Nestled at the heart of Christchurch Central City, our Lovoir day spa is constantly surrounded by all the natural elements that make up the city’s unique landscape. Looking around, you’ll notice a beautiful range of flat plains, rolling hills, lush greenery, coastal views and a rich marine environment. Together, they make up the diverse and dynamic terrain of Christchurch, making it an attractive place to both visit or live in.
If you’re planning a trip to this picturesque city (or perhaps considering a move), here are some interesting facts about Christchurch geography!
With a land area of 1,415.47 km2 (546.52 sq mi), Christchurch is the second largest city in New Zealand and the largest in the country’s South Island. It is specifically located in the region of Canterbury, the country’s business and agricultural powerhouse and the largest region by area.
Canterbury is most characterised by its Canterbury Plains – flat farmlands and lush pastures that stretch out onto the Southern Alps, a beautiful mountain range in the west of the South Island. The region is home to 24 cities, Christchurch being its largest and most prominent.
Christchurch City Centre
Did you know that Christchurch is one of only four cities in the world that was intentionally and carefully designed to recreate the ‘central city square’ look? Along with Philadelphia, Savannah and Adelaide, the city centre is surrounded by four complementing city squares, all connected by a parkland area that weaves through the central city streets.
Originally, the plan was to build both a college and a cathedral at the square’s centre, as patterned after Christ Church in Oxford, England. While this plan never materialised, the city still followed a central square design that remains to be one of Christchurch’s most notable features.
Today, at the heart of Christchurch city centre is Cathedral Square or simply ‘The Square’ among locals. Here stands the Christchurch Cathedral (built in the early 1900s as the symbolic heart of the city) and the Chalice (a 59-foot steel sculpture built in 2001 symbolising the new millennium and the 150th anniversary of the city), alongside towering trees, surrounding buildings, and a generous amount of space for walking, sitting, or simply relaxing and adoring the city.
Popular landmarks in the city centre include Cashel and High streets (known among locals as ‘City Mall’ prior to the recent earthquakes), The Culture Precinct (which includes the Art Centre, Canterbury Museum, and Art Gallery), and other business, shopping, and commercial buildings.
Another signature characteristic of Christchurch city is ‘The Four Avenues’. It refers to the four major boulevards that surround the city centre – Bealey Avenue, Fitzgerald Avenue, Moorhouse Avenue, and either Rolleston Avenue or Deans Avenue, all named after the city’s founding fathers.
Four Avenues is considered the city’s CBD (central business district), although there are a few residential areas along certain streets (i.e. Inner City East, Inner City West, Avon Loop, Moa Neighborhood, Victoria). This area is also where you’ll find the majority of the city’s commercial life, thus loosely used by locals to refer to Christchurch as a whole.
“Within the Four Avenues” is another popular term, alluding to the area as the unofficial boundary between the city centre and the surrounding suburbs – which we further detail in the next section.
Suburbs and Satellite Towns
The central city is surrounded by a sequence of interconnected suburbs, each with its unique character and purpose (whether residential, commercial, or industrial). Each of these suburbs has its unique character, with a mixture of residential, commercial, and industrial zones.
Below is a complete list of suburbs and satellite towns in Christchurch, New Zealand.
*Clockwise, starting north of the city centre
- St Martins
- Upper Riccarton
- St Albans
*Clockwise, starting north of the city centre
*Some of these suburbs may also be considered subdivisions of larger suburbs
- Bottle Lake
- Waimairi Beach
- North New Brighton
- New Brighton
- Bexley (now largely defunct)
- South New Brighton
- Mt Pleasant
- Moncks Bay
- Richmond Hill
- Scarborough Hill
- Heathcote Valley
- Murray Aynsley Hill
- Hoon Hay
- Kennedys Bush
- Knight Stream Park
- Hei Hei
- Regents Park
- Styx Mill
- Groynes Park
*According to Statistics New Zealand, the Christchurch functional urban area covers 2,408.1 km2 (929.8 sq mi) and consists of the following towns and settlements:
- Governors Bay
- Diamond Harbour
- Tai Tapu
- Little River
- West Melton
- Pines Beach
Bodies of Water
Located along the eastern coast of New Zealand’s South Island, Christchurch is fortunate enough to be different bodies of water. From oceans to rivers to little lagoons, here’s a breakdown of all the waterfront views to look out for.
The first, and possibly the most iconic among locals, is the Avon River / Otakaro. Starting its course from the suburb of Avonhead, it flows through the centre of Christchurch city, specifically passing the areas of Ilam, Riccarton, Fendalton, Hagley Park, and the CBD (the central business district and the surrounding suburbs of Avonside, Dallington, Avondale and Aranui).
As it makes its way out the Pacific Ocean, the Avon River flows via the Avon Heathcote Estuary – the largest shallow estuary in Canterbury and one of New Zealand’s most vital coastal wetlands.
To the east of the city centre, the land gently slopes down towards Pegasus Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Along this bay, Christchurch locals and tourists can enjoy sandy beaches that run from the Waipara River and along the city’s suburbs of New Brighton, Sumner and Scarborough.
To the north of the centre is the Waimakariri River, one of the largest rivers in the Canterbury region. Originating from the Southern Alps, it flows across the Canterbury Plains and into Pegasus Bay, passing Christchurch through the town of Kaiapoi.
Over the centuries, the early Europeans and other settlers have built multiple protections around Christchurch, preventing floods and other calamities that may be caused by the river. Today, Waimakariri River is mainly enjoyed by locals for its beautiful waterfront views.
Another body of water significant to Christchurch is Lake Ellesmere (Te Waihora), located at the south of the city. It is a shallow, brackish lake known as a wildlife haven, especially for bird species.
Perhaps one of the most defining and sought-after features of Christchurch is its beautiful landscape. A mix of flat and hilly terrain, it is a city that nature lovers will find tons to do and see! Banks Peninsula and Port Hills remain to be two of its most prominent backdrops for captivating views amidst the city life.
The Port Hills is a range of hills along Canterbury Region, rising to over 500 metres. With its diverse terrain and lush greens, it is a suitable environment for various outdoor activities like walking, hiking, mountain biking, or just plain, old sightseeing.
From Christchurch, there are two roads that travel through Port Hills – Dyers Pass and Evans Pass – making for a leisurely drive or hike to savour the views. Along the route, you’ll find significant summits like Sugarloaf, Mount Cavendish, and Tauhinukorokio / Mount Pleasant (the highest peak in the northern part of Port Hills).
Port Hills also serves as a barrier between Christchurch and Lyttelton Harbour, a major inlet on the northwest side of Banks Peninsula.
Towards the southeast of the Christchurch city centre is the Banks Peninsula, a land area formed by two ancient volcanic cones, Lyttelton and Akaroa.
It is characterised by hilly terrain, sheltered bays, and harbours, with the most significant being Lyttelton Harbour, which is a major port serving Christchurch.