Travelling with family can be a chance to have some fun and make memories together. But, while a trip away is meant to be an escape from the chaos of home, bringing the kids along for the ride means bringing some of the chaos with you too. So make sure you’ve got some awesome entertainment, activities and destinations lined up to keep everyone happy (and sane) throughout the trip — and Christchurch is just the place.
TranzAlpine Day Trip
Between the whining about lack of Wi-Fi, the deliberation over directions and the never-ending “are we there yet”, travel with the whole gang can sometimes be...testing. But a day trip on the TranzAlpine is filled with enough excitement to put a stop to the squabbles.
Taking passengers on a stunning journey from the East to the West Coast of the South Island, the TranzAlpine travels past the towering Southern Alps and right into the heart of the iconic Canterbury plains. There’s plenty to see on your way, and it’s the perfect chance to show your children why New Zealand is such a treasured place.
Leaving Christchurch daily at 8:15 am, the TranzAlpine stops off in Greymouth at around 1:05 pm just in time for lunch. Then you’ll hit the tracks again at 2:05 pm to make it back to Christchurch by 6:30 pm. This is the ideal day trip for families, ticking all the boxes for comfort, entertainment and education.
We’d recommend requesting a table if you’re travelling with kids, for a bit of family bonding over games on the way. And with a licensed cafe on board adults can enjoy a glass of award-winning wine as you watch the spectacular landscapes go by. The wide windows on all sides make it easy to take outstanding photos of your journey and there’s an idyllic backdrop for stunning family photos around every bend in the tracks.
Plus, it’s a chance for the kids to take a break from the screens and tune in to the captivating audio commentary, delving into some of the histories, myths and magic behind the places you pass on the way. Head to our website to make your train booking or to take a look at the breathtaking journey you’re in for.
Canterbury Museum & Botanic Gardens
Be transported back in time and discover New Zealand’s fascinating culture and history at the Canterbury Museum. With rare artefacts from around the world and new installations popping up all the time, there’s plenty to interact with at the Canterbury Museum. Keep your eye on the what’s on section of their website to find something for kids while you’re there.
Check out ‘Discovery’, the museum’s natural history centre for kids and all curious minded visitors. Here you can dig for fossils, plus see live tarantulas and all sorts of preserved specimens. Kids will also love walking through the famous Pāua Shell House with 1,000+ pāua shells shimmering on its walls. And don’t miss one of the most notable exhibitions from the courageous era of Antarctic exploration. Entry to the museum is free, but a donation is always appreciated.
While you’re there, take a moment to smell the roses and finish your time at the museum with a family picnic at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. We all know Christchurch as the garden city of New Zealand and the Botanic gardens show us why. With an exquisite array of both native and exotic plants, the gardens are a lush expanse of vibrant colours, floral archways and perfectly maintained grounds. So it’s no wonder this natural wonderland sees 1.1 million visitors each year.
Imagination Station’s mission is to build creative lifelong learners with a focus on bringing together creativity, engagement, accessibility and exploration all in one place. It’s a stimulating hub of fun hosted at Christchurch Central Library. With mountains of LEGO, DUPLO and LEGO Technic, your children can create, build and play to their heart’s content.
During weekends and school holidays, Imagination Station put on a whole host of different learning workshops to get amongst, from robotic classes to stop-motion animation courses and remote control technic race car building. So keep your eye on what’s on offer over the school holidays. Although there’s no entry fee, a donation helps the awesome organisation behind the programme keep up the good work.
Surrounded by the serene Spencer park, Brooklands lagoon and Bottle Lake Forest, Adrenaline Forest is one of Christchurch’s best things to do with the family. This is a hair-raising adventure with seven great obstacle courses, taking you 20 metres high among the green canopy above.
Across bridges, nets, barrels swings and flying foxes, Adrenaline Forest is designed to challenge climbers both emotionally and physically. It's the ideal chance to get out of your comfort zone from the safety of a harness. And the satisfaction of completing the course as a family is an unbeatable feeling. You know what they say— families who conquer together stay together.
Orana Wildlife Park
Located a speedy 15-minute drive from Christchurch Airport, Orana Wildlife Park is an incredible animal excursion set on 80 hectares of maintained wilderness. Internationally known for its dedicated involvement in conservation work for endangered species, Orana is home to a huge variety of everyone’s favourite animals, including New Zealand’s only gorillas and orangutans. The kids will love getting up close and personal with the adorable furry, feathery and slippery inhabitants of Orana. Some of the must-dos at Orana Wildlife Park include:
Lion Encounter -You’ll feel like you’re in sub-Saharan Africa in this close encounter with the Kings (and Queens) of the jungle. This unique park feature takes visitors through the African Lion Habitat in a special lion viewing vehicle for an experience like no other in New Zealand. Get eye-to-eye with the ultimate carnivores as they climb onto the roof of the caged vehicle in an experience you can otherwise only get in the African Savanna.
Kiwi Feed - See our national icon, the Kiwi, getting fed in the Nocturnal House, every day at 1:30 pm. Watch as they forage for food while our well-informed wildlife guide bestows all sorts of fascinating knowledge about the much-loved birds and how we can keep them safe. The walk through aviaries also have a presentation with one of our wildlife guides at 11:05 am every morning.
Hand feed a Giraffe - As part of admission to the park, visitors have the opportunity to feed these long-legged, long-tongued and long-necked friends every day at 12 pm, and again at 3 pm. These gentle giants will mesmerise your young ones and are sure to be a highlight of the visit.
The Great Ape Centre - Home to the only gorillas and orangutans in the country, this $6million project houses three magnificent gorilla brothers and a trio of orangutans.
While most of the must-do activities are free with your entry fee, others require booking beforehand. So check out their website to see what's on when.
The Christchurch Antarctic Centre
If you want to experience something really cool (literally), head to the Christchurch Antarctic Centre and experience the sights and sounds of Antarctica. Sign the kids up for the 4D special effects ice voyage or get up close with some of the most amazing animals on the planet, head to the Husky Zone for a cuddle, or visit the Penguin Encounter at feeding time. If your kids are tall enough get on board the all-terrain amphibious Antartic vehicles for an off road adventure like no other! Once you’re snowed out, relax in the café for a sweet treat and warm drink.
The break you all need
By the end of the school term, your kids are exhausted and so are you. It’s time to take a break from the regular routine and have some fun as a family. And Christchurch is simply one of the best family holiday destinations. With some of the country’s most one-of-a-kind playgrounds to check out in between activities, there won’t be a dull moment had.
From train rides through the South Island’s most stunning landscapes to feeding lions and kiwis, to clambering in treetops, there’s an experience every member of the family can get in on. It’s your chance to make some awesome memories and bring the never-ending “I’m bored” to an end, at least until the next school holidays.