Community efforts and lots of construction work have helped Christchurch emerge from the rubble and turn into a vibrant and creative city. Whether you prefer adventure, dining, shopping or art, Christchurch has something for everyone.
Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island and located on the east coast. Many visitors arrive in, or leave from Christchurch’s International Airport, without spending time in the city.
Here’s why you should stick around a while before setting off to see the rest of the South Island.
Christchurch locals are a creative bunch, which shows in the many unique projects and art around the city.
The Gap Fillers project started as an urban regeneration initiative to showcase a range of projects, events, and things to see and do around Christchurch, and literally fills up the gaps left behind after the earthquakes.
Check out the outdoor Dance-O-Mat, book exchange corners, and a giant-size Super Street Arcade on the corner of Tuam Street in Christchurch Central.
Street art is also a big part of Christchurch, and a way to bring the city back to life. Local and international artists have created vibrant murals throughout the city. Go on a graffiti-hunt and be amazed by what you find.
Check out Cathedral Square, the corner of Manchester and Welles Street, Colombo Street, Tuam Street, the top end of High Street, and Madras Street. This map shows where to find street art.
One of Christchurch’s main attractions is the Cardboard Cathedral, which was built when the original one got destroyed in the earthquake. It’s called the ‘Cardboard Cathedral’, because the foundations are made out of cardboard, and it’s a must-see when you’re there.
Art-lovers can discover the newest exhibitions at the public Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu (free entry), or learn more about the earthquakes at the Quake City Museum. The CoCa gallery
Christchurch is sometimes overlooked as an adventure destination, but actually has a lot to offer.
If you’re into water sports, you can go surfing in Sumner, rafting on the Rangitata Gorge or jet boating on the Waimakariri River just outside of Christchurch.
If you prefer to stay on land, there’s great climbing in the Port Hills, with easy to difficult routes.
There are also many short and rewarding hikes with beautiful views, like the steep Rapaki Track. Taylors Mistake is a great walk along the coast, and also good for fishing!
For longer walks and overnight huts, the Banks Peninsula is the place to be.
If you’re looking for some more intense hikes, Castle Hill and Arthur’s Pass will be worth the two-hour drive from town. Try out local favorites, Castle Hill Peak, Avalanche Peak, or the Bealey Spur. Castle Hill is also great for bouldering and climbing.
Thrill-seekers will love Cave Stream, where you follow a river through a cave. You don’t need to be experienced, but don’t go by yourself!
Tip: Always check the weather and water level, and take a head torch with you, because it’s pitch black inside.
Christchurch is also great for mountain biking. Rent a bike and ride one of the many tracks in the Port Hills or in Bottle Lake Forest. For a more leisurely bike ride, cycle the Little River Trail.
Christchurch is home to many unique cafes and restaurants – a real treat for your taste buds. After the earthquake, a wave of young, creative entrepreneurs started up their own hospitality businesses, making the city more vibrant and delicious.
Some food favorites in Christchurch are Pot Sticker Dumpling Bar, Burgers & Beers, Hello Sunday, Park Ranger, and C1 if you’d like to see your food delivered at your table through pneumatic tubes. New Regent Street is the place to be for cocktails, authentic bars, and fine dining.
Christchurch is also known as the ‘Garden City’, because of its many fragrant gardens. A great way to see this side of Christchurch is by visiting the Botanic Gardens or Hagley Park – especially in spring. Or take a stroll along – or canoe ride on – the Avon River.
More of a night person? There’s a lot going on in the evenings. Check out trendy bars, like The Last Word or funky outdoor bar SMASH Palace, the Theatre Royal, or one of the many independent, little cinemas, like Alice Cinematique or Academy Gold.
The ocean and the mountains nearby make Christchurch the perfect base to explore surrounding places. Hop in the car or bus and check out these rewarding trips.
Close to Christchurch, you’ll find the portside town of Lyttelton. Stroll around the artsy main street, have a beer in the funky bars, and check out the waterfront.
If you’re there on a Saturday, check out the Farmers Market. With organic food and live music, it’s a must-do.
Take a one-hour drive to Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula. Akaroa is a quirky, historic village with a French influence, so don’t be surprised by all the French flags and street names.
Take your time to drive there, as it’s one of the most beautiful roads in the area. The picturesque town is also home to penguins, alpacas, and dolphins.
Tip: Stop at the Hilltop Tavern for a drink with a panoramic view.
Exploring Castle Hill makes for a great day out. For LOTR fans out there, this is where the fellowship
The strange limestone rock formations look like the ruins of a castle (hence the name). Walk around the rocks, or pack a picnic to take to the top of one. The rocks also offer world-class bouldering and climbing.
A bit further down the road, you’ll reach Arthur’s Pass National Park, with impressive mountains and beautiful walks.
Hankering for a wine? It’s always wine time in Waipara Valley, which is great for wine tasting. Visit multiple vineyards, enjoy cellar door tastings, and try some of the delicious food. Often, they’ve got live bands playing!
As you can see, Christchurch clearly isn’t dead and has re-established itself as a unique place to visit in New Zealand.
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