Much like the fascinating Te Papa Museum in Wellington, the Canterbury Museum offers an in-depth look at the history and culture of Christchurch. Located in the Christchurch city center (and only sustaining minor damage in the 2011 earthquake), visitors can ogle over the Neo-Gothic architecture before even stepping foot in the door. Admission to the museum is technically free of charge (though donations are gladly accepted), and you can easily spend hours getting lost in the culture of Christchurch, Canterbury, and New Zealand.
Exhibits at the museum run the gamut of history, from the early days of Maori discovery to the modern street art of Christchurch. The museum itself was established in 1867 by the explorer Julius Haast (for whom such places as the town of Haast got their name), and the Canterbury Museum has been deemed a historical site that you can visit during a day trip to Christchurch. Learn about the voyages of Antarctic explorers and the days of European settlement, and immerse yourself in curious “Kiwiana” such as the house of paua (abalone) which is largely constructed from shells. There are entertaining exhibits for children of all ages, and the informative displays over multiple stories make this one of the best free activities in Christchurch. When finished with the museum, take some time to stroll nearby Hagley Park or visit the Botanical Gardens just a short walk away.