Christchurch is New Zealand’s third largest city and is located halfway up the South Island on the east coast. Christchurch is very centrally located and is therefore a very common stop when you visit the South Island. The city itself has a lot to offer, but due to its beautiful location there are many day trips to be made from Christchurch. Christchurch is also known for the 2010 earthquake that destroyed most of the city. Currently they are still rebuilding parts of the city. This gave them the opportunity to give the city new charm. There are now many trendy bars and restaurants, and many pop-up events in places that have not yet been rebuilt. Read below about the best sights in Christchurch.
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Must see & do
Hagley Park is a large, beautiful park located in the middle of the city. A large part of the park is taken up by the botanical garden. The garden is worthwhile all year round because of the large oak trees, the many flowers, ponds and benches. The Avon River runs partly through the garden and partly through the rest of the park. This river is best enjoyed during a gondola tour. There are also many hiking trails and sport facilities throughout the park. There are also multiple events in the park throughout the year, such as The Great Kiwi Beer Festival. Are you on holiday with the family? There are also several playgrounds for children.
Street artists have done a lot of work after the earthquake in 2010. Empty buildings, half-finished buildings but also boring walls are full of beautiful works of art. The municipality is also busy filling the empty spaces with fun and creative activities. All this in collaboration with Christchurch Gap Fillers. Take a walk through the city centre for a few hours and you will see all kinds of things!
Christchurch is a very flat city, except in the Port Hills! From the Port Hills you can see Christchurch, the beach and (in good weather) the mountains inland. There are many hiking and biking trails here and there is also a downhill mountain bike park (Christchurch Adventure Park). If you don’t feel like being active, take the cable car up for a nice viewpoint from the top. The Port Hills is also a great location to watch the sunrise and sunset.
Christchurch Adventure Park
The Christchurch Adventure Park is a park in the Port Hills. Here you can enjoy the beautiful view while downhill mountain biking, zip lining or walking. In this park there is a chairlift that takes people up with their bicycles so that they can cycle down. This chairlift can of course also be used by people without a bicycle. If you want to be even more active, you can climb the mountain and take the chairlift down for free.
Are you tired of the city for a while? Then go to the beach! Sumner is a cute beach village that is about 15 minutes drive from town, there is also a bus that goes here. Here you can take a long walk on the beach, shop, enjoy good food and it is also a popular surfing spot. Watch the wave and kite surfers brave the waves or try it yourself, there are several surf schools in the village. If you travel with small children, there is a very nice playground near the beach where children can play safely in the water.
Christchurch has plenty of shopping options, from modern shopping centres to open-air markets and charming boutiques. There are also many bars and restaurants around where you can recover from shopping. New stores are constantly being added in the Christchurch city centre. They are scattered around so it is best to just walk around and you will find nice, unique shops around every corner.
On the other side of the Port Hills lies Lyttelton, this is a lovely fishing village. With many cafes, it’s a nice place to have lunch. There are also many quirky little shops and it is a very creative village because of the many artists living here. Boat trips also depart from Lyttelton in search of Hector dolphins, the world’s smallest dolphin species. If you’re interested in South Pole expeditions that used to go from Lyttelton, visit the Antarctic Center.
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Christchurch is a large city and therefore there are many different accommodations to be found. There are several excellent hostels and hotels, but also apartments and villas.
The Old Country House – hostel – €
This hostel is located in Linwood, a neighbourhood in Christchurch, about 20 minutes’ walk from the centre of the city. This hostel feels like home, there are several buildings and each building has a living room and kitchen, there is also a large garden. The living rooms are a great place to get to know other travellers. What is unique about this hostel? They have a hot tub (jacuzzi) in the backyard! Are you in Christchurch for a longer period of time? Then you get a discount per week or month. Click here for more information.
Jailhouse Accommodation – hostel – €
Have you ever slept in a prison? This is your chance! This old prison has been converted into a hostel. Of course the rooms have been nicely renovated, but they have left a few cells as they were, so you get a good idea of how the prisoners lived here. This hostel is located in Addington, another area of Christchurch, also about 20 minutes walk from the centre. Furthermore, this hostel also has a kitchen, billiard room, laundry room, a café and a lounge area. Click here for more information.
Novotel Christchurch airport – hotel – €€
Are you looking for a hotel close to the airport? Then Novotel is a good option! Novotel is part of the Accor group, which has hotels with a good reputation all over the world. Are you arriving late or leaving very early, the desk in this hotel is open 24/7. There are also two restaurants in the building, one with a bar that serves cocktails and they have a fitness centre. Click here for more information.
Crowne Plaza – hotel – €€€
If you have a little more money to spend and want to stay in the heart of the city, Crowne Plaza is the hotel for you. This hotel is a two minute walk from New Regent Street, the nicest street in Christchurch. Victoria street is also a few minutes’ walk away, here you will find nice bars and restaurants. Crowne Plaza is a 4.5 star hotel with everything that you expect in a highly starred hotel. They have modern rooms with flat screens, extensive bathrooms, mini-bar, refrigerator, kettles, safes, etc. The building also has excellent food and beverage options. Click here for more information.
Top 10 holiday park – camping – €
If you are traveling with children or with a camper, this is a good option. Top 10 holiday parks are located in many places in New Zealand and have a very good reputation. There are many activities for children at all these campsites, there is for example usually a swimming pool, several playgrounds and game rooms. You can also play table tennis and billiards here and rent bicycles. You can rent a house here with a full kitchen or rent a cheaper room and then use the shared kitchen. This park, like the other parks, is located outside the centre. So I only recommend this if you have your own transport. Click here for more information.
Holiday homes – €
Are you traveling with a large group and are you looking for a house with all facilities? Then a holiday home is a good option! Look here for the options around Christchurch.
Christchurch is very centrally located on the South Island of New Zealand and is therefore easy to reach. The airport in Christchurch is an international airport that you can fly directly to from Australia and parts of Asia. You can also make domestic flights to the north island or to other places on the south island. Christchurch is located on major highways that go in all directions and is therefore also easy to reach by bus or car. The nearest major cities are Dunedin and Blenheim, both of which are within a day’s drive. You can also reach Christchurch by train, from Greymouth with the TranzAlpine Express and from Picton with the Coastal Pacific Train.
Kaikoura is located north of Christchurch, between Christchurch and Picton. It is approximately 2.5 hours by car. It is a beautiful drive that takes you through many different landscapes. Kaikoura is known for the ability to spot marine life, so there are many dolphin, whale and seal tours. If you are lucky, it is also possible to see these animals without a tour. There is for example a walking route that goes along the coast, along this track there is a good chance that you can see them from land. There are also a few stops along the way if you drive to Kaikoura where you can usually spot seals on the coast. See my blog post for more information about the marine animals that can be found here.
In 2016 there was another earthquake on the South Island, this did not cause much damage in Christchurch, but Kaikoura suffered a lot from this. Roads were damaged, the train track was broken and many sea creatures left because the coast was destroyed and their food had disappeared. In the meantime, the roads and rail have been restored and most of the animals have returned and so all tours are running again. There are still walking routes closed due to the damage, so keep an eye on the current information before you go out on your own.
Akaroa is an area southeast of Christchurch about 1.5 hours’ drive away. This area was created millions of years ago by multiple volcanic eruptions. Today there is a small fishing village with a French influence. Akaroa is a good day trip because of the beautiful nature and for hiking, viewing waterfalls and swimming with dolphins. In Akaroa you can find the Hector dolphins, this is the smallest dolphin species in the world. The Hector dolphins are only found in New Zealand waters and they are very playful, it is a great pleasure to see them. Besides dolphins, you can also find seals and penguins in Akaroa.
This place is known for its natural hot springs and beautiful landscapes. Hanmer Springs is an hour and a half’s drive north of Christchurch. There are many sporting and exciting activities to do here, such as hiking, mountain biking, bungy jumping, rafting, jet boating and skiing in winter. It’s also a great place to relax at the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa. It is also a cute village which is very nice to walk through.
Arthur’s Pass is a paradise for hikers, with an abundance of walking routes. Whether you want to walk for an hour or hike for a whole day, everything is possible here! The area is full of beautiful waterfalls and beautiful panoramas. The east and west sides of this park are also very different. In the east you see wide, river beds and extensive forests, while on the west you find yourself in the dense rainforest with deeply hidden rivers. Arthur’s Pass is even a ski resort in winter. There is also a cute village with several dining options. If you want to stay here longer, there are also several camping and overnight options.
Three hours’ drive south of Christchurch is Oamaru. Oamaru is known for the blue penguins that walk through the village in the evening / night, so it is a good idea to stay one night. You don’t need to take a tour to see the blue penguins, but you do need to know where to find them, the visitor centre has the best information. There are also hikes to do and sea animals to spot. The yellow-eyed penguins can be seen in Oamaru, but because they are very shy, this is a lot more difficult. Read about my adventure in Oamaru here.
Tekapo is about 3 hours drive from Christchurch and is also called Lake Tekapo because of its beautiful blue lake. This place belongs to the UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve, which means it is a great place for stargazing. You can do this from the observatory, the hot springs or simply from the village and surroundings. A very famous place to take pictures of the lake is the Church of Good Shepherd which is close to the lake and is easily accessible from the road. It is on the way to Queenstown from Christchurch, so it is also a good place to stop if you are heading there..
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Did you know that I lived in Christchurch for seven months? This is the place I know best in New Zealand. Are you planning on going here or do you have any other questions about New Zealand? Let me help you. I can create a personalised itinerary or simply answer some questions, it all depends on what you need. Read more about my services or send me a message.
Godley Head is about half an hour’s drive from the centre of Christchurch. This is a national park located on the coast. This is one of my favourite places to go in Christchurch. Personally, I thought it was great to get up early and see the sunrise here, but be careful when driving there in the dark as there is no safety rail here. If you are not a morning person, don’t worry because it is also beautiful during the day! This can be combined with a trip to Sumner beach.
On the way to Arthur’s Pass
There are quite a few attractions on the way from Christchurch to Arthur’s Pass such as Castle Hill, Sheffield and Springfield. Castle Hill is known for its large limestone rocks that look like gigantic boulders. From the parking lot it is about a 10 minute walk until you see these large rocks. You can walk in between all the rocks and take nice pictures or climb on them. Kids love it! In Sheffield you can find the best (meat) pie in New Zealand at “The famous Sheffield pie shop”, great for on the go! This store is on the main road, so you don’t even have to deviate for it. If you’re a fan of the Simpsons, Springfield is a nice stop to take a selfie with a life-size donut.