Are you planning a trip to New Zealand with kids? If Christchurch is on your New Zealand itinerary, you won’t want to miss out on these top things to do in Christchurch with kids!
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It won’t take much research to find the wide array of things to do in Christchurch, especially with kids!
Whether you are heading to Christchurch for a weekend away, or the start of an epic New Zealand road trip, it’s definitely worth spending some time in the city.
Christchurch is also a great base for day trips or an overnight holiday. Take a trip to Hanmer Springs for adventure activities such as bungy jumping, jet boating and mountain biking in Hanmer Forest.
Or for a more tranquil day out, head to Lake Tekapo, a beautiful glacial lake, and spend the day at Tekapo Springs. The hot pools overlook the lake, and the spa has massages to die for.
With Christchurch being the center of the Canterbury region, it’s not surprisingly that many use it as a base to explore the wider area.
Whether you’re interested in enjoying the outdoor landscapes or soaking in the local culture, there are things to do in Christchurch for your family! Enjoy my weekend itinerary below.
Guest post by Jennifer from Backyard Travel Family
A Little About Christchurch
Christchurch is the capital of the South Island. It’s the biggest entry point for visitors and the best place to start off a road trip.
It has the feel of an old English city, with a beautiful cathedral and boats punting down the Avon River.
English visitors would recognize its heritage. However today, much of that old heritage has crumbled.
The 2010 and 2011 Christchurch Earthquake decimated the city and killed almost 200 people. Even 10 years later, the city is still rebuilding.
Empty lots exist from old apartments or businesses that were never rebuilt. There are beautiful green spaces that locals will know were once inner-city establishments.
There’s still construction, so don’t be alarmed by the fact the city looks “unfinished.” See this instead as being part of a historic moment, the city being rebuilt from within!
Looking past the rebuild you will see incredible displays of architecture, or a city reuniting and working together to create a new community.
And the kids won’t notice the construction for what is unfinished. Instead, they’ll be an amazing world of cranes, and diggers to stare at for hours.
There are so many interesting things to do in Christchurch with kids, so we encourage you to explore.
A Weekend Itinerary in Christchurch with Kids
Day 1 in Christchurch: Explore the Inner CBD by Tram
Christchurch Central City is a really easy place to explore with kids as it is completely flat. There are no hills, and there are plenty of paths by the river and pedestrian-only areas such as Cathedral Square.
But if you have young kids or don’t feel like walking, then taking a tour on the Christchurch tram will be one of the best things you can do.
This is the best way to get your bearings of Christchurch and see some of the most popular attractions in one go!
You’ll travel along the colorful New Regent Street and get a good look at sites like the Remembrance Bridge, Christchurch Cathedral, the Christchurch Art Gallery, and more.
Up to 3 children can go free with a paying adult. And the hop-on hop-off day pass is only 25 minutes.
The full loop takes about 50 minutes, and the trams leave every 15-20 minutes. There are 17 stops on the tram trail, and these are some of the best ones to explore with kids.
Get your discounted Christchurch tram tickets.
The Canterbury Museum is a free attraction (donations accepted) that has something to amuse everyone in the family. If you’re new to New Zealand, this is a good place to learn about Maori culture.
If you like a bit of quirky history, check out Fred and Myrtle’s Paua Shell House, an iconic piece of New Zealand history that really does have to be seen to be believed.
Adventurous kids (like mine) will love learning about Sir Edmund Hillary’s historic trip across Antarctica and playing on the skidoo.
And nature lovers can enter the kid-friendly discovery room (a couple of dollars each for entry) for a hands-on nature experience.
After you have finished at the museum, head into Hagley Park at the city center to burn off some energy.
The park is home to the incredible Christchurch Botanic Gardens, including the greenhouses which are great to explore on a cold or rainy day.
You’ll find lovely walking trails here that are perfect for enjoying the regions natural beauty. Walk along the Avon River, through the botanic gardens, and along tree-lined paths.
There is also a large playground with a splash pad, all free for kids to explore.
If you are feeling peckish about now, jump back on the tram and head to the Riverside Market in downtown Christchurch.
It is a brilliant example of the Christchurch Rebuild, bringing together elegant design and architecture. And Riverside Market brings community artisans together under one roof!
Try samples of locally produced salami, raw snacks, and more. Make sure to try one of our personal favorites, the Bacon Brothers!
With so many local goods and cuisines under one roof, you’re sure to find something to eat for every member of the family.
It’s also a short walk away from the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial along the Avon River, as well as the Remembrance Bridge.
New Regent Street
If you have conducted any research on Christchurch, New Zealand, you’re likely to have seen a photo of a tram strolling through a beautiful street of pastel yellows and blues. Well, this is the beautiful New Regent Street.
If you’re looking for a picturesque spot for a family photo, check out New Regent Street. But it also has some great coffee shops and a delicious gelato store.
Plus, New Regent Street is just a quick walk to the Margaret Mahy Playground!
The Margaret Mahy Playground is the largest playground in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s named after one of New Zealand’s most famous children’s authors.
The playground was built after the earthquake to help encourage families back into the city and provide some outdoors space for city dwellers.
Not only does it have some great slides, innovative climbing spaces and a huge sandpit, it also has a splash pad.
In summer, do bring your swimsuit. The splash pad is a great place for kids to cool off in the heat. There are all sorts of fountains, water guns, dams, and engineering to explore.
Parents can sit on the seating nearby and relax, enjoying a coffee from the local coffee cart.
Finish off your Christchurch City Tram Tour with a stop at Cathedral Square at the city center. The Christchurch Cathedral is still damaged from the earthquake and seeing its crumbled state will bring some realism to what has happened here.
Kids can explore the square, play a game of giant outdoor chess, or head over the Christchurch City Library.
Now before you say that a library shouldn’t be on the tourist map, hidden inside is the Imagination Station! Pay a donation and your kids can play with a container load of LEGOs and DUPLOs.
It’s a great chance for parents to relax, or a good option on a rainy day.
Other Awesome Places in Christchurch to Explore via Tram
- Punting on the Avon
- Christchurch Arts Centre
- Christchurch Art Gallery
- Bridge of Remembrance
Day 2 in Christchurch New Zealand: Get Outdoors and Explore
One of the best ways to get a sense of the city is to get up and see it from above. So, you can either walk up or take a ride.
The Christchurch Gondola will take you to the top of the Port Hills where you can enjoy great views of the city.
You’ll be able to see out over the whole of the East Coast and even over to Banks Peninsula, with beautiful bays and secret beaches.
Kids will love the gondola ride. Plus, there’s the option to purchase a ticket that includes the Christchurch Tram as well for great savings.
Get your discounted Christchurch Gondola tickets.
At the top, you’ll disembark and have access to a cafe and gift shop.
If you’re after a bit of exercise, you can also walk up the Bridle Path track, right next to the Christchurch Gondola.
It’s very steep but will only take about 30 minutes to walk up and see the same view. And this way up is completely free.
You can walk down the same track or trek over the hill and down into Lyttelton.
Lyttelton is a port town on Lyttelton Harbour. The cute hillside town has some great history, but kids will love it, because it is home to Glamour Cake!
People from across the city will take the trip all the way to Lyttelton to taste Glamour Cake’s incredible creations.
From Willy Wonka Donuts to 8-piece variety cakes, be ready for your little one’s eyes to pop out of their head!
Head in about morning teatime to ensure yourself a treat. There are often lines out the door and the treats regularly sell out.
Popular favorites are the lemon meringue donuts with lemon cheesecake filling, churro donuts, and snickers donuts.
If you’ve walked over to Lyttelton, you can walk back to the Christchurch Gondola. Or you can also take a bus back.
Depending on how many treats you ate, you might either be too full to walk back, or really need a good walk about now!
If your kids love a bit of adrenaline, take them to the Christchurch Adventure Park.
Nestled in the Port Hills, the adventure park is home to a fantastic downhill mountain bike park. The best part of this, there’s a chair lift so you don’t even have to bike uphill.
Local tip: If you’re not up for riding, you can also walk up the hill and catch the chairlift down for free!
It is also home to the longest zipline in New Zealand. The 3-hour zipline tour will have you whizzing above the trees and let you feel like you are flying!
the Christchurch Adventure Park is a great experience and another great way to see those beautiful city views.
If you have enough time, or if adrenaline isn’t your thing, then a trip to the International Antarctic Center is a must with kids.
Christchurch, New Zealand is one of the major departure points for Antarctica. Hence why there is a great museum to explore here.
Kids will love seeing the penguins being fed and the Antarctic 4D movie. Another highlight is riding on the Hagglund ride. It’s a real Antarctic vehicle that can cross crevasses and drive up incredibly steep hills.
The International Antarctic Centre also has a storm room, allowing you to don a winter coat and experience the wind chill of an Antarctic storm and play in the snow.
Get your discounted International Antarctic Center tickets.
Where to Stay in Christchurch with Kids
Phew, are you tired yet? You might be in Christchurch for a weekend away or using it as a base to explore the wider Canterbury region. But I know that you’ll enjoy your family time with the things to do in Christchurch with kids.
While you’re making your plans, know that there are tons of great Christchurch accommodations for families. Keep scrolling to see my top picks.
Overlooking Hagley Park, The George Christchurch is the ultimate place to stay in Christchurch with kids.
It’s got a fantastic location, award-winning dining, and has continuously won awards for the best boutique hotel in New Zealand.
Hotel type: Luxury
Check rates and availability.
The Heritage Christchurch is a historic hotel located within walking distance to the Bridge of Remembrance, Cardboard Cathedral, and Quake City.
Hotel type: Moderate
Check rates and availability.
If you’re heading to Christchurch on a budget, the Pavilions Hotel is a great, kid-friendly option. It’s just 2 minutes from Hagley Park and close to the Christchurch Botanic Gardens.
Hotel type: Value
Check rates and availability.
What are the best family-friendly attractions in Christchurch?
Christchurch offers a range of family-friendly attractions! You can explore the exhibits at Canterbury Museum, and the Orana Wildlife Park brings them close to exotic animals. For outdoor fun, there’s the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and the Margaret Mahy Playground, one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. When it rains, the Air Force Museum and the Christchurch Art Gallery provide indoor excitement.
Are there any free activities for kids in Christchurch?
Absolutely! Start with the stunning Christchurch Botanic Gardens. The Margaret Mahy Playground is a free, must-visit spot, featuring imaginative play areas and water features. You can also explore the city’s street art for free. And beautiful beaches like Sumner Beach and New Brighton Beach are perfect for a cost-free day of seaside fun.
Where can I find child-friendly restaurants in Christchurch?
In Christchurch, the best restaurants cater to families. Drexels Breakfast Restaurant is famous for its all-day breakfast options, making it a hit with the little ones. Dux Dine serves up delicious vegetarian and seafood dishes in a warm patio setting. And The Turf and One Good Horse is a wonderful restaurant for large groups and features a fun indoor playground!
Jennifer writes the family travel blog Backyard Travel Family: as active family travel specialists in New Zealand.