How to Spend 48 Hours in Christchurch

Each of New Zealand’s major cities is home to some incredible attractions, from museums to art galleries, stunning restaurants, bars and pubs. Whether you have a day, two days or a week to spend in New Zealand or one of its cities, there’s plenty you do with your allotted time. Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island, located on the eastern coast about a quarter of the way down the island. Just above Banks Peninsula and Pegasus Bay, you will find the stunning Avon River flowing through the centre of town. If you only have two days to enjoy Christchurch, you will want to fit at least a few mainstays into your time.

See the city from your car or by gondola

Christchurch is full of history, from the original inhabitants, the Waitaha people and the Kati Mamoe, to the city being made the first official city under colonial rule in 1856. Christchurch is known for its strong English connection, with many of the buildings reflecting this direct influence. A self-driving tour in your rental car is also a great way to see the many heritage sites of the city, with established heritage trails explorable by car or by foot. Along with these heritage buildings, the streets are full of cutting edge new architecture, with new and old buildings sitting side by side. Street art and new urban projects such as green spaces also line the streets, with new projects dotted throughout the city. Or head up high on the Gondola to take in a stunning panoramic view of Christchurch. A truly unique and unforgettable experience. 

The Christchurch Botanic Gardens.
See Christchurch’s best nature sports

Spend your first day enjoying some of the world-class nature spaces the city has to offer. While you may not have enough time to get out and enjoy the national parks and forests of the Canterbury Region, the city offers enough green to get your nature fix. First up is the Orana Wildlife Park. Orana is the only open range zoo in New Zealand. Spread over 80 hectares and just a 15 minute drive from the airport, Orana offers guests up close and personal encounters with a range of native and exotic species. See over 70 species and 400 animals in the open range space. With experiences like a cage truck drive through a lion habitat where it’s the visitors confined in a (very safe) steel cage, to a world-class great ape centre, home to New Zealand’s only gorillas, you’re sure to find something hairy, fury, scaly or slimy to pique your interest. If you only have time for one attraction of its type, make it Orana Wildlife Park. 

If you want a more relaxing experience surrounded by nature, then head to the world-famous Christchurch Botanical Gardens. With free admission, the gardens will fit into any travel budget. See a range of native and exotic botanical displays right in the city centre. The gardens are a 21-hectare space with 10 different garden areas, sitting right on the banks of the Avon River - it doesn’t get more relaxing than that.

The fountain at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens.
Check out the museums and galleries

Moving on to some culture, why not take in a museum during your time in Christchurch? Located just outside the Botanical Gardens and free to enter, Canterbury Museum is  a popular choice for those with little time. Housed in a Gothic Revival building from the 1870s, the museum is home to a treasure trove of collections, from Moa (a giant extinct bird from New Zealand) bones to colonial artefacts, WWI and WWII artefacts. All up, there are over 2.3 million individual items in the collection. 

If the Canterbury Museum is the most prominent museum, then the Christchurch Art Gallery or Te Puna o Waiwhetu is the same for art galleries. The gallery also features free entry and is just down the road from the botanic gardens on Montreal Street. With underground parking available, as well as a tram stop, it’s easy to get to as well. The gallery offers free guided tours on top of free entry for the full experience. See a range of Māori, local, national and international artworks and exhibitions. 

Why not try and fit in the Botanic Gardens, Canterbury Museum and Christchurch Art Gallery into one jam-packed day of activities, and then explore the Orana Wildlife Park and the city's heritage on the second day? It’s a lot to fit in; you might have to return to Christchurch a second time!

To get from A to B in your quick Christchurch trip, hire a car from Christchurch Airport or Christchurch Downtown today!

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