A Guide to Backpacking in Christchurch
Christchurch is described as many things: the “Garden City”, the most “English City Out of England” (look at the street names), but now more commonly it has become the “Earthquake City”. Christchurch has become a place of intrigue for those wanting to see how the 2010/2011 earthquakes impacted the city. However, the amazing street art, array of gardens and hiking opportunities in the Port Hills are reasons why Christchurch is well worth adding to your backpacking itinerary around New Zealand.
Venture to the suburbs of Christchurch and you’re bound to be greeted with a number of beaches and surf spots. What’s more working holidaymakers may want to consider Christchurch as their working destination for a while, as the city is always in need of seasonal workers, especially in construction.
Things You Can’t Miss in Christchurch
- Explore Hagley Park and the Botanic Gardens
- Check out free exhibitions at the Canterbury Museum
- See some awesome street art as you explore the city
- Walk or take the Christchurch Gondola up the Port Hills
- Check out markets like the permanent Riverside Market, Christchurch Farmers’ Market on a Saturday, and Riccarton Markets on a Sunday
- See sights like the Antigua Boat Sheds, the Bridge of Remembrance, the Worcester Street Bridge, the Kate Sheppard National Memorial along the Avon River…
For more experiences worth trying, check out the 45 Best Things to Do in Christchurch.
Art and Cultural Fix
The arts are well and truly alive in Christchurch! Experience art galleries, shows, street art and more when visiting the South Island’s largest city on a backpacking trip; all without breaking the bank.
Christchurch Art Gallery
Whether you’re trying to avoid a rainy day or simply want an uplifting experience, the inspiring art at the Christchurch Art Gallery is sure to provide! The art gallery houses some of the most important art in New Zealand that’s ever-changing making it a worthy rainy day experience for locals and visitors alike.
There are free guided tours of the art gallery available daily at 11 am and 2 pm. The gallery is also open until 9 pm on Wednesday and offers a late-night tour for the occasion.
For more all-weather activities, check out the 20 Things to Do in Christchurch on a Rainy Day.
Evening Shows and Entertainment
Take the opportunity to experience some Kiwi theatre at The Court Theatre (36 Clarence Street South, Addington). For more than 40 years The Court Theatre has run productions, with something going on most nights! Comedy, culture, dance and drama; there’s something for everyone.
Throughout the bars in Christchurch, there are often local live acts and comedy nights. Check out Darkroom (336 St Asaph Street) for live and usually free entertainment, including comedy, hypnotists and magicians.
For more evening antics, check out the 10 Things to Do in Christchurch at Night.
Christchurch Street Art
Lastly, when walking in the city centre it doesn’t take long to spot huge street art. Artists have used every building wall available as their canvas to create a contrast of colourful and grungy artwork. This is just a taste of the amount of awesome street art there is to see in Christchurch:
- Riverside Mural (Lichfield Street)
- Kaikiaki Mural (YMCA Building, Hereford Street)
- Three Lips Mural (Peterborough Street)
- Tui and Titipounamu (Lichfield Street)
- Alice in Wonderland (Tuam Street)
- Kowhai and Silvereye (Ibis Hotel, Hereford Street)…
There is even a ‘street art gallery’ on Brockworth Street.
Gardens, Parks and Reserves
How can two completely different worlds be sitting next to each other? In the city centre, you have a concrete jungle and then moments later, you can be in one of the beautiful gardens and parks of Christchurch.
Although a lot of New Zealand cities have botanic gardens, nothing compares to Christchurch Botanic Gardens‘ vast area of different themes. Walk through the gardens about three times taking different routes and we bet you’ll find something new each time! Find access of Rolleston Avenue in the city centre.
At the edge of the Botanic Gardens is the Canterbury Museum, a free-entry museum rich with artefacts and displays. Learn about the region’s history.
A picturesque English-style garden, Mona Vale is an easy walk or bus trip from the city centre and well worth the visit. The garden once belonged to Annie Townend, who was thought to be the richest woman in New Zealand during her time. See plantings of English and European trees and flowers surrounding a conservatory and homestead. Find this garden in the Riccarton suburb.
See more like this in the 10 Beautiful Gardens & Parks in Christchurch.
Hiking Trails in the Port Hills
In true backpacker style, there are plenty of free walks among the exposed hilltops of the Port Hills, each boasting magnificent city, coast and harbour views. You can even get up there via the Christchurch Gondola. Otherwise, some of the best Port Hill walks include:
- Godley Head Loop Track (3 hours, Taylor’s Mistake)
- Bridle Path (1 hour one way, Heathcote)
- Sign of the Bellbird to Ahuriri (1 h 30 mins, Ahuriri)
- Tawhairaunui Trail (20 mins return, Victoria Park)
- Sugarloaf Circuit (1 hour return, Victoria Park).
And for more walks to sample during your travels, check out The Top 50 South Island Walks.
Otukaikino Wildlife Reserve
Finally, on walks and reserves, a walk around the wetland Otukaikino Wildlife Reserve is an easy boardwalk track amongst bird wildlife. Allow 30 minutes to complete this loop walk.
Shopping in Christchurch
The Christchurch city centre shopping precinct is changing all the time with new developments. Even if you don’t have the budget to splurge, just checking out the shopping culture of Christchurch is an experience.
Take a stroll around Christchurch CBD with The Crossing (166 Cashel Street) being a good hub for all major retail stores. Don’t miss Ballantynes, Christchurch’s oldest department store with quality international brands. A 5-minute walk from the CBD will bring you to South City Mall. There is a mix of supermarkets, fast food, and retail.
Outside of the city centre, try The Tannery (3 Garlands Road, Woolston) for a stylish shopping centre boasting an array of thrift stores and vintage goods. Or how about The Palms (Corner Marshland & New Brighton Roads, Shirley) for an open and airy shopping centre with all the essential stores. Finally, for bargain shopping, go to Dress-Smart in Hornby for discounts. This is the only designer outlet mall on the South Island.
Go to the Beach
When summer comes, it’s easy to be drawn to the sandy beaches on Christchurch’s coast.
Sumner Beach is great for swimming and sufing, the latter outlined in the 10 Top Surf Breaks in Christchurch. Don’t forget to check out the cave on Sumner Beach. Equally as great, check out the cafes and ice cream parlours on Sumner.
New Brighton has always been a favourite for shopping, swimming and surfing. A visit isn’t complete until you walk the New Brighton Pier or soak in the He Puna Taimoana Hot Pools. Find out what to do in New Brighton in the 10 Free & Cheap Things To Do in New Brighton.
Lyttelton and Quail Island
A ferry can take you from Lyttleton to Quail Island once used as a leprosy quarantine station but is now a sanctuary for birds and a great place for a walk. There are also a couple of stunning beaches to discover. Learn more about it in the 10 Best Things to Do in Lyttelton.
If You Have More Time in Christchurch…
- Go punting or kayaking down the Avon River
- Visit an Edwardian township at Ferrymead Heritage Park
- Have a 4D Antarctic experience at the International Antarctic Centre
- Like planes? Visit the free Air Force Museum of New Zealand
- Explore the forest on the Riccarton Bush Walk
- Do some sightseeing on the Christchurch Tramway (more info on Viator and Klook)
- Ride the chairlift to the Christchurch Adventure Park…
… And much more, as listed in the 26 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Christchurch with more experiences on a backpacker budget.
More About Backpacking in Christchurch
That’s it for our guide to backpacking in Christchurch. For more tips to help plan your trip, take a look at these guides:
- The Travel Guide to Christchurch on a Budget
- 7 Tips to Have a Great Time Backpacking in Christchurch
- 20 Things to Do in Christchurch on a Rainy Day
Finally, get tips for every aspect of your backpacking trip in our 30 Tips for Backpacking in New Zealand.