Editors Note: When I read Mark’s post, I knew I had to publish it! The reason is that I have actually been to Christchurch, New Zealand! I went right before my junior year of high school with a huge group of students. I’ll never forget Christchurch because it was the first (and only!) time I repelled down a mountain. I was terrified, mind you, but the scenery was ridiculously gorgeous. If you ever get the opportunity to go, please do!
Christchurch, New Zealand
The city of Christchurch, New Zealand is known for being the starting point for exploring all of the South Island of New Zealand, and there are many great nearby attractions that can be experienced on an overnight or weekend trip from Christchurch. If you’d like to plan some great weekend adventures before you book that flight to Christchurch, New Zealand, here are some ideas of where to go.
Just outside of Christchurch, after a lovely drive that includes breathtaking views of the Banks Peninsula, you will find Akaroa. This quaint small town is the only French settlement in New Zealand, and it makes a great side trip from Christchurch. Akaroa has a scenic harbor, plenty of fascinating French history, and a number of fun activities that you can do.
The waters around the town are home to the rarest and smallest dolphins in the world, and in nearby Flea Bay you will find the largest penguin colony on mainland New Zealand. There are many opportunities to go sea kayaking or to go on a sailboat cruise around the coast.
Akaroa also has a number of lovely little arts and crafts boutiques and great shopping, as well as plenty of cute cafes and restaurants. During your visit, make sure to check out Barry’s Bay Cheese, a cheese maker that has been operating since 1895, to see how the cheese is made and enjoy free tastings.
Nelson is the oldest city on the South Island, and it is set within some of the most stunning scenery in the country. It is the cultural centre of the Nelson-Tasman region, and it has a lot to offer visitors. When you visit, it will be easy to see why it’s the place that most New Zealanders would like to retire to.
While you are here, you can visit the Suter Art Gallery, with its great collection of 19th century works, and see the cherry blossoms at Miyazu Japanese Garden. Nelson is also home to Tahunanui Beach, which is one of the best family beaches in New Zealand. If you like wine, the Nelson area is home to 23 different wineries, and there are several wine tasting tours offered. Also, don’t forget to visit the Nelson Market, which operates all year round on Saturday mornings and offers locally farmed fruit, vegetables and even organic salmon as well as arts and crafts, jewellery, pottery, and much more.
Another popular weekend trip from Christchurch is to Kaikoura, which is a small coastal town famous for its excellent seafood. In fact, the name Kaikoura in Maori means “eat crayfish.” Fresh crayfish can be enjoyed at outdoor tables here, and it is always caught that day — never frozen. You can also find some of the best fish in New Zealand at The Top Shop Fish and Chips.
Kaikoura is also well known for its excellent whale watching opportunities. There are many tour companies in the area that operate throughout the year (except on Christmas Day). You’ll have a good chance of spotting the giant sperm whales, as they inhabit the waters around Kaikoura all year long. During your whale watching trip, you might also glimpse dolphins, New Zealand fur seals, and even an albatross or two.
Arthur’s Pass National Park
Nature lovers can find paradise a short drive away from Christchurch at Arthur’s Pass National Park. It was the first national park to be established on the South Island, and it contains a number of ecosystems, from beech forest to dense rainforest. There are a number of marked day-hiking trails that can be easily accessed from the Arthur’s Pass village car parks.
Of course, make sure that you do your research first and ask an experienced local for the best route, because some of the alpine trails can be quite challenging. Even if you’re not a serious hiker, there are a number of easy day hikes close to the town that will treat you to gorgeous views of the surrounding scenery.
These are just a few of the great weekend adventures that you can have from Christchurch, New Zealand, so why not get out there and go exploring?
Don’t you all want to go to New Zealand now? I wish it was a little closer so I could island hop…