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Day trips from Christchurch

Deemed one of the most unique destinations in the world, the spectacular Christchurch / Ōtautahi is all about scenery, and there are plenty of things to see here. Whether you want to swim with dolphins, or relax in thermal pools, you’ll find something to enjoy here in the Canterbury region.


A beautiful summer day view over the Akaroa Harbour.
A beautiful summer day view over the Akaroa Harbour.

Discover a slice of France within hours of Christchurch / Ōtautahi. This beautiful village features boutique shops, delicious local cuisine, and scenic views over the harbour. See if you can spot any dolphins swimming in the water.

Travel time from Christchurch / Ōtautahi: 1h 25m

Directions: Head south on State Highway 75 from Christchurch / Ōtautahi until you reach Akaroa.


  • Hector’s Dolphins: Tourists flock to Akaroa to see the rare Hector’s dolphins. Local tour operators offer cruises where visitors can swim with the friendly mammals, so don’t miss your chance to see them dolphins up close.
  • Akaroa’s World Famous Mini Golf: Love golf? Now is the best time to show off your golf skills at this popular mini golf club. The club is generally open from 10am to 4pm.
  • Paua Bay Hillcountry Farm: Experience and learn more about New Zealand’s farming communities by visiting the Paua Bay Hillcountry Farm on the Banks Peninsula.

Arthur’s Pass

The limestone outcrops of Castle Hill in Arthur’s Pass.
The limestone outcrops of Castle Hill in Arthur’s Pass.

If it’s stunning natural scenery you’re after, Arthur’s Pass makes for a great day trip from Christchurch / Ōtautahi. The journey will take you across rivers and beautiful mountain ranges as you head into one of the country’s oldest national parks.

Travel time from Christchurch / Ōtautahi: Two hours

Directions: Follow State Highway 73 northwest from Christchurch / Ōtautahi, passing through Sheffield and crossing the Waimakariri River.


  • Avalanche Peak Trail: A great stop for avid hikers, many trails begin from this point, offering incredible views over the mountains. The famous Avalanche Peak Trail also begins from Arthur’s Pass, however it’s only recommended for experienced hikers.
  • Otira Viaduct Lookout: Just ten minutes past Arthur’s Pass village, find out for yourself why this lookout is considered a mandatory stop for many travellers.
  • Devil’s Punchbowl Waterfall: Situated in Arthur’s Pass National Park, the Devil’s Punchbowl Waterfall is a major attraction that can be seen from the highway.

Hanmer Springs

Enjoy summer time by Waiau river at Hanmer Springs.
Enjoy summer time by Waiau river at Hanmer Springs.

Hanmer Springs is a popular day trip destination from Christchurch / Ōtautahi, with fantastic thermal pools that are ideal for spending a relaxing few hours away from the city. Spend some time swimming in the different rock pools, or visit the Hanmer Springs spa.

Travel time from Christchurch / Ōtautahi: Two hours

Directions: Use State Highways 1 and 7 to head north from Christchurch / Ōtautahi towards Hanmer Springs.


  • Around Hanmer Springs: The springs are surrounded by beautiful landscapes, just two hours from Christchurch / Ōtautahi. You may also want to check out Backtrax Quad Bike Discovery, as they run tours through the magnificent alpine scenery. Thrillseekers Canyon Centre also runs bungee jumping sessions from the Waiau ferry bridge.
  • Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa: If you’re in the mood to unwind, you’ll love this therapeutic complex of open-air sulphur and rock pool ranges.
  • Hanmer Springs Area: If you enjoy open spaces and relaxed atmospheres, this friendly small club field is the right spot for you. The typical season runs from late June to mid-September.


Kaikoura township with clearing morning fog.
Kaikōura township with clearing morning fog.

For close-up wildlife encounters, Kaikōura is a must-see destination. Home to whales, seals, and dolphins, you can also opt for a wildlife cruise. A particularly popular thing to do in the area is visit the peninsula’s seal colony. Plus, the coastal town features plenty of scenic coastal hikes.

Travel time from Christchurch / Ōtautahi: 3h

Directions: Head north on State Highway 1 to reach Kaikōura. Take note that the highway is only open during the daytime. If it’s closed, you can access Kaikōura via Inland Road (Route 70), or you can take State Highway 7.


  • Around Kaikōura town: There are plenty of things to do in this town. Don’t miss a visit Fyfee House or Kaikōura Winery, and there’s also the option of rafting the Clarence river, or learning to fly at the Kaikōura Aero Club.
  • Kaikōura Peninsula Walkway: Hiking the Kaikōura Peninsula Walkway is an experience. Another great hike is the track at Mount Fyffe.
  • Arts and Culture: The region also offers insight into Maori history and culture. Along with taking a Maori tour of the area, visitors can head to the Kaikōura Museum and discover more about the history of the area.

Other popular road trips in New Zealand