Christchurch is the transportation hub and unofficial capital of the South Island. It’s a walkable city with a European feel complete with a central Cathedral Square stocked with performance artists working up the crowds. There’s fine dining, fine walks along the beach at the edge of town and a quirky museum dedicated to life in Antarctica. (Most scientific missions to the continent leave from here.) There are also foodie day tours exploring local vineyards and farmlands.
Christchurch is the head of the TranzAlpine railway. Often rated as one of best train journeys in the world, it takes you 4.5 hours along a breathtaking array of scenery up through Arthur’s Pass and down to the rugged west coast.
A few miles from town is the provincial French-influenced seaside town of Akaroa. There you can swim with dolphins, boat with dolphins or hike along the hills overlooking the bay.
North along the coast is Kaikoura, site of a deep ocean trench very close to shore. Massive pods of dolphins (sometimes numbering in the hundreds) and often sperm and humpback whales travel very close to shore. Swim with dolphins, spot whales, or ride in a helicopter to see both. Back on land, you can walk to a waterfall where dozens of baby seals play in the cascade.
Top Activities in Christchurch, New Zealand
Swim with wild dolphins in Akaroa Harbour or Kaikoura
Experience food & wine in a variety of restaurants and foodie tours
Take the TranzAlpine train from city to mountains to rainforest to shore in half a day