17 Great Things to do in Christchurch
Perhaps the best thing about visiting Christchurch is that the city is constantly changing and evolving! There are always new things popping up across the city, which make it an exciting place to visit!
Is Christchurch worth visiting? It’s a question that I’m sure a lot of people ask themselves when they travel to New Zealand.
Well, I can assure you that it most certainly is, as Christchurch is one of the most fascinating cities to visit in New Zealand!
I spent 10 months of my working holiday in New Zealand there and despite the city being a bit of a mess, it was an interesting place to live!
Things to do in Christchurch
1. Godley Head
Godley Head is without a doubt one of the best places to visit in Christchurch. It’s a bit of a drive from the centre of the city, but it’s definitely worth it!
Once you get here you will find beautiful views as you look out across the southern Ocean! You will also find an old army barracks as well, which is great to explore.
Although you’re not supposed to enter, everyone does anyway and there’s no one to stop you. There are lots of cool things to see such as old battery stations and lookouts, which have fantastic views!
If you’re wondering what to do in Christchurch, then going to Godley Head is a great idea! You can get outside of the city for a bit and visit a little-known destination! What’s not to love!
2. New Brighton
New Brighton is one of the best places to go in Christchurch if you want to go to a beach. The one here is very long and perfect for surfing if that’s your thing!
There isn’t an awful lot in New Brighton apart from the beach it has to be said. However, the beach here is definitely worth a visit. It’s very long and is a great place to come for the evening to see the sunset.
The surf here is good as well and if you’re a first-time surfer it’s a good place to get to grips with the sport. The length of the beach means that there is a lot of space for you to make mistakes without getting in anyone’s way!
It might not be the most amazing of Christchurch’s attractions, but New Brighton has charm nonetheless!
Sumner was one of my favourite places in Christchurch. This beachside suburb is arguably the most picturesque in the city with great views of the ocean. What’s more, the beaches here aren’t too bad either!
It may not be one of the most well-known points of interest in Christchurch, but it’s one that you should definitely visit! On a sunny day, it’s just beautiful. When I was living in Christchurch, I used to love cycling down here on my days off to relax and take in the great views!
There are numerous great cafes and restaurants dotted around and there are even barbecue stations by the beach. So, if you fancy a day out at the beach, Sumner is the place to go! You can’t visit the South Island without a trip to this beautiful town!
4. Taylor’s Mistake
Apart from the odd name, Taylor’s Mistake is one of the best places to visit in Christchurch if you love surfing and going to the beach!
The name came about because a master of a vessel named Taylor ran his boat into the bay one night after mistakenly thinking he was passing the Sumner Bar! Funny name aside, this is one of the best beaches in New Zealand!
The beach has some great surf and is arguably the best place to go if you want to do some surfing in Christchurch. The beach itself is beautiful as well, as it’s not far from Godley Head and is a great place to relax during a summer’s day.
It is quite a distance from the city centre, about a 20-minute drive. However, it’s well worth it, and shouldn’t leave Christchurch without visiting Taylor’s Mistake!
5. Christchurch Cathedral(s)
One of the best things to in Christchurch for free is to visit the two cathedrals in the city. They certainly make for interesting viewing!
Let me explain:
Firstly, the original cathedral is in a state of disrepair after being badly damaged during the 2011 earthquake. There is still a debate as to whether it should be repaired or a new one built in its place.
As a result, it is left to stand as a monument to the devastation that occurred. It’s a humbling sight and I do wonder how it could be rebuilt given the damage that was done. During its absence, the city currently has a makeshift cathedral.
This one is made of cardboard, hence the name the Cardboard Cathedral! It too is an impressive sight and stands as a testament to the spirit and resilience of the people of Christchurch.
The old cathedral was, and still is in some ways, the symbol of the city. While the Cardboard Cathedral represents a new dawn for the city. Both are must visits in Christchurch as far as I’m concerned!
6. Hagley Park
Here’s an interesting fact:
Hagley Park is the third largest inner city park in the world behind Central Park and Hyde Park in New York and London respectively. Apart from that obscure factoid, Hagley Park is one of Christchurch’s attractions you’ll want to check out!
The park is really beautiful and it’s a great place to go if it’s a sunny day and simply just relax. Due to the size of the park, there are normally a lot of events held here. The New Zealand cricket team play matches here occasionally and it gets used for various other events too!
If you’re wondering what’s on in Christchurch, then you could do worse than head down to Hagley Park and have a look as there’s nearly always something going on!
Lyttleton is one the most charming suburbs in Christchurch. Its location next to a harbour makes it a spectacular location!
It’s a bit of a way outside of the city centre, but there are frequent buses there and it is definitely worth a trip to have a look around. Th scenery is beautiful with the port providing a beautiful backdrop to the Port Hills in the background.
Lyttelton felt the brunt of the earthquakes in 2011 and a lot of buildings had to be demolished. However, the area still has a lot of beauty and it makes a great day trip from Christchurch.
A good time to visit Lyttleton is from 10 am to 1 pm on Saturday for the Lyttleton Farmers Market. You can check the local goods in the knowledge that any money will go back into repairing a community severely damaged by the Canterbury earthquakes!
8. New Regent Street
Visiting New Regent Street was a bit of a shock for me when I first arrived in Christchurch. Simply because the street looked so out of place in the city.
The design and decor of the buildings had a Mediterranean feel to them. They felt a lot different to the other buildings that were still standing in the CBD at the time. It doesn’t feel in keeping with the city either, which is considered as the most English city outside of England!
Nonetheless, New Regent Street is beautiful and seems to have avoided the worst of the earthquake. There are a few shops and cafes here that are definitely worth a visit!
New Regent Street is one of the places to see in Christchurch you can’t miss!
9. The Summit Road
If you have a car, then driving The Summit Road is one of the best things to do in Christchurch. You will get fantastic views of the city and of Lyttleton too, as you traverse the Port hills above the city.
If you don’t have a car, then The Summit Road is still accessible by foot or bike. There are numerous walking and cycling trails that you can do in the area. It may be better to do it by foot or bike as you get to savour the area and views for longer than by car.
The Port Hills have suffered damage recently from the earthquakes and fires in 2017, so some areas may be off-limits. However, this shouldn’t put you off going to one of the best places in Christchurch.
The views alone are on of the best reasons to visit New Zealand!
10. Re:Start Mall
The Re:Start Mall has become the symbol of the resurrection of Christchurch since the earthquakes.
The old Cashel shopping mall was destroyed by the earthquake leaving the centre of the city without a lot of shops. Once the city centre was deemed safe enough to reopen to the public, a new mall was constructed out of shipping containers!
Quite simply, this is one of the most ingenious ideas that I have had the pleasure of seeing in action! There wasn’t a lot of shops, but it was a great way to breathe life into the centre of the city. Plus, the vibrant colours of the containers added character to the place.
The Re:Start Mall is a testament to the strength of character of the people in Christchurch and is a must visit to sample the great shops and cafes that are there!
11. Quake City Christchurch
If you want to get a better idea of how much the earthquakes affected Christchurch, then you have to visit Quake city!
This is one of the most eye-opening things to do in Christchurch. I didn’t realise just how much deadly the earthquake was until I visited here!
The exhibits here are fascinating as they detail how the earthquake in February 2011 affected the city. They have models that explain just how and why the earthquake caused do much damage.
It is a bit pricey at $20, but if you want to understand and learn about the power of earthquakes then I advise you visit!
12. International Antarctic Centre
The International Antartic Centre is one of the more interesting places to go in Christchurch. Mainly, as the name suggests, this place is dedicated to Antarctica. Why is this place in Christchurch you ask?
Well, let me explain:
Christchurch has been the last stop for expeditions before they set off for Antarctica. Most of the trips to the South Pole fly out of Christchurch Airport, hence why the centre is in the airport grounds.
I worked at the airport for a few months and got to see the centre up close and it’s definitely worth a visit if you want to learn more about Antarctica.
You can also ride a Hagglund, which is the vehicle used to navigate around Antarctica. It’s great fun, especially if you’re travelling with children!
13. Christchurch Botanic Gardens
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of botanic gardens! The gardens in Adelaide are among my favourite that I have visited so far and the one in Christchurch is up there too!
The gardens are located close to Hagley Park and the Canterbury museum. They are a perfect place to visit if you want a day out in the sun and somewhere to relax in Christchurch.
You have a range of attractions at the Botanic Gardens. From the Herb Garden which has plants of culinary and medicinal value to a collection of plants from around the globe, the Gardens have a wealth of things to see!
14. Broken buildings
Despite the earthquakes happening over 7 years ago, there are still a lot of buildings that lie as a testament to the power of nature.
I arrived 3 years after the earthquake and the city centre had only been recently been reopened. The impact of the earthquake was still highly visible and remained so during my 10 months living in the city. The prime example is the Cathedral.
There are still a lot of neighbourhoods that bear the scars of the earthquake. I lived near a huge hotel that had been abandoned and it wasn’t a long walk to find numerous houses that had suffered the same fate.
I’ll admit it’s not a pretty sight seeing all these damaged buildings. However, it does hammer home just how much the people of Christchurch have suffered and allows to understand what the city has been going through recently.
15. Bridle Path
The Christchurch Gondola is one of the more popular tourist attractions in Christchurch. However, I feel walking the Bridle Path is more rewarding and offers better value for money, as it’s free!
The walk starts from the Gondola car park and takes about 3 hours to reach the top of Mount Cavendish and return to the car park. Believe me, this is well worth doing as you will get some incredible views of Christchurch!
If you’re not much of a walker you can take the Gondola, but the views once you reach the top are amazing and the sense of accomplishment that goes with it is equally satisfying!
16. Travis Wetland
If you want another nice walk in Christchurch, then going to the Travis Wetland will be for you.
The wetland is a restoration programme aimed at restoring land that was previously used as a dairy farm. The track only takes an hour to complete, so it’s ideal for a stroll either in the morning or in the evening.
If you’re visiting Christchurch with kids, then the wetland is a great place to visit. There is a big Children’s playground which looked like great fun! Travis Wetland is an ideal place for a family day trip from Christchurch.
There is a lot of wildlife in the wetland as well, as it’s slowly returned to its former state. Birds, in particular, can be spotted regularly throughout the track!
17. Canterbury Museum
The Canterbury Museum is the place to go if you want to learn more about the history of Christchurch and the wider Canterbury region.
It’s located close to the Botanic Gardens and has a number of fascinating exhibits about the early life of the settlers in Canterbury. There is also a separate Roman Museum, which details Roman history and has a number of great exhibitions.
The price of entry isn’t too much at $12 and it’s well worth it if you love history as much as I do!
Best time to visit Christchurch
When considering the best time to visit New Zealand, you have to take into account the weather. This is especially true in Christchurch. For some reason, the city has a rather unpredictable climate.
I remember days working outside when the weather would change from sunny to rainy in an instant. I also remember days in the middle of winter when it would reach 20 degrees and then plummet to single figures the next! The weather in Christchurch can keep you guessing at times!
Undoubtedly, the weather is a lot better during the summer in Christchurch. Temperatures are regularly above 20 degrees and you can enjoy the numerous beaches and walking trails in the city.
Conversely, it can get really cold during the winter here. I remember days when it got to freezing! Many of the days the temperature rarely went above 10 degrees. Unless you want to do winter sports then I would advise visiting Christchurch during the summer.
Unless you want to do winter sports then I would advise visiting Christchurch during the summer. The weather is better and you can enjoy the beautiful outdoors without the threat of rain or freezing to death!
Where to stay in Christchurch
If you’re wondering where to stay in Christchurch, then you can be reassured by the fact there is a lot of choice in the city. Despite all the trouble in recent years, there are plenty of hostels and hotels in Christchurch.
I stayed in a few places during my time in Christchurch, so I can give an honest assessment of these places. I have also listed a few hotels which have a great reputation in the city.
Christchurch YHA – A recently renovated hostel, which is conveniently located in the centre of Christchurch. Spacious kitchen and living area!
Jailhouse – This is a former jailhouse turned into a hostel! If you like staying at quirky places, then the Jailhouse is the place for you!
Point Break Backpackers – Located by the beach in New Brighton, this is an ideal place to stay if you want to get away from the centre!
Ibis – A nice hotel right in the heart of Christchurch. A good option for budget travellers.
Novotel – A lovely hotel close to Cathedral Square in the centre of the city. Great facilities, ideal for families.
Ramada Suites – If you want a bigger space when staying in Christchurch, then the Ramada Suites are for you. Located close to the centre.
Despite suffering in recent years, there are plenty of things to do in Christchurch. The city is coming back strong from disaster and has a lot of great places to visit.
It wasn’t easy living here at times, but there’s no doubt that travelling to Christchurch is a must while you’re in New Zealand. It’s one of the best places to visit on the South Island, and can act as a gateway to the rest of the Island!
Do you agree with my assessment of what to do in Christchurch? Is there anything that I left out, let me know in the comments below!
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