The International Antarctic Centre located in Christchurch, New Zealand is an amazing way to spend a day learning about Antarctica. This place is a museum, a zoo, and an amusement park all in one. We had so many favorite activities at this venue that it is hard to mention them all, but we’ll try!
One of the reasons that we enjoyed visiting the International Antarctic Centre is because they arrange your whole day for you based on the timing of shows and feeding. It made it convenient to make sure we made it to all the exhibits.
We started off with a ride in a Hagglund, which is a vehicle used to navigate the crevasses and other rough terrain in Antarctica. The ride was included in our admission to the centre, and we definitely didn’t want to miss out. The Hagglund is a tracked vehicle, and it took us over rugged piles of logs, across a wide deep gap, and up and down steep hills. The ride was very herky-jerky, and the boys were laughing the entire way. It was so much fun!
We also got a chance to meet some sled dogs. After a short orientation in which we learned a surprising amount about how to approach and treat dogs, we were allowed to pet some huskies. This was a perfect introduction for our dog-wary boys. They felt perfectly safe as they petted these gentle giants.
Inside the centre we had the opportunity to go into a storm simulator. There is rough dry snow on the ground, and the air temperature is about 15 degrees Fahrenheit (-9 Celsius). Luckily, they provide coats, because every fifteen minutes an Antarctic storm sweeps in, and the driving wind lowers the wind chill to around 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 Celsius). We spent about fifteen minutes in this room, including several minutes huddled in an igloo for warmth!
The penguin feeding is the highlight of the International Antarctic Centre. There is a large viewing area that allows you to see the penguins both above and below water level. Each of the penguins is a rescue bird, and many have obvious injuries or permanent disabilities. A trainer with a microphone comes in at feeding time and talks about the birds and answers questions. Our boys really enjoyed their time with the penguins.
The Centre has a 4-D theater which allows you experience some of the sights, sounds, and sprays of Antarctica. If you’ve never been in a 4-D theater, expect to put on 3-D glasses, watch a huge screen, and have an occasional bump, spray of mist, or burst of air surprise you as you go on your first-person adventure.
We also enjoyed a lot of museum time. There were plenty of displays, videos, and presentations that gave a brief history and what it is like to explore Antarctica. We learned a lot about the animal life and weather in Antarctic. Our boys also loved the small kids room that had silly penguin movies playing. We spent half a day at the Centre and had an amazing time.
The International Antarctic Centre is located right next to the Christchurch airport, so it is the perfect place to start or end your trip to the South Island.