After meeting other travellers in Australia, I had heard a number of opinions on travelling in Christchurch that left me confused. “There’s not really much going on there…” “I wouldn’t personally bother with it”.
Well, they were still recovering from a destructive earthquake from 2011, and a recent horrific terrorist attack too… Perhaps from the get go, I was looking to prove these travellers wrong, but honestly, I found I didn’t need to.
Christchurch was special. I saw incredible kindness. Like the nurses who wheeled out a lady in a hospital bed to the botanical garden next door to be amongst the trees. Diversity and inclusivity with Chinese New Year festivals and decorations, I saw heartbreak and grief at memorials and empty spaces where buildings once stood, and saw an attentive display of Māori culture woven into the fabric of the city. Not to mention it’s home to one of the most beautiful botanical gardens and city parks I’ve ever seen.
CURRENCY | New Zealand Dollar
TIME NEEDED | 2 – 5 Days
SEASONS & WEATHER | Cold/mild in winter, warm/hot in summer. Visit anytime, but summer should guarantee better weather.
LANGUAGES | English
HOW TO SAY ‘COOL!’ | Sweet as!
TRANSPORT | Walking, tram & bicycle
NEAREST AIRPORT | Christchurch International Airport (CHC)
NEAREST TRAIN STATION | Christchurch Railway Station, near the botanical gardens
NEAREST BUS STATION | Christchurch Bus Interchange
Things to visit, places to see…
The Gap Filler projects | Witness the inspiring rebuild of Christchurch. A brilliant project that focuses on filling any gaps from demolished or collapsed building with art, culture and positivity.
The Quake city museum | ($20 for an adult) The museum tells the story of the earthquakes which caused such significant destruction and damage in Christchurch, on more than one occasion. The most recent quake has left a deep wound in the earth, and the minds of locals, and I felt like it was important to understand what happened and hear first hand accounts of bravery and grief, but also positivity for the future.
The Avon River / Ōtakaro |The river meanders around the botanical garden and parks and back through the city. It’s a perfect place to stop for lunch, and you can even hire kayaks or take a leisurely trip in the punting boats. There is also the National Memorial for all the victims of the earthquake along the river, it’s a beautiful spot to sit and reflect.
Visit local markets and festivals | Particularly North Hagley Park, Cathedral square and the areas near the i-site visitor centre and the Arts centre on Worcester Street, where markets and festivals usually pop up!
New Regent Street | Filled with cafes, bars and restaurants, it’s colourful buildings are popular with locals and tourists alike, perfect to stop off for breakfast, second breakfast, lunch, dinner or drinks, or all of the above!
The Botanical Garden | An absolute beauty and free to visit. Surrounded by the river and complete with rose gardens, conservatories and sprawling pathways that meander through native plants, rockeries and waterways. I’m slightly biased when it comes to plants, but this is definitely a must visit, and did I mention it was freee!
The Gondala | ($30 for an adult) will take you to the top of Mt Cavendish, with great views over the city, Canterbury plains and Pacific Ocean and also some walking tracks to explore. Beautiful views, but if you’re on a budget and visiting the western mountains, the views will be more dramatic out there!
Visit the coast! | Lyttelton has a great farmers market, and Sumner or New Brighton each has a beach and waterfront. Or if you fancy going a bit further definitely don’t miss the beautiful town of Akaroa. There are frequent bus connections with Akaroa and one that leaves from outside Canterbury museum. It’s an hour and a half drive to Akaroa, but the journey is very scenic!
Willowbank Wildlife Reserve | ($32.50 for an adult) on the outskirts of Christchurch. You can experience cultural performances and also learn about New Zealand wildlife and the famous Kiwi bird!
The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora | A beautiful building full of independent shops and galleries. They have a courtyard space just off the main road which frequently hosts cultural events and festivals! There are also lots of lovely shops along this road selling paua shell gifts, vintage items, art and jewellery.
The Canterbury museum | (free, but donations very welcome) A beautiful museum with an amazing selection of Māori artefacts and other interesting displays like Fred and Myrtle Fluteys collection of paua shells! They also have a brilliant room on Antarctic exploration, but if you have a higher budget then definitely visit the International Antarctic Centre ($49 for an adult) found right by the airport, it would be a great place to explore before catching a flight.
If you’re on the South Island, or backpacking around New Zealand. Don’t miss Christchurch, it was an endearing place, full of character, proud heritage, festivals, incredible innovation, strength, and a perfect blend of architecture and nature.