Not all international getaways involve long haul flights, huge transits and jetlag. Some will earn you a passport stamp in less time than it takes to fly domestically.
Enter Christchurch, just a quick three-hour flight from Brisbane Airport.
Plunge into the history of the South Island and New Zealand’s rich Māori culture, and discover first-hand their connections to Antarctica with these eight things to see and do in Christchurch, New Zealand.
1. Visit Akaroa Harbour to see the Hector's dolphins
Meet and greet Akaroa’s rarest residents, Hector’s dolphins, with a cruise through the harbour. With an estimated global population of just 700, Hector’s dolphins are the smallest marine dolphins in the world and are only found in the coastal waters off New Zealand’s Banks Peninsula.
Akaroa Harbour is nestled within an extinct volcano crater creating a coastline of coves, cliffs, and deep-sea caves – a 90-minute drive south-east of Christchurch.
Climb aboard a sea vessel and spend the day cruising, sailing, kayaking or even swimming through the sheltered waters of the harbour.
You’ll be guaranteed a visit by the local little blue penguins, New Zealand fur seals and resident dolphins.
2. Float down Christchurch's iconic Avon river on a punting tour
Step back in time on an Edwardian style punting tour and float down Christchurch’s Avon River, aboard a handcrafted flat-bottom boat, poled along from the rear by a punter.
The leisurely 30-minute tour passes through the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and into the heart of the Garden City. From onboard, you’ll gain insight into the city with informative punter commentary.
The river is home to flocks of ducks, swans and different species of birds that happily swim alongside the eco-friendly tours.
3. Board the Christchurch Gondola for a joy ride up Mt Cavendish
Sit back and relax with Christchurch Gondola for views of snow-capped Alps, sprawling plains and Lyttelton Harbour as it merges into sparkling blue waters.
You’ll find the Gondola ride just a 15-minute drive from central Christchurch. With the spectacular panoramic views over the city, it’s a must-do if you want to get a lay of the land.
Stretch your legs at the summit by exploring a few of the walking tracks, all the while breathing in fresh mountain air. If you’re feeling a bit peckish, visit the Red Rock Café for a coffee and a snack.
Make sure you head over to the Time Tunnel ride and delve into the region’s history before boarding the Gondola back down the mountain.
4. Meet the infamous kiwi bird at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve
Arm yourself with a bag of feed and head over to Willowbank Wildlife Reserve.
Make your way through the reserve to encounter New Zealand’s very own kiwi alongside the kaka, tuatara, kea and takahe.
If you’re at the reserve during Kiwi breeding season, June to February, you can peek behind the scenes into their Kiwi Incubation Facility, learn about Operation Nest Egg and even see baby kiwi up close.
If you’re up for a close encounter with more of the animals, the Lemur Encounter will have you entering the enclosure alongside the keepers, feeding them lunch and learning about their behaviour and habitats.
Willowbank is also home to Ko Tāne, an interactive Māori cultural experience, giving insight into New Zealand’s history from past to present, finishing with a traditional Māori kai tasting.
The Reserve is just a 10-minute drive from Christchurch Airport and a 25-minute bus ride from the city centre.
5. Climb aboard the Christchurch Tramway Restaurant
All aboard! This vintage dining experience by tram leaves the station nightly at 7.00pm (March – October) and 7.30pm (November – February).
Climb inside the 36-seater heritage Tramway Restaurant and sit back and relax for a slow-paced tour of downtown Christchurch.
Savour the tasty four-course fine dining with a wine pairing option as you travel through the city giving you an ever-changing view out the window.
6. Weave your way through the Christchurch Botanic Gardens
You can’t visit the ‘Garden City’ without strolling through the green heart of Christchurch, the 150-year-old Christchurch Botanic Gardens.
This inner-city sanctuary is open every day from 7am for you to discover much-loved native plants in the New Zealand Garden before winding your way through the Central Rose Garden and into the many seasonal gardens reflecting the different stages of flowering throughout the year.
More than just flora and fauna, the gardens are home to architecture like the award-winning Visitor Centre which doubles as a café, a library and nursery.
Overlooking the Woodland Garden, within Harman’s Grove, you’ll find the heritage-listed Bandsmen's Memorial Rotunda, built in 1926.
Entering the gardens from the daffodil woodlands and surrounded by blossom trees is the World Peace Bell that was gifted to Christchurch, engraved with the word 'peace' in over 40 languages.
7. Get up to scratch with New Zealand’s history at the Canterbury Museum
Unearth New Zealand’s rich cultural and natural heritage at the Canterbury Museum, a treasure trove of historical collections and modern art exhibitions.
Situated in Christchurch’s Cultural Precinct the museum shares stories of Canterbury’s past and present, including connections with Antarctica.
Enter Fred & Myrtle’s Pāua Shell House to see the museums remarkable collection of 1,000 pāua shells - the most you’ll find in any one place.
Admission to the museum is free and open every day from 9.00am in Central Christchurch, just a 20-minute drive from Christchurch Airport.
8. Get ready for a chilly day at the International Antarctic Centre
Step out of Christchurch Airport and into . . . Antarctica?
The immersive International Antarctic Centre whisks you to the magical and icy land of Antarctica.
Find yourself mingling with penguins and befriending huskies before buckling up and heading off-road by Hägglund, an all-terrain amphibious vehicle built to conquer rough terrain on the ice.
Be sure to rug up before stepping inside the Antarctic storm room, with temperatures plummeting to -8°C chilled by a -18°C wind machine.
Learn about the important role Antarctica plays in scientific discovery with Science Alive activities and experience all elements in the 4D theatre.
PLAN YOUR TRAVEL
BEFORE YOUR FLIGHT
It may have been a while since you last flew overseas. It's a fantastic time to remember the basics of international travel as well as learn about what's changed.
We can’t wait to welcome you back to Brisbane Airport’s International Terminal, see you soon!