Guide to Christchurch, New Zealand

Christchurch (Māori: Ōtautahi) is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand and the seat of the Canterbury Region. Christchurch lies on the South Island’s east coast, just north of Banks Peninsula on Pegasus Bay. The Avon River / Ōtākaro flows through the centre of the city, with an urban park along its banks. The city’s territorial authority population is 389,300 people, and includes a number of smaller urban areas as well as rural areas. The population of the urban area is 377,900 people. Christchurch is the second-largest city by urban area population in New Zealand, after Auckland

Things to Do

Best activities to do visiting Christchurch

1. Christchurch Botanic Gardens

The Christchurch Botanic Gardens, located in the central city of Christchurch, New Zealand, were founded in 1863 when an English oak was planted to commemorate the solemnisation of the marriage of Prince Albert and Princess Alexandra of Denmark. The gardens sprawl over an area of 21 hectares[4] and lie adjacent to the loop of the Avon River next to Hagley Park. The Christchurch Botanic Gardens have a variety of collections of exotic and local plants of New Zealand, several conservatories, a nursery, playground and Climatological Station.

2.  International Antarctic Centre

Next to the airport in Christchurch, you can travel to a whole lot of Antarctica. Since 1992, the Centre has been transporting visitors to an incredible world of ice and mystery, ambition and endeavour.

Located on the International Antarctic Programme’s working campus at Christchurch Airport, the centre has become renowned as one of New Zealand’s most diverse and dynamic tourist attractions. The range of interactive experiences here provides fun, education and excitement for visitors of all ages.

Here you’ll experience real snow and ice and you’ll survive an indoor Antarctic storm. You’ll learn about life at Scott Base and see what it takes to work on the ice. You’ll hang out with little blue penguins and get close up to a husky. There’s also the exciting Hägglund Field Trip, an awesome 4D Theatre, a massive HD screen and lots, lots more.

3. Christchurch Gondola

An unmissable Christchurch experience, the Gondola offers stunning panoramic views of the city, Lyttelton Harbour, and beyond. Gaze at the snow-capped Southern Alps, sprawling Canterbury Plains and the sparkling waters of Pegasus Bay and the Pacific Ocean. A great family-friendly spot to explore.

The summit station offers plenty to entertain: explore the many walking tracks, learn about the history of the area on the Christchurch Discovery Ride, and indulge in a spot of shopping at our well-priced gift shop. Sit back and take in the fantastic views with a drink, snack, or meal from the licensed Red Rock Café.

 4. Willowbank Wildlife Reserve

New Zealand’s most comprehensive NZ themed wildlife park, the Willowbank experience tells the story of our country’s natural heritage.  Using pioneering and innovative display techniques, with an emphasis on creating a natural environment and an up-close and personal interactive experience, Willowbank showcases one of New Zealand’s best displays of native species.  Willowbank was the first to open a glass-free nocturnal house for kiwi in a natural environment, guaranteeing viewings every time.

5. River Punting

An iconic Christchurch attraction not to be missed, relax on board an informative punt ride and see the city from a different perspective. Sink back and admire the picturesque Botanic Gardens or glide through the evolving central city as your classically attired punter poles you quietly along the river on this eco-friendly activity perfect for all ages.

Choose between our two fantastic sites: float through the Botanic Gardens from our Antigua Boat Sheds landing or see the central city’s Avon River Precinct from our Worcester Bridge landing

6. Tram

The Christchurch Trams offer a unique experience combining history and sightseeing. Family-friendly and ideal for locals and visitors alike, our beautifully-restored heritage trams are one of the city’s most iconic and best-loved attractions – and don’t forget kids go free!

Our all-day hop-on hop-off tickets allow you to visit the central city sights at your leisure and our friendly and knowledgeable drivers will keep you updated about the latest city changes in their informative live commentaries. Purchase your tickets online, from our drivers, or at our Tram Shop at stop 1.

7. Quake City

A visit to Quake City is a must to understand the seismic events that shook Christchurch and Canterbury more than a decade ago.

This special exhibition at 299 Durham Street North, Christchurch, is packed with interesting displays and interactives for all ages. Hear from those who lived through the earthquakes and those who came to help.

Learn about the science behind the quakes and with the help of a hands-on interactive understand the phenomenon of liquefaction.

8. Isaac Theatre Royal

The Isaac Theatre Royal is the spiritual heart of Canterbury’s arts scene; an iconic theatrical venue that has played host to spectacular shows and spellbound audiences for more than a century.

Over the years, its unique ambience and its exceptional acoustics have attracted some of the world’s most acclaimed entertainers and storytellers, and some of the world’s most-loved plays and musicals; operas and orchestras; concerts, ballets and comedic performances.

Like the shows it hosts, the theatre is an amalgam of the old and the new; a beguiling blend of classic architecture and modern comfort. Every event is unique, every occasion is distinctive. And every visit to the Isaac Theatre Royal delivers a truly unforgettable experience.

9. Margaret Mahy Family Playground

The Margaret Mahy Playground is a playground in the Christchurch Central City on the banks of the Avon River. Following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, the government’s Recovery Plan had a “city-wide family playground” as one of the elements of the East Frame.

10. Golf

There are more golf courses per capita than anywhere else in the world: over 400 in fact. Christchurch has an abundance of golf courses and driving ranges appropriate for all levels of skill. New Zealand is a premier golfing ranging from budget to first class experiences.


Places to explore outside of central Christchurch

1. Sumner

Sumner is a coastal seaside suburb of Christchurch. Sumner is a lovely coastal suburb of Christchurch, in Sumner Bay at the eastern end of the Port Hills. Sumner Village is 20 minutes drive from the Christchurch CBD, and 40 minutes drive from Christchurch Airport.

The views are breathtaking – panoramic views from mountains, to city and sea. Nestled inside a dormant volcano, Sumner is separated from Christchurch by rugged volcanic hill ridges, ending in cliffs descending to the sea. Sumner’s unique geography and coastal location creates a microclimate, and a wonderful variety of recreational activities.

Sumner Beach is popular for swimming as it is gently sloping with fine grey sand, and in Summer it is patrolled by the Sumner Surf Lifesaving Club. Scarborough Beach in Sumner (along the Sumner Esplanade) is one of the safest beaches in Christchurch to learn how to surf, and nearby Taylors Mistake is another popular surfing beach; on the north side of Godley Head.

2. Lyttelton

As a landing point for Christchurch-bound seafarers, Lyttelton has historically been regarded as the “Gateway to Canterbury” for colonial settlers. Christchurch’s first European settlers landed here in 1850 before trekking over the Port Hills to establish their new home. A tunnel through the Port Hills provides direct road access between Lyttelton and Christchurch. It’s a beautfiul and unique town, home to a community of nearly 3,000 people, home to bohemian artists, unique shops, cafés and restaurants.  Lyttelton’s heritage buildings were badly damaged during the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes. However, in the years following widespread demolition, this small town has re-invented itself as one of the most creative communities in the Christchurch region. 

3. Quail Island

Quail Island is an inner harbour island, reached via a short ferry ride from Lyttelton. It’s Canterbury’s largest island but is easily explored in a day. Quail Island lies in the flooded crater of an extinct volcano that created the natural haven of Lyttelton Harbour/Whakaraupō (Bay of Raupō). For such a small island – barely 81 hectares – Ōtamahua has quite a history. This predator free and restored island offers beautiful scenery, great walks and a glimpse into the past. The island is ideal for day trips or an overnight stay at Ōtamahua Hut. A short walk to either the Ōtamahua Hut and/or the beach may be enough for families with small children, who can then spend a leisurely half day swimming and picnicking. Longer walks around the island offer plenty to discover. Discover relics of the past like historic buildings, replica dog kennels used by famous explorers, and the ‘ships’ graveyard’ with its eerie ship skeletons. You can also take a trip to the present and future by viewing the ongoing work into restoration plantings on the island. For the full experience, book a night at Ōtamahua Hut through the Department of Conservation (DOC) website.

4. Governers Bay

Governors Bay is a beachside suburb and coastal village. It is a beautiful traditional town. The settlement of Governors Bay is located on Banks Peninsula near the head of Lyttelton Harbour.It is connected via Governors Bay Road to Lyttelton, via Dyers Pass Road over the Port Hills to the Christchurch suburb of Cashmere, and via Main Road to the south side of the harbour basin and Banks Peninsula.

Source CCC.govt.nz

5. New Brighton

New Brighton is a coastal suburb of Christchurch, New Zealand, 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) east of the city centre. It is one of eastern Christchurch’s main entertainment and tourist centres, with its architecturally unique pier and scenic coastline. Take the kids and get down to the New Brighton Playground and Splash Park on Marine Parade. Walk along the beach and fly a Kite. Or even grab a fishing line and catch some dinner.

6. Bottle Lake

This extensive pine plantation runs alongside the coast in the north-east of the city and offers a myriad of tracks for mountain-biking, horse-riding, and walking. As a working forest, tracks may change at any time.

From lengthy wanders to shorter meanders, check out the blue and green tracks below. You can also create your own walking track by mixing the walks with the grid pattern of working roads.

Bottle lake is also home to magic. The magical village is home to hundreds of fairy homes built by families from all over the city. All are welcome to visit and put up their own special fairy houses or doors.

Source CCC.govt.nz

7. Lincoln

Lincoln is a town in the Selwyn District, in the Canterbury Region of New Zealand’s South Island. The town is located on the Canterbury Plains to the west of Banks Peninsula, 22 kilometres southwest of Christchurch. The town has a population of 9,180 (June 2022), making it the second largest town in the Selwyn District behind nearby Rolleston.

Lincoln’s charming village atmosphere combines its history as a rural service town, with its role as home to the nearby biotechnology campus of Lincoln University, with its Crown Research Institutes and the commercial research facilities.

Lincoln University

Food and Drink

Where to eat and drink? read on:

Riverside Market

Overlooking the Avon River in the heart of Christchurch, Riverside Market is a fresh take on inner city life with a 7-day-trading indoor market linking into a boutique network of retail, restaurants, cooking schools, cafes and bars.

Riverside market features over 30 different food stalls,cafes, and bars. If you’re looking for many options in one location in the heart of Christchurch city, Riverside Market is the place.

Little High

Little High Eatery is Christchurch’s newest and most unique space to eat out. There’s nothing else like this. Experience nine different local and family-run businesses inside our modern marketplace with plenty of shared seating. 

C4 Coffee Co

C4 supply the best blends and single origins to inspire people to join in the quest for espresso perfection. C4 is a specialist local coffee roasting company. Their focus is on the supply of quality coffee, roasted daily, backed up with awesome service, training and the best equipment. C4 select, source and serve the highest grade green beans. No compromises. Great care is taken to roast each origin to its optimum to get the best out of each single origin batch or blend.

Spagalimis Pizzeria Restaurant and Bar

Spagalimis Pizzeria was first opened in may 1978 at the corner of Colombo and Kilmore Streets, Christchurch. Initially the restaurant had eight tables, seating approximately 44 persons, with only seven employees, and takeaways available. Since then it has been the pinacle of Pizza in Christchurch as demand continued to flourish.


Drexels is a breakfast institution in Christchurch and a go-to lunch destination in the heart of Riccarton’s shopping district.

From day one kiwis have embraced what was then a revolutionary concept- breakfast dining. From the made on the premises Hash Browns, through to the lusciously thick Iowa Pancakes and the to die for Eggs Benedict, our loyal customers just can’t get enough!

With more than ten million breakfasts served to their devoted customers, what is it that makes Drexels such an iconic part of the Christchurch dining market? Come and discover for yourself why Drexels has been an essential start to a Christchurch day for over 30 years.


A hidden gem tucked away that even locals are missing out on. True Focus on Sichuan, Cantonese and Malaysian cuisine, such as crystal chicken, Laksa, mee goreng,  砂硓越,滑蛋河粉,台湾牛肉面,肉燥干面,干炒牛河. If you’re in the need for authentic, then look no further than Ancestral.

Dux Dine

Dux Dine is situated in a historic turn-of-the-century Villa that was the Station Master’s House for the Riccarton Railway.

​The villa has been extensively but sympathetically reworked to provide a variety of spaces to be enjoyed whether you are a couple out for date night, a large group celebration at one of the huge Kauri tables, grabbing a morning coffee, enjoying a drink in the bar, meeting friends for lunch in the sun-drenched conservatory or enjoying a platter in the sheltered courtyard garden.

​The original homeliness of the villa has been maintained making Dux Dine welcoming and very comfortable but with many fun and quirky elements to be discovered and revealed over subsequent visits.

Burger Fuel

If you’re in the market for something quick and easy but want to go further afield than McDonalds and KFC. Give Burger Fuel a go. A gourmet burger fast food chain that has found a happy home in Christchurch with a number of locations.

Pomeroy’s Old Brewery Inn

Pomeroys pub, family owned and operated since 2001. Specialising in in craft beer, food made from scratch and excellent service.

Tavern Harewood

Since 1999, Tavern Harewood has built a reputation as a great place to meet, eat and drink! They have a full lunch and dinner menu to suit everyone’s taste. For a price to quality ratio, Tavern Harewood is an incredible option.


Where to party in Christchurch!

Pink Lady

Pull up a seat. Kick back. This is where we unwind and indulge.

Unapologetically small and exposed to all elements with 360-degree views, the Pink Lady Rooftop is undoubtedly one of the best spots in the city for an open-air drink.


When Hide opened Hide Club in 2019 their mission was simple; help fill the void left by the quakes and provide a space for the city’s world-renowned underground electronic scene to thrive once again.

As Christchurch’s only purpose-built nightclub, Hide Club is an all-inclusive safe space for those looking to experience quality live electronic music. Taking inspiration from European nightclubs, Hide is equipped with a spacious dance floor, a quad-stacked L-Acoustics sound system, an in-house lighting array, and an immersive in-room performance booth. In addition to this Hide also has a second zone upstairs which provides for intimate techno sessions and/or private events/green room duties.

Every weekend Hide Club welcomes a wide array of international and local electronic artists to Christchurch.

The Rockpool

Come on down and join the fun. The Rockpool and Micky Finn’s is frequented by city workers and hungry locals. Corporates book lunches and functions, Rockpool pool tables are action-ready, and you’re invited to socialise into the early hours with a nostalgic teapot (or two).

Every week live music and DJ’s are here ready to rock.

Christchurch Casino

One of New Zealand’s most legendary casinos. 32 table games, 450+ slot machines, three restaurants and bars, live events and your daily chance to win big. It’s all go!

The Bog

The Bog began its legendary history as the home of the Irish in Christchurch in February 2000
at 82 Cashel Street on the site of the Fail’s Café; New Zealand’s oldest and much loved seafood
restaurant. The Bog quickly became the place known for its live traditional Irish music, hearty
food and the best Guinness and Kilkenny in town!

Trips Nearby

Places to visit near Christchurch


Akaroa is a small town on Banks Peninsula in the Canterbury Region. 86km’s from Christchurch by a 1.5hour drive. Akaroa is New Zealands french influenced town. Primiarily a tourist town for Cruise ships and holiday homes, however the small town is lively and has enough activities for you to fill your day (or stay!).

Activities include:

  • Dolphin Watching/Swimming
  • Hiking trails and walks
  • Harbour cruise
  • Golf
  • Kayaking Safari
  • Evening Penguins Safaris

Hanmer Springs

One of the best if not the best getaways for the Winter. 133km from Christchurch by a 1hr 45m drive. Hanmer Springs is a resort town in the Canterbury region of New Zealand’s South Island. It’s known for Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa, with its mineral waters. The surrounding mountains are home to trails and seasonal ski slopes. The nearby Conical Hill and Heritage Forest has a trail winding to a lookout point. To the south, rugged Waiau Gorge is known for its whitewater rapids and abundant salmon and trout

Acitivites include:

  • Hotpools (best in NZ!)
  • Bungee Jumping
  • Jetboating
  • Animal Park
  • Conical Hill Walk
  • Wine Tasting

If you decide to stay in Hanmer which we hightly recommend as spening the evening in the hot pools under the stars is really the best. You can then walk back to your accomodation and relax by the fire. Hanmer is best experienced by booking a holiday home (think Cabin style) for a night or two.

Lake Tekapo

A bit further out is Lake Tekapo at 226km by a 2hr 45min drive. Famous for it’s stunning turqouise water and sky-gazing. Lake Tekapo is a sleepy location which great food, beautiful nature, and water sport opportunities.

Activities Include:

  • Observatory
  • Hot Springs
  • Skiing
  • Hike up Mt John
  • Water sports


Kaikoura is a coastal town on the South Island of New Zealand. It’s known for its abundant wildlife and its sperm whale population. The Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway winds from the town centre to lookout points at Point Kean. Close by, the rock platforms are home to a colony of New Zealand fur seals. The 1800s Fyffe House is a cottage built on a foundation of whalebones, with displays on the town’s whaling past. 

Activities Include:

  • Whale Watching
  • Enjoy Crayfish
  • Seal Colony
  • Maori Leap Cave
  • Mountain Bike Up and Down Mt Fyffe
  • Scenic flights (plane or helicopter)
  • Shearing Show

Mt Hutt

114km by a 1hr 37min drive. Mt Hutt is your Skiining destination from Christchurch.

Mt Hutt has extensive facilities and packages that cater to beginner skiers and snowboarders, allowing you to fly past your mates with style and confidence in no time. This is where it can all begin!

Mt Hutt has rental services so you don’t need to bring your own equipment, however if you’re a pro already. Just head straight up to shred the slopes.


Best places to stay in Christchurch

So you want to know where to stay in Christchurch. You have come to the right place. Read below to see our top tips:

The central city is the best area to stay. There are an abundance of options depending on your budget, whether it be 5 star quality or a cheap backpackers. The central city also has the best transport links via the bus exchange and car rental facilities. A majority of all our recommended restaurants and nightlife is all within Central. However if you have a Car then you can go further out, and more than likely get cheaper accommodation.

Comfort LevelPrice Estimate
Backpacker50 NZD
Mid-Range100 – 200 NZD
Upper-Range150+ NZD

Cheap Stays

Mid Range

Upper Range

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