Ilam, Christchurch: A Must-See for Rich History and Top-Tier Education

Ilam Christchurch NZ

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Ilam may not be as popular as the other suburbs in Christchurch, but it has its own appeal that should not be overlooked. 

Its history dates back to 1850, when Hon. John Watts-Russell left his home in Ilam Hall, Staffordshire, England and settled in Canterbury. In honour of his past, he named his new property after his birthplace Ilam, which still exists today as Ilam Homestead, a popular historical landmark in the area. 

Fast forward to modern-day Ilam, the suburb is mostly known for its close proximity to hotspots like the retail suburban hub of Riccarton, the rich and refined suburb of Fendalton, the University of Canterbury, and the Christchurch International Airport.

Just a few kilometres from the Christchurch city centre, it is an excellent location to experience the peace of local living without missing out on the convenience and excitement of city life. 

So from our team at Lovoir, here’s a curated guide to all things Ilam, Christchurch!


Nestled in the western part of Christchurch, Ilam boasts a picturesque setting that effortlessly blends urban conveniences with the calm ambiance of nature. 

Ilam Geography

The suburb is bordered by the serene Riccarton Bush, a pristine native forest, and the Ilam stream, a peaceful waterway stemming from Avon River. This landscape offers residents and visitors alike an abundance of opportunities for leisurely strolls, picnics, and communing with nature.

Surrounding Ilam are the suburbs of Avonhead to the west, Fendalton to the east, Burnside to the north, Upper Riccarton to the south, and the city centre just 5 kilometres away. With its strategic location, Ilam is a well-connected suburb, a convenient and accessible hub for both work and play.


Ilam is a diverse and welcoming community, with residents hailing from various backgrounds and cultures. You’ll find a mix of families, professionals, and university students, all coexisting harmoniously to create a friendly atmosphere and a sense of unity among the community. 

As of the 2018 and 2022 New Zealand census, here are some interesting facts about the profile of Ilam residents:

  • Growing population: 9,910 residents

  • Equal gender distribution: 1.09 males per female

  • A community of students and young professionals: The biggest age group in Ilam are residents aged 15 to 29, making up 45.9% of the population. This is followed by the age groups of 30 to 64 (31.3%), below 15 years old (11.6%) and 65 and older (11.3%). The abundance of teenagers and young adults in the community is likely due to the area’s proximity to schools like the University of Canterbury, making it a great location for students and professionals. 

  • A melting pot of Europeans, Asians, and indigenous peoples: Ilam is home to a significant number of New Zealand Europeans and Asians. Compared to neighbouring suburbs, the Asian community is slightly larger at 28.5% of the population. The rest are composed of 67.8% European/Pākehā, 5.9% Maori, and 2.3% Pacific peoples. A big portion of the population are also born overseas at 37.8% versus 27.1% born nationally, further showcasing Christchurch’s appeal to immigrants and foreigners.

  • A generally stable and empowered community: Of the suburb’s work-appropriate age group, 53% are employed either full-time or part-time, while only 5.7% are unemployed. This provides a sneak peek into the capabilities and mindset of Ilam residents, as well the work opportunities in the greater Christchurch area.
Ilam Community


Ilam is largely shaped by its young community of students, young professionals and families, against the backdrop of many schools and nature parks in the area. As such, the suburb naturally gives off a warm, inclusive, and community-centric cultural scene. This can be seen in everything from its culinary scene to educational opportunities to leisure and recreation spots.

For one, the University of Canterbury hosts many school functions and programmes for the community to take part in. These include initiatives on learning, arts and sports, volunteerism, and more.

As for food and dining, there are a number of restaurants, cafes, and pubs in the area, offering different cuisines and experiences for locals and visitors alike. Hotels and hospitality are also noteworthy, given the suburb’s close distance to the Christchurch International Airport, making it a good location for tourists. 

Moreover, the presence of parks and waterways throughout Ilam encourages an outdoor lifestyle among its residents, whether it be for adventure, sports or relaxation. 


One of Ilam’s most desirable qualities as a suburb is its access to prestigious schools and exceptional educational opportunities.

University of Canterbury Ilam Christchurch

It is home to the esteemed University of Canterbury, sharing this feat with neighbouring suburb Upper Riccarton. Founded in 1873 and initially called Canterbury College, it is the second oldest university in New Zealand and has since become a focal point of academic excellence and innovation. While it is most known for its Engineering and Science programmes, it also offers a wide range of courses like arts, commerce, education, health sciences, law, social work, sports coaching, music, education, and more. The university attracts students from around the world, infusing the suburb with a youthful and dynamic energy.

Additionally, Ilam is also sprawling with several reputable primary and secondary schools, ensuring that families have access to top-notch education options for their children. These include the Ilam School, Westburn School, Medbury School, and Canterbury Japanese Supplementary School. There are also a handful of preschools like Ilam Early Learning Centre and Ilam Montessori Preschool.


While Ilam’s main charm lies in its residential allure and educational opportunities, there are several must-visit attractions that entice tourists and locals alike. 

The Ilam Homestead, a historic building surrounded by elegant gardens, offers a glimpse into the suburb’s past and is perfect for leisurely walks or enjoying a picnic. A little fun fact: Ilam Homestead gained notoriety in the 1950s when the daughter of its previous owner, Henry Rainsford Hulme, was involved in a murder case. While the homestead is far from creepy, it’s an interesting nugget of history to carry with you as you stroll its halls!

Riccarton House near Ilam Christchurch

For avid shoppers, Westfield Riccarton Mall, located in the neighbouring suburb of Riccarton, offers a fantastic array of retail therapy and dining experiences. 

Also just a stone’s throw away from Ilam is the nearby Riccarton House and Bush provide an idyllic escape into nature, where you can experience the beauty of New Zealand’s native flora and fauna.

And for sports enthusiasts, the Ilam Fields and Hagley Park provide ample space for outdoor activities, such as cricket, soccer, and leisurely walks.

Ilam stands as a testament to the harmonious blend of nature, culture, and education. Its alluring charm and welcoming ambiance make it a cherished suburb in Christchurch, New Zealand.