Ōtautahi Christchurch ticks all the boxes as a family friendly destination.

Whether your kids crave adventure, creativity, or education, there’s something here for everyone.

Nature

Christchurch - Canterbury
Swimming with dolphins, Christchurch - Canterbury

Black Cat Cruises 

With Black Cat Cruises​ your family can swim with the Hector's Dolphin, one of the world’s smallest dolphins, in the stunning setting of Akaroa harbour. Note: swimming is only possible for children aged 8 and over, and if the dolphins don’t want to play, Black Cat Cruises​ won’t force them to, so you might return to shore without having touched water. However, seeing dolphins in their natural habitat comes in at a very close second to swimming with them.   

Willowbank Wildlife Reserve 

Part zoo, part conservation reserve, Willowbank is a great place to see some of New Zealand’s extraordinary native birds, such as Kea, Takahē, and Kiwi, along with many of the cutest animals nature has ever produced. Honourable mentions include the adorable Capybara, the doubly adorable Siamang Gibbon, and the somewhat-acquired-taste-type-of-adorable Kune Kune pig.  

Adventure

Christchurch - Canterbury
Christchurch Adventure Park Zipline, Christchurch - Canterbury

Christchurch Adventure Park 

If your kids are telling you they’re bored, take them to the Christchurch Adventure Park. This park is a one-stop cure for all tedium-related ills.

While the park is for people of any age, it has some attractions designed specifically for little people. For young children who are new to mountain biking, there's the Kids Bike Loop Trail. For more experienced riders, there’s the Kids Pump Track, where kids who have no fear bank turns, ride rollers, and pump their bike for speed. School holiday programmes and youth skills clinics are also available.

For a family adventure, grab a Zipline Family Pass to ride the country’s longest zipline. Dual ziplines are available, so the more competitive family members can race each other to the bottom. Winner gets the passenger seat on the way home. 

He Puna Taimoana hot pools 

New Brighton’s new beach-front hot pool complex has a lot going for it. It has six outdoor saltwater pools, ranging from 26 to 40 degrees, plus a cold plunge pool. Despite the resort-style atmosphere, it is reasonably priced. And, importantly, the water is heated using geothermal heat pumps, so the impact on the environment is minimal. What’s more, bathing in warm salt water is good for you, helping with joints, circulation, and pain – something parents may appreciate more than children.

Culture

Christchurch - Canterbury
International Antarctic Centre, Christchurch - Canterbury

The International Antarctic Centre

If you’re wondering whether a visit to International Antarctic Centre might be a cool thing to do, the answer is ‘yes’, precisely -8°C of cool, but the wind chill makes it feel cooler.  

The coolest part of your visit will be the centre’s storm room. The room is chilled to a base temperature of -8°C, but the room’s wind machine takes the temperature down to -18°C. If this sounds cold, it’s nothing compared to the simulated Antarctic storm blows through once an hour. 

Afterwards, melt the icicles and your heart by cuddling a husky or visiting the Penguin Rescue. The Little Blue Penguins live at the centre permanently. After being rescued due to injury or illness, these penguins were assessed as not being fit to survive in the wild, so they’ve stayed on to become the centre’s littlest team members.  

Before you go, catch one of the films showing in Generation Antarctica. These short films showcase the latest science on climate change and demonstrate how a warming climate is impacting Antarctica. Your little ones can take pledge to be part of a new generation of environmental caretakers, determined to do what they can to fight climate change.  

Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū 

If you want your child to have an appreciation for art, you might as well start them early. Join a free, guided art tour for parents and babies of the Christchurch Art Gallery(opens in new window). Buggies welcome. Strengths of the collection include works by many prominent New Zealand artists, including Gordon White, Colin McCahon, Rita Angus, and Shane Cotton. 

Free

Christchurch - Canterbury
Margaret Mahy Playground, Christchurch - Canterbury

Margaret Mahy Playground 

Visit a playground(opens in new window) designed by kids for kids.

After the 2011 earthquake devasted central Christchurch, city officials decided to rebuild the city with more family-friendly spaces. They started by challenging local kids to design the ‘world’s best playground’. A challenged that was accepted by more than 6,000 children. 

The winning design was inspired by the stories of local children’s author Margaret Mahy, and augmented by playground experts from around the world, who incorporated the latest theory on learning and play.

The playground comprises four zones, reflecting Canterbury’s varied landscape: forest, coastal, plains, and wetland. The best bits include a 10-metre-high tower, 4-metre-wide slide, giant wobbling tops, and in-ground trampolines. All the equipment is built strong and big enough for adults to use it as well. You can hazard a guess as to whose idea this was – kids’ or playground experts?

The park was named for Margaret Mahy, the author of 100 picture books, 40 novels, and 20 collections of short stories. Margaret might have been a prolific writer, but she was also thorough. At age 62 she had her right shoulder tattooed with the picture of a skull with a rose in its teeth, so she could describe the experience convincingly in one of her stories.

Rutherford's Den  

If you climb the stairs of the old university clocktower to where Earnest Rutherford, the father of nuclear physics, carried out his first experiments, you’ll discover why these rooms have played such an important role in history.

The clocktower(opens in new window) now houses an excellent exhibition, featuring multi-sensory displays and hands-on experiences that bring Rutherford’s ideas to life.

Nuclear physics might seem like a subject that’s disconnected from our daily lives, but actually it isn’t. For example, smart phones and live streaming – two essentials of modern-day living – both had their precursors in television, radio, sonar, and telephones. Inventions that came about thanks to the work of Earnest Rutherford and his peers. What’s more, nuclear physics now has applications in medicine, power, and our understanding of the evolution of the cosmos.

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