Travel Guide Oceania Polynesia New Zealand South Island Canterbury Region Christchurch



Christchurch Cathedral

Christchurch Cathedral

© jason_a

Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island and second largest city by urban area in New Zealand. Although some argue it is the only real city on the entire South Island. Originally settled by Maori tribes around 1250 AD this area of the South Island has always had some sort of occupation since then. The Weller brothers, whalers, purchased the area and set up a base in what is now Christchurch in the early 1840s. The Weller brothers later abandoned the area.

In December of 1850 the historic First Four Ships, which were chartered by the Canterbury Association, arrived. The city quickly grew and was the first city in New Zealand by royal charter on the 31st of July 1856. Because of this the city is home to many Gothic buildings and the site of many historic events in New Zealand, such as New Zealand's first railroad. Christchurch has also been the gateway to the Arctic for early explorers and modern day scientists. Today this city has become a major metropolitan centre and the heart of the South Island. There are countless sights to visit and places to see in Christchurch.

Christchurch has been severely damaged by two earthquakes, striking in September 2010 and February 2011, the latter causing many deaths as well as the collapse of part of the main cathedral. The clean up and rebuild is an ongoing project set to last years. A "red zone" covers a varying part of the city centre and is off limits to the public whilst it is slowly taken apart and put back together again.



Sights and Activities


  • Canterbury Museum is a beautiful gothic museum with a great collection and exhibits ranging from Maori relics, Antarctic exhibitions to even dinosaurs. The museum is open everyday, except Christmas Day, 9:00am to 5:30pm (October to March) and 9:00am to 5:00pm (April to September). Admission is free.
  • Ferrymead Heritage Park was founded in the 1960s as a tribute to industrial history. Learn more about industry in the 19th century and see how people lived back in those times. The park is at the site of the first railroad in New Zealand and you can ride a real steam locomotive on certain days. The park is open 10:00am to 4:30pm every day except Christmas Day. The park is located at 50 Ferrymead Park Drive, Heathcote about a 15-minute drive from Christchurch city centre or take bus number 35 from the city. Monday to Friday Adult $6, children $3, children under 5 Free, weekends, public Holidays and school Holidays, when trams or trains are operating, Adults $15, children $5.
  • Air Force Museum is dedicated to New Zealand's aviation history. The museum is located about 15 minutes from the city centre with free parking. It is also possible to take the #5 or #81 bus to the museum. The museum is open daily from 10:00am to 5:00pm, except Christmas Day. Adults $15, children $5, students and senior citizens $9.
  • Christchurch Art Gallery is the new art museum opened in 2003 with a good collection. The museum is located at the intersection of Worcester Blvd and Montreal Street. Open everyday 10:00am to 5:00pm, and on Wednesday 10:00am to 9:00pm, closed Christmas Day.
  • Christchurch Arts Centre has a collection of over 40 specialty shops, fine art galleries, world class theatre groups, art house cinemas, bars, restaurants and cafes. There are also many special events going on at different times. Every weekend there is a market featuring local entertainers and artists selling their goods.

Wildlife and Animals

Pegasus Bay

Pegasus Bay

© Honolulu

  • Orana Wildlife Park - Spend the day seeing wild animals in a more natural habitat then a zoo at this wildlife park outside the city.
  • Willowbank Wildlife Reserve - Experience the natural side of South island at this wonderful reserve. Adults $25, children $10, seniors and students with ID $20.
  • Southern Encounters Aquarium & Kiwi House is a great aquarium in Christchurch. Open every day of the year, except Christmas Day, 9:00am to 4:30pm. Adults $15, children $5, student with ID and seniors $13.
  • Antarctic Centre is located near the airport and allows visitors to experience a simulated Antarctica.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Christchurch Cathedral - Visit this stunning church and climb the spire to see great views of Christchurch. The church is located in Cathedral Square.
  • Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament was opened in 1905 and is now one of the finest Renaissance style Catholic Churches in all of New Zealand and Oceania.
  • Heathcote Gondola - Ride this gondola to get great views of places like Pegasus Bay.
  • Summit Road - Drive this road in order to see some amazing views.
  • Mountain Biking - Cycle some amazing trails in and around Christchurch. Especially in the Port Hills or Bottle Lake Forest. Hagley Park is also a nice place to cycle around.
  • Victoria Park - Go for a nice hike in this wonderful green space.
  • Punting on the Avon - Go on nice boat ride down the Avon River. Adults $20, children $10.
  • Christchurch Casino - Place some bets and try to make it big at this casino located at 30 Victoria Street.
  • Christ's College Guided Tours - These interesting tours are run by former pupils on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in Spring and Summer and cost $5 each.



Events and Festivals




Christchurch has a temperate climate with relatively dry conditions. Summers are from December to March with average highs mostly between 20 °C and 23 °C and lows of around 11 °C or 12 °C. Winters are from June to August with days around 12 °C and nights just above freezing on average. Average annual precipitation is around 650mm with winters being somewhat wetter compared to the drier summer months. Snow is rare but possible in winter.

Avg Max22.3 °C21.8 °C20.1 °C17.4 °C14 °C11.3 °C10.7 °C12.1 °C14.5 °C17.1 °C19.1 °C21 °C
Avg Min12.1 °C11.6 °C10.3 °C6.9 °C3.7 °C1 °C0.8 °C2.1 °C4.3 °C6.5 °C8.6 °C10.8 °C
Rainfall46.4 mm41.7 mm57.5 mm53.3 mm57.6 mm50.5 mm68.3 mm59.5 mm41 mm44.4 mm49.9 mm45.1 mm



Getting There

By Plane

Christchurch International Airport (CHC) is 12 kilometres northwest of the city centre and was originally opened in 1953. The airport has connections to all cities in New Zealand, most major cities in Oceania and a few other international destinations. Air New Zealand and Air Chathams operate most of the domestic flights. While international flights, even some as far away as Bangkok, Dubai or Seoul, are operated by Fiji Airways, Emirates, Jetstar, Korean Air, Virgin Australia, Qantas and Singapore Airlines.

To/from the airport

  • Bus: three bus routes service the airport. Number 3 to Sumner via the city, Avonhead and Riccarton, number 10 via Merivale and number 29 via Fendalton. All buses arrive and depart from international coach park, at the end of the International Arrivals Hall.
  • Taxis and rental cars are widely available.

By Train

The Coastal Pacific runs from October through April between Christchurch and Picton, where it connects with the Cook Strait ferries from Wellington in the North Island. The train departs Christchurch at 07:00 and arrives in Picton at 12:13, connecting with the 14:00 ferry to Wellington. The 09:00 ferry from Wellington connects with the train departing Picton at 13:00 and arriving in Christchurch at 18:21.

The TranzAlpine can take you coast-to-coast between Christchurch and Greymouth, a town on the West Coast. This scenic train journey can be done as a day trip. The train departs from Christchurch daily at 08:15, arriving at Greymouth at 12:45, then leaves Greymouth at 13:45, getting back to Christchurch at 18:05. During the trip you’ll see the fields of the Canterbury Plains, followed by spectacular gorges and river valleys of the Waimakariri River. The train then climbs into the Southern Alps before descending through lush beech rain forest to Greymouth.

The Christchurch railway station is on Troup Drive in Addington, adjacent to the large Tower Junction shopping centre, and has limited facilities. Canterbury Shuttles provides a free transfer from all central city accommodation to the station. Pick-ups for the Coastal Pacific are 06:00-06:30. Pickups for the TranzAlpine are 07:00-7:45.

By Car

State Highway 1 is the main highway into Christchurch from the north and south, and skirts around the city to the west, close to the airport. The stretch north from Picton to Christchurch is particularly scenic, including stunning windswept cliffs and seal colonies. State Highway 73 goes to the west, over Arthur's Pass and on to the west coast. From SH73 you can also access Mount Hutt and other regional ski fields.

Typical distances and non-stop travel times to Christchurch:

  • Picton - 340 km, 4hr 30 min
  • Blenheim - 310 km, 4hr
  • Nelson - 420 km, 5hr 30min
  • Greymouth - 240 km, 3hr 15min
  • Timaru - 170 km, 2hr 15min
  • Dunedin - 360 km, 4hr 30 min
  • Queenstown - 480 km, 6hr
  • Invercargill - 570 km, 7hr

By Bus

Intercity Coach Lines and Newmans Coach Lines provides services throughout the South Island. There are daily bus services north to and from Picton, south to and from Dunedin and west to and from Queenstown and the West Coast (Greymouth, Hokitika), and Mount Cook.



Getting Around

Historic Tram in Christchurch

Historic Tram in Christchurch

© Honolulu

By Car

Christchurch is mostly flat with a grid-pattern layout, so navigation by road is generally simple. The central city is contained by the "four avenues" - Bealey Ave in the north, Fitzgerald Ave in the east, Deans Ave in the west, and Moorhouse Avenue in the south. Watch out for one-way streets and bus-and-taxi-only intersections in the central city.

Some of the options to rent cars include the following companies:

By Public Transport

The bus is the main form of public transport in Christchurch. There are three different companies and they are jointly called the Metro. Tourists can use the buses to get anywhere in the city. The core bus network has four cross-city routes and a circular route through the inner suburbs. Buses on these routes run every 15 minutes during the day, seven days a week. The four cross-city routes converge at Central Station.

  • Blue Line (B) - runs north-south between Belfast and Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH). Every other service continues north of Belfast to Kaiapoi and Rangiora, and every other service continues south of PMH to Cashmere. Connects with Orbiter at Northlands (north) and PMH (south).
  • Purple Line (P) - runs northwest-southeast between the Airport or Sheffield Crescent (alternating services) and Sumner. Connects with Orbiter at University of Canterbury and Westfield Riccarton.
  • Yellow Line (Y) - runs west-east between Hornby and New Brighton. Every other service continues west of Hornby to Rolleston. Connects with the Orbiter at Westfield Riccarton (west) and Eastgate Mall (east).
  • Orange Line (O) - runs south-west-northeast between Halswell and Queenspark. Connects with Orbiter at The Palms Mall.
  • The Orbiter (Or, green) - runs a circular route through the inner suburbs, starting and ending at Eastgate.

Christchurch Tramway is a limited service one way above ground tram mainly for tourists travelling in the city centre. As a lot of the city centre is still cordoned off the tram isn't currently running.

The Diamond Harbour Ferry connects the suburb of Lyttelton to Diamond Harbour.

By Foot

The city centre is small enough to navigate on foot.

By Bike

Christchurch is mostly flat, so many people get around on bicycles. Special-purpose bicycle lanes have been recently added to many streets to help promote cycling.




Fish'n'chips are the cheapest meal out. Halswell Fish and Chips offer the best fish and chips in town.

The Asian district is mainly in the Riccarton/Upper Riccarton area. Church Corner is often considered the unofficial 'Chinatown'. It has Chinese supermarkets, all kinds of Asian restaurants and more. There are many Korean restaurants there, and in the shopping precinct near Westfield Riccarton. KOSCO, a Korean supermarket, has several branches in Christchurch, including one in Riccarton.




  • No. 4, 4 Mansfield Avenue - Relaxed during the day and busy (but not too busy) on weekend nights. Great wines, Monteiths beers and a solid menu.
  • Bog Irish Pub - Located in The Speights Ale House, 263 Bealey Ave.
  • Aikmans Bistro & Bar, an upscale drinking spot in the trendy Merivale area. 154 Aikmans Rd, Merivale.
  • Ivy Cafe & Bar, 150 Aikmans Rd, Merivale.
  • Speights Ale House Tower Junction - A relaxed atmosphere bar, a great place for meals. Tower Junction Mega Centre, 55 Clarence St, Riccarton.
  • The Watershed Restaurant & Bar - Overlooking the waterfront in Ferrymead. 12/23 Humphrey's Drive, Ferrymead.
  • The Craic Irish Bar, 84 Riccarton Rd.
  • Dux Live, 363 Lincoln Road (behind the Mobil station) - Sells its own beer and alcoholic ginger beer, and has gigs, usually free, from local bands and beyond.
  • Addington Coffee Co-Op - Sells Fair Trade coffee and clothing in a lively atmosphere
  • If you fancy a short drive or bus ride (approximately 15 minutes from city centre), go to The Wunderbar in Lyttelton. It has a small room for gigs and is popular with artists. The Monster Bar (downstairs, next door) is an excellent Yakitori restaurant and bar though smaller and with more of a focus on DJs.




Backpackers are safe, clean, cheap and cheerful. The cheapest option is a share/dorm room usually costing around $28 per night. Most offer single rooms, twin and double rooms and shared rooms. The standard of backpackers is very good in New Zealand.

Motels are a notch up. Low end around $79 per night. There are also many good quality B&Bs in Christchurch and surrounding district.

Following the earthquakes, some major hotels were demolished. The Novotel in Cathedral Square and the Rendezvous Hotel were repaired and reopened in 2013. Several of the backpackers hostels and most of the motels in Christchurch are located outside the damaged CBD & are fully open for business, just check their websites for updates.


You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)




Keep Connected


Internet cafés are widely available throughout New Zealand at rates of around NZ$2-4, though sometimes more in smaller places. Besides internet and e-mail services, most big internet cafés also offer some way for travellers to connect their digital camera and burn cds. Many public libraries have public Internet access, and most of them offer short free internet sessions. Wi-Fi access is getting more and more common in for example coffee places or fast food chains. It is becoming more common for Wi-Fi to be provided at hotels and motels, though sometimes at a fee. Wireless Hotspots are located in many cities and towns all over New Zealand from dedicated Wireless providers from whom you can buy connect time. Many camping holiday parks also have such services available.


See also International Telephone Calls

Dial 111 for emergency police, fire or ambulance services. The worldwide emergency number for GSM mobile phones, 112, can also be used.
The country code is 64.

Most payphones in New Zealand require the use of phone cards for payment and it is getting harder to find payphones that accept coins. As phone cards are available at a lot of outlets, they are easy to purchase and very handy as a backup in case of emergencies. Many of them also accept creditcards. Local calls are free from residential phones and charges for calling outside that area can be found at the front of the regional phone books, amongst many other services.

Mobile telephone coverage is effectively national in near urban areas although the mountainous terrain means that outside the urban areas, and especially away from the main highway system, coverage does have huge dead patches. Do not rely on mobile phones in hilly or mountainous terrain. Mobile telephone users can call 555 only to report Non-emergency traffic safety incidents, such as a breakdown, road hazard or non-injury car crash, to the Police. There are currently three major mobile carriers in New Zealand.

  • Telecom operates a UMTS (3G) network, named XT Network, nationwide on 850MHz with supplementary 2100MHz in metropolitan areas. (the same frequencies as Telstra in Australia and AT&T in the U.S.)
  • Vodafone operates a GSM network on 900MHz/2100 MHz and a UTMS (3G) network operates nationwide 900MHz with supplementary 2100MHz coverage.
  • 2degrees operates a UMTS (3G) network (2100MHz) in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch, with supplementary GSM coverage provided elsewhere by Vodafone.

A prepaid sim-card connection pack with $10 credit from Telecom or Vodafone costs around $30, and prepaid sim-cards from 2degrees cost $10. Telecom has broader coverage in remote areas away from major cities compared to Vodafone and 2degrees.


Most areas have dedicated PostShops, however stamps can also be bought at grocery shops, supermarkets and book stores. There are two main formats for domestic mail, namely Standard Post and Fast Post. Fast Post is used next day delivery between major towns and cities (two days from rural areas), whereas Standard Post will take a few working days to deliver nationwide. Standard costs NZ$0.50 for letters/postcards (NZ$0.80 for larger envelopes), Fast Post costs NZ$0.80 (NZ$1.20 for larger envelopes). International mail takes about 3-6 days to Australia (NZ$1.50), and 6-12 days to Europe, Asia and the United States (NZ$2). Post boxes are white, red and black and can be found in many areas throughout towns and cities, including information about when their contents are collected. Most post offices and smaller post shops have opening hours from 9:00am to 5:00pm Monday to Friday, and 9:00am to 12:30pm on Saturday. You can buy stamps here, or at newsagents and general stores. For parcels, you can use the NZ Post or otherwise courier companies like TNT, DHL, UPS or FedEx.


Quick Facts


  • Latitude: -43.531637
  • Longitude: 172.636645

Accommodation in Christchurch

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Christchurch searchable right here on Travellerspoint.


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Christchurch Travel Helpers

  • fcAnnie

    Christchurch - which is also known as the city of Gardens is among one of the most beautiful place on the earth. I have been there many times and I read a lot about this metropolis as its my dreamland city. I have been so much involved in the activities, blogs, travel guides and many more things about Christchurch - now I feel like I am the localize of this city.

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