As one of the world’s finest inland rail journeys, the TranzAlpine line covers 223 kilometres of stunning South Island landscapes in just under five hours. The route passes through the iconic Canterbury plains, a patchwork of farmland criss-crossed by rivers and home to the largest collection of Maori rock art in the country, as well as the world’s only Ford Model T Railcar. As the train continues through the Southern Alps, a majestic mountain range extending along the length of the South Island, you can witness the splendour of the snow-capped Aoraki/Mount Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand. Upon arriving in Greymouth, hire a car for a day or two to explore the West Coast and get your adrenaline pumping with more active outdoor pursuits, such as adventure rafting, skydiving and glacier hikes.
2. New Brighton
With a vibe akin to an English seaside town, the coastal suburb of New Brighton, approximately a 15-minute drive from Christchurch city centre, hosts a lively Seaside Market every Saturday. The market, held at New Brighton Mall, features a range of family-friendly live entertainment, from local buskers to bouncy castles; great food, including artisanal breads, delicious doughnuts and fresh produce; and vendors selling handmade arts, crafts and jewellery. After making your way around the market, head to renowned café Switch to get your coffee fix before a stroll on the suburb’s iconic pier, visiting the Travis Wetland Nature Heritage Park or taking a walk along the beach to the mouth of the Waimakariri River.
3. Port Hills
Tucked between the city of Christchurch and the historic township of Lyttelton, the Christchurch Port Hills are the perfect site for nature-lovers to explore by bike. Large sections of the hills – remnants of the Lyttelton volcano that erupted millions of years ago – have been repurposed into a cycle tracks for both advanced riders and beginners. As well as the impressive views, there’s also the chance to catch the remarkable native flora and fauna, which includes birds unique to New Zealand such as the wood pigeon, as well as other birds including the fantail and shining cuckoo. For more demanding trails, take on the Godley Head mountain biking track. Conquer the challenging ascent from Evans Pass Road and you will be rewarded with a heavenly 360-degree view across the South Pacific Ocean.
Surrounding Christchurch to the east and the north, North Canterbury is a renowned destination that’s home to over 90 family-run vineyards. The region’s unique climate and soil types, including the volcanic Banks Peninsula and the limestone-rich Waipara and Waikari valleys result in more concentrated and structured flavours – the area is particularly known for its Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling. Notable vineyards in the Waipara region include Canterbury’s famous Pegasus Bay Winery and Waipara Springs, where the first chardonnay vines were planted in 1982. If you visit on a Saturday morning, head to the Amberley Farmers Market, where you’ll find a passionate group of growers and producers from the area selling their quality goods.
5. Ko Tane
Understand more about the Indigenous people of New Zealand at Ko Tane, a cultural village located within the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. Your visit starts with a traditional Maori powhiri (welcome) followed by the hongi, where two people press their noses together in greeting. The visit includes the chance to experience kapahaka, which roughly translates to “group dance”. An important expression of Maori heritage and identity, the performance includes songs, stick games, displays of weaponry and poi dances, where dancers swing balls attached to rope or string. The tour also lets you sample a meal prepared using hangi, a traditional Maori cooking technique involving a pit oven and heated rocks.
Owned and operated by experienced local sea kayak guide Katarina Te Maiharoa, Christchurch Sea Kayaking offers a range of tours for those wanting to explore the city’s waterways from a fresh perspective. Highly recommended is the six-hour City to Sea Tour, which kicks off with kayaking down the local Avon River, home to abundant birdlife such as diving ducks, Canada geese and black swans. You can then paddle east through the city’s Red Zone suburbs before ending the tour at the scenic Moncks Bay. Those who prefer a shorter tour can take on the half-day Te Toru Nui (The Big Three) route, where you’ll have the chance to take in three major sites – The Botanic Gardens, The City Centre and The Red Zone – while kayaking down the Avon River.
Orana Wildlife Park is New Zealand’s only open-range zoo, and the only place in the country where you can see orangutans. Situated just a 15-minute drive from Christchurch Airport, the park is internationally renowned for its involvement in conservation breeding programmes for endangered, exotic and native species such as the New Zealand brown teal, blue duck and kiwi bird. Excitingly, earlier this year, four young Tasmanian devils became the newest arrivals at the zoo as part of the Save the Tasmanian Devil Ambassador Programme. You can engage in a range of activities at the park such as the daily kiwi feed at 1:30pm, which allows you to get up close with New Zealand’s national icon.
Timely cultural events to catch in Christchurch
Join in on this annual public art festival with a range of local and internationally renowned artists, put together by SCAPE Public Art, an organisation that installs accessible, free contemporary public art around the city. This year’s festival features events such as exhibitions, artist talks, workshops, free activities and a captivating public art walkway which weaves around the historic and natural landmarks of Christchurch.
Until 16 November
This annual free music concert is a lovely way to spend a Saturday evening. Located at North Hagley Park, Christchurch’s largest urban open space, the event has been happening in Auckland and Christchurch since 1994 and usually draws a large and enthusiastic crowd of around 250,000 attendees. Anticipate a range of New Zealand’s top singers, dancers and musicians performing your all-time Christmas favourites and their own hottest hits.
On 30 November
Catch internationally acclaimed American cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s debut in New Zealand, where he will be playing Bach’s six suites for unaccompanied cello in one sitting as part of his two-year global Bach tour. This performance will take place in the restored Christchurch Town Hall Auditorium, which only reopened to the public this February for the first time since the devastating 2011 earthquake.
On 12 November
Singapore Airlines flies to Christchurch daily. To book a flight, visit singaporeair.com