Top 6 Christchurch City Suburbs

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

Read about 'Top 6 Christchurch City Suburbs' on USAVE, the place for all things car rental.

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.

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.

Where To Shop

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.

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.

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.

Where To Party

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.

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.

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.

Where To Shop

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 remodelled 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.

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.

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 criss-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.

New Brighton Pier

4. Lyttleton

If you’re looking for a change of pace in your holiday, the portside suburb of Lyttleton 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,Lyttleton 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 See

Lyttleton 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, Lyttleton 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.

Where To Shop

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.

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 Lyttleton, 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.

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.

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.

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 Party

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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