Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and the third most-populous urban area in the country. As well as having the most attractions of any place in the South Island, it's the major international entry point for visiting the rest of the island. It is on the east coast of the South Island, and is the centre of the Canterbury region.

Christchurch is recovering and rebuilding after a large earthquake in February 2011 that severely damaged the city, killed 185 people and displaced many more. Bits of the city may be off limits due to reconstruction work, but most of the city and region are open for business and the city remains the main gateway to the South Island.


Christchurch was established in 1850 by English settlers. Its English heritage shows in the older buildings, especially in the cultural precinct along Worcester Boulevard (which is open from the River Avon towards the west), where most heritage buildings remain. The River Avon flows through the central city and disrupts the regular rectangular layout of the city streets.

Christchurch is known as the Garden City, a well-deserved name. Looking from a few floors up, one is struck by the number of trees that grow like a forest throughout the suburbs.

At 04:35 on Saturday, 4 September 2010, the city and region was hit by a magnitude 7.1 earthquake, located 10 km deep and 40 km west of the city centre. Parts of the city were damaged, but there were no fatalities. However, five-and-a-half months later, at 12:51 on Tuesday, 22 February 2011, a magnitude 6.3 aftershock struck 10 km south of the city centre at 5 km deep. Already damaged buildings collapsed, killing 185 people, 115 of which resulted from the six storey Canterbury Television building collapsing and catching fire. Many other central city buildings, old and new, were damaged beyond repair and were subsequently demolished. Liquefaction severely affected the eastern suburbs, resulting in 10,000 homes having to be abandoned due to land damage (the "residential red zone"). Some residents moved out of the city after the quake – many moved out to the Waimakariri and Selwyn Districts north and south of the city respectively, and some moved to other areas in Canterbury and further afield.

A very hip scene has developed in some of the suburbs close to the centre, and many 'gapfiller' projects (as part of the earthquake recovery) are stunning. Lonely Planet declared post-earthquake Christchurch as one of the top 10 travel destinations in the world.

  i-Site Visitor Centre, Botanic Gardens, Rolleston Ave (next to Canterbury Museum),  +64 3 379-9629, toll-free: 0800 423 783, e-mail: . Daily 08:30-17:00. Free booking service for accommodation, activities and transport.

For online information, see the official Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism site.

Get in

By plane

Christchurch International Airport is located 12 km northwest of the city centre. It has regular international services from eastern Australia, Fiji, Singapore, Bangkok and Dubai, and seasonal services from Perth, Rarotonga and Taipei. There are frequent flights each day from most New Zealand airports, with direct flights to and from Auckland, Dunedin, Invercargill, Nelson, Queenstown, Rotorua, Wellington and many more places, provided by Air New Zealand and Jetstar Airways. There is a single terminal building that serves international and domestic flights.

Flights to and from McMurdo Station in Antarctica use the airport. It is one of the few international airports in the world where military and civilian aircraft regularly share the same runways.

There are two regular public bus services from the airport to the city centre. The number 29 bus travels via Fendalton, while the Purple Line bus travels via the University of Canterbury and Riccarton. The 30 min trip costs $8 (or $2.50 with a Metrocard) and between the two routes buses operate every 15-30 minutes during the day, 7 days a week. A door-to-door shuttle service to all parts of Christchurch is available; the price to the city centre is $24 for the first person and $5 for each additional person travelling to the same destination. Taxi stands (about $45-$65 to the city centre) and rental car parks are close to the terminal building.

If you have a few hours to spare and no heavy luggage, you can walk to the airport. There is a footpath alongside Fendalton Road/Memorial Avenue all the way to the airport and the 8 km walk through residential neighbourhoods is quite pleasant.

By car

State Highway 1 is the main highway into Christchurch from the north and south, and skirts around the city to the west, close to the airport. The stretch north from Picton to Christchurch is particularly scenic, including stunning windswept cliffs and seal colonies. State Highway 73 goes to the west, over Arthur's Pass and on to the west coast. From SH73 you can also access Mount Hutt and other regional ski fields.

Typical distances and non-stop travel times to Christchurch:

By bus

National operators InterCity and Newmans Coach Lines provide multiple daily connections to destinations throughout the South Island. There are daily bus services to and from Picton to the north, Dunedin, Queenstown and Mt Cook to the south, and the West Coast (Greymouth, Hokitika). The temporary InterCity bus stop is at 182 Armagh St (between Manchester St and New Regent St). From 20 November 2015 the bus stop will be at Platform L at the Bus Exchange on Lichfield Street. Newmans Coach Lines buses (to Tekapo/Queenstown) depart from outside Canterbury Museum in Rolleston Ave, nearest the Worcester Boulevard intersection).

There are a number of smaller shuttle operators who operate from Christchurch., a budget no frills bus operator. Atomic Shuttles, a local operator with services from Christchurch to Greymouth via Arthur's Pass. West Coast Shuttle, with services to Greymouth via Arthur's Pass (pick up at Christchurch airport on demand).

By train

The Coastal Pacific runs from October through April between Christchurch and Picton, where it connects with the Cook Strait ferries from Wellington in the North Island. The train departs Christchurch at 07:00 and arrives in Picton at 12:13, connecting with the 14:00 ferry to Wellington. The 09:00 ferry from Wellington connects with the train departing Picton at 13:00 and arriving in Christchurch at 18:21.

The TranzAlpine can take you coast-to-coast between Christchurch and Greymouth, a town on the West Coast. This scenic train journey can be done as a day trip. The train departs from Christchurch daily at 08:15, arriving at Greymouth at 12:45, then leaves Greymouth at 13:45, getting back to Christchurch at 18:05. During the trip you’ll see the fields of the Canterbury Plains, followed by spectacular gorges and river valleys of the Waimakariri River. The train then climbs into the Southern Alps before descending through lush beech rain forest to Greymouth.

The Christchurch railway station is on Troup Drive in Addington, adjacent to the large Tower Junction shopping centre, and has limited facilities. Canterbury Shuttles provides a free transfer from all central city accommodation to the station. Pick-ups for the Coastal Pacific are 06:00-06:30. Pickups for the TranzAlpine are 07:00-7:45.

Get around

Christchurch is mostly flat with a grid-pattern layout, so navigation by road is generally simple. The central city is contained by the "four avenues" - Bealey Ave in the north, Fitzgerald Ave in the east, Deans Ave in the west, and Moorhouse Avenue in the south. Watch out for one-way streets and bus-and-taxi-only intersections in the central city. Currently (May 2014), there are a lot of roadworks around the city as roads and underground services are repaired following the earthquakes, so allow extra time when travelling.

Many people get around on bicycles, and special-purpose bicycle lanes have been recently added to many streets to help promote cycling.

The city bus service is called Metro. Buses interconnect through the Bus Interchange on Lichfield St, just east of Colombo St. A standard cash bus fare within the city is $3.50 or with a Metrocard smart card it is $2.50 ($5 maximum charge per day, $10 minimum initial purchase). Services cover the whole city and areas of interest for a visitor that lie outside the central city, such as Sumner and New Brighton beaches, Lyttelton, the Gondola, etc.

The core bus network has four cross-city routes and a circular route through the inner suburbs. Buses on these routes run every 15 minutes during the day, seven days a week. The four cross-city routes converge at Central Station.

In some areas buses may be infrequent, particularly at the weekend, when there may only be one or two buses per hour.

Parking in the city uses a pay and display system and costs $2.60/hour. You can pay with coins, credit card (Visa, MasterCard or AmEx) or with a mobile phone text message (the latter two attract a 50c surcharge) then display the ticket with the expiry time visible on the kerbside dash. Rental cars are available. Most depots are on the airport side of town, with just a few near the CBD.


Christchurch Art Gallery (closed for repair)
185 Empty Chairs
Avon River from Worcester Boulevard


Punting on the Avon


Christchurch has the busiest program of annual festivals of any New Zealand city.








Backpackers are safe, clean, cheap and cheerful. The cheapest option is a share/dorm room usually costing around $28 per night. Most offer single rooms, twin and double rooms and shared rooms. The standard of backpackers is very good in New Zealand.

Motels are a notch up. Low end around $79 per night. There are also many good quality B&Bs in Christchurch and surrounding district.

Following the earthquakes, some major hotels were demolished. The Novotel in Cathedral Square and the Rendezvous Hotel were repaired and reopened in 2013. Several of the backpackers hostels and most of the motels in Christchurch are located outside the damaged CBD & are fully open for business, just check their websites for updates.




For travellers who want to stay a month or longer, there are a number of furnished flats for rent advertised in the papers. A local company called Urban Rooms has a number of furnished rentals specifically for travellers, ranging from rooms in a shared house to self-contained flats with garages.


Stay safe

Christchurch has a problem with smog during the winter, but only at night. Although conditions have improved over the years due to the intervention of the city council, take care venturing out on calm frosty evenings if you have a breathing-related medical condition.

While violent crime is relatively rare, some people do have a tendency towards aggression when drunk, as in most cities. Linwood is one of the lower socio-economic area of Christchurch, and is rougher than some other neighborhoods, but is still considered safe. As in any city, take care late at night, especially on Friday and Saturdays, as levels of intoxication can lead to unwanted attention or unprovoked violence. Avoid dark alleyways and confrontations and, if in doubt, make haste to a populated area and call the police (dial 111).

Aftershocks from the 2010-11 earthquakes have long since subsided. There is still a risk of another major earthquake rocking Christchurch, but the chances are comparable to any other New Zealand city.

The earthquakes have caused land to sink up to 1.2 m (4 ft) in some places, creating new basins which can flood during heavy rain. The worst-affected areas are the "Flockton Basin" in Saint Albans/Mairehau north of the city centre, and the suburb of Woolston in the city's south-east. Be wary in these areas if there are forecasts for heavy rain.



Go next

Lewis Pass

As a major gateway to the South Island, Christchurch is often the starting or finishing point for touring the rest of the island.

Routes through Christchurch

Kaikoura Kaiapoi  N  S  Timaru Dunedin
West Coast Arthur's Pass  W  E  END
END  N  S  Akaroa

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