Top 10 things to do in Christchurch and Canterbury

From sweeping plains to soaring mountains, coastline to glacial lakes, the Christchurch and Canterbury region has it all.

Head north to see marine life in Kāikoura, west to the mountainous Arthur's Pass, or across the plains to the starlit Mackenzie Basin. Check out the top 10 things to do from Christchurch to Takapō (Tekapo).

1. Tasman Glacier and Aoraki Mt Cook Village

New Zealand’s largest glacier is accessible on foot, by bike and by boat. Glacier Explorers(opens in new window) take you on a boat cruise around the glacial lake, where you will learn how the Tasman Glacier was formed. While you’re there, take time to marvel at our tallest mountain, Aoraki / Mt Cook, and explore the national park. Favourite short walks from Mt Cook Village include the Governors Bush Walk (1 hour) and the Hooker Valley Track (3-4 hours).

2. Go stargazing at the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve

The Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve is an area of exceptional cultural, natural, and astrological importance. With more than 4,300 square kilometres of sky that is free from light pollution, it’s the perfect place to go stargazing. 

Visit the Dark Sky Project(opens in new window) in Takapō (Tekapo) or Big Sky Stargazing(opens in new window) at Aoraki / Mt Cook Village for the chance to gaze into space through powerful telescopes, and learn more about the importance of New Zealand's dark skies. 

3. Ride the Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail

Travelling from the Southern Alps to the Pacific Ocean, this 300 km cycle trail showcases the most dramatic scenery New Zealand has to offer. Bike your way through Aoraki Mt Cook National Park alongside glacial-fed lakes, and on to golden grasslands, limestone cliffs and Māori rock art. This trail suits all abilities and includes a mixture of off- and on-road trails.

4. Visit Hanmer Springs

Only 90 minutes drive from Christchurch, Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa (opens in new window)offers the perfect balance of fun and relaxation, with different levels of thrills on the waterslides, and a selection of hot pools including aqua therapy, hexagonal pools, rock pools and sulphur pools - leaving you feeling relaxed and refreshed.

Explore more of Hanmer Springs

5. Travel on the TranzAlpine railway through the Southern Alps

The TranzAlpine journey(opens in new window) through the Southern Alps is one of the most scenic train rides in the world. Start the journey from Christchurch or Greymouth. If departing from Christchurch, you’ll travel through the patchworked scenery of the Canterbury Plains the up into Arthur’s Pass National Park. From here, you’ll venture down into the wild beech forests of the West Coast, arriving in Greymouth. The trip takes four hours one way, or nine hours return but why not stay a while and explore the rugged coast and glaciers of the West Coast.

6. Visit Waipara Valley Wineries

One hour north of Christchurch you’ll find fields of lavender, olive groves and more than 90 vineyards. Dozens of cellar doors welcome you to exquisite wine tastings in the Waipara Valley. Rent a bike or hop on one of the many winery tours to explore this region's bounty.

Discover Waipara wineries

7. Visit Akaroa and the Banks Peninsula

Just 1.5 hours’ drive from Christchurch, along the incredibly scenic Banks Peninsula, Akaroa is a sweet little town with unique French heritage. Take in Akaroa's historic cottages and sample fine French cuisine before heading out with Black Cat Cruises to get up close to the region's abundant marine life, including the smallest dolphins in the world - the Hectors.

Or, go on a sea kayaking tour with Pohatu Penguins(opens in new window) to see conservation in action in a remote bay. 

8. Discover marine life in Kāikoura

Caught between the rugged Seaward Kaikōura Range and the Pacific Ocean, Kaikōura is a base for wildlife experiences of all kinds. Marine mammal encounters are the main attraction, from spotting whales to kayaking with fur seals and swimming with dolphins. 

Top things to do in Kāikoura

9. Go walking and hiking in Arthur's Pass National Park

Rugged and mountainous Arthur's Pass National Park is the halfway point between Christchurch and the West Coast. The dense forests are often drenched in rain, creating stunning waterfalls and crystal clear streams. Explore the historic village and surrounds on foot, on trails such as the popular Devil's Punchbowl track. Keep an eye out for birds such as kea, which frequent the village, and other smaller critters such as tomtits and riflemen. 

For more advanced hikers, there are a range of backcountry trails to choose from. 

10. Follow a street art trail in Christchurch city

Christchurch is a thriving city, humming with creativity. A vibrant arts scene is constantly growing and evolving - as you'll be able to see from the ever-changing street art murals around the city. Go on a walk or bike ride around the inner city to discover colourful artworks in a striking urban setting. 

Find more to do in the Christchurch region