Welcome to the paradise of the Pacific in Christchurch, New Zealand, a land where hobbits roam free and grapes ripen on the vine as the sun sets over glorious mountain ranges. While Auckland might be the king of New Zealand’s North Island, Christchurch is the Queen of the South Island, and I’m here to tell you all about this glorious city.
The compact city of Christchurch nicknamed ‘The Garden City’ is well known for its English heritage, charming botanical gardens and the Avon River that meanders through its core.
Not a bad port in any storm.
Founded in 1850 by the English, Christchurch was one of the first European settlements in the region and honours a rich tapestry of English, French and Maori culture woven together in this vibrant city. Even though the city is fairly new, many buildings are built in a Gothic architecture revival based on the styles of Medieval Europe, adding another delightful layer to this picturesque city.
This garden is Hobbit forming!
Here’s a Pro-tip: The currency used in Christchurch is the New Zealand dollar. About two New Zealand dollars is equal to one British Pound, though the rate regularly fluctuates.
Most travellers touch down at Christchurch International Airport, which sits just 12-kilometers northwest of the city. The airport receives international flights from Australia, Singapore and Japan, along with a number of domestic destinations. From the airport, visitors can make their way into Christchurch via taxi, bus or shuttle bus.
There are two bus lines, the number 29 and the Purple Line connecting the airport to the city and tickets cost around £8 one-way.
Christchurch has really trams-formed over the years.
Here’s Another Pro-tip: March, June, and July are the busiest months for tourism in Christchurch. Try visiting in the shoulder season (February and August) to enjoy a wider variety of accommodation options, fewer crowds and cheaper flights.
Botanical gardens, gondola rides and adventure parks. Christchurch, and the surrounding region of Canterbury, have their fair share of things to do and places to visit. Check out my favourite attractions in and around the city below:
- Christchurch Botanic Gardens – Open since 1863, the Christchurch Botanic Gardens are a refreshing green oasis in the heart of the city. Here you’ll find an array of native trees (plus one English oak tree, planted when Prince Albert married Princess Alexandra of Denmark) and beautiful flower beds.
- Avon River – Punting down the Avon River is an absolute must when in Christchurch. Sit back and let a local gondolier whisk you away down the bends of the river, admiring views of the city and its foliage as you go. Alternatively, cycle or walk the footpaths that line the riverbank.
Avon a blast on the river!
- Christchurch Art Gallery – Boasting an impressive collection of new and old artworks, this gallery showcases work from local and international artists. Free guided tours are offered daily at 11 am and 2 pm.
- Christchurch Adventure Park – Crank up the adventure scale with a trip to the Christchurch Adventure Park set amongst the nearby Port Hills. The park is home to hiking routes, mountain biking trails and the longest zipline in the country.
- Quake City – For an incredibly informative and moving morning, visit Quake City. This well-curated museum covers the geographical causes behind New Zealand’s second-worst natural disaster and contains surviving remnants from the earthquake.
- Christchurch Gondola – For spectacular views over Christchurch, ride the city’s gondola up Mt Cavendish. This kind of gondola isn’t taking you down the river, but up into the sky! On a clear day, you’ll enjoy 360-degree views over the region.
- Ski Fields – While not technically in the city, just a short drive away are 13 different spectacular ski fields to choose from for a day of snow sport. Mt Hutt is ideal for experienced skiers while nearby Porters is better suited for learners, with day passes available during the season open June through October.
- Christchurch Casino – This all-inclusive entertainment venue has an impressive selection of slot machines and table games to delight players of all preferences. If you’re there on a Friday or Saturday night, don’t miss the live music!
Whether you fancy a wood-fired pizza, European-fusion food, fine-dining, or any homestyle meal made using local produce, then Christchurch has you covered! Below are some of my favourite restaurants to frequent in the city:
Ewe simply must try New Zealand lamb chops!
- Black Estate – Okay, so Black Estate isn’t quite in the city, but it’s only a short drive away, and it’s one of the region’s best wineries and restaurants. Take a seat on the terrace and enjoy dining from a menu of seasonal delights while overlooking the vineyards (try the BBQ garlic lamb!)
- Coriander’s Sumner – For authentic Indian cuisine with a quirk, reserve a table at Coriander’s Summer. This contemporary restaurant serves an array of traditional dishes along with arguably the best naan bread in town. Don’t just take my word for it.
Christchurch had a chance to re-invent its nightlife after the earthquakes, and boy did it do just that! From sipping whiskey in a shipping container to sampling the local grapes at one of the surrounding vineyards, here are my favourite places to drink in Christchurch:
- Waipara Hills – Located 50km north of Christchurch, Waipara Hills is a beautiful vineyard and wine estate that’s well worth the drive. Reserve a table in the manicured gardens and enjoy an afternoon of wine sampling, paired with the House Platter (an inviting spread of local fish, cheeses, olives and bread).
- The Last Word – Christchurch’s funky whiskey bar. The Last Word, is a mix of dark leather furniture, floor to ceiling rows of whiskey and bearded bar staff. Simply put, it’s a hipster delight.
- Isaac Theatre Royal – While not technically a bar, the Isaac Theatre Royal is a great place to enjoy some evening entertainment with a drink in hand. The theatre houses several performing art companies and musicals, concerts, and performances are put on throughout the year.
Many of Christchurch’s hotels had to be rebuilt after the earthquake, and today they stand proud in the Central Business District (CBD) and dotted around the city. Here are my favourite boutique, eco and luxury accommodation options in the city:
- Eco Villa – For a sustainable holiday, consider booking a few nights at the Eco Villa; Christchurch’s answer to environmentally friendly accommodation. This quaint hotel sits inside a 100-year-old villa right in the heart of Christchurch.
- Hotel Montreal – Suites at Hotel Montreal are spacious, bright and enjoy the luxury of private balconies. The hotel is one of the most upmarket in the city and offers a luxurious stay just a short walk away from central Christchurch. The hotel has recently branched out to offer luxury apartment rentals too.
- Crowne Plaza Christchurch – As one of Christchurch’s largest hotels, the Crown Plaza commands Colombo Street and provides guests with wonderful views over the city. I enjoyed the boutique edge of the hotel, especially the stylish bar.
Nowhere else in New Zealand, or perhaps the world, has developed and regenerated as quickly as Christchurch did after its earthquake in 2011. Christchurch is a vibrant, eco-friendly city that has a tremendous amount to offer. You’ll love it when you visit!