Things to Do in Christchurch, New Zealand

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Looking for tips on things to do in Christchurch, New Zealand?

As part of our city guides series, we interviewed Bethaney Davies who has lived in Christchurch on and off for the past 18 years.

Bethaney shares with us her insider tips on things to do in Christchurch for those looking for the best places to see, eat, stay, drink, and explore.

Why Visit Christchurch?

Christchurch is never going to make anyone’s bucket list but travellers should definitely visit. It is the gateway to New Zealand’s South Island which has the most spectacular scenery in the country.

Best Things to Do in Christchurch

Punting on the Avon River. Christchurch was modelled after the garden cities of England, like Oxford and Cambridge.

Despite losing almost every heritage building in the recent earthquakes, punting along the Avon still gives you a feel for this quaint English vibe.

things to do in christchurch

Stretch your legs and get some fresh air after a long flight with a walk around Hagley Park and the Botanic Gardens.

Christchurch is known as New Zealand’s “Garden City” with Hagley Park being it’s centre.

Even in Winter, there’s plenty of greenery. A jogging and bike path runs around the length of the park.

If you’re travelling with kids, head to Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. You can view birds native to New Zealand, including the Kiwi. You can even enjoy a Maori cultural performance and hangi (a traditional dinner cooked underground).

Where to Eat in Christchurch

Christchurch is a great destination for food and coffee. Here are some of my top picks:

Looking for a great coffee in the city try Black Betty on Madras Street. They serve great café-style cabinet food and breakfasts in an urban, warehouse environment.

They even grow their own coffee beans on site! Free WiFi is available. Figure on about NZ$5 for a latté and NZ$15 for a breakfast.

Black Betty – Image by Flashpacker Family
Chai Latte and a Pretzel Flower at Black Betty – Image by Flashpacker Family

You’ll find plenty of street vendors in the city centre REStart mall. My number one pick is Dimitris Souvlaki. Their lamb souvlaki are to die for and will only cost you NZ$9.

Also on offer in the same area are food carts selling waffles, sushi and even wood-fired pizzas!

Food Carts at RE:Start, The Container Mall – Image by Flashpacker Family

If you’re looking for an upmarket restaurant to celebrate a special occasion, you can’t go past Pescatore at The George Hotel.

Serving up innovative and experimental dishes, it’s not cheap but all the little extras in between courses certainly make it more of an experience than a meal. You won’t get out of here without spending at least NZ$100 per person.

Where to Drink in Christchurch

If you’re after a swish cocktail and delicious yakitori and tapas, head to The Monday Room. It’s about as close to a central city bar as you’ll get these days.

They’re also open for coffee and lunch during the day. Prices are pretty reasonable. You’ll spend about $12 on a cocktail and $6-12 for a tapas plate.

Where to Stay in Christchurch

Many of the city’s high-rise hotels bit the dust as a consequence of the February earthquake. There’s a real shortage of accommodation in the city.

  • Couchsurfing is probably the best bet for budget travellers.
  • High end travellers with money to burn will love The George – a low-rise hotel on the edge of the city. There is plenty of accommodation on AirBnb in every price range.

For more places to stay in Christchurch choose from the largest range of hotels, apartments, and guesthouses with our partner Booking.com. You get free cancelation on most rooms, and in most cases you only pay when you stay.

Markets and Shopping

Post-earthquake, a small shopping area has sprung up in the city centre. RE:Start is centered around the Ballantynes department store and is comprised mostly of boutique stores and cafés housed in shipping containers. It’s cool and colourful.

If you’re stocking up for outdoor adventures in the South Island, check out Bivouac and Kathmandu for Merino wool and fleece gear.

RE:Start – The Container Mall in Central Christchurch – Image by Flashpacker Family
Boutique Stores in RE:Start, The Container Mall – Image by Flashpacker Family

Getting Around Christchurch

While there is a bus system, the main bus exchange in the city is out of action. It takes a long time to get around via bus. You’re probably best to hire a car in Christchurch.

If you are driving, be aware that many streets are still partially closed, especially in the city centre.

As in the rest of New Zealand, taxis are expensive. It’ll cost you at $15-25 for trips around the city, more to the outer suburbs. You’re looking at around $30-35 from the airport to the city.

Book a Super Shuttle or jump on the airport bus instead.

Best Time to Visit Christchurch

Christchurch is spectacular in Winter.

It doesn’t snow (often) instead we get fabulously crisp, clear Winter’s days. Nights may dip below zero but daytime temperatures are around 10 degrees Celsius. Winter provides the most spectacular sunsets over the city and mountains. Get up into the hills for the best view!

Spring is lovely – Christchurch is New Zealand’s “Garden City” after all and there are daffodils blooming everywhere.

Summer temperatures get warm but not overly hot and are often accompanied by blustery Nor’Wester winds.

Autumn can be a bit damp but it’s certainly no reason to avoid the city. In short, you can visit Christchurch anytime of the year.

Favorite side trip from Christchurch

Locals love to spend a day or weekend out of the city to rest and recharge.

Akaroa is a wonderful little settlement on the Banks Peninsula offering up beautiful harbour views, wineries and restaurants.

Alternatively, head to Hanmer Springs for hiking and a soak in thermal mineral baths.

Getting There and Away

Christchurch is the best hub for travel in the South Island of New Zealand. Many travellers choose to start their South Island roadtrip by picking up a car or motorhome in Christchurch. Look into Apex and Jucy rentals for the best deals.

You’ll find direct international flights into Christchurch from Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast in Australia, Nadi in Fiji and Singapore’s Changi Airport.

For all other international destinations you’ll need to transfer through Auckland – luckily that’s pretty easy.

Air New Zealand and Jetstar offer flights from within New Zealand.

For cheap flights on Air New Zealand, look into Grabaseat.co.nz.

Jetstar posts cheap flights on their website every Friday afternoon. It’s a good idea to sign up to Grabaseat and Jetstar on Facebook for a heads up on the best deals.

Best insiders tip for Christchurch

A lot has changed in Christchurch since the February 2011 earthquake so any guidebook is going to be out of date.

My number one insiders tip for travellers would be to explore the city’s suburbs. Since the central city is mostly out of commission cafés, bars and restaurants have sprung up all over the suburbs.

Check out areas like Addington and Ferrymead.

Stay with a local, either through Couchsurfing or AirBnb, for a more authentic experience and ask them about their “earthquake” story – everyone has one!

I love Christchurch because …

It’s easy. It’s a great place to regroup after spending time travelling or to sort yourself out before a trip around New Zealand.

It’s a small city with big city amenities. You’re a stone throw from some fantastically scenic parts of the country.

There are plenty of great cafés – coffee and food are just as good here as in Melbourne. There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, whether it’s the park, beach or hills.

Read More – 15 Awesome Places To See When You Visit New Zealand

Plan Your Trip to Christchurch

We’ve been traveling consistently for 17 years and have come to rely on a few trusted websites that save us money and time when booking accommodation, flights and car rental. Below are our preferred partners:

Accommodation in Christchurch

  • Booking.com has 206 properties in Christchurch including hotels, apartments and hostels. You get free cancellation on most rooms and a best price guarantee.

Flights to Christchurch

  • Skyscanner is a comparison website that searches millions of flights. Once you find your best deal, book directly through the airline (no extra fees).

Car Rental in Christchurch

  • RentalCars.com is the world’s biggest car rental booking service that compares all the major brands like Hertz, Avis, Alamo, and Europcar.

More New Zealand Tips

Bio – Bethaney travels the world with her husband Lee and toddler Reuben in tow. She chronicles their adventures and shares tips for travel and living a location independent lifestyle on her blog Flashpacker Family. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Can you suggest things to do in Christchurch?

Share in the comments.

16 thoughts on “Things to Do in Christchurch, New Zealand”

  1. Thanks, Bethaney, for your tips on Christchurch, and for C&C for hosting her post! I’d like to add a few pointers from my visit there 7 weeks ago.

    * Dimitris Souvlaki in the Re:START mall has some of the longest queues at lunch or on the weekend, particularly if it’s sunny out. This in fact is a good thing, and you’ll understand why once you dig into one of their beef or lamb gyros. So good I went there twice in four days …

    * The Re:START mall is supposed to have free WiFi, as part of the city’s initiative to have shoppers return to and hang about the CBD. See http://www.flickr.com/photos/christchurchcitylibraries/7876757340/

    * One might check the motels on Colombo Street north of the CBD, between Peterborough and Beasley, but there are a number of motels along that stretch of Beasley, too. From here, the walk into the CBD is between 15 and 30 minutes.

    * Lonely Planet is updating their New Zealand travel guide, and is making available free-of-charge its updated chapter on Christchurch before the revised guide is published. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/new-zealand/christchurch-and-canterbury/christchurch/travel-tips-and-articles/76985

  2. Hello!

    Our National OFfice is located in Christchurch and we’ve been rocking and rolling along with the rest of the city for two years now (we just passed our two year anniversary from the first earthquake that took us all by surprise.)

    We def have some fave things to do in Christchurch. We love Addington Coffee Co-op on Lincoln road for your histper cup of coffee and we love the beaches! Christchurch is lucky that we have great beaches for sun, surf and fun. There are so many restaurants, libraries, markets to attend. Christchurch should be on everyone’s New Zealand bucket list!

    We’ve been celebrating all things post-earthquake Christchurch for a while now.

    All the best,

    YHA New Zealand

    1. Hi YHA New Zealand,

      I love Co-op too! I wanted to keep the list more city-centric so didn’t include it.

      I’m writing an e-book about travelling to post-quake Christchurch. Would love to get in touch with you on the hostels still open for business, changes made post-quake etc. Let’s connect!

      Bethaney

  3. I’m going to Christchurch this winter and really liked hearing about the cafe and bar recommendations. Always good to hear about those from a local! I’ll have to check them out when there.

  4. There are many great restaurants in Christchurch that offer amazing dining at a more reasonable cost than Pescatore. I think you just chose the most expensive…lol. Other fine dining options would be St Germain, Rotherams or Saggio Di Vino. For more reasonable prices and amazing food try Cookai Japanese Restaurant in Riccarton or Kinji on Greers Road. Also surprised at Monday Room recommendation as experiencing Christchurch is about sitting outside in the sun enjoying a cool beer and listening to music with mates, not looking at a concrete wall after paying overly expensive prices for spirits. Try Dux Dine in Riccarton.

  5. Nice post… I want to go very soon. Really, I am so interested. I heard; the largest wildlife reserve in New Zealand houses animals in their natural habitats with few barriers or fences, permitting visitors to see them up close and feed the gentler species. Wow I want to go…

  6. Yes, the reserve is called the Willowbank Wildlife reserve and it has my favorite bird, The Kiwi. I am a bird watcher/lover and the Kiwi fascinates me. It is a flightless bird that gets along fine in the jungles of New Zealand and Australia. There are other birds there like the Kea and Takahe, and many parrots, but the Kiwi is my favorite.

    1. Slight correction: There are no kiwis (as in, the bird) in Australia. I’m a birdwatcher and would love to see one, along with many other NZ birds. The kakapo is one of my favourite NZ birds 🙂

      1. Thanks for the update. I think I might have seen one in an Australian zoo, and that’s why I thought they were native to Australia. Then of course, I live in South Florida and there are Kangaroos in zoos down here, but of course are not native to the region. Hopefully I will be able to travel to New Zealand one day to see all the native wildlife there. Thanks again.

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