The Complete Guide To Christchurch City

Monday, April 20th, 2020

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One of New Zealand’s best holiday destinations, Christchurch offers up a wide range of awesome things to do and exciting places to visit all within easy driving distance. Within an easy 3 hour drive you can find yourself skiing at a top alpine resort, surfing on the east coast, exploring the Canterbury Plains in a hot air balloon, hiking through rain forests, or mountain biking down the Port Hills. 

Find out more about this amazing city and its stunning landscapes, exciting range of outdoor adventure activities, things to do, day trips, places to eat and where to stay here in our complete Christchurch City travel guide. 

Christchurch City

About Christchurch City

One of the three largest cities in New Zealand, Christchurch is popular with travelers from all around the world for its old English feel and welcoming atmosphere. Whether you fly into to Christchurch International Airport, drive in from the north, from the south, or through from the rugged West Coast the rapidly contrasting landscapes set the scene for what’s to come. To find out what you are in for – here is the low down on Christchurch’s weather conditions and its population. 

Christchurch Weather

Christchurch is enjoys a reasonably mild climate with some extremes during the summer and winter. Rainfall is low during the summer and winter can be wet and overcast. In winter the region can also experience snowfall to low levels, with snow up on the Southern Alps a continuous sight from April through to September. Christchurch is the coldest of the main cities (Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch) in New Zealand.

Average temperatures in the Christchurch region sit around 20°C (68°F) in summer and 6°C (43°F) in winter. Extreme temperatures of 30 to 35°C are a common occurrence for a day or two in summer. Average rainfall for the Christchurch region is around 648 mm per year and snowfall is quite common during winter.

Population Of Christchurch

The Christchurch City Council places current population numbers at 385,500 residents within the city limits with expected growth to add another 70 thousand to the list by 2043.

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6 Best Christchurch City Suburbs

Want to get off the beaten track and explore a bit of the real Christchurch? Find out where the locals like to hang out in 6 of the best Christchurch suburbs get the most out of your visit to Christchurch City.

1. Merivale

One suburb that has always been a buzzing home for food and fashion in Christchurch is Merivale. Located just north of the city down Papanui Road, it’s easily accessible from Christchurch and is surrounded by other beautiful suburbs such as St Albans and Fendalton that are filled with large character homes – some of which are original homesteads with expansive grounds.

What To Do

Merivale is characterised by small, boutique stores that emphasise quality over quantity. There is a small, cosy mall that is home to designer stores including a number of Kiwi designer brands such as Veronika Maine and Kate Sylvester, as well as international brands like Cue and Max.

Hagley Park in particular, is known for its beautifully cared for open spaces and aged trees and flower gardens that produce a fantastic springtime bounty every year. Merivale is a great place to top off an evening or spend the day pampering yourself. It’s easily accessed from the city and surrounded by beautiful character houses, giving you a glimpse of an older, more elegant Christchurch.

Where To Eat

After a day of shopping, take a break at one of the many cafes in the area that serve up great coffee and food. You may also want to pick up some gourmet meats or foodstuffs from the local deli and go for a picnic at the nearby Elmwood or Hagley Parks.

Time to check out some of the nightlife in Merivale, not quite a clubbing culture, it’s instead home to a number of laid-back bars that offer outdoor drinking and dining until late, making it perfect for capping off the day. These include Number 4 and Aikmans, though without the city these can both become packed on a Friday and Saturday night. They’re a great spot to meet some locals and enjoy both craft and commercial New Zealand beers.

2. Woolston

Although the 2011 February earthquake meant a sad end to many of the heritage buildings that once filled Christchurch’s CBD, it has also spurred some in the community to seek what character buildings can be found elsewhere.

One such instance can be found in the suburb of Woolston. Traditionally an industrial suburb, it’s close to the estuary and a number of factories and mills, so it’s filled with small original cottages that have survived the quake due to being constructed mainly out of wood. Many of these have now been renovated and the entire suburb is one of the few places where you can see “old Christchurch” still seeping through.

What To Do

In addition to the residential properties, a large-scale development has brought new life to this side of the city. The Woolston Wool Sheds are large brick structures that were traditionally used to store and process the wool that came from farms all across the Canterbury region, but these have been bought and repurposed to create a fantastic new complex known as the Tannery.

The insides of the buildings have been completely remodeled into a set of shops, many of which are refugees from the old CBD and will be familiar faces to residents. The shops include a number of top quality and boutique fashion retailers, as well as a tattoo parlour and a used book store where you can pick up vintage postcards of New Zealand and books by local and international authors.

There are also a number of shops selling homeware and gifts if you want to bring back a souvenir that’s both beautiful and functional. The development is ongoing and there are many more additions planned, so it’s sure to remain an attraction to locals and tourists for many years.

Where To Eat

The Woolston area is also home to some top quality eateries, the most famous of which is probably the Cassel’s Brewery. They produce and sell a range of craft beers, as well as fine food and are open for both dinner and lunch.

There’s also a gourmet cafe within the complex itself for a coffee and snack. Afterwards enjoy the character of the local houses or head up into the nearby hills for a drive and stunning outlooks all across the city – on a fine day you can see as far as the Southern Alps.

3. New Brighton

If you’re looking to escape the city and enjoy a breath of fresh sea air, the seaside suburb of New Bright has many offerings for families all year round. Located to the east of the city, New Brighton is the perfect place for a family day at the beach.

What To Do

The iconic New Brighton pier gives you panoramic views of the Sumner cliffs on one side and on the other you can see all the way to the Kaikoura’s on clear days. Just before the pier is a children’s play area with a paddling pool, jungle gym and more.

Down at South Spit you’ll find a small nature reserve with tussock covered dunes you can wander through, and the whole southern end is cris-crossed with walking trails that give you spectacular estuary views. It’s also worth walking through the streets themselves, as they are filled with beautiful and often quirky beach houses, designed with the eccentric flair of a seaside suburb and often with unusual additions for looking over the sand dunes and across the water. 

Head north of the New Brighton Mall and you’ll come to Bottle Lake Plantation, a large area forested with tall pine trees with lots of walking and mountain biking trails.

Where To Eat

There is plenty to see and do – the New Brighton Mall is a long outdoor shopping area with many cafes and eateries, including some with lots of vegetarian and allergy-friendly offerings. There are also small shops with a particularly beachy feel, and a top-quality restaurant overlooking the sea.

New Brighton Pier

4. Lyttelton

If you’re looking for a change of pace in your holiday, the port side suburb of Lyttelton in Christchurch is a great place to go. Perched on the inside of a dormant volcano, it offers spectacular views out across the harbour and the rolling hills of Banks Peninsula beyond.

Accessible by a 20-30 minute drive from the city centre, Lyttelton lies at the end of a long tunnel – although you can also get there via Dyers Pass, which offers excellent views out over the plains.

What To Do

Of course, the harbour itself is a major attraction that shouldn’t be missed. There are a number of touring vehicles to take you out on the water and show you the local sights and sounds, and a regular ferry will take you across to the adjacent Diamond Harbour, which is a small township filled with crafts, gifts and cafes.

You may also like to take a day trip out to Quail Island in the centre of the Bay. Previously a leper colony, Quail Island is now home to a few sheep and some New Zealand birds.

Back at Lyttelton, you can round off the day with a walk around the narrow (and steep!) streets, which are lined with character-filled cottages and houses. If you walk up far enough you’ll come to a track that leads up to the summit, allowing you to get the best possible vantage over both the harbour and the Canterbury plains.

Where To Eat

Lyttelton has historically been a very busy port and still remains in service to this day, so you’ll likely see a large container ship or two pulled up to the wharf. These create flickering fairy lights all across the water if you happen to stay until the evening, enjoying one of the bars and restaurants serving up great food and drinks.

Because it’s so far from the city, Lyttelton has always had an independent flavour. This is most readily apparent in the environmentally-friendly/sustainability focus of the area, and many of the inhabitants have adopted green living philosophies. There’s an emphasis on public spaces being used for eco-conscious works, and the general store is actually owned by locals in a co-op, allowing it to bring high quality organics and fresh foods to the residents at affordable prices.

On Saturday there’s a market that spans from the local school all the way down the main street, where you can pick up fruits and vegetables, dips and hummus, craft beers and various local crafts. It’s the perfect place to stock up for a picnic at one of the neighbouring bays such as Corsair or Rapaki.

 

Lyttelton Port

5. Sumner

For a seaside retreat with plenty of character, there’s really only one place to head in Christchurch. Located to the south east of the city, Sumner is best accessed via Ferry Road or ANZAC Drive, and is nestled in among the high cliffs of the Port Hills, it is a sheltered spot that’s ideal for families enjoying a day at the beach.

What To Do

Speaking of the beach this is the areas main attraction, across which you can see the southern end of New Brighton, so close you can actually wade there at very low tide. The beach can be accessed at several points including Shag Rock and at Scarborough, and there’s a concrete path that makes walking along it easy regardless of tide level.

The suburb of Sumner is filled with splendid beach-flavoured houses that are well worth a look as you stroll around. Head up the hill to Scarborough and enjoy the views back out over Christchurch city and the plains, and you can drop down the other side into Taylor’s Mistake, a secluded bay with some of the clearest water in Canterbury and lots of picturesque baches.

Why not take a drive around to Heathcote, filled with pockets of small scenic farms. This will bring you back onto the motorway that heads into Lyttleton in case you want to explore there, or you can move back towards the city. Sumner is also right next to Ferrymead, containing a range of restaurants and bars as well as a historic park for families wanting to take in the old Christchurch.

Where To Eat

A cafe looks out over the water and provides ice cream and coffee, and there is also a couple of places where you can pick up a surfboard rental if you want to brave the waves.

In Sumner there’s a small township with boutique shops and eateries. Many of the stores carry works by local craftspeople and producers, and the cafes provide a light summery atmosphere. There are also several dedicated galleries in case you want to pick up a distinctive piece to take back with you.

Cave Rock, Sumner Beach

6. Sydenham

Sydenham is located just south of the old CBD across Moorhouse Avenue, making it easily accessible. Traditionally a working suburb, it was filled with the kind of low-rent but high-character buildings required to accommodate a buzzing new set of business.

What To Do

The Academy Gold Cinema at the Colombo complex is also located there, making it perfect for grabbing a meal and then a movie. There are limited screenings and small theatres so it’s a wise idea to book in advance if there’s something you really want to see.

There are also a number of galleries in the area, showcasing a range of local artists in particular, with a focus on contemporary and decorative pieces. One of the most famous is the Form Gallery, known for featuring glasswork and ceramics as well as sculpture and mixed media. Another is the Jonathan Smart Gallery which has a focus on spaces and installation pieces and the HSP Gallery featuring contemporary works.

Where To Eat

One of the biggest upgrades in the area is the Colombo Mall. What once was a collection of quiet, shabby stores is now a food and fashion complex with a range of boutique eateries including a gourmet deli, macaroon shop, fresh juices and sushi. 

There are also a number of local producers who set up stall right inside the mall to sell handmade fudge, dips, hummus and fruit and vegetables. Several upmarket clothing stores have also made their home here, turning the location into a serious destination for fashionistas.

After a day of exploring Sydenham nothing beats kicking back at one of the top bars and restaurants in the area. These include the Belgian Beer Cafe, home to a range of delicious craft beers and food to go with them, as well as Burgers & Beers, offering gourmet burgers that will definitely fill you up.

Discover the best sights and sounds of Christchurch City with car hire from USAVE Car Rentals. Get in touch today to find out more about our special deals and great prices, or book online and save.

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Best Canterbury Farming Towns 

The Canterbury region is famous for its long lived farming heritage, and particularly for its sheep farming. This industry has been the backbone of the local economy ever since the region was first settled back in 1850, and continues to be a large part of the culture. Taking a drive around some of Canterbury’s small farming towns is a great way to really see rural New Zealand at its best. Here are a few of the Canterbury towns not to be missed.

Rangiora 

Rangiora is a small town just north of Christchurch and a great first destination for those wanting to learn more about farming. The main street is still in the original building style, and many of the stores cater to the farmers who operate in the area. Check out the Rangiora Museum for its extensive photographic and archival collection or the Northbrook Colonial Museum for a glimpse into New Zealand’s colonial history complete with a replica ‘street’ comprising of shops such as a butcher, chemist and hardware store.

Loburn

Heading further north will take you towards Loburn and the Ashley River there are many farms along the way. This is true New Zealand farming scenery, and the small towns are great for stopping for a quick bite to eat or a coffee with the locals.

Amberley

Visitors to Amberley are able to enjoy a number of country activities, including horse riding, fly fishing, farm tours and more. The beach, golf club and camping grounds are just 5 minutes down the road and there are plenty of cafes on the main street to enjoy a good coffee or just watch the world go by.

Rakaia

Heading south of Christchurch you will encounter the small rural township of Rakaia. Home to one of New Zealand’s largest milk processing plants – Synlait, Rakaia is surrounded by the very farms that supply the milk it needs. The Raikaia River is very popular with local fishermen – more on the best spots for fishing below.

Ashburton

Just over an hour from Christchurch, you will find the town of Ashburton. Slightly larger than some of the others Ashburton has a rich farming history and character and serves the farming community that surrounds it. There are five museums in Ashburton, including a vintage railway museum, aviation museum, the Lynn Woodwork museum and a vintage car museum.

Geraldine

Another Canterbury town that should be on your road trip itinerary is Geraldine, a smaller township with a main street filled with artisan and crafts shops, as well as speciality fudge and chocolate stores. There’s also a great little museum with artifacts and personal accounts about life on the Canterbury Plains from settlers, giving an insight into the hardships and trials they experienced in order to farm there.

While farming has completely shaped the Canterbury region, and outdoor pursuits are a huge part of the Canterbury region’s culture, for visitors it is more a chance to get out into the great outdoors in Christchurch and really experience the region’s best!

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Best Ways To Get There

Christchurch is located half way down New Zealand’s South Island, nestled at the foot of the Port Hills right next door to the banks Peninsula. Entry to Christchurch is by car from other New Zealand cities, cruise ship, or via the Christchurch International Airport.

Christchurch Travel Times By Car

Many travellers choose to visit Christchurch as a convenient base for travel around the country, and some arrive by car after having visited other parts of NZ. Getting to Christchurch by car from around New Zealand is easy – here is a quick guide to Christchurch drive times.

  • Picton to Christchurch 4 hours 45 minutes
  • Nelson to Christchurch 6 hours
  • Blenheim to Christchurch 4 hours 30 minutes
  • Ashburton To Christchurch 1 hour
  • Hokitika to Christchurch 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Dunedin to Christchurch 4 hours 45 minutes
  • Invercargill to Christchurch 7 hours 30 minutes
  • Auckland to Christchurch approximately 12 hours (Ferry crossing not included)

Christchurch Port Hills at Sunset

Top 4 Airport To City Transport Options

Situated in the suburb of Harewood, the Christchurch Airport is only a short distance from the central city, and although many people choose to hire a rental car from Christchurch Airport streamlining their travel experience, for some organising transport between the airport and the central city is necessary.

Fortunately there are plenty of transport options on offer, take a look below for the best ways to get from the Christchurch Airport to the city. (Please note prices given in this article are in NZ dollars and provided as a guide only, actual costs will be determined by the individual operators at the time of travel).

1. Super Shuttle Christchurch Airport

Taking a Christchurch Airport shuttle bus can be the perfect option for larger groups, especially when you are all travelling together to the same accommodation. The Super Shuttle is the main company that offers shuttle services to and from the Christchurch Airport, although there are private hotel and motel courtesy shuttle services available at times (It is worth checking with your accommodation provider to see if they offer this service). 

The Super Shuttle operates 24/7 and usually consists of an 11 seater minivan with attached luggage trailer. Pick up and drop off door-to-door services are provided in most cases (be sure to double check on making your booking). The Super Shuttle Christchurch airport pickup location is just outside the terminal buildings just look for the white vans with a large green arrow. Booking in advance is recommended to ensure a seat is available but often there is the option to purchase a seat on the spot. 

  • Christchurch Airport To City Shuttle Prices. From Christchurch Airport to the city will cost you around $20 per person using the shared Supper Shuttle service. Booking ahead is highly recommended.
  • Christchurch Airport To City Shuttle Travel Times. Although only 15 minutes direct by car, when taking the shuttle travel times can vary greatly due to the requirements for drop off of each passenger. The more people in the vehicle the more stops the driver will have to make.

2. Car Rental

Hiring a rental car in Christchurch can save you time and money, particularly if you are planning on heading out of the city having a hire car ready and waiting is ideal. No waiting around, no airport parking issues – just grab the keys and hit the road. Most NZ rental car agencies will operate from within close proximity to the airport terminals with courtesy pick up services.

All good car hire companies will have an online booking service and will happily provide you with some handy local travel tips or advice if required – just ask!

  • How Much Does A Christchurch Rental Car Cost? Car hire rates will vary based on the type of vehicle, length of hire period and the company used, but generally speaking cheap car hire is available for as little as $25 per day. Keep an eye out for specials and relocation deals for some even more competitive pricing.
  • Christchurch Airport To City Rental Car Travel Times. Traveling by rental car to the central city allows you to take the most efficient route, as long as you aren’t travelling in peak hour traffic this is likely to take around 15 minutes. In-car Guidance Systems (available for hire with your rental car) are great for pointing out the different route options.

3. Taxi Services

Catching a taxi from the Christchurch Airport is easy, taxi stands are located right outside the terminal buildings and are always available during the day, if you are arriving in the very early hours of the morning booking ahead is a good idea to ensure someone is there waiting for you.

As the Christchurch Airport restricts which taxi companies can make pick-ups from its airport, be sure to check with the taxi company before making a booking, or see here for a list of the current approved taxi companies at Christchurch Airport. Any taxi company is able to drop passenger off at the airport.

  • Christchurch Airport To City Taxi Fare. Taxi fares from the Airport to the central city will vary but generally you will be looking at anywhere from $30 to $50 NZD, of course this will depend on where you are headed and individual taxi company rates. It pays to ask for a flat rate or for a price indication before taking a seat in the taxi.
  • Christchurch Airport To City Taxi Travel Times. Travelling by car to the central city takes approximately 15 minutes. Taking a taxi offers the benefit of a driver with local knowledge of the best routes and how to avoid traffic congestion.

4. Bus

Metro Red Bus public transport services operate from the Airport and will take you in to central city with plenty of stops along the way, all you have to do is pick one closest to where you want to go.

Tickets are available from selected accommodation providers throughout the city, i-Sites, kiosks at the airport, online and on a ‘cash only’ basis from the bus driver.

  • Christchurch Airport To City Public Bus Fare. Currently bus prices sit at about the $5 mark for a one way trip.
  • Christchurch Airport To City Bus Travel Times. Airport to city transfers can take anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour or more, it will be highly dependent on traffic volumes at the time of travel.

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Best Ways To Get Around

Christchurch has good public transport and plenty of transport options for getting around the city. Choose from affordable car hire, the bus or even catch a ride on the tram! It might pay to note the heaviest traffic congestion is likely to be encountered between the hours of 8 and 9am and then again between 5 and 6 pm.

3 Best Christchurch Transport Options

Here is a quick rundown of the best ways to get around Auckland with helpful links for timetables and schedules.

  1. Bus Travel In Christchurch. Travelling by public bus service is a good choice for those planning on staying within the city limits. Regular bus routes are available around the city and to many attractions and shopping malls. If you plan on travelling by bus a lot while you are in Christchurch consider getting a Metrocard for cheaper travel. See here for the public bus timetable for Christchurch. The Christchurch bus interchange is located on the Corner of Lichfield and Colombo Streets which is very central to many of the city’s attractions and amenities.
  2. Taking The Tram In Christchurch. Christchurch is home to its very own compact tram system which is great for getting around the central city old school style! Get on and off wherever you please for a flat rate of $25. The tram follows a basic loop track around the centre of the city with stops at all major attractions and places of interest including the New Regent Street shopping area, The Christchurch Art Gallery, Cathedral Junction, Avon River, the Canterbury Museum and The Arts Centre.
  3. Renting A Car In Christchurch. Hiring a car is one of the best ways to travel throughout New Zealand as public transport is limited to the main centres and arterial routes between them. So if you want to get off the beaten track then car rental is the one for you.  Investing in a GPS navigation system is highly recommended as it is easy to get lost on new Zealand’s back roads. Get more in-depth information about car rental in New Zealand here.

Christchurch Arts Centre

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Best Christchurch Accommodation

Finding the right accommodation can make a huge difference to your holiday but choosing from pages and pages of hotels and motels can be a bit daunting – location, room size, amenities and price all play a factor in selecting the right accommodation. Need some help? Take a look at our handy guide to find the best accommodation in Christchurch.

1. Crowne Plaza Christchurch

Simple yet elegant city accommodations at a reasonable price.

The Crowne Plaza is located at 764 Colombo Street, just around the corner from the Isaac Theatre Royal. Two onsite restaurants and bar as well as in room dining are perfect for those who wish to dine on site.

  • Rooms. Find a range of room configurations available for singles, doubles and families. The Hotel has around 200 rooms available.
  • Price Guide. $150 to $450.
  • Distance From Christhcurch Airport. 10 km, 20 minutes’ drive.
  • WiFi In Room. Yes.
  • Facilities. Modern meetings and events spaces, fitness centre, early/late check in/out available for extra fee.
  • Nearby Attractions. The Isaac Theatre, Avon River, and Christchurch Cathedral.

2. The George Christchurch

5 Star Luxury hotel with fantastic service.

The George is a luxury hotel with all the things you would expect from 5 Star accommodations. Beautiful views over Hagley Park and a one-to-one staff to guest ratio will make your stay a memorable one. The George is located on Park Terrace next to the Avon River.

  • Rooms. Find a range of room configurations available including Executive Rooms, Junior Suites and Park Suites as well as the ultimate in luxury – The Residence.
  • Price Guide. $400 to $2200.
  • Distance From Christchurch Airport. 9.5 km, 15 minute drive.
  • WiFi In Room. Yes.
  • Facilities. Complimentary car parking for guests, electric vehicle charging stations, free car parking, and bathrobes are provided!
  • Nearby Attractions. Hagley Park, Canterbury Museum, Christchurch Casino, and the Christchurch Town Hall.

3. Heritage Christchurch

Centrally located luxury accommodations.

Situated on the edge of Cathedral Square in the very centre of Christchurch, the Heritage Hotel is the perfect option for those who want something a little bit special for their accommodation. This luxury hotel offers 5 Star service along with its opulent décor all housed within a heritage building of national significance.

  • Rooms. At the Heritage you will find a range of suite-style self-contained rooms with one, two and three bedroom options.
  • Price Guide. $260 to $500.
  • Distance From Christchurch Airport. 11 km, 20 minute drive.
  • WiFi In Room. Yes, conditions apply.
  • Facilities. Health Club, indoor lap pool, spa pool and sauna. Valet parking for an extra charge, 24 hour room service, on-site dining options and
  • Nearby Attractions. Christchurch Cathedral, the Isaac Theatre, Margaret Mahy Playground, Cathedral Square and the Arts Centre.

4. The Rydges Latimer Square

Quieter accommodation with a beautiful outlook over Latimer Square.

Overlooking Latimer Square, Rydges is a 4.5 star hotel with four levels of rooms plus a fifth floor penthouse apartment. Rydges offers a slightly quieter accommodation option as it is located just out of the city centre and overlooks the Latimer Square park.

  • Rooms. You will find a total of 138 rooms at Rydges, including a range of superior, executive and premier rooms with suite options for those who are seeking two and three bedroom options.
  • Price Guide. $135 to $1000.
  • Distance From Christchurch Airport. 11.5 km, 20 minute drive.
  • WiFi In Room. Yes.
  • Facilities. Bloody Marys Steakhouse, in-house conference and event capacity for 400 people, gym, and parking available.
  • Nearby Attractions. Latimer Square, the Isaac Theatre, Margaret Mahy Playground, Cathedral Square and the Christchurch Transitional Cathedral.

5. Novotel Christchurch Airport

Best airport accommodation – located right out the door from the International arrivals terminal!

As one of Christchurch’s newest additions to the hotel landscape, the Novotel was designed with the discerning traveller in mind. This 4.5 star hotel offers panoramic views of the airport operations, out over the Canterbury Plains and beyond to the Southern Alps. Watch the aeroplanes take off and land from the rooftop restaurant and bar or enjoy the culinary delights of the ground floor restaurant.

  • Rooms. You will find a total of 200 rooms at the Novotel, including various bedding configurations of three single beds, two double beds and a king size bed. Two bedroom suites are also available.  
  • Price Guide. $240 to $400.
  • Distance From Christchurch Airport. 100 metres. 5 minute walk.
  • WiFi In Room. Yes, charges apply.
  • Facilities. 24 hours reception, fitness centre, valet parking, one bar and two restaurants, and room service.
  • Nearby Attractions. Christchurch Airport, International Antarctic Centre, Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, Spitfire Square, Orana Park and McCleans Island Reserve.

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Best Places To Eat In Christchurch

Looking for the best place to grab some lunch or dinner in Christchurch? Then you’ve come to the right place – here are our top 5 restaurants in Christchurch and why!

1. Gatherings

Best Locally Sourced Food

Award winning café with a focus on locally gathered and seasonal food. Gatherings provides a simple menu with a focus on an ever evolving plant-based and seafood menu. You have an option of selecting yummy dishes from the menu or choosing a tasting platter which provides a taste of all the menu items. There is also a handy takeaway option available from Tuesday to Sunday nights with a different set menu for each week.

  • Our top picks – the tasting menu and the fish supper takeaways
  • 5/2 Papanui Road, Merivale, Christchurch
  • Open for dinner and takeaways from 4pm -12.30am Tuesday to Sunday.

2. Earl

Best Italian Inspired

Offering a skilful yet unpretentious blend of cuisines, Earl is an Italian inspired restaurant centrally located on Lichfield Street. A casual atmosphere and comforting menu of bistro classics await, along with an extensive share menu and yummy deserts.

  • Our top picks – the Earl Caesar and the Italian meatballs
  • 128 Lichfield Street, Christchurch Central.
  • Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday to Saturday from 12pm until late.

3. Twenty Seven Steps

Best All Rounder – Something For Everyone!

A popular foodie destination for locals and visitors alike, Twenty Seven Steps is located upstairs off the New Regent Street shopping area. The focus is on locally-sourced and seasonal ingredients with a welcoming yet elegant appeal.

  • Our top picks – the Black Bean Wellington and the 200 gram Beef Fillet.
  • 16 New Regent Street, Christchurch.
  • Open for dinner 7 nights a week from 5pm.

4. 5th Street

Best Casual Dining

A warehouse/industrial style restaurant, 5th Street comes complete with with lots of greenery and a relaxed vibe serving excellent food in flexible ways. The menu offers plenty of options for snacks and full size meals with the intention of shared plates if you so choose.

  • Our top picks – the Slow Roasted Lamb and Caramelised Pineapple.
  • 5 Elgin Street, Sydenham, Christchurch.
  • Monday to Sunday 4.30pm till late.

5. Christchurch Tramway Restaurant

Best Destination Dining

The only restaurant in New Zealand located inside a fully operational Tram; the Tramway Restaurant is the ideal destination dining option for those seeking something a little bit different. While enjoying a 4 course set menu meal the Tram takes you through the streets of Christchurch on a loop circuit providing an ever-changing cityscape to enjoy as you dine in style. The entire experience takes approximately 2.5 hours and departs from Cathedral Junction.

  • Our top picks – the Seared Tiger Prawns and Raspberry Chocolate Mousse.
  • Cathedral Junction, Christchurch.
  • 7 pm March to October and at 7:30 pm November to February.

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Best 12 Things To Do In Christchurch

From stunning windswept beaches and rocky coastlines to large green spaces filled with ancient trees and beautiful gardens and the picturesque elegance of snow-capped mountain ranges, Christchurch has it all. Take your time and explore the city and beyond, whether its mountain biking in the Port Hills, a stroll through Hagley Park or Punting on the Avon there is something for everyone. Need some inspiration take a look below for our top ten things to do while in Christchurch.

1. Punting On The Avon

An iconic activity in Christchurch, Punting on the Avon is one of those things you simply have to tick off before leaving the city. Enjoy Christchurch from a different perspective as you glide leisurely along the Avon River in an authentic handcrafted Edwardian Punt boat propelled along but your very own ‘Punter’ and pole.

  • Punting on the Avon costs around $30 for adults and $15 for children.
  • Grab ‘The Christchurch Pass’ combo and get Punting, a Tram Tour, Gondola ride and Botanic Gardens Tour for $90.
  • Departure is from the historic Antigua Boat sheds, 2 Cambridge Terrace, Christchurch.

Punting on the Avon River, Christchurch

2. The Airforce Museum

Visiting this national treasure is the perfect way to spend a wet afternoon in Christchurch. The Airforce Museum houses an excellent selection of the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) and New Zealand military aviation memorabilia, artefacts and aircraft. Make you own way around the museum or join a free museum tour, or take the kids on a Museum Hunt and see if you can find all of the treasures on the list!

  • Entry to the Museum is free (donations greatly appreciated!).
  • The Museum Hunt costs $6.
  • Operating the flight simulator also costs $6 for a 5 minute flight.
  • Museum Tours are free – tours run daily at 11.00am, 1.30pm and 3.00pm.
  • The Airforce Museum is located at 45 Harvard Ave, Wigram, Christchurch.

3. The Isaac Theatre Royal

This wonderful 106 year old theatre is worth a look even if you don’t intend to catch one of the many shows and performances on offer. The Isaac Theatre Royal’s elaborate interiors, lavish furnishings and exceptional staff take you back in time to an age where live performances were the norm, and a night out meant dressing up in your finest.

  • The Theatre is located at 145 Gloucester Street, Christchurch.
  • The Isaac Theatre Royal entry costs vary depending on the chosen seating and different performances.
  • The onsite Box Office is open Monday to Friday 10am to 5pm, or tickets are available online.
  • Bar facilities are available onsite.

4. The Christchurch Tram

See the sights of Christchurch in style on the lovingly restored heritage Tram. Purchase an all-day ticket and jump on and off as much as you like from the 15+ stops around the city. Or for a dining option not quite like any other, try the Tramway Restaurant (bookings are essential) and enjoy a delicious meal as you make your way around the city on the Tram.

  • Tram Tours cost $25 per adult and children ride for free. Annual passes are also available which allow unlimited tram (and Gondola) rides, for 12 months from the date of purchase, plus discounts on other Christchurch attraction admission prices.
  • Trams run every 15 to 20 minutes.
  • The Tramway Restaurant departs at 7:00pm daily from the Cathedral Junction at Cathedral Square.
  • Bookings on the Tramway restaurant cost a minimum of $109 per person.

Christchurch Tramway

5. The Arts Centre

Home to one of New Zealand’s most significant collections of heritage buildings, the Arts Centre is now more than 50% restored after the Christchurch earthquakes. Visitors will find an eclectic mix of retailers, businesses, historic buildings, places to eat and public spaces along with an ever changing calendar of concerts, performances and events.

  • Entry to the Arts Centre is free.
  • Individual events and performances may incur an additional charge.
  • See here for what’s on at the Christchurch Arts Centre.
  • The Arts Centre is located on Worcester Boulevard in the heart of the city.

6. The Christchurch Adventure Park

The place to be for enthusiast mountain bikers (and those of us that wish we were). The slopes of Christchurch’s Port Hills are home to the Christchurch Adventure Park – the southern hemispheres largest mountain bike park. Chill out at the Village Café and Bar, hit the trails, take a nature walk and ride the chair lift. Or if looking for a somewhat less strenuous way to explore the park, why not take a spin on the epic dual-lined Zipline.

  • Lifts and trails are open from 12 – 7pm.
  • The gates and café are open from 11 am to 8pm.
  • The Port Hills adventure park is located at 225 Worsleys Road, Cracroft, Christchurch.
  • Zipline tours cost $130 per adult and $90 per child.
  • Sightseeing passes are $20 per adult and $10 per child.
  • Day lift passes are $75 per adult, $40 per child.

7. The Margaret Mahy Playground

Whether passing through, looking for something free to do in Christchurch or just want to burn off some energy, the Margaret Mahy Playground is the place to be. The massive four metre wide slide is a highlight for many, the water cannons are great on a hot day, a sandpit, climbing web and flying fox all add to the fun. Bring a picnic, fire up the BBQ or just grab an ice cream from the onsite vendors.

  • The Margaret Mahy Playground is located at 177 Armagh Street, Christchurch Central.
  • Entry is free!
  • There is plenty of parking onsite and in the nearby streets.

8. New Regent Street Precinct

Described as “New Zealand’s most beautiful street”, New Regent Street in central Christchurch is home to boutique shopping at its best. The perfect place for a long lunch, visitors can choose from the long list of cafes, bars and restaurants or just indulge in one of the famous ‘Mrs Higgins Oven Fresh Cookies’. After lunch stroll along the streets and soak up the New Regent Street vibe.

  • Entry to New Regent Street is free of course.
  • Visitors can find New Regent Street precinct in the centre of the city between Armagh and Gloucester Streets.
  • The majority of shops will be open from 9am to 5 pm, the restaurants will be open till late.

9. Hot Air Ballooning

Transported just outside of the city limits, Ballooning Canterbury offers early morning hot air ballooning out over the expansive Canterbury Plains. With the Southern Alps as an impressive backdrop, ballooning is a great way to see and experience the wider Canterbury region, getting a better feel for what Christchurch is like outside of the city.

  • Balloon rides start from around $395 for adults and $320 for children.
  • Booking in advance is essential.
  • Ballooning Canterbury do offer pickups from the central city – please inquire upon making your booking.

10. Christchurch Art Gallery

Situated on the corner of Worcester Boulevard and Montreal Street the Christchurch Art Gallery is a great one to combine with a visit to the Arts Centre as it is just down the road. Open 10am until 5pm daily, entry to the Art Gallery is free. Wander the peaceful halls and enjoy an ever changing selection of displays, exhibits and interactive delights at your leisure.

  • The Gallery has an onsite café.
  • Free guided tours are available, these last around 45 minutes, booking is not required.
  • The Art Gallery is open late Wednesdays (until 9pm).
  • The Christchurch Tram stops right out front of the Gallery on Worcester Boulevard.

Get the best out of Christchurch with our top ten things to do and have a great time exploring the Garden City on your next holiday. Need transport to make getting around affordable and hassle free? Hire a car in Christchurch from USAVE Car Rental.

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5 Best Fishing Spots In Canterbury

Summer is a great time of year to be out fishing in Canterbury – the days are long, the weather is fine and the local scenery is just beautiful. With many braided rivers and wide lakes, the Canterbury Plains offer a range of locations to cast your line and try your luck. There are even great swimming or outdoor fun areas as well along the way, so why not take all your friends and family out for the day? Across Canterbury there are many great fishing locations available for public access, just be careful of accidentally straying onto private property.

1. Rakaia River

Offering up the best salmon run anywhere in North Canterbury, the Rakaia river is rightfully a popular spot for enthusiastic fishermen. The river mouth is the best place to try your luck, and it can be accessed on either side via small roads and settlements, though an easy walk may be necessary to find a suitable spot to set up. You can launch boats from the North Rakaia Huts boating ramp, but otherwise there’s a range of places to launch smaller vessels along the banks.

2. Birdling’s Flat

Birdling’s Flat is famous for its rough and tumble waves that make it hazardous for swimming, but perfect for fishing. The rocky beach is a great place to set up and try for red cod, particularly at the change of light. You’ll need special surfcasting equipment and a vehicle that can handle the loose stones on the beach if you want to be able to drive closer to the water.

3. Akaroa Harbour Channel

Most people know Akaroa as the quaint French-flavoured seaside town of Bank’s Peninsula, but it also offers some great fishing opportunities. The harbour channel needs to be accessed by boat (of which there are many, with a number of fishing services available who can also furnish you with rod and gear) to fully make the most of this stunning natural environment. You may even see rare Hector’s dolphins and other native marine species along the way.

4. Waimakariri River

With fishing permitted year round, the Waimakariri River is a great spot for salmon, trout, kahawai and whitebait. A sports fishing licence is required if fishing for trout or salmon. It pays to note access to the south side of the river mouth is by permit only.

5. New Brighton Pier

A great one for the kids – the New Brighton Pier is perfect for rod and reel fishing. From the pier you are able to catch crab, red cod, kahawai, dog fish and mullet. Please note fishing off the Pier on Sundays between 10am and 5pm is not allowed and catch limits do apply.

Please Note: Some areas in Canterbury have restrictions on fishing times and species – please see the Christchurch City Council website for more information. Everyone who fishes recreationally in New Zealand must also follow the Fisheries New Zealand Fishing Rules – see link for more information.

Need transport for your mini Canterbury road trip or fishing trip? USAVE Car Rental has affordable reliable rental cars perfect for any occasion.

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Best Christchurch Zoos

For any animal lover, Christchurch is a fantastic place to find a spectacular array of creatures big and small, from New Zealand natives to exotic imports. New Zealand zoos and wildlife reserves tend to have a major focus on conservation and breeding efforts, with a goal of either restoring wild populations or simply keeping the species alive in captivity.

This is especially crucial work in New Zealand, where many of our native species have become threatened or endangered due to human interference over the last several hundred years. By visiting a Christchurch zoo, you won’t just have a fantastic day out, you’ll also be helping to fund crucial conservation programs. 

There are two major zoos in Christchurch, each with its own attractions and must-see enclosures. However the locations and layouts are quite different, so it’s best to pick the one that will most suit your holiday itinerary. Each are located a little outside the city, so the most convenient way to reach them is with a rental car.

Orana Wildlife Park

Orana Wildlife Park is the only open range zoo in New Zealand, which makes it the perfect place to observe animals in as close to their natural environment as possible. The enclosures are large with plenty of room for the African native animals in particular to roam around. The welfare and happiness of the animals is essential here, and you can get a better impression of their naturally occurring behaviour.

Location

Orana Wildlife Park is located on Mcleans Island Road, which is 15 minutes from the city centre. Get onto John’s Road heading north from the Airport, and you’ll find the turnoff clearly signposted. The road has some unexpected curves and hills, so be careful as you go. There is ample parking when you arrive.

Planning A Visit

The wildlife park keeps a daily schedule of animal feedings, so if you want to have as many chances as possible to see animals active and engaged, you can simply follow the itinerary around the park throughout the day. The first feeding is at 10 am just after opening, and the last one is just before closing, so you can structure your entire day around the feeding times.

Even without the feedings, you can expect to spend at least half a day walking around the park, enjoying the different enclosures and watching the animals play. Because it’s an open range zoo, the exhibits are quite large and a lot of walking is required to navigate between them all. There is however a cart that does a loop around the park, which you can hop on and hope off at various stops in case you need a break. As you ride, the driver will give you extra information about the different species on display, so it can also be a great way to finish off the day.

If you’re visiting the park during summer, during the hottest part of the day the animals are likely to be off napping in the shade somewhere. Morning and late afternoon are the better times to see some action, though most of the animals will almost certainly turn up when the feeder arrives.

Animals

Because of its size, Orana Wildlife Park is able to provide habitats for a huge range of different species from all over the globe. The park is divided up into a number of different geographical areas, and each one contains its own array of species. The areas include:

  • New Zealand
  • Africa
  • Asia
  • America
  • Australia

Each area has enclosures designed specifically for the type of climates and environments found there, to help the animals thrive.

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In the New Zealand section, you’ll find a number of endangered native species – including our national bird, the Kiwi! These are kept in a special hut that’s darkened through the day, so that visitors get a chance to see their natural nocturnal behaviour. There’s also Tuatara and other native lizards, as well as a splendid aviary full of native species with incredible bird song. A special enclosure houses the kea, an intelligent and curious parrot – the feeding demonstration is definitely worth a watch to experience how smart these birds are.

The largest area of the park is dedicated to African species, which roam about in large enclosures. The giraffe, rhinoceros, zebra and zebra all mill about grazing during the day, and the giraffe offer an up-close encounter during feeding time where you can get a great photo. Orana also now offers a glimpse of the only gorillas in New Zealand, with their brand new specially-designed facility.

The animals from Asia include the spectacular tiger display, where you’ll find a number of Sumatran tigers sleeping, eating and playing in their big enclosure. The feeding demonstration is definitely worth a look. There are also the small-clawed otters, as well as the loud and sociable gibbons.

New Zealand’s nearest neighbour, Australia, has provided a number of species for the park. One of the feature animals, the Tasmanian Devils, are part of a crucial preservation program. Malignant tumors have devastated the native population in Tasmania, so tumor-free animals have been sent to holding facilities around the world. Hopefully they’ll be able to return someday, but until the disease is wiped out, places such as Orana Wildlife Park remain an essential haven for them. There are also bird species such as cockatoo and emu.

Wildlife Encounters

One of the best things about a wildlife park such as Orana, is the way the animals are kept with as little human interaction as possible. That said, there are a number of ways you can get up close and personal with some of the specimens. Orana Park offers the following experiences:

  • Lion Encounter. One of the most popular interactions, the lion encounter uses a specially modified vehicle with a wire cage on the back, from which visitors can watch as the keepers feed the lions right from the midst of the enclosure. It’s the best way to understand the size and power of these predators, as they clamber over the vehicle and fight for pieces of meat.
  • Giraffe Feed. For those who prefer something with a little less adrenaline, you can hand feed giraffes twice daily. This allows you to get up close with these gentle, and very hungry creatures as you offer them shoots from a viewing platform.

Willowbank Reserve

7277337850_df11637db5_mFor those who prefer a more condensed experience, Willowbank Reserve is less expansive than Orana Park, with smaller enclosures and a guided path that takes you through. However it still has an excellent array of exhibits, with a variety of animals on display.

Location

Willowbank is just a short drive from the city, and easiest to find by heading north along Johns Road, and turning right at the Sawyer’s Arms roundabout, then left into Gardiners Road and then right into Hussey Road. Close to the airport, it’s an easy destination after picking up your rental vehicle.

Animals

Despite its smaller size, Willowbank still has an amazing array of animals on display. In terms of exotic species, lemurs and gibbons swing from the trees, and an entire island of capuchin monkeys bustles with activity. There are also parrots and macaws, as well as aviaries filled with other amazing birds from around the world.

In the Heritage New Zealand section, you’ll find a number of introduced species to New Zealand who have helped develop and cultivate the land over the last hundred or so years. These include a Clydesdale horse, llamas, goats, miniature horses and kune kune pigs. These species are all part of a traditional Kiwi farmyard, and you’ll find them enclosed in traditional buildings with historic farming equipment.

In the Natural New Zealand area, you’ll find species that are native to the country, including a number of up-close encounters. Of particular interest is the kea house, which is a massive aviary in which the kea are free to roam and inspect visitors. There are also kaka and takahe – two extremely rare species that you will not encounter in the wild, as they are not only endangered but very shy. And of course, you can also see the famous kiwi – Willowbank has the widest range of kiwi on display in Christchurch, with North Island Brown, Great Spotted, Okarito Brown and Haast Tokoeka. These are kept in the nocturnal house, so you’ll be able to watch them scurry through the leaf litter and search for food even during the day.

For anyone who loves animals, both of these Christchurch zoos offer an amazing experience by bringing together both native and exotic species from around the globe. Whether you’ve got a full day or just a couple of hours, they’re the perfect place to have up-close encounters with some truly incredible animals. Best of all, they’re both involved with conservation and preservation efforts, so supporting the zoo is an excellent way to help preserve these species for future generations to enjoy.

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10 Best Day Trips From Christchurch

Day trips can be a great way to see some of the countryside without having the hassle of relocating your accommodations as you go. Staying in Christchurch and want to know the best places to head out for a day of adventure and fun? We are here to help! Read on for our 10 best day trips from Christchurch – courtesy of locals in the know.

1. Akaroa

Distance From Christchurch 80 km, 90 minutes’ drive

The most popular destination out on Christchurch’s Banks Peninsula, Akaroa is a quaint little French inspired settlement nestled on the shores of a beautiful sheltered harbour. The township regularly hosts local events to take part in, or enjoy the colonial architecture and explore the boutique shopping.

Heading out on the water is definitely a must-do while visiting Akaroa, take a harbour cruise and keep an eye out for the local dolphins, give kayaking or stand up paddle boarding a go or head out for a penguin tour.

Highlights

  • Hiking. Walking the Banks Track is one of the best things to do if you have the time to fit it in. (It is a three day hike). The track is a private walking track and is only open from October through to April.
  • Cooking. Taking part in a cooking class at The Akaroa Cooking School is top of any foodies list and will certainly not disappoint – and the best part is you get to eat your culinary creations! Classes accommodate up to 16 people, booking ahead is recommended to avoid disappointment.
  • Sightseeing. Take in the beautiful Bays and stunning scenery of the Akaroa Harbour on a unique Harbour Cruise from the team at Black Cat Cruises. Catch a glimpse of the smallest penguin in the world, the White Flippered Blue Penguin, Hectors Dolphin, fur seals and much more!
  • Stargazing. Check out the “wooden tents with see through roofing” at the Onuku Campground just 6 km from the Akaroa Township for something a little different on the accommodation scene. These wooden structures allow you to enjoy stargazing as you fall asleep – $50 per night for two people.

Akaroa Lighthouse

2. Kaikoura

Distance from Christchurch 180 km, 2.5 hours’ drive

An easy day trip for those who enjoy a spot of fishing or just getting out and about, Kaikoura is known for its rugged coastline and giant crayfish! Sampling the local seafood is a must – take you pick from mussels, crays, whitebait, traditional kiwi ‘fish ‘n’ chips’ and more.

Look out for the resident fur seal colony, and more recently see the effects of the earthquakes where the coast line has risen by up to 3.5 metres in places.

Highlights

  • Hiking. The Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway is an easy yet scenic way to get some fresh air and enjoy some of the rugged Kaikoura coastline. The walk takes around 3 hours and hugs the top of the cliffs as it makes its way around the tip of the Peninsula.
  • Fishing. Take to the water and enjoy a fishing charter with the team at The Rodfather. Diving and fishing options are available along with hunting safaris and clay bird shooting if you are interested? Fishing charters are either half day or full day with your catch carefully filleted and kept cool for you to take home with you.
  • Crayfish. Nins Bin is the place to go for the freshest Crayfish cooked to perfection with fantastic ocean views in the background. Head down State Highway 1 about 20 kilometres past Kaikoura to find them – you can’t miss it.

Kaikoura Coastline

3. Hanmer Springs

Distance from Christchurch 130 km, 1 hrs 45 minutes’ drive

Hanmer Springs is a small inland alpine-style village very popular as a weekend getaway, overnighter or day trip from Christchurch. The village offers the perfect mix of boutique shopping, eateries, wide range of accommodation and activities for all ages.

The thermal spring’s pools and spa are the star attraction along with some excellent walking tracks, jet boating, horse riding, rafting, quad biking and bungy jumping and there is even some good skiing nearby during the winter months.

Highlights

  • Soak And Swim. Soak away your aches and pains in the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa at the end of a hard day on the slopes, hiking in the hills or just for fun! There are a range of pools to choose from, including children’s pool, hydroslides, and lap pool and lazy river – each pool set at its own individual temperature.
  • Walking/Hiking. The Hanmer Forest Park is the place to go for a wide range of walks and hikes to suit everybody. Choose from short pushchair friendly strolls through the forest, to 1 -2 hour walks, and right up to full day tramps.
  • Bungy. Jump from the 135 year old historic Ferry Bridge and make your trip to Hanmer Springs one to remember. There is a minimum age requirement of 12 years and you get a free tee-shirt – prices start at $169.
  • Skiing. Just 20 km from the village is the Hanmer Springs Ski Area, complete with its own lift, rope tow and fixed grip learners tow. Snowfall permitting, expect to find a good beginners area, along with the majority of the slopes at an intermediate level. Lift passes are fairly cheap – at just $60 for the day.

Hanmer Springs Houses

4. Greymouth/Hokitika

Distance from Christchurch 244 km, 3.5 hours’ drive

Visiting the West Coast can be a bit of a mission for just a day trip but it can be done! Get on the road early and enjoy one of New Zealand’s most scenic drives at your own pace. Stop off on the way for some epic roadside pics and a visit to the Arthurs Pass village at the mid-way point.

Try and squeeze in a visit to both Hokitika and Greymouth while you are there, and the famous Punakaiki Rocks of course!

Highlights

  • Pancake Rocks. Head up the coast from Greymouth for about 40 minutes and you will find these fantastic rock formations set amidst the rugged coastline. Blow holes and limestone rocks resembling a stack of pancakes and a lovely little walk await – get an awesome selfie when the waves crash against the rocks!
  • Tree Top Walk. Take to the tree tops and view the lush New Zealand forest from a whole different perspective on the West Coast Treetop Walk. Just 15 minutes from Hokitika this canopy walk is suitable for all ages and is enclosed on both sides for safety, entry costs are around $30 per person.
  • Shantytown. Well worth a look if you have the time, Shantytown offers a glimpse of the past with an informative look at Greymouth’s colourful gold mining history. Find a working steam train, museum and mining and forestry relics on site.

Hokitika Oceanfront

5. The TranzAlpine Train

Distance from Christchurch 200+ km, 5 hours’ travel time

A day trip with a twist, taking the TranzAlpine train to Greymouth or the shorter option of Arthur’s Pass and back can also be a great choice. This world famous scenic train journey is absolutely stunning in the winter when the snow line is low and offers up some breath taking shots for the holiday album.

The full trip to Greymouth takes approximately 5 hours, refreshments are available on board. Taking the half trip to Arthurs Pass is approximately 2.5 hours. If you depart at Arthurs Pass you can spend the day there returning on the train at 4.30 ish or arrange bus transport back to Christchurch (always pre-book these to ensure availability).

Highlights

  • Beautiful Views. Take in some of the South Island’s best cross-country scenery and see parts of the countryside you would not see by car. 15 tunnels and a 72 metre viaduct are just part of the fun!
  • The Open Air Viewing Carriage. Step out into the open sided viewing car and feel the wind in your hair as you whizz past the mountains, fields and towns.
  • Southern Alps. See the mighty Southern Alps up close and personal from the comfortable viewing carriages and enjoy good coffee and snacks as you travel.
  • Otira Tunnel. At 8.5 km long this tunnel is a vital part of the railway and its construction was an impressive feat for those involved. Don’t miss the great commentary on this portion of the journey – the stats and construction facts are fascinating.
  • The On-Board Commentary. A very informative commentary provided via headphones for free kicks in as you pass certain areas on the journey. This commentary is a really good way to get more out of the trip and helps you to understand points of interest along the way.
  • Arthurs Pass. If stopping at Arthurs Pass take the short walking route to the 130m Devils Punchbowl Waterfall, or ask at the Arthur’s Pass Village Centre for more walking tracks in the area. Keep an eye out for the Kea, NZ’s only alpine parrot. See below for more on Arthurs Pass.

6. Arthurs Pass

Distance from Christchurch 150 km, 2 hours’ drive

One of the best places to go for high country hiking and beautiful alpine scenery, Arthurs Pass is a stunning destination in its self. There are some amazing bush walks and beautiful waterfalls, steep gorges and rocky mountains to view along the way.

The local Department of Conservation Visitor Centre has advice and information on walks in the area, always be prepared for sharp changes in weather conditions when hiking in the mountains. Stick to the well-marked tracks and trails and do not attempt to cross any rivers or waterways.

Highlights

  • Arthur’s Pass National Park. One of three original national parks in all of New Zealand, the Park is visited by outdoor enthusiasts year round for its stunning scenery and challenging hiking tracks.  
  • Skiing. Arthurs Pass acts as the entrance to Temple Basin Ski Resort, widely considered one of the best ski fields for intermediate to advanced skiers and snow boarders. This unique ski area requires a 400 metre vertical hike to reach its base and it’s pretty raw – there are no groomed slopes there.
  • The Village. Enjoy a hot coffee while you relax in the peaceful surrounds or the Arthurs Pass Village. Feel like staying for longer than the day? There are several accommodation options to choose from. Keep an eye out for the cheeky native Kea bird on your travels!

7. Timaru

Distance from Christchurch 165 km, 2 hours’ drive

An easy drive from Christchurch, a day trip to Timaru is a good one for those looking to take a slower pace and just enjoy the journey. Timaru is a seaside town with a laid back vibe and some great little cafes and restaurants.

Spend some time at the South Canterbury Museum, the Botanic Gardens, Centennial Park or the waterfront at Caroline Bay. If you feel like getting a bit of an adrenaline hit why not try canyoning or rafting? The town also has an artistic vibe with locally owned boutique galleries and interesting sculptures located throughout the town centre.

Highlights

  • Caroline Bay. The perfect spot for taking a stroll, soaking up some sun or playing with the kids. There is also a small Aviary worth a look, an awesome sandy beach and miniature trains running on the weekends!
  • Canyoning. If spending 5 hours slipping and sliding your way down the Kaumira Canyon sounds like you then Big Rock Adventures are the people to see for the ultimate canyoning experience just 30 minutes’ drive north of Timaru.
  • Horse Trekking. Peel Forest Horse Trekking is a great way to spend some time in the great outdoors without too much personal exertion. Suitable for all ages and experience levels the treks start at 1 hour and go up to multi day options. 

8. Tekapo

Distance from Christchurch 227 km, 2 hours 50 minutes’ drive

Taking it to the South, Tekapo is an alpine village situated on the shores of the Lake of the same name – Lake Tekapo. The small township provides a laid back feel to the day with a sprinkling of cafes and accommodation options ranging from holiday homes, motels, and hotels through to the impressive Peppers Bluewater Resort.

Tekapo is a hive of activity during the winter months with skiers and snowboarders settling in for the best rides of the season and during the summer months it is popular with tourists and travellers enjoying the local countryside and water activities on the lake.

Highlights

  • Stargazing. The Mount John Observatory is one of the best places in New Zealand to view the night ski in all its glory. The Observatory offers evening tours as well as an onsite café during the daylight hours.
  • Skiing. There are two great options for skiers and snowboarders in Tekapo, the Roundhill Ski field is about 30 kilometres from the Tekapo township and Mount Dobson ski fields are a 45 minute drive away. Both of these ski fields have good slopes for beginners, intermediate and advanced skiers and boarders.
  • Ice skating. Tekapo is home to its very own outdoor ice skating rink – the perfect spot to enjoy the wintery surrounds while having fun with the whole family. Admission prices include all day entry – just come and go as you please.
  • Relaxing. Next door to the ice skating rink are the Tekapo Springs Hot Pools, these pools are also outdoors and offer the perfect opportunity to relax and unwind. Enjoy the superb alpine views and snow tipped trees as you soak away your cares and worries.

Lake Tekapo NZ

9. Banks Peninsula

Distance from Christchurch roughly 160 km for the round trip, 3 -4 hours driving time

While Akaroa is usually the focal point for most visitors to the Banks Peninsula, there are plenty of other lesser known places to explore. A really great day trip idea is to follow the road around the small bays and coves starting from Governors Bay.

Each Bay has its own personal charm and different sights to see – take a picnic lunch and find your favourite today!

Highlights

  • Purau Bay. A small sheltered pebble lined beach awaits good for swimming in the summer months.
  • Port Levy. A long sheltered bay complete with distinctive jetty that featured in the Peter Jackson movie ‘Heavenly Creatures’.
  • Pigeon Bay. Stretch the legs on the Pigeon Bay Walkway. At 14 km return, this track offers some really nice coastal views and is considered relatively easy (allow 4- 5 hours return).
  • Little Akaloa. A great little place to launch the boat, the Domain has toilets and a camping ground for tents and a couple of tennis courts.
  • Okains Bay. A really lovely spot for taking a stroll along the beach or swimming in the summer. There is a well set up camping ground with good facilities set among the trees and a beautiful white sand beach with sheltered inlet great for the kids.

10. Mount Thomas Forest Park

Distance from Christchurch 70 km, 1 hours’ drive

For something a little closer to home, the Mount Thomas Forest conservation area sits at the foothills of the Southern Alps a short scenic drive inland from Christchurch. This one is perfect for those who don’t want to spend all day in the car and love a peaceful scenic walk amongst the trees.

The Mount Thomas area spans roughly 10,000 hectares and is full to the brim with birdlife, with native birds including the fantail, bellbird, silvereye, tomtit, greywarbler, and kereru or wood pigeon commonly spotted among the trees.

Highlights

  • Walking And Tramping. The Mount Thomas Tracks (a combination of three smaller routes) will take you on a nice loop walk through the best of the Mount Thomas area. This track is considered better suited to advanced hikers due to its steep inclines and takes around 4 -7 hours depending on fitness levels.
  • Hunting. There are Red Deer and wild pigs to be found within the Mount Thomas conservation area, these animals are able to be hunted if you obtain a permit to do so.
  • Mountain Biking. Mt Richardson (situated within the Mount Thomas Conservation area) is the place to head for if you have a day of mountain biking in mind. The Mount Richardson mountain biking track is considered a Grade 4 or advanced level track for people with a moderate level of fitness. Allow 3 hours one way.

Enjoy the best Christchurch and Canterbury has to offer with the convenience of a reliable rental car from the team at USAVE Car Rental. Give us a call today to hire a car and hit the road!

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