Christchurch has three main beaches -- Sumner, Taylor’s Mistake, and New Brighton. Originally a quiet holiday suburb, Sumner is now favored by city dwellers on weekends. Its attractive beach is a magnet for swimmers, surfers, and volleyball players. There are plenty of good cafes, restaurants, and bars. Lots of families, lots of young people.
Taylor’s Mistake is a surfer hangout with some quaint old holiday homes tucked into the cliffs. There’s a good walk around the cliff tops from Taylor’s Mistake to Boulder Bay. Directions are on a big board to the right of the parking area behind the surf club. The beach is over the hill from Sumner and is best accessed by car. Once past Scarborough Hill, there’s no place else to go but down to Taylor’s Mistake.
New Brighton is a good place to take the kids for fishing, safe swimming, and surfing. The long beach is ideal for long walks and its popular with surfers. All in all, a better family beach experience awaits at Sumner.
Christchurch has a reputation as a cyclist’s paradise because of its overall flat terrain. Bike lanes are marked off in several parts of the city, and parking lots provide bike racks. For rentals, contact City Cycle Hire (tel. 0800/343-848 in NZ, or 03/339-4020; www.cyclehire-tours.co.nz), which will deliver bikes to your accommodations. They have road and mountain bikes plus tandems, and all are supplied with locks and helmets. Half-day, 1-day, and long-term hires are available.
Punting is a fun activity, especially since someone else is doing all the work. You’ll spot the young men from Punting on the Avon (tel. 03/366-0337; www.welcomeaboard.co.nz) in straw hats pushing their way up the Avon River at the junction of Oxford Terrace and Worcester Boulevard. You can reserve a ride at the visitor center and pay NZ$25 for adults and NZ$12 for children. You can also get tickets from the landing stage at Worcester bridge. Punts depart daily 9am to dusk.
If canoeing is your thing, rent one from Antigua Boatsheds, 2 Cambridge Terrace (tel. 03/366-6768; www.boatsheds.co.nz), for NZ$12 per hour. It opens at 9am; the last boats go out at 5pm.
Many of the favorite Port Hills rock climbing spots were destroyed or rendered unstable after the earthquakes, so make sure you check with local climbers before trying any climbing in the area. Castle Hill in Arthur’s Pass has hundreds of climbs for mixed levels and is excellent for boulder climbing. Or head to the YMCA Indoor Rock Climbing Wall, 12 Hereford St. (tel. 03/366-0689; www.ymcachch.org.nz), which is open daily from 8am to 10pm and costs NZ$12 for adults, NZ$8 for children; it’s an extra NZ$5 for harness hire and NZ$5 for shoe hire.
Christchurch Wildlife Cruises, 17 Norwich Quay, Lyttelton (tel. 0800/436-574 in NZ, or 03/328-9078; www.blackcat.co.nz), has an afternoon dolphin-watching cruise, departing daily at 1:30pm all year. It costs NZ$67 to NZ$69 for adults and NZ$25 for children ages 5 to 15. They also operate dolphin-watching cruises in Akaroa. You’ll find free parking near the wharf. A free shuttle also connects with each cruise.
Embark on a four-wheel-drive adventure into the backcountry landscapes of the Southern Alps to fish for brown and rainbow trout in the capable hands of guides from Back Country New Zealand (tel. 021/644-507; fax 03/308-2665; www.backcountry.co.nz). They offer a wide range of fishing and hunting excursions starting at around NZ$650 per person.
The Canterbury region boasts over 40 courses. Russley Golf Club, 428 Memorial Ave., near the airport (tel. 03/358-4748), has reasonably flat, well-bunkered greens and is one of the premier courses in New Zealand. It is open by arrangement. Greens fees are around NZ$85. Harewood Twin Courses, 371 McLeans Island Rd. (tel. 03/359-8843; www.harewoodgolf.co.nz), is the largest golf club in the South Island, with two 18-hole courses. Greens fees are NZ$30 to NZ$50. Clearwater Resort, Johns Road (tel. 03/360-1003; www.clearwaternz.com), is a par-72 course and players will pay around NZ$135 for a round of golf. The Terrace Downs Country Resort and Golf Club (tel. 0800/465-373 in NZ, or 03/318-6943; www.terracedowns.co.nz), in Rakaia, a 50-minute drive from Christchurch, at the base of the Mount Hutt ski field and on the banks of the Rakaia Gorge, is a par-72 course with 70 bunkers, eight lakes, rolling fairways, and spectacular views; nonaffiliated fees are around NZ$135. Pegasus Golf Course, Pegasus Town, North Canterbury (tel. 03/920-330; www.pegasustown.com), has a new 18-hole golf course. Greens fees are NZ$90. Christchurch Golf Club (sometimes referred to as Shirley), 45 Horseshoe Lake Rd. (tel. 03/385-2738), was temporarily closed at time of writing for earthquake repairs.
Kate Tapley Horse Treks (tel. 03/329-0160; www.katetapley.co.nz), offers 2-and 3-hour treks, all-day riding adventures, and multiday treks at My Lyford in North Canterbury. Short riding sessions are based at Otahuna Lodge and run from 10am and 1:30pm daily. Prices start around NZ$90 per person.
There is no other place in the world where it’s possible to fly from the center of a city, in view of the ocean, toward snowcapped mountains. Up, Up, and Away (tel. 03/381-4600; www.ballooning.co.nz) charges around NZ$350 for adults and NZ$275 for children ages 5 to 11 for a special first-light experience. Free transport is provided from city locations.
Several operators offer exhilarating spins up the Waimakariri River. The longest established is Alpine Jet (tel. 0800/263-626 in NZ, or 03/318-4881; www.alpinejet.co.nz). It’s a little farther out of town than Jet Thrills (tel. 0800/847-455 in NZ; www.adventurecanterbury.com), a 15-minute drive away, but both give you something to squeal about. Prices are NZ$90 to NZ$385 per person.
The Port Hills are a favorite place for mountain biking. The Mountain Bike Adventure Co. (tel. 0800/424-534 in NZ) makes it possible to take the Christchurch Gondola to the top and then bike down one of the hill tracks or the road. The cost is NZ$65. The gondola operates daily October through April from 10am to midnight, in winter from noon to 10pm. Mountain-biking reservations can be made at the visitor center.
Nimbus Paragliding (tel. 0800/111-611 in NZ; www.nimbusparagliding.co.nz) was the early pioneer of Canterbury paragliding and has pilots who will assist you in leaping off one of three superb Port Hills sites. Four to 10 minutes of flying will cost NZ$180 tandem. A paragliding school with 1-to 11-day courses is also available. Seriously addicted paragliders might consider the company’s Adventure Tours, which include all flying equipment, campervans, and a New Zealand-wide itinerary covering the best flying sites. Prices start at NZ$240 per person. Check the website for more details.
If you feel ready for that ultimate adrenaline rush, ring Skydivingnz.com (tel. 0800/697-593 in NZ; www.skydivingnz.com). You’ll be attached to its highly experienced tandem instructor. Free-fall sky diving over Hagley Park costs NZ$335 to NZ$445. Courtesy transport is provided from the city.
The visitor center has several brochures detailing city walks. There is also a network of good walking tracks through the Port Hills that you can enjoy on your own, free of charge.
The more energetic will find the 4-day, 35km (22-mile) Banks Peninsula Track worthwhile; there’s also the 3-day, 43km (27-mile) Kaikoura Coast Track. Arthur’s Pass National Park, 150km (93 miles) west of Christchurch, is another tramper’s heaven. Or call Hiking New Zealand (tel. 0800/697-232 in NZ; www.hikingnewzealand.com), which has a range of 50 superb multiday treks. It’s based in Lyttelton but offers treks all over New Zealand. Hiking Guys NZ (tel. 03/960-9119; www.hikingguys.co.nz) has a 1-day tour from Christchurch to Arthur’s Pass that includes a TranzAlpine train trip plus a 3-to 4-hour guided walk in Arthur’s Pass National Park. It costs NZ$350 for adults and NZ$240 for children 5 to 14.
Rangitata Rafts (tel. 0800/251-251 in NZ, or 03/696-3735; www.rafts.co.nz) will take pleasure in introducing you to the Rangitata River’s Grade V rapids. You’ll start the adventure with a relaxed lunch rather than hard work. That comes later as you go through safety briefs, practical training, and a natural progression to the intense Grade IV and V section. End with hot showers and a barbecue. The cost is NZ$218 per person if you start in Christchurch (transport provided), or NZ$198 if you drive yourself to Peel Forest in South Canterbury.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.