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Christchurch City – Guide for Backpackers

Tourism NZ

A city of shopping, Gardens and sandy shores.

Christchurch is described as many things: the Garden City, the most English city out of England (look at the street names), but now more commonly it has become the Earthquake City. The city has become a place of intrigue for those wanting to see how the 2010/2011 earthquakes impacted the city. However, the pop-up feature of the shipping container mall, the amazing street art, and huge botanic gardens are reasons why Christchurch is moving on by creating and reviving exciting attractions. [Update: the shipping container mall has now been removed for redevelopment].

Venture to the suburbs of the Christchurch and you’re bound to be greeted with a number of beaches and surf spots. What’s more working holidaymakers may want to consider Christchurch as their working destination for a while, as the city is always in need of seasonal workers, especially in construction.

For more things to do in Christchurch, check out 10 Free or Cheap Things to do in Christchurch.

Things you can’t miss in Christchurch

  • See a show and some awesome street art.
  • Take a walk in the most beautiful part of the city centre.
  • Shop, shop, shop!
  • Discover the walking tracks and mountain biking outside the city.
  • Go to the beach!
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Art and Cultural Fix

The arts have been kept alive in Christchurch by the reopening of The Court Theatre (Bernard Street, Addington). For more than 40 years The Court Theatre has ran productions. Today it has a new location and venue: a converted grain store in Addington. Catch a show while you are in the city.

Throughout the bars in Christchurch, there are often local live acts and comedy nights. Check out The Darkroom (St Asaph Street) for live entertainment, especially on the 1st Monday of every month for a night of comedy, hypnotists and magicians. All for the backpacker-friendly price of NZ$10.

Lastly, when walking in the city centre it doesn’t take long to spot huge street art amongst the construction works. Artists have used abandoned building walls as their canvas to create a contrast of colourful and grungy artwork. Use the great Watch This Space: Christchurch Street Art Map to plan your itinerary. There is even a ‘street art gallery’ on Brockworth Street.

To get a taste of the local cuisine without breaking the bank, check out Cheap Eats in Christchurch, we also list the markets in that guide too.


Botanic Gardens

How can two completely different worlds be sitting next to each other? In the city centre you have a concrete jungle of construction, then you simply cross the road to a beautiful Botanic Gardens (access just off Rolleston Avenue).

Although a lot of New Zealand cities have botanic gardens, nothing compares to this vast area of different themes. It is apparent that Christchurch’s garden is on a different level. Walk through the gardens about three times taking different routes and we bet you’ll find something new each time!

At the edge of the Botanic Gardens is the Canterbury Museum, a free-entry museum rich with artifacts and displays. Learn about the region’s history.


Shopping in Christchurch

The Christchurch city centre shopping precinct is changing all the time with new developments. Take a stroll around Christchurch CBD with The Crossing being a good hub for all major retail stores. Don’t miss Ballantynes, Christchurch’s oldest department store with quality international brands. A 5min walk from the CBD will bring you to South City Shopping Centre. There is a mix of supermarkets, fast food, and retail.

Outside of the city centre, try The Tannery at 3 Garlands Road, Woolston for an up-market and stylish shopping centre. Or how about The Palms on the corner Marshland & New Brighton Roads, Shirley, for an open and airy shopping centre with all the essential stores. Finally, for bargain shopping, go to Dress-Smart in Hornby for discounts. This is the only designer outlet mall in the South Island.

Update: The shipping container mall, re:START mall has closed and Quake City museum is now moving to 299 Durham Street North.


Away from the city

It’s not too far to reach outdoor recreational activities. 15 minutes away from the centre is the Christchurch Gondola going up Port Hills. This is perfect for views of the city, Canterbury Plains and all the way to the Southern Alps. There are a number of walking and mountains bike tracks from the top. You can mount your mountain bike (or a hired one) on the Gondola for a day of downhill thrills.

A ferry can take you to from Lyttleton to Quail Island – once used as a leprosy quarantine station but is now a sanctuary for birds and great place for a walk. And a walk around the wetland Otukaikino Wildlife Reserve is an easy boardwalk track amongst bird wildlife.

You can see five of New Zealand’s much-loved native wildlife: the kiwi, kea, takahe, kaka and tuatara at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. Buses run from the city centre and take 15 minutes. Entry is around NZ$27.50. Opening hours are 9.30am – 7pm summer and 9.30pm – 5pm winter.


Let’s go to the beach!

When summer comes, it’s easy to be drawn to the sandy beaches on Christchurch’s coast. Sumner Beach is great for a swim, surf and windsurf. Don’t forget to check out the cave on Sumner Beach. Equally as great, check out the cafes on Sumner and the ice cream!

New Brighton has always been a favourite for shopping, swimming and surfing. A visit isn’t complete until you walk the New Brighton Pier. Find out what to do in New Brighton in 10 Free or Cheap Things To Do in New Brighton.

If you have more time in Christchurch…

  • Go punting down the Avon River.
  • Visit an Edwardian township at Ferrymead Heritage Park.
  • Discover natural and human history at the Canterbury Museum, Botanic Gardens.
  • Have a 4D Antarctic experience at the International Antarctic Centre.
  • Like planes? Visit the free Air Force Museum.
  • Check out our article 10 Free or Cheap Things to do in Christchurch.
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