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As the largest city on the South Island, Christchurch makes a great launch point for many activities in New Zealand! One of my favorite things about Christchurch is how much there is to do in the city and the surrounding Canterbury region. You can easily fill your days enjoying the bustling city life by hitting up some of its cute cafes, visiting museums, and shopping at the New Regent Street Precinct.
However, it wouldn’t be a trip to New Zealand if you didn’t get outside of the city and enjoy the beautiful natural landscapes! Of course, you can always take an iconic road trip around the South Island. But if you’re short on time, there are SO many great day trips out of Christchurch. From epic scenic hikes in Mount Cook National Park to spotting diverse wildlife, you’ve got options!
Having lived on New Zealand’s South Island, we’ve had our fair share of adventures and know this area well. This is exactly why we decided to put together this guide outlining the 15 BEST day trips from Christchurch. We want to help you see as much of this beautiful region as possible!
Don’t have time to read the full article? Our absolute favorite day trips from Christchurch include:
1. Exploring the highlights of Mount Cook National Park on a guided tour.
2. Swimming with dusky dolphins in Kaikoura.
3. Going wine tasting in the beautiful Waipara Valley.
4. Learning about Maori culture and history in Timaru.
5. Visiting the magical set of Edoras on this Lord of the Rings Tour.
- Best Day Trips from Christchurch, NZ
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Best Day Trips from Christchurch, NZ
1. Mount Cook National Park
- Distance from Christchurch: 330 kilometers (205 miles)
- Time needed: 12 hours
- What you need: Car or tour
Mount Cook National Park is home to Aoraki, the highest mountain in all of New Zealand, and spans over 722 square kilometers (279 square miles). It also has eight of the 12 largest glaciers in the country. To say it’s beautiful is an understatement. It’s one of those places that just makes you stand and stare in awe!
We’ve visited Mount Cook National Park countless times and plan on returning even more. With this large of a park, there is just so much to explore!
The best way to experience it is by hiking one of the many tracks that range from a leisure walk through the wilderness to summiting Mount Cook’s 3,724-meter (12,218-foot) peak! Some of our favorite hikes in the park include the Mueller Hut Hike, the Hooker Valley Track, and the Sealy Tarns Track.
There are so many amazing ways to experience Mount Cook National Park that you can’t go wrong. You can go glacier kayaking, take a helicopter ride, or stargaze in the only dark sky reserve in the Southern Hemisphere. The options are endless!
You can easily spend a few days exploring the park (and we highly suggest you do). That being said, Mount Cook accommodations fill up quickly in the summer. However, this is also a gorgeous place to go camping, so you can soak in the surrounding landscape all day.
You can easily rent a campervan in Christchurch and spend a few weeks touring the South Island, making Mount Cook just one of your many memorable stops. We did this and had a great time freedom camping around the country! If you’re curious about van life, check out the pros and cons here!
However, if you only have one day to see Mount Cook National Park, we say go for it – it’s still totally worth it! And the best way to make the most out of your time there is by going on a tour!
This full-day Mount Cook, Lake Tekapo, and Tasman Glacier tour will drive you to and from Christchurch to the national park while stopping at major highlights along the way! I have to be honest, with long day trips like this, I am so thankful to have a tour to do all the driving. That way, I can take in the scenery (the drive from Christchurch to Mount Cook is stunning) or take a nap!
While Mount Cook is certainly the destination, there are some must-see locations along the way. Some of my favorites were Geraldine and Lake Tekapo – the turquoise water is a photographer’s dream!
Next, it’s off to Mount Cook National Park to swoon over its incredible mountains, valleys, and lakes. Once at the national park, you’ll stop for lunch at the Hermitage Hotel, which is connected to the Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre. Here, you can step into the shoes of one of New Zealand’s (and the world’s) greatest explorers and learn about all his adventures. Please note that lunch is not included, so you’ll have to pay out of pocket.
Once your belly is full, you’ll visit Lake Pukaki and then make your way to the best activity on the tour: hiking the Tasman Glacier. This hour-long hike is self-guided and moderately challenging but 100% worth it – the views are next level (literally). It’s one of the BEST photo locations in Mount Cook National Park, so get your camera ready!
Throughout your day, you’ll have free time in the national park to explore and can expect a lot of information from your guide. They are experts on the landscape, history, and significance of this area! Mind you, the walks in the parks aren’t guided, which I actually preferred. We were able to go at our own pace and stop for loads of pictures.
This day trip from Christchurch to Mount Cook National Park can be reserved for $220-$250 NZD per person, depending on the season. Tours can accommodate up to 21 people and include your guide and transportation from select central Christchurch hotels. It’s a 13-hour tour that leaves first thing in the morning!
We highly recommend fitting this tour into your schedule, as Mount Cook is one of our favorite places in New Zealand, and we hope everyone gets the chance to experience its beauty! However, this popular tour only runs on select days and tends to sell out quickly, so make sure to book in advance here!
Related Read: Want a truly iconic photo while in Mount Cook National Park? Learn how to take the famous Mount Cook road photo here!
2. Arthur’s Pass
- Distance from Christchurch: 147 kilometers (91 miles)
- Time needed: 10 hours
- What you need: Car or train
Arthur’s Pass is both a highway and one of New Zealand’s 13 national parks! This mountainous road winds through the Southern Alps, giving incredible views the entire drive and is a fascinating feat of engineering.
I was surprised to learn that they actually redirected waterfalls to create this pass. The pass itself is only 45 km (28 mi) long, so driving it from Christchurch can be done in a few hours. However, there is a lot to see on and around Arthur’s Pass, and it can easily become a full-day trip.
There are a ton of hikes that leave from Arthur’s Pass Village, with Avalanche Peak being the most difficult but also giving the most beautiful views! Or, you can stop at the Otira Viaduct, an impressive 440-meter (1,444-foot) long bridge, to see how much work went into creating this pass. It also makes for a great photo opp!
If you don’t feel like taking on the challenge of driving the curvy mountain pass road (and I don’t blame you), you can take a train ride for a totally different experience. The TranzAlpine Train is often referred to as the most scenic train ride in the world! I love taking scenic train rides, they have an old-timey romantic feel that lets you settle in and get lost in the surrounding landscape. You’ll be swooning over Arthur’s Pass, just like I did!
This full-day tour is a unique way to experience Arthur’s Pass via the TranzAlpine Train. They will pick you up from your hotel in Christchurch and transport you to the train station, where you will make your way through the mountains and up the pass. Nothing beats looking at the scenery out of the train’s panoramic windows or from the open-air viewing deck!
Once you reach Arthur’s Pass National Pass, you’ll be driven to the Otira Viaduct Lookout and have the chance to do the Devil’s Punchbowl Walking Track to see a seriously stunning waterfall! Next, it’s off to the National Park Visitor Centre. You’ll have roughly an hour to buy lunch at a local cafe and explore the town of Arthur’s Pass. Afterward, you’ll be driven back to Christchurch – with some scenic stops along the way, of course!
This full-day tour is a good balance of scenic viewpoints and light activity and is best for people looking for a truly unique way to explore New Zealand’s breathtaking landscapes. It runs only on select days and costs $395-$430 NZD per person (depending on the season), which includes your train ticket, hotel pickup/drop off, national park fees, and your guide.
Arthur’s Pass is a must-visit spot on the South Island. Being able to experience it on one of the most scenic train rides in the world is just the cherry on top! It also makes quite the romantic getaway in New Zealand. However, this tour does sell out, so don’t miss out and secure your spot here!
- Distance from Christchurch: 181 kilometers (112 miles)
- Time needed: 12 hours
- What you need: Car or tour
While nearly all of New Zealand is the ideal destination for the outdoorsy type, Kaikoura is the place to go for wildlife and ocean lovers. It’s a small coastal town just over a 2-hour drive north of Christchurch. It’s home to blue-eyed penguins, dusky dolphins, sperm whales, fur seals, and even more unique wildlife! People regularly travel here to see the wide variety of animals, relax on the beach, and eat fresh seafood.
The most popular activity in Kaikoura is going on a whale-watching tour. In fact, if you come to Kaikoura and don’t get up close and personal with wildlife, you’re truly missing out!
One of the BEST parts of whale watching in Kaikoura is that there are whales year-round, whereas many other places in the world only have whales seasonally. Here you can see Kaikoura’s resident sperm whales at any time, orcas from December to March, and humpback whales from June to July.
This full-day whale-watching tour will drive you from Christchurch to Kaikoura and take you out to spot various types of whales, dolphins, fur seals, seabirds, and other sea creatures. Plus, you’ll have an expert guide the whole time! Just when you think this tour couldn’t get any better, it also includes a wine tasting on the way back to Christchurch (depending on the winery’s operating hours)! If you haven’t sampled New Zealand’s wine, you must – it’s some of my favorite in the entire world. This tour can be reserved online here for $385 NZD including lunch or $350 NZD excluding lunch.
Or, if you’re feeling a little adventurous, you can jump right into the water to get up close to the animals on this tour to swim with dolphins in Kaikoura! It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and was a highlight during our time in New Zealand! You’ll be picked up in Christchurch, head to Kaikoura, and board a sightseeing boat to jump into the Pacific Ocean with the playful dusky dolphins. Don’t worry – the guides are experts in the water and teach you all about safety and how to respectfully interact with the dolphins in their natural habitat.
They will also provide a wetsuit and mask, so you won’t be too cold! I had an absolute blast when we did this experience, and can’t recommend it enough. The tour also gives you time to explore Kaikoura, enjoy a fresh seafood lunch, and take in the quaint town before heading back to Christchurch. Roundtrip transportation from your hotel, all safety equipment, and your guide are included, but lunch is on your own dime. Reserve your day trip to swim with dolphins in advance for only $395 NZD per adult!
4. Waipara Valley
- Distance from Christchurch: 58 kilometers (36 miles)
- Time needed: 5 hours
- What you need: Tour
You know I’m a sucker for a good winery. Luckily, Waipara Valley has a lot of wineries. In fact, it has so many that it’s the fastest-growing wine region in the country! Its climate is perfect for growing grapes, and it produces some of the best Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Riesling (my personal favorite).
The warm summers and low rainfall make it a beautiful area to explore year-round. It feels like everywhere you look, you’ll find rolling hills covered in vineyards. What’s even more fascinating is that the first vines were planted in 1975, so its boom in the last 50 years is truly impressive.
Since Waipara is close to Christchurch (less than 1 hour by car), you can certainly drive yourself – but then you wouldn’t be able to fully indulge at the wineries since you’d have to drive yourself back! This is why we opt for wine tours whenever we visit a wine region. They take care of the planning and transportation, so we can just sit back, relax, and sample as much as we’d like!
This half-day tour takes care of every detail, so you can simply show up and enjoy the wine – talk about heaven! You’ll visit three of the best wineries to sample at least 15 different wines. The specific wineries will depend on what’s available on the day of your tour, but don’t worry, there are no bad options! Each winery is unique, so you can taste the wide variety that comes from one small region. If you get the chance, make sure to try the award-winning Pinot Gris at Waipara Springs!
It costs $125 NZD per person without lunch, but for only an extra $35 NZD, you can include a delicious meal with fresh seasonal ingredients that pair perfectly with the wine selection! The lunch option departs at noon, and the wine-only tour departs at 1 pm. Tasting fees and round-trip transportation are included. This great day trip out of Christchurch is a must, but it books up quickly, so make sure to secure your spot in advance.
- Distance from Christchurch: 81 kilometers (50 miles)
- Time needed: 10 hours
- What you need: Car or tour
Akaroa is a quaint town and the only French-settled city in the country. It is painfully adorable with its French-inspired architecture, bistros, and terraced gardens.
Akaroa sits right in the heart of a volcanic region which is how the Lyttelton and Akaroa Harbours were formed. There is a plethora of wildlife and outdoor exploration, in addition to the charming small town.
There are great hiking tracks all over Akaroa that give stunning views of the surrounding landscape, but the real draw is in the water itself. Akaroa Harbour is one of the best spots to see Hector’s dolphins, one of the smallest and rarest dolphins in the world! They are classified as a vulnerable species, as there aren’t many left, so seeing them while you’re in Akaroa is a truly unique experience!
It takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes to drive to Akaroa from Christchurch. But with so much to see and do there, I recommend taking this day tour so that you don’t miss out on the highlights! It starts with a beautiful scenic drive to Akaroa before having time to explore the town, stop for a waterfront lunch, and take about a million photos.
Then you’ll hop aboard a catamaran boat for an award-winning 2-hour sightseeing tour from the water. Here you’ll see dolphins, seals, and other native wildlife that are unique to Akaroa. The last stop is a visit to a popular cheese factory. Cheese factories were once a booming industry here, but now Barry’s Bay Cheese Factory is the only one left – so soak in all that cheesy goodness!
This full-day tour of Akaroa is the best way to experience the coastal village if you want to see wildlife and scenery, but don’t want too long of a drive from Christchurch. This tour includes roundtrip transportation from Christchurch, your boat ride, and your guide. It is $290 NZD including lunch or $250 NZD without.
Why We Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
6. Banks Peninsula
- Distance from Christchurch: 80 kilometers (49 miles)
- Time needed: 4 to 6 hours
- What you need: Car or tour
Escaping to the Banks Peninsula will make you feel like you’re in a different world compared to the city life of Christchurch (even though it’s located only 30 minutes away!). This peninsula is now a popular destination, but it was once an island created by two large volcanoes and a series of violent eruptions some 10 to 15 million years ago.
This geological formation has now settled to create a strikingly beautiful landscape with rigid mountains, crater-formed lakes, and a long intricate coastline. It has certainly evolved into a nature lover’s playground.
Visiting the Banks Peninsula from Christchurch is an epic road trip because of all the places you’ll want to stop along the way! These stops may include the sleepy town of Lyttelton with its quirky cafes, Wainui Beach (which is perfect for a warm summer day), or the impressively large Lake Ellesmere. Not to mention the plentiful hiking options!
I think the best way to appreciate the Banks Peninsula’s beauty is on a hike! We had a great time taking in the gorgeous views while walking along the crater rim. We did this fantastic 6-hour day tour that took care of all of the logistics for us, from providing the necessary hiking equipment to packing a picnic lunch! Having a guide made the experience so much better as were taken to spots off the beaten path that we would have never found by ourselves.
The day starts with hotel pick-up and a stop at a seaside cafe. Once you’re awake and energized, you’ll prepare for the 3-hour moderate hike. As you hike around the rim of the volcanic crater, you get sprawling views of Pegasus Bay and you’ll also see a penguin colony and some WWII landmarks. The highlight for me was the visit to Taylors Mistake Beach at the start and end as it’s one of the few black sand beaches in the world! This full-day tour is $250 NZD including transport from Christchurch and it’s also a small group (just 10 people) which I appreciate!
If you want a more personalized experience, you can take this Luxury Private Guided Crater Rim Walk instead. It’s basically the same tour as above, but for $560 NZD per person, you get your own guide, so you don’t have to worry about keeping up with a group and can go at your own pace.
And if you’re running short on time, you can opt for this half-day rim walk tour for $208 NZD. This tour is faster paced at 4 hours instead of 6 but still includes your transportation, hiking equipment, and a guide. I love that this tour has both morning and afternoon departure times – I know how important flexibility is during your busy travels!
7. Hanmer Springs
- Distance from Christchurch: 133 kilometers (83 miles)
- Time needed: 10 to 12 hours
- What you need: Car or tour
New Zealand has amazing hot springs all over the country, so this list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning a day trip to check them out for yourself!
Hanmer Springs is a quaint alpine city just an hour and 45 minutes north of Christchurch. People have been coming to Hanmer Springs to soak in its natural thermal pools for nearly 200 years now, so it’s certainly not a well-kept secret! The town has evolved into a resort town based around these hot springs, drawing in New Zealanders and travelers from all over the world.
Hamner Springs Thermal Pools & Spa is the best aquatic complex in all of New Zealand. With over 22 pools, including thermal springs, activity pools, a lap pool, a lazy river, and even epic waterslides. The whole family can have fun here!
If you’re not staying in the hot springs until your fingers shrivel, you can check out the charming town with its boutique shops, quaint cafes, and many eateries. This is also a haven for adventure, as you can jump on a thrilling jet boat ride, go mountain biking or bungy jumping, or hit the slopes for skiing during the winter.
This tour from Christchurch to Hanmer Springs is the perfect way to experience both the adventure and relaxation Hanmer Springs has to offer! You can get your adrenaline pumping on a thrilling jet boat ride through the Waiau Gorge. Then relax in the thermal pools at the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa. For an additional fee, you can even treat yourself to a massage! You can book this 8.5-hour tour online here for $325 NZD per person including roundtrip transportation, all of your entrance fees, and lunch.
However, if you’re looking for a more luxurious option, this private Hanmer Springs wine-tasting tour is for you. Your guide will pick you up in Christchurch in the morning and take you to three iconic wineries in the Waipara region, which has some of the best wine in New Zealand! Then head to the thermal pools for a few hours of relaxation. This experience accommodates up to 15 people, so it’s great for family reunions or bachelor/bachelorette parties. It lasts for 10 hours and costs $600 NZD when you reserve online here.
Related Read: To explore even more of the South Island, read about the best things to do on the West Coast.
8. Lyttelton and Port Hills
- Distance from Christchurch: 12 kilometers (7.5 miles)
- Time needed: 8 hours
- What you need: Car or tour
Lyttelton is an idyllic port town that sits on the Lyttelton Harbour, just off the glorious Pegasus Bay. It is full of quaint cafes and shops and is a great launch point for exploring the Banks Peninsula. Port Hills is a mountain range just inland from Lyttelton, which is most widely known for the scenic Godley Head hike.
The Godley Head Loop Track is one of the best hikes on the South Island and a must-do activity while in Christchurch. The loop is 9.3 kilometers (5.8 miles) and gives incredible views of the Kaikoura Range and the Banks Peninsula. It also has a ton of WWII historical sites that can be viewed from the track. However, my favorite lookout is Breeze Bay, where you can often see dolphins swimming in the ocean below – it’s pretty incredible!
My best recommendation for seeing both Lyttelton and Ports Hills is to take this guided hiking tour out of Christchurch. It’s a small tour, so a great way to make friends, and the guide is so beneficial, as they will tell you about all the sites you’ll see along the trail. You’ll also have a quick stop in Lyttelton to explore the cute town, then head to Sumner Beach for morning tea. After, you’ll start the Godley Head hike from Taylors Mistake beach area.
This 8-hour tour makes your day simpler by taking care of the planning, transportation, lunch, and snacks. Plus, it gets you out into some unique areas just outside of Christchurch! You can book your spot here for $399 NZD per person.
9. Adrenalin Forest + Travis Wetland Nature Heritage Park
- Distance from Christchurch: 17 kilometers (10.5 miles)
- Time needed: 5-6 hours
- What you need: Car
Looking for even more excitement and outdoor leisure? We’ve got you covered!
Just 20 minutes north of Christchurch is the Adrenalin Forest which is basically an adult-sized playground! There are adrenalin forests all over New Zealand, so you have to check out at least one while visiting.
You can spend 3 hours going over 100 different obstacle courses, ranging in height and difficulty. The most extreme is 30 meters (100 feet) off the ground! Don’t worry, you’re harnessed in and given safety instructions, so this is even a fun activity if heights make you a little woozy.
Entrance for the Adrenalin Forest is $46 NZD per adult. The place is open Wednesday to Sunday and you can choose to enter anytime between 10 am – 2 pm. This popular attraction books up quickly, so make sure to book in advance online here!
After you finish your thrilling obstacle courses, we recommend taking a relaxing walk through Travis Wetland Nature Heritage Park. This park is located only 10 minutes from the Adrenalin Forest and 15 minutes from Christchurch, and it’s a beautiful outdoor escape that’s still close to the city.
This nature park is significant because it is the last remaining freshwater wetland in Christchurch. Christchurch was actually built on a swamp, so this last remaining freshwater area is a historic piece of Maori culture and is an important area for Christchurch’s wildlife.
I love walking around Travis Wetlands to catch a glimpse at the birds and unique plant life like the manuka, the tall baumea reed, and the spider orchid. The gates are open daily from 8 am to 8 pm, and it’s free to enter. It’s definitely worth a stop, especially if you’re in the area for the Adrenalin Forest!
10. Quail Island
- Distance from Christchurch: 12 kilometers (7.5 miles)
- Time needed: 5-6 hours
- What you need: Ferry
Quail Island is located smack dab in the center of Lyttelton Harbour. This small island is a fun day trip from Christchurch and one of the cheaper activities you can do in the area!
The island was named after the now-extinct native quail that was abundant here at one time. Quail Island has an interesting history, as it was once used as a quarantine zone for European settlers who arrived with leprosy.
However, when you visit the island today, you’ll find a gorgeous outdoor area full of hiking tracks and incredible viewpoints of the harbor and mainland that surrounds you. Our favorite hike is the Quail Island Loop Track which takes you around the entire island!
There is a huge focus on restoring natural vegetation and animal life on the island, so you might see fantail and kingfisher birds or even the rare white-flippered little blue penguins! You’ll also see the old quarantine houses and structures, which is a pretty fascinating piece of history.
The only way to reach Quail Island is via ferry from the Lyttelton Harbour (which is only a 20-minute drive from Christchurch). Departure and return times can vary depending on the time of year, and larger groups might be able to arrange a special departure time. You can check the schedule and reserve ferry tickets in advance for $20 NZD for adults each way.
- Distance from Christchurch: 226 kilometers (140 miles)
- Time needed: 10-12 hours
- What you need: Car
Visiting Lake Tekapo is one of the best things you can do while visiting the South Island. While it will be a long day, you can make a day trip to Tekapo from Christchurch. Although, if you can spare more time here, I highly recommend it!
Tekapo is a quaint town sitting on the shores of Lake Tekapo, famously known for its stunning blue water and even called the bluest lake in all of New Zealand! Tekapo’s proximity to Mount Cook National Park (about an hour apart) often makes the two a perfect duo for travelers to visit at the same time.
There are two main draws to visiting Tekapo, the first being the gorgeous lake itself! Visiting during summer (November to March) is the ideal time to go so you can swim in the lake, kayak, or paddleboard. Nothing beats a lazy lake day!
People are also drawn to Lake Tekapo during the lupin blooming season. From mid-November to the end of December, you can see thousands of gorgeous purple and pink flowers blooming all over the place. The contrast between the vibrant flowers and the bright blue water is something you must witness in person!
Even if you only have one day to visit Tekapo, it’s still totally worth it. Along the scenic three-hour drive from Christchurch, you’ll catch glimpses of the dancing lupins the entire way. There are also many interesting stops between Christchurch and Lake Tekapo, such as Geraldine (keep reading for more information on this fun town!).
There are plenty of fun things to do in Lake Tekapo. Visit some of the great restaurants and cafes in town, or go for a dip at the Tekapo Springs! This park is located right by the lake and is open daily from 10 am – 7 pm. Here, you can do everything from mini-golf to snow tubing, depending on the season, but my highlight is definitely the thermal pools and spa.
If you can stay the night, we recommend staying at Mantra Lake Tekapo. We stayed here, and it was a great location close to the town and the waterfront. Plus, we could stargaze from the hot tub at night! Tekapo is a famous UNESCO dark sky reserve and is the only one in the Southern Hemisphere – so you must check it out while you’re in the area!
12. Shamarra Alpacas Farm
- Distance from Christchurch: 73 kilometers (45 miles)
- Time needed: 3+ hours
- What you need: Car AND tour
On the Banks Peninsula, just outside of Akaroa, you’ll find one of the cutest places in the world. Shamarra Alpacas Farm is home to a fluffy, quirky alpaca herd that you get to interact with! This is one of those experiences that you’ve probably never thought about doing, but will be so happy you did as it’s simply unique!
Located only an hour outside of Christchurch, the Shamarra Alpaca Farm makes an easy day trip. To visit, you must book a farm tour. These hour-long tours run daily starting at 11 am, 1 pm, or 4 pm and cost $55 NZD per adult. This is the perfect activity for families and animal lovers!
When you visit the Shamarra Alpaca Farm, you’ll have an immersive experience learning about the alpacas and their quirky habits, as well as the sustainable farm practices Shamarra upholds. They have award-winning fleece available for purchase that is incredibly soft and ethically sourced. The owners of the farm love their animals and do a fantastic job of sharing this passion with all who visit.
Plus, the farm sits overlooking the Akaroa Harbor, offering stunning views of the mountains and water – these alpacas are living their best life! The cute animals and beautiful surroundings make for one-of-a-kind photo opportunities too. So if you want a selfie with an Alpaca, make sure to reserve a spot on this tour in advance here!
With the Alpaca Farm being only 20 minutes away from Akaroa, you can always add on a visit to this charming French-colonial town. It’s a great place for some wildlife spotting or to have a delicious seafood lunch.
- Distance from Christchurch: 162 kilometers (100 miles)
- Time needed: 8-10 hours
- What you need: Car
Timaru sits right along the Pacific Coast, about 2 hours south of Christchurch, and is a great place to learn about Kiwi culture. This area is home to the native Ngau Tahu people, which is the largest Maori tribe on the South Island.
People often travel here to learn about Maori history and culture at the South Canterbury Museum, Te Ana Maori Rock Art Center, and the Aigantighe Art Gallery. All of these have amazing displays of ancient Maori artifacts and culture, and show how it’s continued to impact the community.
The South Canterbury Museum is quite diverse, showcasing everything from the first settler’s artifacts to wildlife – and it’s free to enter! It’s located on Perth St. and is open Tuesday to Friday, 10 am – 4:30 pm, and weekends from 1 pm – 4:30 pm.
I found the Te Ana Maori Rock Art Center really interesting, as some artifacts here date back 60,000 years! You can visit on your own as it’s free and open weekdays from 10 am – 3 pm. But I recommend the tours led by a guide with a deep understanding and passion for Maori culture who will even let you hold the ancient Moa bone (an extinct native bird of New Zealand).
The 3.5-hour tour was super helpful in understanding everything I was looking at. It starts with a tour of the museum followed by a drive to an ancient rock art site with your guide. You’ll follow the guide in your own car and then spend time walking the same land ancient Maori tribes once did. These tours must be booked in advance and are offered at 2 pm on Tuesday to Saturday from November- April.
Lastly, the Aigantighe Art Gallery boasts a great variety of local Kiwi artists! Its location is a 5-minute drive from the other museums, and just like the others, there’s no charge to enter. It’s open Tuesday to Friday, 10 am – 4 pm, and on weekends, 12 pm – 4 pm.
Timaru is also known for its golden sand beach at Caroline Bay and great hiking options around the city. And if you’re in Timaru from October to March, one of my favorite things to do is head to the Marine Parade at dusk to watch the blue penguins come ashore after sunset. From a distance, you can view the adult penguins feeding their nesting babies on the beach and waddling around.
Please note that flash photography isn’t allowed and that Caroline Bay is a dog-free area from October to March to respect the penguins’ habitat. It’s such a special experience watching the penguins in their natural environment!
Between the deep Maori culture and the plentiful outdoor activities within Timaru, I think this is a great day trip from Christchurch. It is a little off the beaten path and gives a great look at what makes New Zealand so unique!
- Distance from Christchurch: 138 kilometers (86 miles)
- Time needed: 8-10 hours
- What you need: Car
On your way to Lake Tekapo, you’ll pass the small country town of Geraldine. If you don’t have time to make it all the way to Lake Tekapo, this is a great day trip as well! Geraldine can be thought of as the “adventure capital” of the Canterbury region, as it is a great launch point for outdoor activities.
The Talbot Forest Scenic Reserve Tracks are the perfect way to get into nature on this day trip. Located right outside of town, the forest reserve has a network of short trails, giving you time to enjoy the old growth and also have time to see the rest of Geraldine!
If you want to get your adrenaline going, you can also plan ahead to go whitewater rafting on the Rangitata River or canyoning in the Kaumira Canyon. Canyoning is one of my favorite NZ activities – and you can really explore gorgeous hard-to-reach areas!
Within the town, you’ll find a handful of great cafes and eateries. In fact, my favorite cafe in all of New Zealand is in Geraldine! You can’t miss stopping at Barker’s, a large cafe that overlooks the river. It’s open daily from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm.
There is also a vintage flair to Geraldine, which you can see at the Geraldine Vintage Car & Machinery Museum. Car lovers – especially fans of old cars – must check out this collection! When we went, it cost about $15 NZD to enter.
Vintage car lovers should also stop by the Route 79 Museum, which has old tractors, motorbikes, and artillery in addition to cars. It’s open Monday/Thursday/Friday from 9:30 am – 4:30 pm and weekends from 10 am – 4:30 pm.
Our last historical recommendation is the Roger Mahan Heritage Centre. I loved their colorful old carriage-style vehicles! This spot charges $10 NZD per person and is open Wednesday to Sunday, 10 am – 4 pm.
I also recommend checking out The Geraldine Orchard Farm Shop and Cafe, where you can get locally sourced fruits and veggies, and check out the bakery! It’s a perfect snack stop whether you just finished adventuring or need to refuel on your road trip.
15. Canterbury Plains
- Distance from Christchurch: 159 kilometers (98 miles)
- Time needed: 9 hours
- What you need: Tour
The Canterbury Plains is a region between the Southern Alps and the Pacific Ocean. This region is relatively flat, has a large agricultural presence, and is remarkably different from most tourist destinations in New Zealand.
It has three major rivers that cut across the plains: the Waimakariri, Raikaia, Selwyn, and Rangitata. This makes for great river-related activities. You can find many opportunities for jet boat rides, fishing, rafting, and kayaking!
But one of the main draws of this region is that it was one of the filming locations for The Lord of the Rings trilogy! In fact, you can visit Mount Sunday, which was transformed into the set of Edoras (the capital city of the Rohan people).
If you are a LOTR fan, this full-day Journey to Edoras tour is one that you won’t want to miss! You get picked up from your Christchurch hotel in a 4WD vehicle to head to the Canterbury Plains. Take in the scenic views while adventuring across the terrain and even crossing through streams.
Once at Mount Sunday, you will follow in Eowyn’s footsteps on a trek up to the summit. While you take in gorgeous 360-degree views, your guide shares interesting behind-the-scenes facts on the filming and creation of Edora. Next, you’ll get a picnic lunch with sparkling wine. And no Lord of the Rings tour would be complete without a photo-op with replica props from the movie!
This 5-star tour will make you appreciate LOTR even more as you’ll learn so many interesting facts about the movies, all while taking in the natural beauty of New Zealand. Tours last approximately 9 hours and cost $299 NZD. They only run on select days, so be sure to book in advance so you don’t miss out!
Renting a Car or Campervan in New Zealand
The first step to planning your New Zealand road trip is choosing your set of wheels! Most people rent a campervan or motorhome to get around, but you can also just rent a normal car and stay in hotels (as opposed to camping.)
You can search for rental cars online here in advance to compare car models and prices.
You can also do this with motorhomes and campervans on a website called Motorhome Republic. It shows all of the available campervans and motorhomes for your specific New Zealand road trip dates. You can compare prices and company reviews here too!
JUCY is our personal favorite campervan rental company in NZ. We love JUCY because they have such a range of both cars and campervans available, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something to suit your budget and travel style.
We’ve actually secured an exclusive discount code for our readers with JUCY. Just click here to browse their availability and use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off! You must act quickly, though, as this code is only valid for bookings made before June 30, 2024, with travel dates before December 21, 2024!
Star RV is another company we personally recommend but specifically for motorhomes! They offer larger motorhomes (as opposed to budget campervans) at really reasonable rates.
Star RV has actually given us a discount code for our readers too! Use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off your motorhome rental! Note, this code is only valid for bookings made before June 21, 2024 with travel dates before Dec 21, 2024. Click here to browse availability, prices, and book with our discount code!
Don’t get Caught without Travel Insurance!
We never travel without travel insurance! We’ve had a few instances during our travels when one of us has ended up in the hospital, and travel insurance has saved us thousands of dollars over the years!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance, we both have policies with them whenever we travel.
They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!)The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!) While most travel insurance companies left people stranded, SafetyWing fully reimbursed us for our last-minute, pricey flights!
Also, because it is so affordable, there really is no excuse not to take out a policy. Check prices and get a quote online here with SafetyWing (you can even take out a policy if you’re already traveling!)
Thanks for reading!
Christchurch makes a great base to explore the surrounding regions – and there are plenty of places worth visiting! We love all of our experiences here, from swimming with dolphins in Kaikoura to wine tasting in the Waipara Valley. So, if you’re heading to Christchurch soon, we hope you found a couple of day trips to add to your itinerary!
If you found this blog useful, check out our other articles about New Zealand. We’ve also written about many other destinations around the world. To get started, just click on one of the links below. Thanks for reading!