Stray bus south island

Christchurch Guide

European settlement started with the English who arrived in large numbers starting from 1850 and the city still shows huge signs of their influence, from the street names to the River Avon which runs through the middle of town, to the early gothic architecture including what was the fantastic Cathedral in the town’s square (imaginatively named ‘Cathedral Square’).

On February 22nd 2011, a major earthquake struck the Canterbury region, forever altering the beautiful city of Christchurch. The earthquake caused widespread damage, especially in the central city and eastern suburbs. The city has undergone a massive facelift and now has lots of chic restaurants, urban bars and funky cafes. Although much of the city’s heritage architecture was damaged during the quake the city still displays some traditional English charm. The rebuild started the day after the quake hit and they still have a long way to go, but Cantabrians are a resilient lot and are committed to rebuilding their city and restoring it to its former glory.  

Population: 366,000 - the South Island’s largest city and New Zealand’s second largest.

Vibe: Walking around Christchurch and observing the devastation from the earthquakes may make you feel a little sad but there is also a feeling of hope and revival as funky street art, new cafes and shops, are popping up over the city.

Known as: ‘The Garden City’ thanks to the Botanic Gardens and Hagley Park - beautiful big parks in the city centre.

Must Do: Visit the 185 Empty White Chairs - the Earthquake Memorial where a chair has been placed for every person who died in the earthquake.

Things to see and do

Christchurch Mall Restart

Christchurch Botanic Gardens
Wander through the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and see why Christchurch is known as the Garden City. The gardens are free to visit. 

Visit Quake City
Quake City tells the story of the recent Christchurch Earthquakes and the effect they had on the city. Watch the film where people tell their stories and check out the exhibits showing the extent of the devastation. 

Opposite Quake City you'll find the Re:START Mall, a colourful shopping area where the shops are made out of shipping containers. This was originally a temporary solution after the earthquake destroyed the City Mall, but it is now a popular attraction and remains open for business.  

185 Empty White Chairs
At 236 Cashel Street you'll find an empty lot with 185 white chairs of varying sizes and shapes, even a baby's chair, which represents the people who lost their lives in the earthquakes and the turmoil the city went into after the quakes. It offers a place for people to remember and grieve for the victims. 

Take a tram ride around the city
Why walk when you get sit comfortably on a restored historic tram and travel around the city in style? A tram pass is valid for the whole day so you can hop on and off as you please. Your driver guide will provide commentary and point out places of interest. 

International Antarctic Centre
The International Antarctic Centre is located within walking distance of the airport and is a great way to spend a couple of hours if you're waiting for a flight. You can experience an Antarctic Storm, learn about Antartica and see the little blue penguins. 

Visit Kaikoura for whale and dolphin watching
From Christchurch you can book a return trip to visit Kaikoura, an iconic marine haven a few hours north. Either plan a day trip or stay for a few days and make the most out of all the exciting activities on offer.

Visit New Brighton Beach
About 8km from the Christchurch city is New Brighton Beach. A reminiscent reminder of England, Christchurch must be one of the few cities in the world where the coastal property is often cheaper than inland. New Brighton is a great example of this - a great beach with a pier (of course) which until recently was quite undeveloped.

Visit Akaroa Township
Just 75km from Christhchurch is New Zealand’s very own French town complete with French street names, Akaroa. The French colony here was that what prompted the British to set about proceeding to make New Zealand a formal colony leading to the Treaty of Waitangi. Nestled in the heart of an ancient volcano, explore the colonial architecture, galleries, craft shops and cafes of this historic French and British settlement.  

Eating and Drinking

Smash Palace

Smash Palace - Photo by:

If you're after a casual bite to eat, the food trucks at the re:start mall offer some delicious options at a budget friendly price. Dimitris Greek Food in the re:start mall is a firm favourite. 

The Christchurch Tramway Restaurant is a unique dining experience that comes highly recommended- although at $99 per person it's not the most budget friendly! 

Smash Palace was started when the old bar was destroyed in the Christchurch earthquake. Smash Palace is basically a bus, acting as a bar, serving freshly brewed Bodgie Beer in an empty lot-cum-beer garden. There's outdoor heating, multi-cloured lights and a industrial style vibe.  Enjoy a fresh pint and one of their delicious burgers.


Get to Christchurch!

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