Christchurch is the 2nd largest city in New Zealand, and the biggest on the South Island. Known for its parks and gardens, Christchurch also has a great cafe scene, and a small town feel mixed with cosmopolitan convenience. Beautiful architecture, great museums, and an amazingly ‘Kiwi’ urban vibe, Christchurch is a must on any tour of the South island.
NOTE: Christchurch was devastated by a massive earthquake in February, 2011 that did substantial damage to much of the city. In the months that followed, the people of Christchurch rallied to get the city back in working order, just in time for the start of the Rugby World Cup in September, 2011. While the damage is still clearly visible on many buildings- most notably the Christchurch Cathedral- Christchurch is once again ‘open for business’, and the tourism industry is back in full swing.
Things to do in Christchurch
- Get to know the city- despite the earthquake damage, there is still much to be seen in and around Christchurch. Spend an afternoon wandering around the CBD, getting familiar with the layout of the city, and identifying shops, cafes, museums, etc. that you want to stop in during your visit.
- Hang out in Cathedral Square- while the steeple of the cathedral was toppled by the quake, Cathedral Square remains the heart of the city- a wide-open space that is perfect for a coffee on a bench on an sunny afternoon.
- Visit the coast- Christchurch provides ample opportunity to visit the East Coast of the South Island. Ask at your accommodation for advice as to where to go, and go explore the local beaches.
- Hit the hills- Christchurch has several hiking and mountain biking trails on the outskirts of the city. Ask at your accommodation or stop in a local bike shop in town for advice and trail maps.
- Get some culture- Christchurch has plenty of museums to peruse. Check out the Christchurch Art Gallery, the Royal Air Force Museum, the Canterbury Museum, or the International Antarctic Centre, among several others. Ask at your accommodation for discounted tickets, or what days of the week are cheaper than others.
- Hang out in a park- Christchurch is known as the ‘Garden City’ for a reason- there are a large number of parks and reserves spread in and about town. You’ll find Hagley Park and the Christchurch Botanic Gardens in the city, with several other parks and reserves spread throughout the outlying areas.
- Due to the earthquake, it is a good idea to contact places in Christchurch prior to your arrival to ensure that they are still in operation and are once again serving customers. Many accommodations, businesses, and tour operators have re-opened, but it is a good idea to double-check, just to be certain.
- Ask at your accommodation about local deals and discounts- there are always a few specials going on around town.
- To save a few bucks and get a great feel for the city, hire a bike and give yourself a riding tour. There are great trails in the hills around town, providing amazing views of the city and its surrounds.
- Volunteer opportunities abound in Christchurch- ask at your accommodation about getting involved and learning more about the amazing community that is in the middle of rebounding and rebuilding in the wake of one of the country’s most difficult days.