How to Plan the Best Trip to Christchurch
Many travellers agree that Christchurch is one of the most unique cities. The largest city in the South Island has a captivating story from its Maori heritage, English influences (said to be the most English city outside of England), and the more recent impact of the Canterbury earthquakes. The result of the latter has created a thriving and regenerative city with something new to offer even locals who have been here a thousand times. While the inner city offers, quite frankly, gorgeous gardens and unique sightseeing tours (double-decker, tram or VW Combi, anyone?), Christchurch is a short drive away from some of the South Island’s major highlights and iconic landscapes.
Start planning your city escape according to your desired travel style with this complete travel guide to Christchurch.
Common Questions About Christchurch
Let’s cut to the chase; what are the most common questions travellers have about visiting Christchurch?
Is Christchurch Worth Visiting?
Yes – if you haven’t visited a New Zealand city, then Christchurch is a good example. However, if you have limited time to explore the South Island, then Christchurch can be skipped due to its lack of unique experiences.
What is Christchurch Most Known For?
Christchurch is known as the “Garden City” due to its abundance of gardens and parks. It is also known for having one of the worst earthquakes in New Zealand in recent history, the Canterbury Earthquakes in 2011.
Where is Christchurch Located?
Christchurch is midway down the east coast of the South Island in the Canterbury region of New Zealand.
Are Canterbury and Christchurch the Same?
Christchurch is the largest city within the Canterbury region.
What is the Weather Usually Like in Christchurch?
The daily average temperature is 11.9°C/53.5°F, while the yearly average rainfall is 604mm/23.8″. Find out more in our Christchurch Weather & Climate guide.
How Do You Get to Christchurch?
Christchurch is well connected to the rest of the South Island via State Highway 1. It has an international airport, Christchurch International Airport, which also has frequent domestic flights from Auckland, Wellington and Queenstown. Christchurch is on the main national bus route, which you can find more information about in Bus Networks in New Zealand. You can also access Christchurch by train from Greymouth and Picton.
What to Do in Christchurch
Christchurch is all about the charm, which can fill your photo album, social media or wherever you store your travel photos with gorgeous gardens and vibrant streets like the technicoloured New Regent Street. But if you seek a little nature, Christchurch is never too far from sweeping beaches and the Port Hills revealing breathtaking vistas.
The Top Experiences in Christchurch
What are the must-dos? Here are some of the Christchurch highlights:
- Wander around the Christchurch Botanic Gardens or the other 10 Beautiful Gardens & Parks
- Take a tour of the city in a double-decker with Hassle Free Tours
- Walk or take the gondola into the Port Hills
- Feast at the Riccarton Farmers’ Market
- Discover great eateries and bars along The Terrace and Victoria Street
- Head to Sumner Beach, New Brighton Beach or the other 7 Top Surf Breaks in Christchurch
- Explore Akaroa, Lake Tekapo and more on one of The Best Day Trips from Christchurch…
… And the list continues over in our 15 Best Things to Do in Christchurch.
Rainy Day Activities
We wouldn’t let you wander the streets of Christchurch without a rainy day backup. Some of the all-weather attractions include:
- Check out the Canterbury Museum
- Experience the Polar regions at the International Antarctic Centre (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook)
- Do some sightseeing on the Christchurch City Tramway (on Viator, Tripadvisor, Klook and KKday)…
… and much more which we go into detail in the 11 Things to Do in Christchurch on a Rainy Day.
Things to Do at Night
After dark, there’s still plenty to keep you entertained in the South Island’s largest city. Just some nighttime activities are:
- Catch a show at the Isaac Theatre Royal
- Experience Christchurch’s nightlife on St Asaph Street or Popular Lane
- Take the Christchurch Art Gallery late-night tour…
You guessed it, we have a list for these experiences too, in the 10 Things to Do in Christchurch at Night.
Where to Stay in Christchurch
Aside from our top recommendations listed beside this complete travel guide to Christchurch (or at the bottom, if you’re reading this on mobile), we’ve compiled the best accommodations based on price, suitability for families or couples, as well as more premium offerings. What’s more, each article is written by real people rather than compiled by robots! Who would have thought?!
Christchurch for Budget Travellers
You don’t have to spend a lot to have a diverse, fun and educational travel experience in the South Island’s largest city. With several museums to choose from to suit your interests, gorgeous gardens and parks, island trips, beach-to-mountain hikes, there’s really a lot of free and affordable things to do in Christchurch. Not to mention that the city offers one of the most extensive ranges of budget accommodations in the country, where you can either meet other travellers or enjoy your own space on the cheap. Plan your cheap getaway using The Guide to Christchurch on a Budget or Christchurch City – Guide for Backpackers.
Free and Cheap Things to Do
- Explore the Botanic Gardens
- Visit the Canterbury Museum
- Check out Sumner or New Brighton Beach
- Take the ferry to Quail Island
- See the warplanes at the Air Force Museum.
For more inspiration, check out the 14 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Christchurch.
The budget accommodation offering in Christchurch is huge – and that’s an understatement. You have multiple options of hostels, holiday parks, budget hotels, motels, homestays, B&Bs and holiday homes. Check out our recommendations in the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Christchurch and the 9 Best Backpacker Hostels in Christchurch.
Christchurch for Luxury Travellers
Why stay in Christchurch during a luxury trip around New Zealand? Enjoy the comforts, tastes and convenience of city living while experiencing the landscapes that New Zealand is famous for. Soar over the Canterbury Plains and the Southern Alps in a helicopter or hot air balloon excursion, take a private tour of the local wine region, or ride first class on one of the world’s most scenic train journeys. After your day of exploring, retreat to the lavish hotels, luxury apartments and boutique lodges of the inner city. Plan for your exceptional city getaway with The Luxury Guide to Christchurch.
Premium Tours and Experiences
- Take to the skies in a luxury helicopter excursion (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- See the sights of Christchurch in a VW Combi (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Ride Scenic Plus Class on the renowned TranzAlpine (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook)
- Soak in the scenery from a hot air balloon with Adventure Balloon NZ
- Do a multi-day luxury trip of the South Island starting from Christchurch with The Road Trip (on Viator and Tripadvisor).
For elaboration on each experience and more, see the 10 Best Luxury Experiences in Christchurch.
A four-to-five-star hotel boasting either charming heritage or contemporary architecture, a boutique lodge, indulgent B&B, or your own private luxury apartment: which will you choose? Find out more in the 10 Best Luxury Accommodations in Christchurch.
Christchurch for Families
A trip to Christchurch for families means bonding over the interactive and educational museums, exploring the free gardens of the “Garden City”, and experiencing adventure on the thrilling zipline tours and treetop obstacle courses. You’ll hardly struggle for things to do in Christchurch with the kids, so use the city as a place to recharge from road tripping around the South Island. Check out more advice in The Guide to Christchurch for Families.
Family-Friendly Activities and Tours
- Ride the chairlifts, find the fairy doors or zipline over the trees at Christchurch Adventure Park (more details on Viator, Tripadvisor and KKday)
- Do the treetop obstacle course of Adrenalin Forest (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Take a day tour to see New Zealand’s largest blue penguin colony (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Experience the Polar regions at the International Antarctic Centre (on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook)
- Ride the Christchurch city tram (on Viator, Tripadvisor, Klook and KKday).
For more details on each experience and others, see the 10 Things to Do in Christchurch with Kids.
Family rooms come in many forms in Christchurch, from budget-friendly and fun-filled holiday parks in the outer city to self-contained motels in the city. Check out some of our top picks in the 10 Best Family Accommodations in Christchurch.
Christchurch for Couples
Christchurch is a must on the honeymoon or couples’ getaway itinerary of the South Island! Arguably the most romantic city in New Zealand, it’s awash in stunning gardens, breathtaking beaches and hilltops displaying the vibrant blue waters of the city’s intricate harbour network. You can do all the usual date night activities, such as going to the theatre or indulging in fine dining, while there’s also the opportunity to do something new and unique. Find out more in The Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Christchurch.
Things to Do for Couples
- Experience punting on the Avon River
- Hike to the top of the Port Hills
- Wander around the picturesque Mona Vale
- Dress up for a night at the theatre
- Book a table for two on the Christchurch Tramway Restaurant (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor).
For elaboration on each activity, check out the 10 Most Romantic Things to Do in Christchurch for Couples.
Set the right tone for your city escape by staying in the cute boutique B&Bs and lodges or impress your loved one with a night at a lavish hotel. Check out some options in the 10 Best Romantic Accommodations in Christchurch.
Christchurch for Foodies
Christchurch is often underrated for its food scene. Sure, the South Island has bigger wine regions and larger beer brands elsewhere, but Christchurch is home to some of the best boutique artisans of the South. The wine region of the Waipara Valley, the array of craft beer producers, gin distillers and artisans at Christchurch’s huge array of markets makes the city an absolute must for foodies. Plan your gastronomical trip using The Food Guide to Christchurch: Places to Eat & Food Tours.
Food Tours and Activities
- Take a tour of the Waipara wine region with Cheeky Wine Tours (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Experience Christchurch’s iconic farmers’ markets
- Try a Moari hangi with Ko Tane Maori Experience
- Go on a “kai safari” on a Maori food tour with Amiki Tours
- Taste and tour The Spirits Workshop Distillery.
For more details on each experience and more, see the 9 Best Foodie Experience in Christchurch.
Where to Eat in Christchurch
- Twenty Seven Steps (16 New Regent Street)
- Gatherings (5/2 Papanui Road, Merivale)
- Zen Sushi and Dumplings (301 Montreal Street)
- Bacon Bros Burgers (181 High Street)
- 5th Street (5 Elgin Street, Sydenham)
- Jaba Grill & Bar (2/150 Lichfield Street)
- Rollickin Dessert Cafe (35 New Regent Street)
The restaurants of Christchurch’s hotels make up the vibrant dining scene of the city, so make it easy for yourself by booking a room in said hotels. Otherwise, self-catering accommodation is available in the city should you want to experiment with ingredients picked up at the local markets. Check out recommendations in the 10 Best Accommodations in Christchurch for Foodies.
More About Christchurch
That’s it for our complete travel guide to Christchurch but by no means the end of our Christchurch travel tips! Check out the following guides for more advice on what to do nearby:
- The Top Cheap Eats in Christchurch
- Public Transport in Christchurch
- Christchurch Cab Fare: Taxi Prices in Christchurch
- 8 Best Things to Do in Lyttelton
- The Complete Travel Guide to Akaroa
Finally, plan more of your South Island trip using the South Island in Two Weeks: Road Trip Itinerary or South Island in One Week: Road Trip Itinerary. You’ll also find more advice for planning an epic NZ trip in The Best Travel Guide to New Zealand.