Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island and the preferred starting point for adventures around the island. Rent a car or a campervan – or join one of the many round trips on the South Island departing from Christchurch.
Christchurch is slowly recovering from a series of major earthquakes in 2010 & 2011. The city centre was badly affected and many older buildings were destroyed or badly damaged. Many buildings were torn down to live up to new and tighter building regulations and many inhabitants decided to move out of Christchurch following the earthquakes. Reconstruction has been ongoing ever since, but the inner city remains a “work in progress”.
Christchurch is often called "the most English city outside of England", and on visiting Christchurch, you will understand why. The locals hold proud their English traditions brought over by the settlers. In the many small gardens, parks, and the old gothic styled buildings still standing, you feel the English vibe under the southern skies.
Christchurch is a university city with parks and green belt areas. The grand cathedral is considered by the locals to be the heart of the city, but its characteristic tower rising 60 m into the air was unfortunately destroyed by the earthquakes and the cathedral remains closed off to visitors as it is under restoration. In the meantime, you can visit the Transitional Cathedral, which is the world’s only cathedral made mostly from cardboard. If art interests you then there is a lively art scene. The Art Centre has moved into the old buildings of University of Canterbury and houses many interesting exhibitions.
Talking a stroll through the city centre you can get a feel for the city and how it was in the past, while sensing the winds of change. While many buildings are empty, the destruction of the earthquakes has also paved the way for new construction projects. Among these is the Margaret Mahy Playground, which is said to be the biggest playground in the Southern Hemisphere! It takes up a full housing block and has numerous slides, swing, trampolines and loads more. And the best part? It is entirely free! Bonus fact: The playground is named after New Zealand’s answer to Astrid Lindgren and H.C. Andersen, who wrote more than 140 children’s books.
The river Avon flows through the beautiful parks and around the city buildings. Why not settle down in a "punt" and enjoy the tranquillity - a punt is a small flat boat that resembles a gondola in the style of the Venetians! If you haven't been to romantic Venice, this could well be the next best thing!
How about taking the Christchurch Gondola and checking out the city from above? The cable car route is 1 km long and with a height of 500 meters above sea level, it is spectacular to say the least, not to be recommended if you are scared of heights! If you want to stay on solid ground then you can hop onto a tram and take a look at the beautiful "Oxford Terrace" park and check out some of the 300,000 locals!
If you want to try your hand at surfing or just have a dip in the sea then head for the costal suburb of Sumner. For those who enjoy fishing there are a number of rivers around Christchurch where you can try your luck, and don't miss out on the opportunity to swim with dolphins in Akaroa. All this and not far from town.
The South Island is also home to many of New Zealand's breweries most of which have organised tours with tastings and in depth information on the various beers. The island is also home to a wide range of wineries due to the similarities with the Southern European climate. For another cool experience, visit the Observatory at West Melton just outside of Christchurch for amazing views of the nighttime sky.
The South Island has some of the best conditions for stargazing and many travel great distances to experience the million stars lighting up the sky. The best conditions are found near Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo – about 3 hours by car from Christchurch.
Many large airlines offer flights to Christchurch from Europe via Asia and Oceania with stops in e.g. Abu Dhabi, Singapore or Sydney. It’s a long trip so we recommend a stopover or two on the way – contact a travel advisor for tips on how to make the most of your time on the way to New Zealand.
If you are also exploring the North Island, Christchurch can be reached by bus and ferry connecting the two islands.
Christchurch has a very efficient bus service and from the city, you can catch busses that can take you all over the South Island. Various bus operators offer a hop-on/hop-off bus passes, which is an economical alternative if you would like to have the freedom to travel along the main roads.
If you are planning a longer visit and are hoping to explore all of the South Island and the rest of New Zealand, then a car or campervan is a great option and nothing could be simpler! Christchurch is the perfect starting point for an adventure in Middle Earth. Campervan comes in various sizes gives you a sense of freedom and you can explore at your own pace. There are plenty of camp sites most of which set in beautiful countryside with stunning mountains, lakes or ocean views.
If driving isn't your thing, hop on an adventure tour with other backpackers. Departing from Christchurch you will be going on the trip of a life-time with like-minded adventurers from all over the world. Soak in the beautiful landscape and get to know your new travel buddies. The busses stop at all the most interesting places on route; volcanoes, glaciers, amazing beaches, rain forests, historical Maori settlements - it all depends on which tour you choose. The bus driver also acts as a guide and will give you all the insights and best stories about the things you see along the way. An adventure tour is not to be missed!
Our travel advisors are ready to help plan your trip to Christchurch and make sure you don’t miss any of the highlights on the South Island. Whether you want to go all-in on an adrenaline rush in Queenstown or experience the peaceful mountains and blue lakes, we have you covered. Contact a travel advisor today and you are one step closer to exploring New Zealand!
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