Located on the eastern coast of New Zealand’s South Island, Christchurch is a picturesque getaway nestled by Pegasus Bay to the east and the Southern Alps to the west. With its strong English heritage dating back to the mid-1800s, Christchurch is known for its Gothic Revival architecture as well as the charming English-style gardens that have earned the town the nickname of The Garden City. After undergoing major renovations after a series of earthquakes a few years back, Christchurch is a vibrant hub that’s home to restaurants, cafes, theaters, and music venues that are catered to a wide variety of tastes. Outside of town, you can surf, ski, hike, bike, whale-watch, and visit wineries—all within 2 hours of the city center.
Areas & Neighborhoods in Christchurch
Central City — Bounded by Deans, Bealey, Moorehouse, and Fitzgerald avenues, Central City is the historic heart of Christchurch. Find a range of chic boutiques, funky restaurants, and vibrant bars along vivacious streets such as Victoria, St. Asaph, and High Street. On the west side of the district is sprawling Hagley Park, which is home to some of the city’s top attractions including the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and the Canterbury Museum.
Merivale — Abutting Central City to the northwest, Merivale is where the stylish come to the eat and shop. On Papanui Road between Aikmans and Office, the Merivale Mall boasts more than 40 elegant stores and and nearly 10 cafes and eateries. South from the mall until Bealey Avenue, “Motel Mile” offers pleasant bed-and-breakfasts in a safe and quiet atmosphere.
Riccarton — To the west of Hagley Park is Riccarton, a district that became an important retail and entertainment hub following the earthquakes that shut down Central City. Here is where you’ll find the massive Westfield Shopping Mall, tons of motels and coffee shops, and a rapidly growing number of restaurants serving delicious and inexpensive Asian eats.
Sumner/Ferrymead — Lying on the southeastern tip of Christchurch about 9 miles (14 km) from Central City, Sumner is a postcard-worthy beach destination ideal for visiting in the warm weather months. The neighborhood is characterized by steep hillsides that offer stunning views of the coast, as well as The Esplanade, where surfers gather after hitting the waves. Ferrymead, about 4 miles (7 km) to the west, has become the area’s prime spot for shopping and dining.
What to See in Christchurch
Scope out all the city’s best sights aboard an old-timey streetcar. From the heart of Christchurch at Cathedral Junction, grab a seat near the window for a ride that takes you past key landmarks like the Isaac Theatre Royal, the Bridge of Remembrance, and the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Hop off at any of the 17 stops along the route to further explore on your own.
With a combo package, your sightseeing tour can also offer you a different perspective on the region—one from the height of 1,640 feet (500 m) above sea level. Aboard the Christchurch Gondola, soar suspended over the valley until you reach the top of Mount Cavendish. From the summit, gaze out upon panoramic views of the glittering harbor, the patchwork plains, and the dramatic snowy peaks of the Southern Alps.
Sightseeing in ChristchurchFor Outdoor Explorers
Spend a day immersed in the breathtaking scenery of New Zealand with an excursion into the inland alpine areas of the South Island. From Christchurch, set off for a drive across the Canterbury Plains to Lake Tekapo, a turquoise swath of water that glimmers against the deep blue mountains and emerald hills. Continue on into Mount Cook National Park, where you have free time to explore the trails at your leisure. Climb the craggy terrain of the Tasman Glacier to reach Lake Tasman, a recently formed body of water dotted with tiny icebergs.For Adrenaline Junkies
Feel your heart race as you fly over the cold waters of the Waimakariri River on a thrilling jet boat ride. The speed demon shoots you into a land of steep canyons and rocky riverbeds, propelling you past evergreen forests, towering mountains, and cascading waterfalls. Hold onto your seat as your captain performs death-defying sprints and spins, slowing down just long enough for you to catch your breath before tackling the aquatic stunts once more.For Peace Seekers
Sit back and relax as you soak in the tranquil scenery surrounding the Avon River, which winds its way through the heart of Christchurch. On a flat-bottomed boat, let a skilled punter maneuver you slowly around the riverbends, offering views of the antique buildings and lush botanic gardens.For Food & Wine Aficionados
Uncork the secrets of South Island winemaking in the Waipara Valley, a cool-weather region known for producing world-class wines. Sip your way through the lowlands as you visit 4 esteemed wineries, sampling bright and fruity riesling and exquisitely spicy pinot noir. With your appetite whetted, head to an estate for a lunch made of vino-friendly antipasto plates. Nibble on fresh cheese, seasonal fruit, cured meat, and house-baked bread, all expertly paired with mouthwatering wine.For Movie Buffs
Dive into the fantastical world created by Lord of the Rings on a journey into Middle-Earth. From Christchurch, set off toward Mount Sunday, where the peaceful peaks and sprawling valley were transformed into the movie’s capital city of Rohan. Throughout the day, hear entertaining details and behind-the-scenes stories from the filming process. Upon reaching Mount Sunday, hike to the summit to take in panoramic views over vast plains and incandescent lakes. With the region providing the ultimate backdrop, pose for photos with replicas of movie props such as Aragorn’s sword and Gimli’s axe.