The capital of the province of Canterbury has an unmistakable British charm, with stately homes, elegantly manicured gardens and Edwardian-style punters slowly pushing boats down the Avon River.

It was established in 1850 by Anglican English settlers and the influence really shows in the imposing neo-gothic buildings.

Sadly, much of the beautiful heritage core of this city was destroyed by tragic earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. These earthquakes were one of the biggest natural disasters in New Zealand’s history and they left 186 people dead and many more homeless.

Since then, the city has been on a path to recovery and the downtown is being revitalised at an impressive pace.

You’ll see the creative ways that shipping containers and other temporary buildings have been turned into shops, pop-up cafes and unique market stalls. The restored Christchurch Tramway runs in a circular loop through the inner city, but Christchurch is small and flat enough to get around via bicycle (or on foot).

A lovely place to explore is Hagley Park, where you can watch a rugby game or go through a stroll through the sweet-smelling Botanical Gardens. Christchurch may have been shaken, but it’s still proudly carrying on. The residents have been through a lot, but they look to the future with a positive attitude and always greet visitors with a smile.

Christchurch Tram

Activities & Attractions

Dining

From romantic fine dining to casual international eateries, Christchurch offers a lot of options for hungry foodies.

There’s the fresh, healthy cuisine prepared at Strawberry Fare - with organic, local ingredients. Or, you can check out Gustav’s Kitchen and Wine Bar, which offers one of the largest wine lists in New Zealand.

There’s also the Lotus Heart Vegetarian Restaurant, with elegant and refined cuisine so tasty you won’t even notice the meat is missing.

Of course, if you’re in the mood for something more casual you can always visit Cathedral Square on a Friday night and check out the diverse range of international food trucks serving everything from Thai noodles to bratwurst to Sri Lankan curry. 

We also love the laid-back atmosphere and cuisine of Cafe Valentino (pictured), where New York cool meets Italian elegance, in the central city.

Cafe Valentino, Christchurch

Hiking

There are many beautiful places where you can enjoy a relaxing stroll.

A lovely trail is Godley Head Coastal Walk. It is a well-surfaced track along the coastline, with views of the crashing surf and Pegasus Bay. If you’re lucky, you might even spot whales and dolphins!

If you've got walking shoes and don't mind the odd incline, head to the Port Hills, which is a series of hills between Christchurch and the port of Lyttelton. There are lots of small to large walks you can tackle with incredible views over the city. You can of course drive part of the way also. 

(Pictured: Port Hills, ChristchurchNZ.com)

Port Hills - Christchurch

Shopping

Christchurch will delight shopaholics as well. From international brands to high end fashion to funky vintage shops - it has a little bit of everything.

Head to The Crossing, where you’ll find stylish fashion shops as well as great places to grab a bite to eat. You can also check out the BNZ Centre, a bright and airy square with laneways packed with unique shops.

It’s also worth a visit to Ballantynes - a Christchurch institution that offers everything from pantry goodies to homewares to high end cosmetics. 

 

Museums & Art

This city has an impressive array of museums and galleries to explore. The Canterbury Museum has a huge collection of natural and human history artefacts - including Maori artwork, fossilised insects and much more. You can also visit the Christchurch Art Gallery, which reopened after earthquake repairs in December 2015. The gallery is filled with thought-provoking modern artwork and there are free tours with professional guides.

 

Punting on the Avon River

One of the iconic must-do activities in Christchurch is to go punting on the Avon River. You’ll feel like you are in a romantic historic painting as you are slowly propelled along the peaceful river by a dapper punter in a straw hat, crisp white shirt, striped blazer and braces.

You’ll start your journey from the heritage Antigua Boatshed Landing. Simply sit back in the velvet cushions of the boat and watch the views of the Botanic Gardens go by.

Avon River Punting

History & Culture

According to archeological evidence, the Christchurch area was first settled in around 1250 by moa-hunting tribes. After these first inhabitants came the Waitaha tribe in the 16th century, who migrated from the East Coast of the North Island.  The land was subsequently taken over by the Ngati Mamoe tribe, then the Ngai Tahu tribe, before the European settlers arrived.

Christchurch was officially established as a city until 1856 and it is the oldest city in New Zealand. The city was named by founder John Robert Godley, who attended Christ Church college in Oxford.

The city experienced a series of devastating earthquakes between 2010 and 2012, with the worst quake happening on February 22nd 2011. 186 people were killed and thousands of buildings were destroyed. Recovery is still ongoing and around 50,000 new houses was expected to be constructed in Greater Christchurch by 2028.

Cranmer Court

Key Facts

  • Public transport is operated by two bus companies and a ferry service. You can pay with cash or Metrocard. Here’s a helpful guide to public transport in Christchurch.
  • You can also take the Christchurch Tram, which travels a small one-way loop of the inner city and stops at 17 locations. You can hop on and off at any stop and trams operate every 15-20 minutes.
  • Christchurch is the third largest city in New Zealand, behind Auckland and Wellington.
  • The economy of this city is based mostly on agriculture from the rural areas (such as wheat, barley, wool and meat). Also, wine and tourism are major industries in the region.
  • At 160 hectares, Hagley Park is larger than Hyde Park in London. It’s a very popular place for locals to relax on a sunny afternoon.
  • The people of Christchurch take their coffee very seriously, so you will find several high quality cafes throughout the city serving premium beans.

Christchurch with MoaTrek

Most MoaTrek tours finish in Christchurch, so why not fly out a day or two after the tour finishes and explore the city and surrounding region.

Aside from choosing from the highlights above, we've also got a list of our favourite optional activities, that includes a cruise on Akaroa harbour (with the possibility of swimming with Hectors dolphins).

Our recommended post- tour accommodation is the Distinction Christchurch hotel in the revitalised heart of Christchurch and Cathedral Square. The Distinction Christchurch is centrally located and a short stroll to the Botanical Gardens, New Regent Street, the Arts Centre and Avon River.

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