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Cheap Car Hire Christchurch Airport
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A rental car gives you the freedom and flexibility to make the most of your time exploring Christchurch and surrounding areas. Here are a few of the many attractions around Christchurch you might like to consider checking out. The letters on the map match those below, where you'll find information about each attraction. For more ideas, check out the Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism website.
A. Banks Peninsula
Hop into your rental car and take a scenic drive out to the Banks Peninsula - a beautiful area about an hour and a half from central Christchurch. Once an active volcanic island, the Banks Peninsula is now most famous for the scenic ports of Akaroa and Lyttelton; their sheltered harbours are formed by volcanic craters. The peninsula is named after botanist Joseph Banks, who sailed with Captain Cook on the Endeavour. Drive along the Summit Road on Banks Peninsula for outstanding views over its bays and beaches. There are also lots of walking trails here threading through the native bush.
Akaroa is a truly unique seaside town - it is the only French settlement in New Zealand. Quaint colonial cottages and lyrical French street names live on here today. Cuisine is a strong point in Akaroa - from the French restaurants to fresh local ingredients such as beef, lamb, crayfish and salmon. At award winning Barrys Bay Cheese you can watch the cheese making process through a viewing window. Arts and crafts are another specialty; boutique shops and galleries offer a peek at the works of local creatives. The Akaroa museum is worth a visit, and if you have the time, take a harbour cruise to see seals, dolphins and penguins. This region is home to the Hector’s dolphin, one of the world’s rarest dolphin species, found only in New Zealand.
Meanwhile, Lyttelton’s historic township is home to a number of shops, cafes, restaurants and a weekly farmer’s market. The museum has a strong maritime theme, and the Antarctic gallery is worth a look (Lyttelton was once a departure point for expeditions to the South Pole). Harbour cruises also leave from Lyttelton if you have a hankering to go wildlife spotting. The route between Lyttelton and Christchurch is an interesting one, involving a tunnel, and a drive over the Port Hills (a popular area for hiking and biking).
B. Orana Wildlife Park
Orana Wildlife Park is the only open range zoo in New Zealand, and the only place where you can see gorillas. It is home to nearly 500 animals - we recommend spending a full morning or afternoon here.
There is no shortage of animal encounters available, from hand feeding to close encounters. Get up close with rhino, see the lion habitat first hand, feed giraffes or lemurs, and marvel at monkeys and meerkats, Tasmanian devils and tigers. Most of Orana Wildlife Park focuses on the African continent, with captive zebras and cheetahs. The lion encounter is a unique experience - you’ll ride on a specially modified vehicle with the keepers, feeding the cats from within. You will often get to literally see eye to eye with these majestic creatures.
Walk through the native bird aviary - tui, kea, kereru and kakariki can all be found at Orana Wildlife Park - and the nocturnal kiwi house. The impressive reptile area features tuatara, an ancient and native reptile. The park also has a giant collection of geckos on show.
Wind down at the farmyard with friendly domestic creatures and wrap your visit up at the top notch cafe and gift shop on site. There are lots of picnic areas you can make use of as well as BBQs and a kiddie playground. From the flying fox you can watch the animals as you whiz along.
There are several animal feedings and presentations as well as guided tours scheduled throughout the day each day. The free Safari Shuttle circles the park (the route takes about half an hour) and the driver provides expert wildlife commentary. Or you can explore on foot.
Orana Wildlife Park is set across 80 lush hectares, and you’ll find it half an hour from Christchurch - an easy drive in your rental car.
C. Hanmer Springs
When in Christchurch, the nearby resort town of Hanmer Springs makes for a great day trip or overnight excursion, no matter what the weather or the time of year. The main street is jammed with interesting boutiques and places to dine and drink. The surrounding forests are prime for hiking, horse trekking, and mountain biking. In Hanmer Springs, you can try out bungy jumping or test your capacity on a dizzying jet boat ride. There is a golf course, and in winter, you can make the most of the Hanmer Springs ski area and hit the powdery slopes.
But perhaps the most famous attraction in Hanmer Springs are the soothing thermal pools. The Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa is a big complex with mineral, sulphur and fresh water pools. A backdrop of native greenery and alpine landscapes also sets the Hanmer Springs resort apart. In need of serious relaxation? Indulge in one of the many spa treatments, from beauty to massage therapies. Private pools, sauna and steam rooms are available on site too, along with a sprawling activity area for kids.
The family fun area is packed with hydro slides as well as the thrilling aquatic Super Bowl. This fairly new addition involves riding in an inflatable tube and begins with a swift drop through a water flume, before launching into a centrifugal ride, then concluding with a descent into another flume and finally ending in a splash pool. This is the only such ride in the whole country.
Hanmer Springs is roughly 90 minutes by rental car from Christchurch - and the drive north is pleasant, heading along the coast toward the flourishing wine region of Waipara, then inland toward Hanmer.
D. Christchurch Trams
Ever since the late 1800s trams have been a fixture on the Christchurch scene. The very first tram lines in the heart of the city ran steam locomotives. After the earthquakes of 2011, the iconic red and yellow carriages were taken offline for some time. But they have been back up and running since the end of 2014 and reclaimed their rightful place as one of the top central city attractions in the Garden City.
The newly extended tram route starts at Cathedral Junction and travels through Cathedral Square before passing the Avon river, Re:START Mall and High Street. It also passes Canterbury Museum, Hagley Park, Victoria Square and New Regent Street. There are stops for punting on the Avon and the Botanic Gardens, two other very popular tourist activities in Christchurch.
The carriages are quaint and the inside seats cosy (there is also outdoor seating available, but these are not weather proof). Sit back in style and listen as the drivers regale you with stories and information about the city as you rattle past key landmarks. Hop on and off to your heart’s content with a day ticket. Departures are every 15 to 20 minutes. The tram runs between 9 am and 6 pm from September to March and 10 am to 5 pm between April and August.
Add another dimension to your Christchurch heritage tour and book a tramway restaurant dinner experience. This combines sightseeing with dining, from a luxury 36 seater. This colonial style tram tour is incredibly popular and reservations are a must (be sure to note any special dietary requirements in advance). You can book a 2 seat or 4 seat table for supper. The Tramway Restaurant leaves at 7 pm daily from Cathedral Junction.
E. Mt Cook / Aoraki
Aoraki, also known as Mt Cook is the highest peak in New Zealand. A small village bearing its name is nestled at its foot, surrounded by the majestic Southern Alps. It is a remote, rugged and incredible place to visit.
There is so much to do around Mt Cook National Park. Stop and marvel at the shimmering Lake Pukaki. At night, go stargazing from within the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve.
The region is among the best for climbing in the Southern Hemisphere, with about 23 tall mountains within the park. There are about a dozen alpine walks as well (you may encounter cheeky kea parrots along the way), all starting near the village. The Hooker Valley Track provides amazing views and is one of the most popular short options.
Many glaciers can be accessed here for an icy summer adventure, or skiing in winter. The Tasman Glacier is great for intermediate skiers while the Bonney, Murchison and Darwin glaciers cater for more advanced skiers. Land on icebergs and see one of a kind glacial lakes. Or sail to the Tasman Glacier - the largest in the country - via a rapidly growing lake. You even can take a 4WD tour up through the Tasman Valley.
At nearby Lake Tekapo, visit the Church of the Good Shepherd. Built for early pioneer families to worship at, this church boasts wonderful views of the lake and mountains through its altar window. Hike up to Mount John Observatory in the mountains for stargazing, or a chance to see the Southern Lights.
Mt Cook National Park is about four hours from Christchurch in your rental car - a great addition to your South Island road trip itinerary or an overnight excursion, staying at the iconic hermitage hotel in Mt Cook where you can wake up to views of the alps.
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Mike Smith (UK)
Great for backpackers like us on a tight budget. Got to do more of the amazing things NZ offers with the money we saved. Awesome!
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