Christchurch is one of the top traveling destinations in Aotearoa, especially on the South Island. If you are planning a trip to New Zealand’s South Island, Christchurch connects you to all major destinations. While everyone knows about the fantastic summer trips in the land of the long white cloud, Christchurch winter activities will leave you amazed to the core.
The beautiful backdrop those snowy Alps bring to your winter vacation photographs is beyond most people’s imagination. So, without further ado, check out our thoughtfully curated sampling of top things to do in Christchurch during the winter months.
Christchurch Winter Activities – Top 7 Attractions
From hot pools to stargazing, from skiing and snowboarding to heli-hiking and glacial landing, from the snowy train journey to the tranquil hot air balloon ride, Christchurch winter activities know no bounds. So, if you are planning a trip there, these top 7 activities should have their personal spot reserved on your travel itinerary.
#1:- Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools
Hanmer Springs offers one of the best winter experiences for family and other travelers alike. It is the perfect getaway for unwinding, relaxing, and having fun!
The resort offers a range of pools and activities, including rock, thermal, mineral, and sulfur pools, water slides, all under one roof. You can also immerse yourself into a trance-inducing massage at the in-house spa and enjoy a great relaxation experience.
These pools are set amidst the natural surroundings. You can gaze at the infinite snow-covered mountain views and panoramic scenery while you relax in the hot waters. You can even go for a picnic with your loved ones in the native gardens.
The springs are just a 90-minute drive away from Christchurch, garnering a high footfall of winter travelers. It is best to book your tickets in advance online, so you don’t have to return due to capacity restrictions. You even get free cancellations, so you don’t have to worry about a sudden change in your plans.
#2:- Mt Hutt Ski and Snowboard
As mountains and snow blend, skiing and snowboarding emerge as the top Christchurch winter activities. Mt. Hutt offers one of the top skiing destinations, not only near Christchurch but also in entire New Zealand.
The resort gives you access to an authentic alpine experience, offering wide-open terrain, monster snowfalls, and spellbinding views. You get access to 5 parks offering advanced, intermediate, and beginners terrains. Gunners Alley being the most difficult offers a unique ”S” shaped jump line. The maximum jump height is 60 ft. and the park offers more than 4 jumps, rails, and snow features.
For first-timers, you even get skiing and snowboarding lessons and access to beginner trails. The mountains are family-friendly and have special snow activities and skiing terrains for children up to 5 years of age at the Skiwiland.
You get on spot equipment rentals, so you don’t have to lug your own and can travel light. If you are a ski-lover, you may even buy their full-day lift pass so you can flexibly move across all the peaks and slopes.
For those who don’t enjoy skiing or need to relax after a while, the resort offers ample other activities too. You can eat at restaurants, cafes and ice bars. Several events and competitions are held throughout the year, including the Mt. Hutt Snowpalooza in October. It is the most fun and family-friendly event with dog derby, snowboarding race, pond skimming, and a lot of fun on the line-up!
Before heading to Mount Hutt, check their official website to make sure that it is open for that day. If the weather is not good, they will not allow entry to this region. If you are not comfortable enough to ride through the snowcapped roads, the public transport option is available from the first parking region itself, which is free of cost.
#3:- Hiking in Mt Cook – Hooker Valley Track
Hiking is best explored in summers; however, the Mt. Cook hike along the Hooker Valley is a picturesque escapade in winters. It is one of the most in-demand Christchurch winter activities.
The track runs along the Hooker River flowing through the snow-peaked mountains. The river ends in a beautiful glacial lake. You even get to see beautiful icebergs on this hike.
The hike itself is not so challenging, but the three swing bridges do pose a bit of a challenge. However, what’s a good hike without some thrill along with it? You can even hear the rumbling avalanche sounds coming from Mount Sefton as you hike through the valley.
The hike is perfect for families as it is only 5 km with just 80 meters of climbing. You can cover the entire track in about 3 to 4 hours both ways. It is a more attractive avenue not because of difficulty but because of the breathtaking views that offer beautiful photo opportunities.
You can head there very early to witness the radiant sunrise rays falling on the mountain peaks. Let your eyes feast on the most beautiful view that you would have ever witnessed.
A word of caution, the temperatures are volatile here, making layered clothing the perfect attire. You should also carry a backpack, enough water, and energy bars as you head out on this hike.
NB: There are few other walking tracks in Mount Cook. If you are a beginner and haven’t done hiking before, we recommend Hooker Trail or the Tasman Trail. Tasman Trail is much easier than Hooker and it takes only half an hour to the viewpoint (depends on your fitness).
#4:- Stargazing in Tekapo – Winter season is best for stargazing
Lake Tekapo star gazing is yet another one of the coveted winter activities near to Christchurch. It is a perfect blend of mesmerizing stargazing and relaxing hot pools experience. Yes, that’s right! You get both at once.
The Tekapo Springs offers several guided tours under fascinating night skies with astronomic storytelling as you soak yourself in a 37.5-degree hot pool. You can even lie on the hammocks as you witness nature’s dazzling enigma panning in front of your eyes.
As Tekapo is a part of the Dry Sky Reserve, the area has minimal light pollution rendering clear skies most times. However, if the weather is poor, you get VR-enabled tours, including stunning imagery with beyond belief time-lapse effect and the Southern lights, or as you call them, the Aurora Australis! It is an open-air planetarium experience blending Astronomic science with the art of storytelling.
You can even experience glamping on your stargazing trips. You get to stay in isolated yet posh tents and sleep under the glittering sky. Although your camping activities are restricted, you can still enjoy luxurious glamping while staying within the regulations.
If you are planning for the stargazing, have a look at the weather and make sure it is not cloudy.
#5:- TranzAlpine Train Journey – Embark Upon This Journey When It Snows!
Cruising through the Alpine ranges is one of the top ”New Zealand’ things to do. The scenic TranzAlpine train journey is the best way to do so. This 4-hour journey from Christchurch to Greymouth is bewitching.
If there is a way to admire natural beauty in all its hues, it is this TranzAlpine train journey. You get to see the perfect amalgamation of rainforests, glaciers, and the expansive coastline. Also, the journey looks much more beautiful during snowfall, against most common beliefs, making it one of the most enthralling Christchurch winter activities.
There are a lot of en-route attractions to explore where you can hop off if you don’t want to go all the way. You can relax in Arthurs Pass, a town with a rain forest on either side. You can have a trek to Devils Punchbowl Waterfall which is the best waterfall in Canterbury region (Personal experience).
The best part about embarking upon this journey in the winter is that the snowfall is not very heavy to obstruct the tracks. It is very rarely occurring at the time of polar blasts. You won’t be able to see snow every time you go for a tranzalpine journey, even in the winter. Have a look at the weather map and find the best day to book your journey. If it is snowing, it looks beautiful sprinkled everywhere, like garnishing on your favorite food.
While you book your tickets through your smartphone, a small tip is that you should make a seating request. Preferably, the right side seats from Christchurch to Greymouth and the left ones on the reverse journey. These will bring the best views for you to capture. As seats are allotted on departure, reserving them beforehand ensures you get the right ones to make the most out of this journey.
To ensure high energy levels on this thrilling journey, there is a café bar on board, from where you can grab a few beverages and microwaveable food items.
#6:- Helicopter Scenic Flight + Glacier Landing from Mt. Cook
While hiking in Hooker Valley is one way to explore the Mt. Cook region, the heli-hike tour gives you even better views of the snow-covered peaks. This fantastic Tasman Valley tour is one of the top Christchurch winter activities if you want an authentic mountain experience.
The highlight of this tour is the breathtaking glacial views that you can get nowhere else in the world. You can book the tours for any duration between 10 and 90 minutes and explore the otherwise unreachable, clandestinely shrouded natural gems of the Aoraki Mount Cook region. All these tours include glacial landing to get the highly coveted mountain peak selfies.
However, if you are a ski buff or an enthusiast, they even have 6-hour long tours that come with a professional ski guide. The tour takes you deep into the longest glacier in the region and lands you at the Tasman Glacier Ski Plane. Good fitness level is required for this long hiking tour.
You get 2 ski runs here, and you can explore ice caverns or just get awestruck by the beautiful ice formations and sculptures. The tour also includes a delicious lunch at the top of the world before your final ski run.
This is a full day well-spent worth your while adventure. If you want to create lifetime memories, this is the right way to do so.
#7:- Hot Air Balloon Ride – Ballooning Canterbury
While we do live in the jet age, and heli-hikes take you up there much faster, there is no match for the old-school charm of a Hot Air Balloon ride.
These rides are best conducted in open plains; therefore, Canterbury plains is the top ballooning launch site. You can reach here while enjoying a scenic one-hour drive from Christchurch.
You are taken as high as 9500 ft. so you are wonderstruck by the spectacular blend of Mount Cook, Canterbury Plains, and the Pacific Ocean. It is one of the best ways to escape the world and enjoy the serene surroundings to the fullest.
The experience can last anywhere between 4 to 6 hours, wherein the flying time is close to 1 hour. The rest is for enjoying the panoramic views at the destination, capturing them for memory’s sake, enjoying celebration drinks on the farms, and much more! Some balloons can even carry up to 12 people, making them perfect for enjoying with your entire group of friends!
You should wear layered clothing as the ride takes place very early in the morning, so you might get exposed to the chilly morning breeze. Also, wear hard-soled sneakers or running shoes for comfortable walking during farm-landings.
Concluding Winter Activities in Christchurch On A high!
These 7 Christchurch winter activities will make you want to visit the city multiple times. They blend in the diverse natural surroundings so well and help you escape the city life struggles, giving you the much-needed rejuvenating break. All you have to do is pack a lot of layers, grab your best running shoes and head out to explore the expansive outdoors in and around Christchurch.