Christchurch, New Zealand, has all the amenities of a modern major city, yet still exudes a colonial feel. Hip cafés and trendy bars are set amid Gothic architecture, and the city boasts some of New Zealand's best museums and art galleries. After enjoying Canterbury's wildlife reserve, its park and numerous gardens, you can use the city as a gateway to the surrounding area. Head off for Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park, Lake Tekapo's Alpine Springs & Spa, or grab a kayak and head to the outer bays of Banks Peninsula.
There are plenty of places to relax and enjoy New Zealand's flora and fauna in and around Christchurch. Go bird watching at Orana Wildlife Park or spend an afternoon lounging in the city's botanic gardens.
For the truly adventurous, sign up for the Lion Encounter at Orana. Think of it as a reversal of the zoo. You and your comrades will be rolled through lion country in a metal cage on the back of a pickup truck. Watch the lions feed while you are safely behind bars.
Dine at Mona Vale, an Elizabethan-style dwelling set among rambling gardens, pools and fountains. The vale is a popular wedding and event venue. Look for alpacas, wallabies and deer at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. The reserve is open daily, and if you visit, keep your eyes open for North Island brown Kiwi birds. In the evening the reserve hosts a Maori cultural performance.
Orana Wildlife Park
Willowbank Wildlife Reserve
Educational family attractions in Christchurch include the Discovery tour at Canterbury Museum, Science Alive!, Southern Encounter Aquarium and the International Antarctic Centre.
Canterbury Museum displays artifacts from New Zealand's history as well as a Maori art gallery.
Exhibits constantly change at Science Alive!, and there is also a glow-in-the-dark mini-golf course on site.
Children can marvel at the enormous eels in the Southern Encounter Aquarium, and tough travelers can experience the Antarctic wind chill in the Antarctic Storm simulator.
At the International Antarctic Center, you can also encounter penguins, ride a Hagglund ATV, or play on the icy slopes of the Snow and Ice Experience.
Southern Encounter Aquarium
International Antarctic Centre
Historic & Cultural Attractions
The city's arts center is located in a group of Gothic Revival buildings. There you can enjoy galleries, theaters, craft outlets, restaurants and cafés. On the weekend, there is an open air market where you can browse through the crafts, jewelry, art, fashion and fresh produce.
Both Canterbury Museum and Christchurch Art Gallery are well worth stopping by. The gallery's collection is made up of historical, 20th-century and contemporary works. There are also two galleries featuring glass and paper works.
Climb the cathedral's spire in Cathedral Square to get a bird's eye view of the city center.
Christchurch Arts Centre
Christchurch Art Gallery
Article Written By Heather Carreiro
Heather Carreiro is a certified English teacher who has been writing since 2008. The editor of Matador Abroad, her work has appeared online at BootsnAll, Matador Network, GoNOMAD, Journey Beyond Travel and Expat Women. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in linguistics and Middle Eastern studies from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and is pursuing a Master of Arts in English at Bridgewater State University.