The International Antarctic Centre in Christchurch is the base for New Zealand, the United States and Italian Antarctic programmes. It is also home to a visitor’s centre.
The visitor centre is located on Orchard Road (between Memorial Ave and Wairakei Rd) across the road from Christchurch International Airport. It is open every day from 9 am to 5.30 pm.
There is a free Penguin Express Shuttle van that departs Canterbury Museum (Rolleston Ave) on the hour from 9 am (October to March) and 10 am (April – September). The last shuttle departs the museum at 4 pm. The shuttle returns to the city on the half hour with the last shuttle departing at 4.30 pm.
There are numerous displays on the Antarctic including information on the landscape, wild life, conservation efforts, and what life is like for scientists and visitors at Scott Base.
The International Antarctic Centre is also highly interactive. There is an indoor polar room that is kept a minus 5 degrees Celsius. Visitors can take the ‘Polar Plunge’ ice water challenge, stand by the Wind Chill Machine, slide down an icy slope or crawl inside a snow cave. Every hour an Antarctic Storm blows through with a temperature of minus 18 degrees. Warm jackets and overshoes are provided.
My favourite is the Little Blue Penguin enclosure with its two viewing levels. All the penguins are rescue birds that would have survived in the wild. The penguins are feed daily at 10.30 am and 3.30 pm.
There is also the 4D Theatre – a 3D film with added dimension of physical effects. There are currently two films playing Happy Feet 4D and Ice Voyage.
They also play the 17 minute short film Beyond the Sunset from Emmy Award winning filmmaker Mike Single. The film shows the seasonal arc from sunrise to sunset in the Antarctic. The film plays continuously on a large HD theatre screen.
The Hagglund is an all terrain amphibious Antarctic vehicle. The centre offers 10 minute rides around a dirt track that has hills, mounds and crosses water.
For visitors that are not interested in the Hagglund ride or the 4D theatre they can purchase Xpress Admission, which does not include these two attractions. For savings book tickets online. The International Antarctic Centre offers adult, child, student / senior and family passes.