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10 Free or Cheap Things To Do in New Brighton


Things to do in New Brighton on a backpacker budget.

The seaside suburb in Christchurch is known for one thing: SURF! This is where all the surfers of the city come to get their fix after work or during their days off. In the most “English city outside of England”, the town truly feels like an English seaside resort with its long stretching beach and its gigantic pier. But make no mistake, you are in New Zealand and wildlife is very close by and abundant.

Should you be visiting for a few days or working in the Christchurch area, New Brighton is a must-visit. To help you stretch your budget further and save every cent, we’ve compiled this list of free or very cheap things to do in New Brighton so you can explore the area without breaking the bank.

Don’t miss our full Christchurch – Guide for Backpackers and 10 Free or Cheap Things To Do in Christchurch for more about Canterbury’s most popular area.

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1. Step Back in Time at the Heritage Museum

Located in a century old church, the New Brighton Heritage museum aims at storing stories and memorabilia of the coastal suburb. From old photographs of the pier and its visitors to the Mayoral chain or New Brigthon high school uniform, visiting the Heritage Museum is like stepping back in time for an hour or so and discover New Brighton under a whole new light.

Location: 8 Hardy Street, New Brighton

2. Meet the Locals at the Community Gardens

The New Brighton community gardens are the best place to meet locals. Coming here to relax and work on their veggies, they always have time for a chat about the weather, the area or New Zealand in general. Plus, for those of you travelling on a budget, you can exchange a helping hand for some fresh veggies.

Location: 136 Shaw Ave, New Brighton


3. Wander Along the Famous New Brighton Pier

Standing over 7m tall above the high tide line and stretching 300m toward the horizon, the iconic New Brighton pier is one of the most impressive piers in New Zealand. Taking a stroll along to watch fisherman catching dinner, kids catching crabs, and surfers catching waves below is a must when spending time in New Brighton.

Location: On the waterfront at the end of New Brighton Mall

4. Go Bird Watching in Bexley Wetlands

The ecological heritage site is a paradise for bird watchers. Located near the Avon River Estuary, the Bexley Wetlands are gridded with multiple walking tracks giving you easy access to this unique coastal environment.

Update: All tracks are closed for maintenance until further notice.

5. Surf!

New Brighton is the surf mecca of Canterbury. You’ll find surfers making the most of the gnarly waves bashing the New Brighton Pier almost every single day of the year. Even at Christmas! New Brighton is also home to multiple surf schools and surf gear rentals so even if you don’t have your board, you can rent one for cheap.

Location: Breaks can be found around New Brighton Pier and at the end of Beach Road.

6. Soak in Summer in Rawhiti Domain & Thomson Park

The two neighbouring parks are a great place to hang out in summer. Join in for a game of touch rugby with locals or grill some sausages on the free-to-use BBQ. It’s all about making the most of the sun hours in the heart of New Brighton. Thomson Park even features a skate park.

Location: Hard to miss in New Brighton.

7. Walk along the Avon River

The Avon River runs through the whole of Christchurch city and comes to meet the ocean at its estuary nearby New Brighton. We like to follow it from New Brighton to its estuary but you can also head back to the Christchurch city centre by following the Avon River all the way back up. This may take you a whole day though.

Location: Start from Owles Terrace.

8. Explore the Travis Wetland Reserve

The Travis Wetland Nature Heritage Park is the best appointed wetland in the area, with boardwalks all around and even a viewing tower. You will literally get to see the inner workings of the fauna and flora of a wetland.

Location: Burwood, Christchurch

9. Shop at the Saturday Market

Held every Saturday morning (weather permitting) the New Brighton Market is a great place to find great food at decent price and to truly shop local. The locals of New Brighton are friendly and approachable and will surely share recipe ideas if you are not sure how to use that kumara you are looking at.

Location: Brighton Mall

10. Stroll along the beach to the Waimakariri River

The main feature of New Brighton is its extremely long beach. When heading to the pier you’ll see it stretch both ways for kilometres. Take off your shoes and feel the sand while casually strolling along the beach for an hour or two. It sometimes seems that this endless walk could take you all around New Zealand but you will be stopped with the Waimakariri River that runs through the whole Canterbury plains from the Southern Alps to feed into the great Pacific Ocean. Oh, and grab an icecream before you go – that’s the perfect pair-up with a stroll on the beach.

Location: New Brighton Beach

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