Ultimate Guide: Everything You Need To Know About Christchurch, New Zealand

In This Article

Lovoir has been lucky enough to call Christchurch our home since 2019, with our Day Spa being surrounded by the city’s dynamic culture, laidback lifestyle, and vibrant local community for years. 

And so as a tribute to the city we love and cherish, our team has curated the ultimate guide to all things Christchurch! 

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about Christchurch – its rich history, beautiful landscapes and waters, top attractions to visit, and all the other ins and outs of city life! We hope this gives you a generous sneak peek into all the amazing things this city has to offer.

Christchurch NZ

Christchurch, New Zealand

When one thinks of New Zealand, what usually comes to mind are scenic landscapes, verdant outdoor trails, a hip local scene, and a haven for foodies and wine lovers. 

First-timers and tourists are drawn to the beautiful harbours and views in Auckland, the adventures and activities in Queenstown, and the city life and culture of Wellington. But not many are aware of Christchurch, New Zealand’s oldest established city. 

Located on the eastern coast of the country’s South Island, Christchurch is a paradise for nature lovers and culture seekers alike. It has earned various titles through the years – ‘the most English city outside England’ and the ‘Garden City of New Zealand’  – all clear testaments to a must-see destination that begs to be explored and appreciated. From its interesting history to its youthful community, there’s definitely something for everyone to enjoy.

Christchurch City Centre

History of Christchurch

Christchurch holds the distinction of being the oldest established city in New Zealand, with the history of Christchurch shaped by a variety of cultures, progressive developments, and significant reforms. 

The Maori people were the first to inhabit the area, with European explorers and settlers arriving later. The Weller brothers, who established a whaling station in Otago Harbour and purchased land in present day Riccarton, played a pivotal role in attracting European interest to the region. 

But the city’s ultimate turning point happened in 1840, when settlers Herriott and McGillivray arrived in Christchurch with the intention of furthering the city’s development. This gave way to migration of the Canterbury Pilgrims, who shaped the city into a model of the Christ Church, Oxford, thus inspiring its name. 

Today, Christchurch has grown into a cultural and commercial hub of the South Island, demonstrating historical milestones, cultural influences, and a remarkable resilience in the face of multiple recent tragedies.

Chch New Zealand

Geography of Christchurch

Situated in the Canterbury region of New Zealand, the geography of Christchurch is characterised by diverse landscapes and picturesque beauty. 

As the country’s second-largest city, it is enveloped by expansive farmlands and lush pastures that transition into the majestic Southern Alps. The city’s unique design, one of only four in the world, was intentionally created to follow the ‘central city square’ look. Its city centre connects to four city squares and is embraced by a verdant parkland area. At the heart of Christchurch sits iconic landmarks such as Cathedral Square, Cashel and High streets, and the Culture Precinct. 

The city is surrounded by a total of 88 unique suburbs and 19 satellite towns, each contributing to the city’s vibrant tapestry of life. Some of its most known suburbs include:

Beyond the city centre, Port Hills and the Banks Peninsula, two of Christchurch’s most prominent geographical features, offer captivating views amidst the city life. The city is also fortunate to be surrounded by different bodies of water, including the iconic Avon River and the Pacific Ocean via Pegasus Bay, adding to its varied terrain.

With all its breathtaking landscapes, from fertile farmlands to towering alpine peaks, Christchurch is a city where nature’s beauty harmoniously blends with urban vitality.

Chch New Zealand

Climate in Christchurch

As for the climate in Christchurch, the city experiences a temperate oceanic climate with four distinct seasons. 

  • Summers, from December to February, are warm with average high temperatures ranging from 20°C to 25°C and long daylight hours.

  • Autumn, from March to May, is mild with picturesque foliage and gradually decreasing temperatures.

  • Winter, from June to August, brings cooler weather with temperatures falling close to or below freezing. Although snowfall in the city is rare, it can occur, especially in the surrounding hills. 

  • Spring, from September to November, features changeable weather with a mix of sunny and rainy days. A notable weather phenomenon during this season is the nor’westers, a type of hot, dry wind. 

As for rainfall, it is distributed fairly evenly throughout the year, with winters being slightly wetter. Despite this, Christchurch remains one of New Zealand’s driest cities due to its location in the rain shadow of the Southern Alps.

Christchurch City

Demographics of Christchurch

As New Zealand’s second most-populous city, the demographics of Christchurch‘s community represents an urban home that is vibrant and diverse, respectful of tradition yet progressive, and overall adaptable to the changing times.

With a population of around 389,300 people, it represents approximately 8.7% of the country’s total population. The city showcases a balanced gender distribution, a relatively young community with an average age of 37.1 years, and a multicultural makeup that includes European, Asian, Maori, Pacific, and other ethnicities.

Christchurch also offers a favourable socioeconomic environment with low unemployment rates, abundant job opportunities, and a higher average annual income. This creates a dynamic and inclusive city where traditional heritage and modern growth come together, providing residents with a thriving urban experience.

Christchurch Central City

Culture in Christchurch

As one of New Zealand’s largest and most progressive cities, the Christchurch culture is full of life, boasting influences from its Maori heritage, rich European history, and present-day lifestyle that is specially Kiwi. All these manifest in its architecture, arts, entertainment, and culinary scene. It is home to a vibrant community of galleries, museums, theatres, festivals, music venues, and restaurants showcasing a range of local and international cuisines. 

The theatre scene is a mix of traditional and innovative performances, with several live theatres and community-based theatre companies. 

The music scene is equally vibrant, with a range of musical styles, genres, live concerts and festivals, and a deep appreciation for both local and international artists. A notable icon in the city is the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, one of New Zealand’s leading orchestras. Further showing the importance of music to the city is its variety of music education institutions whose aim is to foster the next generation of talents. 

Another integral part of Christchurch’s culture is sports, particularly rugby and cricket. The city is home to the Crusaders, one of the most successful teams in Super Rugby, and the Hagley Oval, a well-known international cricket venue. 

As for film and television, while not as globally recognized as that of Wellington or Auckland, Christchurch remains a significant player in cinema, with the city hosting film festivals and local television and radio stations, as well as serving as a location for several popular movies. 

Lastly, the culinary scene in Christchurch is uniquely its own. Visitors will experience everything – from local dishes popular among New Zealanders to a fusion of traditional British food mixed with local ingredients. Whatever it is, the city offers an array of neighbourhood restaurants, fine dining establishments, food markets, cafes, pubs, and bars. 

Overall, Christchurch is a vibrant cultural beacon, where tradition meets innovation against a backdrop of natural beauty. Its rich tapestry of arts, sports, and gastronomy testifies to its resilience, spirit, and commitment to progress and inclusivity.

Christchurch in New Zealand

Economy of Christchurch

Christchurch economy is a critical contributor to New Zealand’s growth, with the city thriving on a blend of industries like agriculture, manufacturing, technology, and services among others. 

The fertile Canterbury Plains surrounding Christchurch have long been known for their agricultural productivity, contributing significantly to New Zealand’s dairy, meat, and crop production. This agricultural abundance supports various food processing industries in the city, such as dairy factories and breweries. 

The city also takes pride in its diverse manufacturing sector (producing everything from food products to heavy machinery) and its burgeoning technology sector, earning it the nickname ‘Silicon Plains’.

Also playing a significant role in Christchurch’s economy is the service sector, encompassing businesses from retail and hospitality to professional services like finance, real estate, and education.

But perhaps one of the city’s biggest sources of growth is tourism. Christchurch is a popular destination for all things nature and culture, known for its public parks, wildlife reserves, and nature trails along the Avon River and Banks Peninsula. 

While the recent earthquakes have damaged many parts of the city and inevitably affected its economy, the city continues to rebuild and reinvent itself, a true testament to its resilience and growth.

Christchurch City NZ

Education in Christchurch

Christchurch education boasts a robust and diverse system that caters to all age groups, from early childhood to tertiary education. The city is home to numerous high-quality primary and secondary schools, both state and private, including notable institutions like Burnside High School and St. Andrew’s College. 

Additionally, Christchurch hosts three significant tertiary education institutions: the University of Canterbury, Ara Institute of Canterbury, and Lincoln University, each offering a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses across various disciplines. 

Beyond basic education, the city also houses specialised institutions like the University of Otago, Christchurch (an important institution for medical and health sciences education) and the New Zealand Broadcasting School (the leading provider of broadcast journalism, TV production, and radio training in New Zealand).

Christchurch City New Zealand

Transport in Christchurch

The Christchurch transport system comprises roads, public transit, cycling infrastructure, and air travel facilities. 

The city’s layout is predominantly grid-like, with state highways linking it to the rest of the South Island. Public transportation consists of a comprehensive bus service, while the city also promotes cycling with extensive paths. Although there is no commuter rail system, a tourist tram operates in the city centre. Christchurch International Airport provides national and international connections, and the nearby town of Lyttelton serves as the city’s seaport.

New Zealand Christchurch

Tourism in Christchurch

Dubbed as the Garden City of New Zealand, Christchurch offers a unique blend of natural beauty, adventure, and cultural experiences. 

The city is surrounded by the Banks Peninsula, Port Hills and the Pacific Ocean, offering stunning views and a variety of outdoor activities. The Port Hills are a haven for walking and mountain biking enthusiasts, while the sandy beaches of Pegasus Bay provide a perfect spot for coastal recreation. 

For thrill-seekers, hot air ballooning and jet boating are popular activities. The city is also home to the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve and Orana Wildlife Park, where visitors can appreciate New Zealand’s unique wildlife.

Another way of exploring the city’s rich history and culture is through its museums and art galleries. The Canterbury Museum offers a glimpse into Maori and colonial artefacts, while the Christchurch Art Gallery showcases a variety of art collections. The International Antarctic Centre provides a unique experience with its Antarctic exhibits and attractions.

The city’s culinary scene is also a treat, with a variety of traditional and innovative restaurants, cafes, and markets offering a fusion of local and international cuisine.

The historic Christchurch Tramway and Gondola offer unique ways to explore the city, providing stunning views of Christchurch’s scenic terrain. 

Needless to say, whether you’re a nature lover, a culture seeker, or a foodie, Christchurch has something to offer everyone. For a deep dive into everything Christchurch has to offer, check out our guides on the top attractions and activities in the city!