If you are looking for things to do in Christchurch on a budget, you’ll be delighted to discover that there are many free things to do in and near the city during your visit.
Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand and is located on the expansive Canterbury Plains. Following two earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 the city is being rejuvenated and regenerated with stunning world-class architecture and a rapidly growing economy and hospitality sector. There are countless Christchurch attractions that will appeal to families and independent travellers alike, but here are our pick of six of the best fun and free things to do in Christchurch.
The Margaret Mahy Playground
If you are travelling with children, or you are a child at heart, then the Margaret Mahy Playground is a must experience free attraction in Christchurch.
Named after the much loved Christchurch born author, the playground opened in December 2015 to the delight of residents and visitors to the central city. Located near the Avon River near Madras and Armargh Streets this is surely one of the coolest central city playgrounds.
The design reflects the Canterbury Plains and the Port Hills environment and has been thoughtfully constructed as an all-age, all-ability playground with awesome play equipment with separate activity areas for different ages. A guaranteed fun day out.
Hagley Park and The Botanical Gardens
The Christchurch Botanic Gardens are set within Hagley Park which can be found next to the City Centre. The Gardens were started in 1850, the same time the city was founded by European settlers.
There is plenty of old world charm to be discovered as you walk around the gardens and park.
The River Avon runs next to Hagley Park and you can spend a lovely few hours enjoying the serenity of these beautiful spaces.
In Spring and Autumn the park bursts into life with the flowers, plants and trees that show off nature at its finest.
Hagley Park lso plays host to many free festivals and events during summertime. The World Buskers Festival, Classical Sparks and the regular Sunday Bandstand are very popular with locals and visitors. Up to 50 000 people attend some of the larger events on a summer evening.
Christchurch Arts Centre
Close to the Botanical Gardens is the Christchurch Arts Centre, with the building being one of the best examples of Gothic Revival architecture in the country. Once the University of Canterbury, it’s now a complex of boutique shops, studios and art galleries. Public art installations, buskers and regular arts and crafts workshops make the Arts Centre a wonderful destination to visit. Each weekend you'll find a vibrant and eclectic mix of fashion, giftware and music at the Arts Centre outdoor market.
The Best Beaches of Christchurch
If you love beaches then Christchurch has many to enjoy within an easy drive from the city.
Sumner Beach boasts a beautiful stretch of golden sand and this is where you will find The River Avon meeting the Pacific Ocean. It’s well regarded as a family friendly beach with gentle swells making it safe for all to swim in the ocean.
If you love to surf then Scarborough Beach and Taylor’s Mistake are the coastal spots for you. Not far from Sumner the bigger waves at these beaches offer an exhilarating and fun activity near Christchurch.
Another beach to head to is New Brighton Beach. New Brighton is home to the iconic New Brighton Pier, which is the longest pier in the Australasia, spanning 300 metres in length. The suburb of New Brighton hosts many free public events, mostly in the summer season including the Speights Coast to Coast finishing line and the New Zealand Sand Castle Competition.
A truly unique shopping experience awaits you as you discover the Re:START Mall in Cashell Street. Following the devastating earthquake in 2011, the mall was conceived to breathe new life and hope into the central city. The mall was constructed by using and refashioning shipping containers and is now home to over 50 retailers. You don’t need to spend a cent to enjoy the vibrant atmosphere and street performers who entertain the crowds.
The Re:START Mall has been the cornerstone for the Christchurch tourist industry in recent years and was named by Lonely Planet as one of the ‘must visit’ places in the world.
Just an hour and a half drive from Christchurch is the oldest colonial town in the South Island. Akaroa, which is Maori for 'Long Harbour', was the region's first substantial European settlement and a safe haven for early whalers and sealers working in the Southern Ocean beyond the harbour's headlands. It is also the only French colonial settlement in the country. Set on a stunning waterfront and surrounded by craggy volcanic landforms, Akaroa is truly beautiful.
The town and nearby sandy beaches are easy to explore on foot. You will be surrounded by French and European heritage buildings as get a real feeling of the history of the area. Akaroa is the perfect day trip to take when wanting experience a free sightseeing attraction away from Christchurch city.
If you’re planning a visit to New Zealand, a trip to Canterbury and Christchurch City is a must-do adventure. For visitors looking to get about the Canterbury region, hire your Christchurch rental car from Omega, and begin exploring everything this stunning region has to offer.