When it comes to New Zealand, Christchurch is an underrated and amazing city. From great shopping to gorgeous rivers and stunning parks, you'll have everything you'd want access to and more in this small city that packs a punch.
Whether you're heading out to the incredible landscape that surrounds Christchurch or simply ambling through the city center, you'll continue to see the beauty in the city and the warmth of the locals.
Be sure to visit the museums and experience Christchurch's rich history, and marvel at how the city has been able to pick itself up following the 2011 earthquake.
One of the most serene places in the entire city is the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Learn about the local flora, kayak, and take punt tours on the river. With quiet areas for picnics, expansive parks for running around, and beautiful gardens, this spot has it all.
It's no secret that Christchurch was torn apart by the 2011 earthquake, and while the effects are still felt, you'll see a city that was able to rebuild and came out even better than before.
The New Zealand South Island is one of the most miraculously stunning places on the planet and you can explore this area very easily from the city of Christchurch.
Throughout the city you'll find non-traditional art displays unlike anywhere else. From eye-catching murals to large sculptures meant to look like wheat, you'll never see a more impressive selection.
While many cities have superb shopping, Christchurch is a treat because of some of its historical ties. Be sure to visit Ballantynes, the oldest department store in the city that opened in 1854.
From Heathcote Valley to the summit of Mount Cavendish, the Christchurch Gondola travels some 1,000 meters into the sky above the city, providing visitors with unforgettable views of the Canterbury Plains with the Southern Alps in the distance. At the top, when you've snapped a photo of every angle, there's an excellent historical museum and dining spot, while the base station is easily accessible from central Christchurch via a dedicated shuttle bus.
Built on a bend in the Avon River, the city's Botanic Gardens date back to 1863 and have become one of the richest collections of New Zealand's flora in the country. Isolated from much of the world by geography, the country has some unique ferns and flowers, and all of them are on display here. But the collection goes well beyond the North and South Islands, with the tropical plants in Cuningham House and the stunning Central Rose Garden among the highlights. Add in art exhibitions and the kid's paddling pool, and the Botanic Gardens are a superb family attraction.
It's unlikely you've ever seen a shopping mall like this. As the name hints, Container Mall was constructed almost entirely from used shipping containers. Built as part of the reconstruction following the 2011 earthquake, the mall was supposed to be a temporary measure, but it received such a positive response that it's lived on for years. In the process of being reshaped again, you can visit this unique shopping venue to find markets, boutiques, and plenty of pop-up food vendors right at the heart of town.
Just a few miles west of the city, you'll find Orana: a huge open-range zoo that's home to over 400 animals spread across more than 70 different species. Built in 1976, the zoo is one of New Zealand's premier conservation organizations, helping to preserve endangered species. Get to know local residents like the white rhino, New Zealand's only gorilla community, as well as giraffes, kiwis, and a pride of lions. Zookeepers are happy to help you feed some of the animals and you can take a tour of the lion reserve or pet critters at the farmyard - great fun for any nature fans.
When you visit the Botanic Gardens, be sure to find time to tour the Canterbury Museum, which is right next door. Christchurch's premier museum, the Canterbury features a huge array of New Zealand-related exhibits. Find out about Maori culture, see a reconstructed 19th-century street and check out the wider collection of global exhibits, including Japanese art, a huge range of items from Antarctic exploration expeditions, and the skeletons of New Zealand's now-extinct flightless birds. It's a cornucopia is wonderful exhibits.
Although Christchurch is a lovely city all year round, one of the best times to visit is the spring (September to November). This is because the city has so many parks and green areas and this season is when all the flowers are in bloom and the temperature is perfect for sightseeing. However, unlike its Australian neighbor, Christchurch has a relatively mild climate. Summer days usually don't go above 77 degrees and the winters aren't that harsh, with temperatures usually hovering around 50 degrees.
Christchurch Airport (CHC) is located just seven miles from the city center. The easiest way to get into the city is to take the public bus that leaves from just outside the airport. This costs NZ$3.50 one way. You can also take a shuttle bus service, which will take you anywhere in the city for a flat rate of NZ$25/person and NZ$4 for every subsequent person. The final way to get into the city is using a taxi, which will cost you around NZ$45.
The most popular train company that serves Christchurch is the TranzAlpine, which has direct services to and from Greymouth, Kaikoura, and Picton. All trains depart and arrive into the Christchurch Railway Station. Prices will vary, but expect to pay around NZ$100.
The main highway leading to Christchurch is the State Highway 1, coming from the south or down from the north. Should you want to come at Christchurch from the east or west, you'll need State Highway 73.
There are several bus companies that serve Christchurch, such as InterCity and Newmans Coach Lines. You can get daily bus services to Picton, Greymouth, Dunedin, Queenstown, and more. Prices will be around NZ$42 and will depart and arrive into the Christchurch Bus Interchange.
Whether you're looking for 5-star hotels, small and historic boutique hotels, or budget accommodation, Christchurch has many options for you. If you're looking for luxury, try the upscale Hotel Montreal or Chateau on the Park in Christchurch Central. For more affordable options, try the YHA Christchurch Backpackers in Christchurch Central or the Novotel Christchurch in Riccarton.
Christchurch Central - the most popular area of Christchurch is the very center of this city. This is where you'll find the vast majority of hotels with easy access to all the sights and excellent shopping.
Riccarton - if you're looking for excellent shopping and many delicious restaurant options then this is the neighborhood for you. It's home to the largest shopping mall in Christchurch, Westfield Riccarton, and lots of Asian restaurants, such as Buddha Stix or King of Snake, so you'll have plenty to do.
Hagley Park/Botanic Gardens - just on the outskirts of Christchurch Central, you'll find the area of the city dedicated to beautiful parks and grounds. It's just a 5 to 10-minute walk from the city center and you'll also find the Canterbury Museum here as well.
Buses are the bread and butter of Christchurch public transportation. They can take you all around the city and if you get a Metrocard, you'll be capped at NZ$5 per day. Should you wish to buy single journeys, it's NZ$3.50 each. There's also the tramway, which has a small circuit in the city center, but because it's a tourist attraction it will cost you NZ$25.
Taxis are relatively expensive in Christchurch, but there are multiple companies that serve the city, so there will be plenty around. Base fares are NZ$3 and average NZ$3 per mile. However, the city is small so you probably won't find yourself needing to go too far.
Within the city center you'll find locations for Hertz, Avis, Omega, and Apex. Car rentals can be quite pricey, so expect to pay around NZ$350 for a three-day rental. If you go above four days, the price will only increase marginally. For example, a 5-day rental may only cost you $410.
One of the coolest shopping places to check out is Re:Start in the city center, an outdoor mall made up entirely of shipping containers. The stores here sell everything from cell phones to stationery and clothes and tend to be pretty affordable. New Regent Street has some beautiful architecture and lovely boutique stores, but expect to pay for the more upscale experience.
The grocery stores in Christchurch will sell just about anything you could need, from food to personal care items to homewares. The most popular stores are New World and Countdown. New World tends to be on the cheaper side, but both are good value. A loaf of bread will cost you about NZ$1 and a dozen eggs only about NZ$4. You'll also be able to find things like shampoo for as little as NZ$3 a bottle.
Christchurch has some amazing dining options that cater to everyone. The city center has excellent food and drink options, but don't forget Riccarton is great for Asian food at affordable pricing, about NZ$15 for a main. In the city center, try Twenty Seven Steps for a high-end experience, where mains may cost you NZ$40. At more mid-range places like Fiddlesticks or Cafe Valentino, your mains will be around NZ$20 and cocktails around NZ$15.