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!
Guest post by Jennifer from Backyard Travel Family
Welcome to Christchurch, the capital of the South Island. It’s the biggest entry point for visitors and the best place to start off a road trip.
Whether you are heading to Christchurch for a weekend away, or the start of an epic New Zealand road trip, it is definitely worth spending some time in the city.
Christchurch is also a great base for day trips or an overnight holiday. Local Cantabrians will often take a trip to Hanmer Springs to experience 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 centre of the Canterbury region, it’s not surprisingly that many use it as a base to explore the wider area.
Christchurch is an old English city, with a beautiful cathedral and boats punting down the Avon River. English visitors would recognise 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 sections of beautiful grass space that locals will know were actually inner city establishments.
There is still construction, so do not 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.
There are so many interesting things to do in Christchurch with kids so we encourage you to explore. The kids won’t notice the construction for what is unfinished, but instead an amazing world of cranes, and diggers to stare at for hours.
A Weekend Itinerary in Christchurch with Kids
Day One 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, there are plenty of paths by the river and pedestrian only areas such as Cathedral Square.
But if you have young kids or do not feel like walking, then taking a tour on the Christchurch tram will be one of the best things you can do. 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 ticketsRESERVE NOW
The Canterbury Museum is a free attraction (donations accepted) that has something to amuse everyone in the family. If you are 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 to burn off some energy. The park is home to some incredible gardens, including the greenhouses which are great to explore on a cold or rainy day.
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.
It is a brilliant example of the Christchurch Rebuild, bringing together elegant design and architecture, and bringing community artisans together under one room.
Try samples of locally produced salami, raw snacks, New Zealand’s very own Moustache Milk and Cookie Bar and our personal favourites, the Bacon Brothers.
With so many local goods and cuisines under one roof, there is something for every member of the family.
New Regent Street
If you have conducted any research on Christchurch, you are 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.
A picturesque spot for a family photo is a great reason to stop, but it also has some great coffee shops and a delicious gelato store. It is also the stop for 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 and all sorts of 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. The 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.
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 Two 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 get a great view over the city. You will 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, and there is the option to purchase a ticket that includes the Christchurch Tram as well for great savings.RESERVE NOW
If you are after a bit of exercise, you can also walk up the Bridle Path track, right next to the Gondola. It is 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 and the Bridle Path used to be hiked before the tunnel was built. Goods were transferred on foot or by horse over the hill into the city.
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 tea time to ensure yourself a treat, as there are often lines out the door and the treats regularly sell out. Popular favourites are the lemon meringue donuts with lemon cheesecake filling, churro donuts and snickers donuts.
If you have walked over to Lyttelton, you can walk back to the 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!
Kids love a bit of adrenaline, so 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 New Zealand’s longest zipline. The 3 hour zipline tour will have you whizzing above the trees and let you feel like you are flying. A great experience and another great way to see those beautiful city views.RESERVE NOW
If you have enough time, or if adrenaline isn’t your thing, then a trip to the International Antarctic Centre is a must with kids. Christchurch 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 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.RESERVE NOW
Phew, are you tired yet? Whether you are in Christchurch for a weekend away, or using it as a base to explore the wider Canterbury region, we know that you will enjoy your family time with the kids in this great city.
Where to Stay in Christchurch with Kids
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
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The Heritage Christchurch is a historic hotel located within walking distance to the Bridge of Remembrance, Cardboard Cathedral, and Quake City.
Hotel type: Moderate
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If you’re heading to Christchurch on a budget, the Pavilions Hotel is a great, kid-friendly option. It’s just two minutes from Hagley Park and close to the Botanical Gardens.
Hotel type: Value
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Jennifer write the family travel blog Backyard Travel Family: Active Family Travel Specialists in New Zealand.