Things to do in Christchurch: Summer Water Fun

  • Surfing in Christchurch
  • Sailing in Christchurch
  • Quail Island - sled dogs

Get Out on the Water.  It’s summer, it’s hot and getting out onto the water is a perfect way to not only cool off but to try some cool, water-based activities.  Your Christchurch accommodation is in a city with myriad opportunities to get out on the water.  So take advantage of the early morning light, the hot summer days and those long, long summer evenings and try some of the watery delights Christchurch has to offer.  Here are a few ideas to start with.

Learn to Surf

Standing on a wave, riding gently towards the shore is one of the most perfect things you can do in the ocean.  With a lesson or two and a bit of practice you can take advantage of the endless free energy generated by the ocean in the form of waves.  Christchurch is renown for its gentle beach breaks and even if you only want to mess around on the foamy waves close to the sand you can still have plenty of fun. There are surf schools in both Sumner and New Brighton and each run several classes daily.  All you have to do is swing by and put your name down for the next lesson.  You start out on big, buoyant foam boards and you will be surprised just how easily you will stand up and catch your first wave.  Once you know how to surf you can hire boards from local surf shops of from the surf school vans which are always parked at the beach.  Hang ten, bro…  

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We were all sailors once.  Christchurch’s early settlers (both Maori and European) arrived here by sea and learning to sail is a great way to connect with the ocean right on the city’s doorstep.  Learn2Sail operates sailing courses on Lyttleton Harbour and even if you are a complete beginner, these hands-on courses will soon have you sailing like an old salt.  Run over two days, the Beginner Sailing Course will introduce you to the parts of a yacht and the basic techniques involved with sailing. Visit their website for more information and bookings.

Quail Island

Formerly a quarantine station, Quail Island in the centre of Lyttleton Harbour is a fascinating place to visit.  Black Cat Cruises offer daily tours to the island which once housed a small leper colony in the early years of settlement.  Antarctic explorers Shackleton and Scott used the island as a base to train their sled dogs and ponies before they set of on their disastrous journey to the South Pole.  In the 1920s, the American explorer Commander Byrd also used the island as a training base.  After 1934 the island was farmed before becoming a reserve in 1975.  Visit Black Cat for tour times and prices.

Antigua Boat Sheds

There are few things more relaxing that paddling slowly along the calm Avon River on a hot summer’s day.  As Water Rat says in Kenneth Grahame’s book The Wind in the Willows, “there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” The Antigua Boatsheds have been part of the Avon River’s landscape for 130 years and the iconic green and white-striped buildings have provided river-side pleasure for generations of Cantabrians. You can hire all manner of different watercraft from the boat sheds – single and double kayaks, Canadian-style canoes, paddle boats and row-boats - and set off upstream for a leisurely paddle through Hagley Park.  The Boat Shed Café can supply you with a hamper of goodies and you can find a quite leafy glade somewhere up the river where you can stretch out in the summer sun.  So why not pretend you are Ratty or Mole and spend a sunny summer afternoon just messing about in a boat?


For an even more genteel and English experience, you can take a punt ride on the Avon River.  Propelled along by a punter wearing the traditional straw boater hat, striped blazer and braces, you simply sit in the low, flat-bottomed boat as you pass beneath the trailing branches of the willows growing along the riverbanks. This is truly a perfect way to experience the Avon River in all its gentle, tranquil beauty.  Take a friend, a hamper, some strawberries and even, dare I say it, a bottle of something bubbly…who knows what might happen.