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If you want to deviate from the standard tourist attractions, Christchurch has quite a few gems to delve into. From kid-friendly activities to epic experiences and cool community events, here are 10 must-dos for the curious New Zealand traveller yearning to revel in all things local.
Zip lining, mountain biking and a healthy dose of sightseeing. Christchurch Adventure Park has been challenging local and visiting thrill-seekers since late 2016, offering them a chance to experience the Port Hills in a way they couldn’t have done before. Besides boasting four zip lines and a wide range of dirt tracks geared towards all riding abilities, the park is also home to New Zealand’s longest chairlift. Equipment hire, riding lessons and a local cafe and bar are a few other features to keep on your radar.
Some of Christchurch’s most popular beaches offer plenty of powerful waves to appease the summer surf crowds. For those eager to dip in the local swells, Learn to Surf offers lessons and coaching in Sumner’s Scarborough Beach. The company also has a branch in New Brighton beach, which hosts adult classes during the holidays and weekends. If you’re lacking a surfboard or you forgot your wet suit at home, Learn to Surf also has equipment available to hire.
Learn to Surf, Stoke St, Sumner, Christchurch 8081, New Zealand. +64 210 307 231
Whether you’re in the mood for some live music or you’d like to catch a stand-up comedy gig, this is the place you’ll want to go to. The Darkroom is famous for being the first dedicated music venue to open after the Christchurch earthquakes, and has made its mark in the industry by hosting an array of performances every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. Pretty much anything goes when it comes to music: indie rock, heavy metal and electronica are among the various genres that you can expect to hear in this venue.
Orton Bradley Park is a private rural parkland nestled among the Lyttelton Harbour’s southern shores. With an array of picnic areas, a cafe, a playground, walking and biking tracks, camp sites, an arboretum and a rhododendron garden, it’s fair to say there’s something for every type of traveller, young and old, to enjoy here. You do need to pay a small fee (NZ$5 for adults, NZ$1 for children) to enter, but the money goes straight into maintaining all the features that make Orton Bradley Park so interesting.
Conservation volunteering is a fantastic way to give back to the community, learn a bit about nature and get to know a few locals too. Tree planting days are held every year in selected areas of the Port Hills that require native forest restoration. Anyone can get involved in these initiatives, and during the autumn and spring months you can help maintain the newly planted trees as well. You can also find other conservation volunteer efforts, like laying out pest traps, through the Summit Road Society.
Christchurch has an array of walking and hiking routes for all active souls to tap into. For an alternative that’s reasonably close to the city, give the Bowenvale Valley Track a go. It begins at the edge of the Bowenvale Avenue car park in Cashmere, ascending into the valley as it winds through the tussocks before reaching the other Bowenvale car park on Summit Road. Sweeping views of the Canterbury Plains are a given in this one-hour journey.
Annual festivals, weekend markets, community fundraisers – there’s always something cool to check out in Christchurch. Famous yearly traditions include the World Buskers’ Festival, the Chinese New Year Lantern Festival, and local sporting events like the Christchurch Casino World Golden Oldies. Places that will help you spot community gigs include Eventfinda the Christchurch City Council’s website and social media.
Head to Cathedral Square between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. on a Friday night to get a taste of the city’s best food stalls and live entertainment. The Friday Street Food Market features an eclectic mix of busking performances, music acts and an array of food trucks and stalls to suit all tastes and cuisine affinities. As a bonus, it is held right in the city centre, well within reach of all the urban attractions we all know and love. The market’s Facebook page is the best place to find any noteworthy performances that are gracing the open-air stages.
Clip ‘n Climb is Christchurch’s unique contribution to indoor rock climbing. It boasts a selection of 38 different climbing walls that all ages and experience levels can readily harness themselves into. For those who want an extra rush of adrenaline, the Vertical Drop and Leap of Faith experiences are sure to get your heart pumping. All climbing sessions begin on the hour and include a 15-minute safety briefing from qualified instructors.
Whether you’ve got kids in tow or you’re just young at heart, the Halswell Miniature Train ride is bound to brighten up your Sunday afternoon. The initiative is organised by the Canterbury Society of Model and Experimental Engineers (CSMEE), who are based in the Halswell Domain and specialise in building and operating various model machines. Train rides are weather-dependent and the CSMEE also holds model boat sailings on the second Sunday of every month.