Visit Christchurch, Canterbury, NZ

Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island, located mid-way along its east coast. The city has plenty to see and do, and is within easy reach of popular get-away destinations such as Akaroa and Hanmer Springs.

Christchurch was founded in 1856 as New Zealand’s first city, and was built as a planned settlement. It is known as the “garden city”, watered by the Avon and Heathcote Rivers that flow through it, and bounded to the south by the Port Hills of Banks Peninsula, which separate Christchurch City from its port at Lyttelton Harbour.

Christchurch has a vibrant arts and music scene, with great dining and nightlife. There are regular markets and sporting events such as horse racing, golf championships, jet boat racing, and international rugby, cricket and netball contests.

Accommodation in Christchurch (NZ)

Christchurch has a full range of accommodation, from five-star hotels and luxury lodges to motels, and bed & breakfast establishments.

There are backpacker lodges and holiday parks for those camping or travelling on a budget.

Holiday homes and self-contained apartments are available for rent in the city and fringes.

Transport around Christchurch

Travel to Christchurch is easy by air, train or coach. The Internal Airport serves flights to and from Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Gold Coast), Fiji, Singapore, Dubai and Kuala Lumpur. There are local connections to airports at Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua, Napier, Palmerston North, Wellington, Nelson, Queenstown,  Wanaka Dunedin and Invercargill.

The main trunk line railway reaches Christchurch from Wellington, via the inter-island ferry, passing through Picton and Kaikoura, and continuing south to Dunedin. The TranzScenic rail journey crosses the Southern Alps to reach the West Coast at Greymouth, stopping at Lake Brunner.

Inter-city coach transport connects Christchurch with most popular South Island destinations. Some coach services allow travellers to break their journey wherever they wish, to continue their travel on a later scheduled service.

Christchurch is about 140 minutes drive from Kaikoura, to the north, and from Timaru, to the south. The alpine resort of Hanmer Springs is about 100 minutes north-west. Akaroa is about 74 minutes’ drive away.

Shuttle-bus transport is available to many popular nearby locations, including Akaroa and Hanmer Springs. Or visitors can enjoy day-tours that return to Christchurch after visiting selected attractions.

Christchurch is a cycle-friendly city with flat roads that make it easy going. Mountain bikes are available for hire.

Tourist Activities around Christchurch

The Bridle Path, crossing the Port Hills from Lyttelton to Christchurch, was the route originally travelled by settlers and their goods. A rail tunnel through the hill for New Zealand’s first railway was built in 1867 and a road tunnel in 1964. Although Lyttelton’s main business district was damaged in the recent earthquakes, it still has trendy shops, funky restaurants and nightlife.

Arts and cultural institutions in Christchurch are collected around a complex of stone buildings known as The Arts Centre, at the edge of Hagley Park. These include the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch Art Gallery, and various artist’s studios, art schools and galleries.

Christchurch is also known for its dining, nightlife and casino. Guided food and wine tours can be arranged.

An open-air heritage museum is located at Ferrymead, which includes displays of early trams and trains as well as a recreation of an early colonial town of the 1900s. The park contains many smaller museums run by historical societies. There is also a vintage clock museum in the area.

The International Antarctic Centre at Christchurch is the base for many scientific expeditions to the frozen continent. The centre is open to the public and has regular exhibitions .

The city area has two wildlife parks: Orana Park displays big cats and other large animals, while Willowbank Nature Reserve has kiwis and other native animals.

Guided tours of Christchurch’s gardens are available. These may include punting rides on the Avon River – a good way to view the best riverside gardens. Tours of the city by cycle or Segway are also available.

Large braided rivers cross the Canterbury Plains to reach the sea north and south of Christchurch and Banks Peninsula. The Waimakariri River, not far north of the city, is a great location for fishing. Jet-boat rides and horse treks along the river can be booked easily. White water rafting activities operate on the Rangitata River near the town of Kaiapoi.

There are many country walks to enjoy at Banks Peninsula and inland Canterbury. Among the most spectacular are walks around limestone rock formations at Castle Hill, about one hours’ drive south-west of the city.

Skiing is popular in winter at Christchurch, with a good selection of ski areas on the eastern slopes of the Southern Alps within one or two hours’ drive. The largest ski area is at Mount Hutt, with smaller areas at Porter’s Pass, Temple Basin, Mounts Cheeseman and Dobson, among others.

Adventure pursuits in Christchurch include those based around aerial pursuits, such as paragliding sky-diving, helicopter tours and scenic flights. There is a rope- and swings-based forest adventure park near to the airport.

There are several options for Maori cultural tours in Christchurch.

Christchurch has a number of golf courses to play, including the famous Clearwater course, which hosts the NZ Golf Open.

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