Travel Articles

Christchurch City Guide

Surrounded by the Cashmere Hills, Christchurch is the South Island's largest city and the gateway to the Canterbury region. With its tree-lined Avon River, gorgeous parks, gardens and heritage buildings, Christchurch is considered the most English of New Zealand's cities and is likened to it's namesake in Kent not only in style but in climate.

 

In September 2010 and February 2011, large earthquakes occurred near Christchurch causing some serious damage and loss of life. The famous Christchurch Cathedral like a lot of central city buildings was badly damaged and has since been removed. (In its place a unique Cardboard Cathedral has risen - truly amazing!) 

Today Christchurch is in the midst of a rebuild and it's a genuinely exciting place to visit with bold and visionary initiatives working alongside some of the more traditional Christchurch attractions that we know and love. Bold, vibrant, with a strong sense of resilience and compassion, Christchurch is rebuilding itself into what it wants to be, not just what it was.

Look for Pop Up Exhibitions, shows and events that showcase contemporary creative work and check out the Container Precinct and other unique and creative ways people have come up with to deal with the challenges a city in a state of flux must face.  

Often described as a little piece of England thanks to its very traditional English architecture, Christchurch is also known as the Garden City due to the large number of parks, gardens and trees throughout the city. Sadly, some of the most famous central city buildings are gone, but there are still plenty of examples in the suburbs – particularly the older ones. Ask a local – chances are they'll be pleased to offer recommendations, any chance to show off their beloved city to you.  

A cultural city, Christchurch boasts a thriving, theatre, dance, music and art scene, helped no doubt by the University of Canterbury, The Christchurch Polytechnic Insititute of Technology and the nearby Lincoln University. 

Summers in Christchurch are typically warm and dry with the famous Nor-Wester bringing unusually hot weather and a beautiful and distinctive arch in the clouds over the flat, often parched, plains. Christchurch summers mean swimming in the sea at Sumner, New Brighton or in the many bays of Banks Peninsula. 

Winter in Christchurch means crisp clear days with white snow glistening like icing sugar on the distant Southern Alps. (Or sometimes the not so distant Port Hills right behind the city!) Being only a couple of hours away from some brilliant alpine resorts Christchurch is a great place to base yourself if you’re into some fun in the snow. It's not particularly wet during winter – certainly not compared to Auckland, but when it rains it rains hard. Mother Nature certainly adopts the attitude of most Cantabrians – if it's worth doing, it's worth doing it right!  






Things To Do
  • Canterbury Museum At the Eastern edge of Hagley Park, this excellent regional museum contains exhibitions of early Antarctic relics, a Maori gallery, a pioneer street, period furniture and a rooftop planetarium.
  • Christchurch International Antarctic Centre Not far from the airport, this award-winning centre focuses on the Antarctic, with hands on exhibits, a Hagglund Antarctic snowmobile ride, an aquarium and audiovisual displays.
  • Willowbank Wildlife Reserve
    Located on Hussey Road in Christchurch, the reserve has an extensive selection of native wildlife and a large kiwi house.
  • Air Force Museum of New Zealand
    Located at nearby Wigram, the complex showcases planes and Air Force memorabilia at the country's first airbase.
  • Orana Wildlife Park
    New Zealand's only open-range zoo specialises in endangered New Zealand and African animals, with a walk-through aviary and nocturnal kiwi house. Located on McLeans Island Rd, Harewood.
  • Ferrymead Heritage Park
    Southeast of the city, this working transport museum showcases locomotives, cars, machinery and appliances.
  • Hagley Park
    The city's largest park (200ha) contains cycling and walking tracks, sports grounds, a golf course and, within its central reaches, the 30ha Christchurch Botanic Gardens. A pleasant diversion is to hire a punt at the old Antigua Boatsheds on Rolleston Avenue and view the park from the Avon River.
  • Christchurch Botanic Gardens
    These beautiful gardens contain some lovely walks past award-winning flowers and plants.
  • Punting on the River Avon
    The river meanders from the suburb of Avonhead through the inner city, providing good views of Hagley Park from the water. Punts and canoes are available for hire at the old Antigua Boatshed, built in 1882.
  • Christchurch Casino
    New Zealand's first casino, located on Victoria Street, offers a selection of gaming options, bars and dining at the Grand Café restaurant.
  • Flightseeing
  • A number of operators provide flights over the city and the magnificent alpine country nearby. Tour options include:
    • Mount Cook Ski Planes and The Helicopter Line
      Great Sights - half and full day tours, with coach and aircraft options available.

Walking & Mountain Biking Tracks

Christchurch city’s parks and gardens offer an easy stroll on the flat, or hike the scenic hill climbs and the half and full day hikes slightly further afield.

Unfortunately due to the earthquakes and consequent rebuild activity, some tracks and paths are no longer open to the public or considered safe. Check the council website here first - they have the full list and they update it weekly. 

Likewise, many mountainbike tracks have been effected, particularly those on the Port Hills where the risk of rock falls is high. Please check the council track status guide here, and remember to follow any posted signs. 

Some of the tracks cross private land - the farmers grant you access as a favour. If they ask you not to cross their fields at certain times of the year, it's for a good reason. (Usually it's when their ewe's are with lamb. Big frights from careening mountainbikers could cause the mothers to miscarry their lambs or go into premature labour. You don't want to be responsible for that do you?!) 

Useful Information

Police, Fire and Ambulance - phone 111.
Christchurch Central Police Station is located at the corner of Cambridge Terrace and Hereford Streets, phone 03 363 7400.

The 24 Hour SurgeryEmergency and general practice care
Corner Bealey Avenue and Colombo Street, phone 365 7777.

Christchurch Hospital 
Riccarton Avenue, phone 364 0640 or the Emergency Dept, phone 364 0270.

Urgent/After Hours Dental Care 
The NZ Dental Association, phone 366 6644 then 3002 for the rostered after hours dentist.

Urgent Pharmacy (Open to 11pm)
931 Colombo St, phone 366 4439.

Banks & ATMS 
Trading banks are normally open Monday-Friday, from 9am-4.30pm. There are ATMs (money machines) and exchange facilities at most banks.


Embassies/Consulates

British High Commission
Auckland, phone (09) 303 2973
Wellington, phone (04) 924 2888

Royal Danish Consulate-General
Auckland, phone (09) 537 3099
Wellington, phone (04) 471 0520

Consulate-General of Finland
Auckland, phone (09) 368 5711
Wellington, phone (04) 924 3416

Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany
Auckland, phone (09) 375 8718
Wellington, phone (04) 473 6063

Consulate-General of Japan
Auckland, phone (09) 303 4106
Christchurch, phone 03) 366 5680 / (03) 366 9030

Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Wellington, phone (04) 471 6390, (04) 4716395 (Consular)

Consulate of the Netherlands
Auckland, phone (09) 379 5399
Christchurch, phone (03) 963 1485

Consulate of Spain

Hastings, phone (06) 870 3313
Auckland, phone (09) 923 7144 / (09) 373 7599 ext 87144
Christchurch, phone (03) 365 2700

Consulate-General of Sweden
Auckland, phone (09) 378 1277
Wellington, phone (04) 499 9895


Foreign Exchange

There are a number of foreign exchange bureaux around the city as well as the major banks.

GST

A Goods & Services Tax (GST) of 15% is applied to the cost of all goods and services in New Zealand, except for purchases at duty-free shops.

Phone Services

  • When phoning Christchurch numbers from out of town, dial 03 first.
  • Local calls from a Telecom payphone cost 70c a call.
  • You can use a Telecom PhoneCard or any major credit card on any payphone. Many also take coins and 500 payphones have a modem port for internet access.
  • AT&T direct 000 911 National directory 018
  • International directory 0172 National tolls 010
  • International tolls 0170

Postal Services

New Zealand Post
phone: 0800 501 501
Open Monday to Friday 8.30am-5.30pm, Saturday 10am-2pm.


Public Transport & Rentals

Christchurch Bus Exchange can be found on two temporary sites - one in Bealey Avenue and the other is near the hospital. 
For bus information contact Christchurch Bus Services, phone 359 0083.

Visitor Information

International and Domestic Terminal Christchurch International Airport 
Phone 353 7774


Handy Information

Leave a comment!
Accommodation
Activities
Combined View