Our guide to the 'Garden City' of Christchurch
The largest city of the South Island, Christchurch is also New Zealand's oldest, having been granted its Royal Charter in 1856. Known as the ‘Garden City’, for its high proportion of green spaces, Christchurch has the feel of an old English city, thanks to the ambitions of early settlers who wanted to recreate the similarly-named area of Christ Church in Oxford.
In the centre of Christchurch is the vast open space of Hagley Park, which borders the beautiful Botanic Gardens and Canterbury Museum. A dominant feature of the city, Hagley Park covers an area of 407 acres (165 hectares). Visitors and locals alike enjoy the park for walks, cycling, jogging, and sporting events. The spectacular spring and autumn colours of the gardens rate a special mention.
The Botanic Gardens are comprised of 21 hectares of gardens, walking paths, water features, a rose garden, and a stunning variety of plants and flowers. The gardens were created in 1863, built around a single oak tree that remains in the gardens today. Running through their midst, the River Avon adds to the serenity of the gardens with visitors enjoying the quaint tradition of punting as they tour the city.
The city features many more parks to visit including the popular Victoria Park with its panoramic views of the Canterbury region and Halswell Quarry Park. Check our 'Points of Interest' guide for more parks to visit.
New Regent Street was built in the early 1930's and is a colorful pedestrian street designed in a Spanish Mission architectural style. The pretty street is full of some of the best bars, restaurants and cafes in Christchurch. In the evenings it's the spot to enjoy a cocktail at a stylish bar and see a show at the Isaac Theatre.
Located on the Corner of Lichfield St & Oxford Terrace, the Riverside Market overlooks the Avon River and has a fresh take on inner city life with a daily indoor market linking into a boutique network of retail, restaurants, cooking schools, cafes and bars. Over at Little High Eatery, experience eight delightful local and family-run businesses inside a modern marketplace with plenty of shared seating. Victoria Street is home to the Christchurch Casino and a good place for eating out with plenty of food options including America Diner, Pizza and Mexican restaurants.
For some tranquility in the heart of the city, head to Victoria Square, a beautiful compact park which borders on the Avon River. You'll be able to see punts go by on the Avon River, see the Queen Victoria Statue, the Captain James Cook statue, Maori carvings and a lovely water fountain.
The most enjoyable way to see the Botanic Gardens is with an electric vehicle guided tour or with a punting tour. Departing from both the Antigua Boat Sheds and Worcester Bridge, punting is a wonderful way to view the inner city’s revitalised Avon River Precinct. For the best views, head over to the Christchurch Gondola in Heathcoat Valley. The 862 meter cable car ride up the side of Mt Cavendish is a chance to take in the spectacular views across Canterbury.
An iconic fixture in the city, hopping on a tram is a fun and handy way to get around and see the best bits of Christchurch. With 17 stops and an all-day hop-on hop-off ticket, visit the central city sights at your own pace along riding in the beautifully-restored trams while enjoying informative live commentaries. The International Antarctic Centre is a fascinating attraction and immersive experience about life in the antarctic. You'll also be able to see the resident blue penguins.
Outdoor lovers are taken care of with the many scenic biking and walking trails and of course as it's New Zealand, adventure activities. The Christchurch Adventure Park is packed full of outdoor activites, while paragliding, skydiving, rafting and Jet Boating provide the adrenaline thrills.
The suburbs of New Brighton and Sumner are also beautiful places to visit, with their striking coastlines and sandy beaches. New Brighton is divided into three sections - North New Brighton, New Brighton, and South New Brighton which offers the beach on one side and an estuary on the other. Along with the much photographed New Brighton Pier, visitors can enjoy a good selection of bars, shops, restaurants, a golf course, plenty of holiday accommodation, and good surfing and sunbathing beaches.
Further along the coast, Sumner is a lovely seaside resort. With a range of cafes and restaurants to suit most tastes, a wide sandy beach and a flat wide esplanade, it is the perfect place to while away an afternoon.
On 22nd February 2011, an earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter Scale struck central Christchurch killing 185 people, injuring many more, and damaging thousands of buildings throughout the city. The celebrated Cathedral was badly damaged, with many of the surrounding structures in Cathedral Square broken beyond repair. Due to earthquake damage, over half of the central city’s building stock was demolished. Several years on, the city is in an exciting transition with many rebuilds now completed and plenty of new attractions and sights to enjoy. There is always something new to discover, and it seems like no two trips to the central city are ever the same!
Further afield, the towering peaks of Aoraki/Mount Cook, the pretty seaside villages of Banks Peninsula and the many hiking opportunities in Arthur's Pass National Park, are just some of the reasons that make Christchurch an appealing destination from which to stage your adventures.The TranzAlpine Express
One of the world's most beautiful train journeys, the TranzAlpine Express is the perfect way to leave Christchurch. In just under five glorious hours you will travel through unrivalled mountain scenery- from the sunny east coast, across the rolling Canterbury Plains, then through Arthur's Pass before arriving at the terminus of Greymouth on the West Coast.
Check our 'Things To Do' section to see details of the activities on offer in Christchurch and the Canterbury region.