Punting on the Avon River through the Christchurch Botanic Gardens is like turning back time for a short while. An iconic activity, it is much more than that.
If you are wondering what it means to be punting on the Avon, don’t worry, you are alone. Unless you are from Christchurch or certain parts of England, you may have never heard of it before.
A punt is a single-hulled boat. Designed with a flat bottom, it is expressly perfect for shallow waterways. A punter manually moves the punt by pushing against the river bed with a pole. This makes them perfect for the tranquil Avon River that runs through the Christchurch Botanic Gardens from a tributary feeding in from the sea.
It’s not only a lovely way to enjoy the park, but it’s also an adventure on its own. Relaxing and peaceful, we share and recommend our experience below.
Punting on the Avon River
The process is easy. We got our timed tickets in advance, long before we knew about discounts for the same activity from Bookme.
Then, we arrived at the Antigua Boatsheds a bit in advance, as it often sells out, so if we were late, we may have missed out. We registered, took a few photos, and boarded our punt.
The velvet-covered cushions surprised me by their comfort. I was ready for a peaceful glide down the river.
Our time on the water was much more than just a boat ride.
The Edwardian-dressed punter shared stories and history with us as he guided us down a section of the Avon River. Self-proclaimed guardians of the river, a big part of the punter’s job is minimizing their impact on the environment
Punts vs gondolas
When I first glanced at a photo, I thought they were gondolas. But they are not. In fact, punts and the gondolas of Venice are very different, although both move through shallow waters.
- Flat-bottomed punts: move by pushing against the river bed with a pole.
- Venetian gondolas: a shallow draft boat propelled with an oar.
Christchurch Botanic Gardens
It was a perfect day, and a gentle breeze wafted the fragrant aroma of azaleas our way and drew us into the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. As we had the time, we opted to wander through and enjoy the gardens on our way to punting on the Avon River.
Normally an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, today, the tranquil gardens are also an escape from the never-ending remnants of the two earthquakes (2010 and 2011) that devastated this New Zealand city.
Surrounded by mature trees, colourful flowers, and the gently flowing Avon River, we felt life slow down. We strolled, rather than walked, breathed deeply, and relaxed. The 21 hectares of the Christchurch Botanical Gardens are a place to enjoy.
The Antigua Boatsheds are New Zealand’s only surviving 19th-century boatsheds built for commercial purposes. In fact, they have been used for commercial boat hire since they opened in 1882. They survived both earthquakes and are still operational.
It is here that we began our punting adventure. Aside from punting on the Avon, one can rent canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, or traditional rowboats at the boatsheds.
The photos below are:
- A view of the Antigua Boatsheds shot from the footbridge in the photo just above.
- A row of Edwardian jackets and straw boater hats hang in the portion of the Antigua Boatshed dedicated to punting on the Avon.
Practical Information: Christchurch Botanic Gardens and punting on the Avon
- Christchurch Botanic Gardens are in Hagley Park
- The gardens are open daily at 7 am and close 9 pm in the summer and earlier outside of summer. They are free to enter.
- There is a visitor centre, cafe, and conservatories with differing hours.
- Punting on the Avon is available year-round, although hours vary with the seasons. Blankets are available (plus hot water bottles in the winter) to keep you warm and cosy.
- The punting on the Avon experience is a 30-minute return.
- While not required, it’s best to make a booking in advance. And depending on when you want to go, reserving through Bookme will give you a discount.
- Punting on the Avon is just one of the many things to do in Christchurch. And when you are done doing it all, explore more of the South Island with a road trip from Christchurch to Queenstown, or hug the coast and road trip to Dunedin.
Save even more with a Christchurch Pass
The Christchurch Pass tour includes:
- Unlimited rides (in a day) on Christchurch’s historic tram
- Punting on the Avon River
- Christchurch Gondola ride (see our gondola review and images)
⇒ Check price and reserve your Christchurch Pass with Klook
Save on your NZ trip with these resources
We usually start with aggregator companies as they do the work for us by providing a list of options, prices, and reviews. However, we also added a few personal NZ favourites:
- Flights: we use Expedia for the best and cheapest flight options.
- Hotels: we use Booking.com as they consistently return the best rates and their reviews are from actual guests. However, for self-contained lodging in New Zealand, we use Bookabach.
- Cars and Campervans: we use RentalCars to find the best deals and dealer ratings. Use Jucy for small campervans.
- Activity discounts: we always check Bookme.com for discounts of up to 70% on selected tours, activities, restaurants and more.
- Travel Insurance: we start at InsureMyTrip as they are the best option to compare plans and find the right coverage for you.
Before you book the rest of your trip: Check out our travel resources page for more companies that we use when you travel.
We believe this list to be the best in each category. You can’t go wrong using them on your trip too.
Save for later
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Have you been punting on the Avon River in Christchurch?
More from the South Island you might also like … or check out 18 Extraordinary Things to Do in the South Island.
Disclaimer: We worked with the local tourism board who arranged for our punting on the Avon experience to assist in the writing of this review. The opinions expressed here are strictly our own.
Punting on the Avon sounds like a great way to spend a day. Add in the Botanic Gardens, and a great day gets even better. We had no idea this was an option!
Agness of Fit Travelling
This must have been lots of fun and your pictures prove that, Rhonda. The Christchurch Botanic Gardens are truly picturesque. When’s the best time of the year to go punting on the Avon?
As they have umbrellas for summer sun, and blankets for winter, anytime would be great. Personally, I love springtime.
Hello, visiting your post once again.
When it comes to botanic gardens, we are spoiled here in California too. Christchurch Botanic Gardens reminds me a lot of beautiful park I’ve visited in Riga last summer. It must have been quite interesting to go on a flat-bottomed vessel and see through. What a gorgeous place!
It’s wonderful to see that the Antigua boat sheds survived the earthquakes. It would be so peaceful but in it’s own way exciting.
This looks absolutely lovely! I adore visiting botanic gardens and I always make sure I visit one, if there’s one at the destination where I am, but seeing it by boat must’ve been a great experience.
Lyn aka The Travelling Lindfields
What a lovely way to spend a few hours. We haven’t been to Christchurch since before the earthquakes but I remember it being a lovely place to visit.
Indah Nuria Savitri
I definitely have to try that if I visit Christchurch. We have taken the Gondola ride in Venezia so it might feel similar. But it looks like a great ride indeed..
I was struck by the majestic beeches – how appropriate that they are dressed in purple. I would enjoy the boating on the river, especially when you get history and stories as well!
I could see myself in one of those boats, as both a passenger and a punter. Yes, either would be enjoyable. I enjoyed your excursion through the gardens.
Looks like a stunning garden. I’m intrigued by the statue in the grass.
Glorious gardens! And a wonderful boating venture. Lovely spring photos from your time of year as we go into winter. Loved them!
Thank you for sharing these spectacular photos- I enjoyed every one of them
I can only imagine how the people of New Zealand felt during not one, but two earthquakes. I have experienced only one…a mere .4 on the Richter Scale, in Vancouver BC, in the 1960s. It shook the house and woke me up, but that was all.
I’m sure the remaining beauty of your lovely country helps to ease the shock and pain of those earthquakes.
Your photos are lovely, and I enjoyed punting downriver with you today!
An Unfittie’s Guide to Adventurous Travel
I loved these shots – especially the one of the jackets and hats, which I’d be tempted to try on (I must admit).
Looks like great fun Rhonda. I’d love to go for a ride
What a gorgeous day and incredibly stunning surroundings. How relaxing and enjoyable. Love the Edwardian jackets and hats, a step back in time. Very cool experience.
Lydia C. Lee
That looks fun!!
Such beautiful scenery. It’s amazing to think your summer is beginning. Have a happy Chanukah.
I enjoyed your lovely photos Rhonda what a nice colourful place loved the photo of you on the boat the angle of it looks like the bloke is gonna hit his head on the bridge heheh!
Have a sillytastic day 🙂
Awesome! Did you get to wear one of the jackets?
That looks like a serene experience and your photos are smashing!
Thank you so much!
LOL – no, the jackets are only for the punters.
What a perfect way to spend your day! I love the beautiful gardens and the vibrant flowers. The punting totally stole my heart away too. Aww I love it!
Sandy N Vyjay
The Christchurch Botanic gardens look really enchanting. The flowers are so bright and colourful. I really loved the colourful poppies. Gliding through this beautiful environs on the Avon must indeed be an exhilarating experience. It looks like a great place to get away from the monotony of the cities and spend some relaxing and rejuvenating time in the midst of nature.
Christchurch Botanic Gardens are so beautiful! And I could definitely kick back and relax with punting on the Avon! They do remind me of gondolas in Venice (though obviously different) – I love that they share history and stories of the region along the ride! The Antigua Boat Sheds are beautiful – I would love to visit sometime!
You will probably stop in Christchurch on your upcoming cruise.
Sadly not, so I’ll have to keep an eye on cheap flights too 😀
We loved the botanical gardens! It was such a nice place to take a rest. Now, I can’t remember whether there were punts at the time we were there. In any case, something for the next time
I think the punts have been there for quite a long time.
Some very interesting statues…. but otherwise looks like an absolutely beautiful place! I feel like punting on the river would be such a relaxing way to enjoy the gardens! The vegetable garden looked like it would be my favorite.
New Zealand, not just Christchurch, has its share of the unusual statue.
I adore botanical gardens! So much of vibrance in one place! Loved the poppies and the beech trees! Such a pleasant sight. Boating here during the springtime must be delightful for any nature lover! To add to it the stories of the punter. WOW!At first I thought they resembled gondolas but thanks for the clarification! Looks like a wonderful summer escapade! 🙂 Btw I loved the picture of the Edwardian jackets and straw boater hats hanging!
Honestly, I thought they were more like gondolas also, but in truth, they are quite different.
This is such a charming experience. The concept of punting is new to me, sound very relaxing to me now and I sure want to do that. The blossoms all around in winters surprised me but I soon realized this from New Zealand. 😀 Hope I get to visit some day.
I hadn’t heard of it before visiting Christchurch 10 years ago. This was the first time we tried it though.
As winter sets in up here at the US the bright blooms at the Christchurch Botanical Garden have me longing for spring. Floating along the canal looks like an absolutely lovely way to pass an afternoon
I am a huge fan of the summer and spring.
Now, I had to keep reminding myself this post is not about Europe. I would not have associated punting with New Zealand. The entire experience looks so charming. This seems like the perfect way to spend a Saturday (add to that a good meal).
LOL – New Zealand does have its charm. Remember, we were a British colony, so there are many British influenced things like punting.
There is nothing like a casual stroll through the botanic gardens Rhonda. Something about being in nature, with the beautiful flowers, instantly grounds you. You could be in the worst mood and when you open up to those flowers, magic happens. Loving these pictures.
I agree. It’s relaxing and special.
I think the California poppies are my favourite, they are always so pretty and colourful.
I love fields of poppies.
L. Diane Wolfe
I love the shot of the blooming tree – the sky is such a vivid blue.
It’s nice to see they plant vegetables, too.
It was such a pretty day. Perfect for photos.
Hi Rhonda – looks wonderful … even having lived in Oxford for a while I never went punting … one day – but that gentle Spring ride looks just so serene and blissful – wonderful photos – cheers Hilary
I am encouraging you to give it a try.
What a lovely way to spend a day. You’re in a boat and on the water? It doesn’t get any better than that.
Your photography is amazing.
Have a fabulous day, Rhonda. ♥
And it was a sunny day. You are right, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Alex J. Cavanaugh
Looks relaxing. Now I know the difference between a punt and a gondola.
Weird seeing all the spring growth when we are just above freezing here today.
I asked our punter what the differences were. I was surprised they are so different.
Paul F. Pietrangelo
This looks like a lot of fun & relaxation. Rhonda, you look fantastic and looking beautiful along that river. Where is your husband? I see that you have your camera. When I’m on my cruise, it’s always around my neck, ready for a photo. See ya my friend.
Jeff is in the row in front of me with Sarah. Since we got two rows, I wanted one for myself to take photos on either side. Like you, I usually have a camera around my neck.
This looks lovely! I didn’t have much time to check out the botanical gardens when I was in Christchurch. (Also totally expected this to be about England when I opened the post! lol)
LOL – It is a very Britsh thing to do, but we used to be a British colony.
Totally cool! I’m heading to Christchurch in January. You’re a big help! 🙂
There is loads to do in Christchurch. This is second of several articles I will be writing. It’s an interesting city. A combination of earthquake destruction, history, and new places.
Looks idyllic! The older I get, the more I appreciate a good garden day. And I love the shot of the jackets – so cool!
I am the same.
Finally a reason to go to New Zealand other than it was where the LOTR films were shot! I love botanical gardens. Those poppies looked delicious! It’s interesting that those boathouses have such significance. I’m wondering how they survived earthquakes though. They seems a little fragile!
There are so many reasons to come to New Zealand that don’t involve LOTR. It is one of the best little countries on Earth. Yes, I am biased as I live here by choice.
This sounds like my kind of day! The gardens look gorgeous and punting along the river must of been very relaxing. I love the colourful Edwardian jackets and the hats, it is like stepping back in time.
It was quite relaxing. And I also love the jackets and boat hats.
I remember with fondness doing this a few years ago. Thankyou for reminding me.
I am always glad to bring back happy memories.