Explore Nature in Christchurch for Free

One of the wonderful things to come across when visiting another country or another city, is the beautiful places you can experience for free.

New Zealand is lucky to have many locations like this around the country, often administered and maintained by our Department of Conservation (DoC) or by local councils.

In Christchurch, you can explore the beaches; walk, run or cycle around much of the Port Hills and enjoy the more landscaped surroundings of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and The Groynes.

sumner beach Christchurch

Christchurch Botanic Gardens, Rolleston Avenue

Open year round, but with longer hours for the summer months as per the table below, this is really the jewel in the crown of central Christchurch.

Date Gate closing times
November to February 9:00pm
March 8.30pm
April to September 6.30pm
October 8.30pm

Wide walkways through the main areas of the gardens make for easy access, and enable the ‘caterpillar’ transport to take visitors on a guided tour if you prefer to ride rather than walk.

Off to the sides of the main paths are plenty of smaller paths to enable you to explore the different areas of planting, including the New Zealand Icon Garden which features New Zealand native plants, the Rose Garden and then the tropical conservatory which dates back to Victorian times.

botanic gardens nz icon garden

The gardens also feature a large playground and paddling pool for families to enjoy, and special areas set up for weddings.

botanic gardens bridge christchurch

You can relax over some food in the Ilex Cafe or the Lucky Duck cafe for takeaway picnic food, coffee and ice creams in the refurbished Gardens Tea Kiosk building.

The Groynes, Johns Road

If you have your own transport, plan a day of picnicking and having fun at The Groynes, located off Johns Road near the motorway that runs from the North of the city towards the airport.

The Groynes Christchurch

The Groynes takes its name from the large concrete filled wool sack blocks that were placed in the Otukaikino Creek during the 1930s.

These groynes were created to separate the creek from the main branch of the Waimakariri river for flood protection. An area prone to flooding, native vegetation was already limited due to repeat natural events but farming and urban development had caused indigenous flora to all but disappear from the area and the water quality to decrease significantly.

Since the early 2000s, efforts have been made to restore the Otukaikino River that runs through the Groynes, remove pest plants from the lakes and increase native plantings.

This is an extensive recreational area that includes several walkways, a recreational lake with boats and canoes to hire, smaller lakes for children’s fishing (up to 17 years old and a licence is required) and lots of green space and trees suitable for picnics and a friendly game or two. There is also a playground and a BBQ area.

Take your time to explore and enjoy!

The Groynes under 17 fishing ponds



Spring Events in Christchurch 2019

Right now the weather in Christchurch is still wintery but Spring is only a few weeks away. So we’ve listed below some of the events coming up – if anything takes your fancy and you live outside the city, jump into our accommodation section and book yourself in to really make a weekend of it.

NZ International Film Festival, August 8 – 25, 2019 Isaac Theatre Royal and Lumiere Cinemas, Arts Centre

With more than 80 films and documentaries from around the world, this year’s NZIFF is promising to be better than ever! For the first time, movies will be screened either at the beautiful Isaac Theatre Royal or the more intimate surroundings of the newly open Lumiere Cinemas in the Christchurch Arts Centre. Both environments bring a special atmosphere that takes you outside the usual moviegoing experience. Check out the full programme of movies and book your tickets here.

Ferrymead Night Market, September 7 2019, 4pm – 8pm

As the days get longer, it is time to head on down to Ferrymead Heritage Park for a relaxing stroll around the village and the market stalls. This family friendly event runs on the first Saturday of every month, so if you miss it in September, you can get down there in October.

Entry to the park is a gold coin per person.

– Stalls
– Food Vendors
– Entertainment – Live Music – Bouncy Castle – Face Painting
– Sorry no dogs allowed except for service dogs.
– Tram – small fee
– Vulcan Train – small fee
– Print Shop, Post Office, the Theatre, and Curragh House are open.
– Make sure you bring ample cash for this event as there are no ATM’s. We do not offer cash out.
– Some stalls and most food stands have eftpos
– Please consider public transport to help ease parking.

The Early Early Late Show, September 1, Court Theatre Addington

Something new for the city’s kids – every first Sunday of the month, the Court Theatre Jesters will be bringing back their very popular improv show for kids of all ages.

Our clever cast of Court Jesters are the masters of fast, funny, improvised comedy. They’ll create scenes, stories and songs on the spot with nothing but your ideas to inspire them.

The only show in town that both your seven and twelve-year-old will enjoy, The Early Early Late Show is unmissable comedy for tweenagers – and their grown-ups.

Miss Saigon, Isaac Theatre Royal, September 27 – October 6 2019

Madam Butterfly is given new life in this epic adaptation of Puccini’s 1904 opera, exploring love and loss in the Vietnam conflict.

A tragedy of passion and beauty, Miss Saigon is one of the most daring theatrical spectacles of all time. Nominated for an incredible number of Olivier, Tony and Drama Desk Awards, Miss Saigon is the second massively successful musical from the creators of Les Misérables.

In the turmoil of the Vietnam War, American GI Chris and Vietnamese girl Kim fall in love and marry but are distressingly separated when Saigon falls. Alone, Kim gives birth to Chris’ son and waits faithfully for his return. Unable to contact Kim, Chris remarries and attempts to move on with his life.

Circumstances bring Chris back to southeast Asia where he learns the truth… but with tragic consequences.

Miss Saigon is an epic pop musical that is universal in its emotional power.

Book your tickets online here. 


Enjoying the July School Holidays in Christchurch

The July school holiday are nearly here and even though its the middle of winter, there are plenty of great things for the family to do around the city.

Kidsfest is a Christchurch institution, with a series of free and paid events all over the city being held each year.

Some of the highlights are listed below. You can check out more details on all Kidsfest 2019 events through their website – and make sure you book early for anything you are keen on as many of them fill up fast.

The Christchurch Brick Show, July 13-14 2019, Horncastle Arena, $5 entry pp

This event is the biggest LEGO show of its kind in New Zealand.

Now with more space than ever before, the Christchurch Brick Show will exhibit amazing LEGO models for all age groups in 4,000 square metres of space at the Horncastle Arena.

Over 200 enthusiasts and collectors will show their designs, collections and contraptions to inspire creativity and innovation.

Children will have the opportunity to go hands-on with various LEGO focused activities in Imagination Station’s huge build and learn zone, sponsored by Mitre 10 Mega. Activities include building spaces, mechanics benches, mosaic walls, gaming area, remote control LEGO vehicles, ramp races (from 4 meters high!) and more!

Entry is $5 per child and $5 per caregiver. Children under 2 are free. You can book online to reserve your tickets or pay by cash/eftpos at the door.

The Kaiapoi Teddy Bear Hunt, July 6 – 20, Kaiapoi Town Centre, Free

There has been a bear invasion in Kaiapoi! They are hiding everywhere. Those pesky, trick bears are back!

Bear Cave Kaiapoi

Search high and low in the shop windows and you’ll find them. Some even have disguises. Come out for a day of fun in Kaiapoi.

Get your entry form from Kaiapoi i-Site, (corner of Charles & Williams Street, Kaiapoi), or download from www.kaiapoiadventure.co.nz.

Find as many bears as you can and enter the prize draw!

All welcome. Event runs all through KidsFest.

Helicopter Hijinks, Wigram Airforce Museum, July 6 – 20, 2019

The Wigram Airforce Museum has a number of activities during Kidsfest including the Rotary Roundup (for ages 8 – 13, cost $6 per child and caregivers free); Wingless Wonders (ages 5-10, cost $6 per child, caregivers free) and Chopper Spotter (ages 3-7, $6 per child, caregivers free).

wigram airforce museum

Pool Parties, various locations, July 6, 7, 14 and 20, 2019

KidsFest pool parties

Come along and have swim fun on inflatables, dance in the water to our DJ and play some pool games.

Spot prizes for style and safe swimmers from Coolstuff. Standard pool fees apply, tickets are available at the Pool on the day. ($3.50 per child, $6 per caregiver).

Pioneer Recreation and Sports Centre – Saturday 6th July, 1-3pm
QEII Recreation and Sports Centre – Sunday 7th July, 1-3pm
Jellie Park Recreation and Sports Centre – Sunday 14th July, 1-3pm
Graham Condon Recreation and Sports Centre – Saturday 20th July, 1-3pm

Detour bump and roll track, Manchester Street, free

The “Detour” is a bump and roll track in the city for all as part of the Fletcher Living and Gap Filler Placemaking at One Central Programme adjacent Manchester and Armagh Street intersection.

Detour track chch

All are welcome whatever your ability to come and have a go. Routes vary in difficulty, so whether you’re still on trainer wheels or you are more of a pro, everyone is welcome. Cycle, skateboard or scooter through. Whatever your wheels, this detour is for you!

Mix up your travel in the city and add some fun factor, or make a special visit to hang out and enjoy!

There are other Gap Filler installations as part of the PaOC programme close by so take opportunity to explore and mix this in with some other fun activities. These include the hammock park, the #chchswing, food trucks and much more.

There are bus stops nearby on Manchester – and the buses also take bikes.

Once Upon a Happy Ending, The Malthouse, 6 – 20 July, 2019 (check link for specific dates and times)

Cushion Theatre at the Malthouse. This is interactive theatre for children of all ages. Once Upon A Happy Ending is your usual fairy story with a difference – you, the audience makes it happen.

Malthouse theatre

Choose your heroes and villains, name the magical kingdom, create mythical creatures to save the day and help seek out those missing clues.

Let your imagination do the work – follow the lead of the Narrator and make a happy ending!!

Plenty of carparking available in BestStart carpark right next door- no walking across the busy road.

Air-conditioned theatre space with cushions galore. Coffee and cold drinks by Kea Coffee right outside the Malthouse for your convenience.

Tickets are $9 per person. Book online here. 

Kidsfest Under the Stars, Canterbury Astronomical Society Observatory West Melton, July 6 – 20, 2019

For something very special, plan an evening with your kids exploring the stars.

kidsfest stars

Explore the Universe at the Canterbury Astronomical Society’s observatory in West Melton. Members of the society will be on hand to help unlock the secrets of the night sky through the wide range of telescopes at the observatory.

The observatory will be open most nights of Kidsfest, weather permitting. A status update will be posted every night by 6:00pm on the society website at https://www.cas.org.nz/ as to whether we are open or closed. Please be sure to check there before travelling to the observatory.

The observatory is around 30 minutes drive from Christchurch at 218 Bells Road, West Melton. See https://www.cas.org.nz/ for maps and directions.

Bookings are essential. Numbers are limited. Book on the society website.

Booking fee applies. Sorry no door sales. *We will be closed on both Tuesday nights.



Wonderful Indoor Winter Activities in Christchurch

We are heading into the winter months, so what is there to do in Christchurch with your family (or without) when the days are shorter and the weather cooler?

Turns out, the answer is plenty!


EntX movies

Whether you are a local or visiting the city, movies are always a classic for cooler (or wetter days) and the city has some great options. If you are in the central city, head to the mega theatre at EntX (right opposite the Bus Exchange so you can grab a bus right outside the motel and head right into the city without having to find a park). The bottom floor is full of great eateries, so plan to grab lunch or dinner with your movie. See some pics and find out more about this great complex here. 

And of course there are other options for movies too – Northlands Mall, Riccarton Mall, Palms Shopping Centre, Alice’s, The Colombo, The Tannery and Sumner all have options to choose from.

If you are visiting NZ in the winter months, it is worth downloading the Flicks app  for your phone and then you can see all the cinemas and movies currently running, plus book online.

Turanga/Imagination Station

turanga library chch

Christchurch’s new public library is a place to not only make sure you visit, but also somewhere you can return to over and over again with your kids. If they love Lego, they will love the Imagination Station area that will keep them occupied for hours. Plus there’s a giant electronic gaming wall, computers, 3D printing facilities, music recording studios – and of course, books! And onsite are a couple of cafes to keep everyone going while they are full immersed.

Swimming and Gymming

Chch swimming pools

The city has plenty of options to take the kids swimming including the brand new, rebuilt Taiora QEII pool. Currently under construction is the new Metro Sports Facility in the central city which will have full size pool options, but you can also choose from Jellie Park (just down the road from us at Airport Gateway), Pioneer Stadium which has both gym and pool facilities, and the Graham Condon Pool and recreation complex in Papanui (near Northlands Mall).

Bouldering aka Indoor Rock Climbing

One of the popular indoor activities for locals and visitors alike, is indoor rock climbing and these days the two best places in town to get your bouldering skills on are the YMCA and Uprise aka the Bouldering Gym in Woolston.

bouldering at Uprise gym chch

At the Y you can choose between Clip n Climb and their Climbing Wall – either way its a lot of fun and a great way to spend your time.

You can even book the space for a birthday party. Make sure you book ahead.


mega air trampolining

Trampolining is a great way to get the blood pumping and tire out the kids while having lots of fun and Christchurch now has a couple of options to choose from.

Check out Mega Air trampolining arena in Carmen Road and Flip Out Christchurch in Maces Road.


The city is full of great places to shop, from the suburban malls (which are all linked by the Orbiter bus route in case you want to visit a few) and the many new shopping locations and brand stores that are springing up within the Christchurch CBD.

The malls closest to us at Airport Gateway are Riccarton’s Westfield Mall in Riccarton Road, and Northlands Mall on Papanui Road (as you head towards the Main North Road).

merivale shopping centre chch

For more boutique options, check out the Tannery in Woolston – worth a visit and you can do lunch and a movie while you are there; Merivale – not just the Mall but up to about 50 shops within easy reach of the mall itself including lots of fashion and a great recycled boutique; Sumner – a pretty seaside suburb with great cafes and bars and an eclectic range of shops to enjoy browsing.

the tannery chch



Tips for Travelling with Children

Travel is an exciting experience for most of us, but it can also be tiring and challenging for many, especially if you are travelling with children.

We’ve put together a few tips to make things a little easier and help you with your planning.

1. Book Ahead

Being spontaneous and just deciding to pick up and go, and stay wherever the urge takes you on your trip isn’t something that works well when you have young children.

Being stuck in a location where you can’t get suitable accommodation for the night and the children are tired and cranky is not something that makes for an enjoyable holiday. But doing some planning and booking suitable accommodation in the main places you intend to stay can definitely help things run more smoothly.

2. Late Check-ins

Find out if the places you are booking have the option for late checkins. If you are flying long distance, often you might be landing in Christchurch for example, in the middle of the night. That means you want to make sure you can quickly get to your accommodation and checkin without drama and get those children (and yourselves) into warm beds as painlessly as possible.

At Airport Gateway we have 24/7 mobile checkins and free transfers for our guests from the airport to the motel, so you can be picked up by our shuttle, do your check-on onboard with the driver and go straight to your room when you arrive a few minutes later.

free airport shuttle

3. Turndown Service

Also make sure to ask if your accommodation offers a turndown service, especially in the middle of winter when a warm room and a warm bed makes all the difference. Again this is something we pride ourselves on offering our guests. All you need to do is let us know your planned arrival time and we will make sure your room is ready for you all.

late arrival turndown service

4. Room Service or Onsite Restaurant

Arriving late with a hungry family is no fun, so make sure your choice of accommodation has either a room service menu you can get after hours, or an onsite restaurant. We offer both of these, but our Restaurant closes at 9pm so from that time you are welcome to order from the room service menu.

room service menu airport gateway

5. Full kitchen facilities.

When you are travelling with children, it is helpful to have your own kitchen facilities in your unit. Of course this is one of the benefits of booking a motel unit vs a hotel room.

All of our rooms offer full kitchen facilities, including stove top elements, microwave oven or traditional electric oven, along with a full set of kitchen crockery, cutlery and glassware. You also have a mini fridge in each unit.

Airport Gateway Motel kitchen

kitchen facilities

cooktops airport gateway kitchen

6. Supermarkets Nearby

Once you have booked your room with a kitchen, it helps to know if you can buy suitable food for the family nearby. At Airport Gateway we are five minutes drive from a large Countdown supermarket that is on the Christchurch Airport site. Opening hours are 7:00am – 10pm daily.

So you can either do your shopping before we pick you up in the shuttle, or the next day once you are settled and have had a good night’s sleep. If you don’t have a rental car, ask at reception if the shuttle is heading back to the Airport soon, or else you can catch the bus from outside the motel and be down at the airport in a few minutes.

(Note that if you book your accommodation with us directly through this website or over the phone, you are entitled to breakfast in our restaurant for just NZD$15 per per person. Just call our 0800 number to book your room and ask for the breakfast offer.)

countdown supermarket christchurch airport

6. Portacot Hire or Single Beds

When you book ahead, make sure you are clear about the number of people you are booking into a unit and how many children. In New Zealand we usually cater for additional children or babies with rollaway single beds or portacots. We have portacots available for a small additional fee, so please check with us when you book. Some of our units also have several single beds already set up.

7. Multi Room Options

If your family is larger than 3-4 people, look for places to stay where the option to book a multi room unit, or two adjoining units is possible.

We have several larger units that can accommodate up to seven people with a mixture of single and queen or king size beds. These units are great for bigger groups or if you are planning to stay in Christchurch for more than a few nights. Enquire when you book what options are available.

Multi room unit for families

8. Room to Play Outdoors

Picking somewhere to stay that has room for your children to stretch their legs and burn off a bit of energy is also a great idea. Look for accommodation that has a playground and other facilities suitable for children. Or locations that aren’t far from a park or reserve where they can really have a good run around.

We have a small playground onsite and just a few minutes walk down the road is Burnside Park, which has plenty of open space to play.

airport gateway playground

airport gateway playground


NZ Ski Season 2019 is at hand!

One of the wonderful things about Christchurch in the winter is our close proximity to New Zealand’s best ski areas – including Mt Hutt which has the longest ski season in Australasia and is the largest ski area in New Zealand.

And even better, from right here at the Airport Gateway, you are just 1 hour and 43 minutes drive away from our doorstep to being on the ski field, ready to go!

As well as the stunning vista of the Canterbury Plains you can enjoy on a good day at Hutt, there’s also a great selection of runs to choose from – from the challenging to the beginner and everything in between.

This video of Mt Hutt from the 2017 season (Filmed by Blackbird NZ) shows some of the most stunning experiences you can have on this mountain.

Season passes are still available at great prices and the mountain is due to open on June 8th, 2018.

As well as Hutt, you can also use Christchurch as your base to head off to Porters Pass (just 1 hour 16 minutes from here), Mt Cheeseman and if you want to venture a little further afield, Round Hill at Lake Tekapo, Mt Dobson just past Fairlie and Fox Peak this side of Fairlie are all options.

Cheeseman and Fox are both club fields, so would suit more experienced skiers who don’t mind using  an old school nutcracker tow to get up the mountain.

In the meantime, get your flights and Christchurch accommodation booked in good time to make sure you don’t miss out!