Aoraki Mount Cook forms the majority of New Zealand’s Dark Sky Reserve. Far from the bright lights of towns and cities, it’s home to some of the darkest skies in the world. So if you’re looking for somewhere to go stargazing during your Canterbury holiday, this is it. Alternatively, you could always head to the Mount John Observatory in nearby Tekapo, where experienced guides will share the science and stories of the Southern Sky.

Show More
Show Less

Best time to go

Best time to visit Christchurch & Canterbury

Canterbury has a number of different climate zones, all of which are influenced by the Southern Alps and their effect on airflows. Christchurch enjoys a temperate climate, characterised by mild summers and cool winters. From December to January, highs are around 21°C and lows tend to be about 11°C, while June to August sees highs of 11°C and lows of 1°C.

Temperatures in spring and autumn are somewhere in the middle but, as in the UK, spring generally sees more hours of sunshine. It’s likely that you’ll experience some rain during a Christchurch holiday, though, whichever month you go. Like many places in New Zealand, it’s no stranger to wet weather, with rain being distributed fairly evenly throughout the year.

Show More
Show Less

If you’re keen to do some skiing or snowboarding during your Christchurch and Canterbury holiday, you’ll want to visit in winter or early spring. Canterbury has a number of ski resorts – Mt Hutt being the biggest and, arguably, best – and the season typically runs from mid-June to mid-October.

Show More
Show Less

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