What are the best things to do in Christchurch?

Jeff Fleisher

Christchurch has a wide variety of attractions ranging from natural wonders to man-made edifices that show the country’s English roots. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the five best things to do in Christchurch. 
 
1. Go punting on the Avon. A local tradition is to take a 1900s-style, flat-bottomed punt boat along the Avon River; if you’ve been to Venice it might remind you of that city’s gondolas. You sit back while a punter rows the small craft along the peaceful Avon in downtown Christchurch.
 
2. See a show at The Court Theatre. Formerly housed in the downtown Arts Centre, this renowned theater company has temporarily relocated to suburban Addington, but still performs exciting new plays and popular favorites.
 
3. Stop by Cathedral Square. The pre-earthquake center of the city is now fenced off. It used to house regular public events, but it's still worth walking around the area to see the rebuilding efforts and really get a sense of the earthquake's impact. The Cathedral itself sustained heavy damage, but is still worth a distant look.
 
4. Explore Hanmer Springs. Take a day trip to this picturesque town not far from the city; it’s a short trip by car or shuttle bus. Hanmer Springs was built on a hot spring perfect for a swim or a spa day, and is a popular destination for adventure activities like bungee jumping.
 
5. Take a Black Cat Cruise. See the city from the water on a two-hour nature cruise on Akaroa Harbor. If you’re lucky, you’ll see the rare Hector dolphins as well as seals, petite blue penguins and sites of historical importance.

  • On September 19, 2012
    Jeff Fleisher answered the question: Jeff Fleisher

    What is the best thing to bring home from Christchurch?

    You won't find better jade anywhere than the jade sourced on New Zealand's South Island. Hokatika and other areas on the west coast provide large amounts of jade, known locally as pounamu or greenstone. In the Christchurch area, you’ll find artist-carved jade sculptures, pendants and toki (adze blades worn as jewelry). Prices vary depending on the intricacy of the carving, the size of the piece, and the clarity of the jade stone itself. As with most of Christchurch's city center, some of the previously popular jade jewelers are closed because of earthquake damage, but there are still plenty of shops throughout the city, in the Re:START complex, and surrounding towns that sell locally made jade pieces.
  • On September 19, 2012
    Jeff Fleisher answered the question: Jeff Fleisher

    What are the five best Christchurch food experiences?

    The cuisine of New Zealand is just as diverse as the population. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the five best food experiences in Christchurch:
     
    1. Hāngi. The Willowbank wildlife reserve regularly hosts Maori cultural shows that include Maori-style hāngi, a style of cooking with food roasted in an earth oven that brings out the flavor.
     
    2. Flat White. Similar to a latte, the flat white is a jewel of Wellington's coffee scene, but has migrated to Christchurch as well. The Addington Coffee co-op serves a good example.
     
    3. Whitebait. All seafood is popular in New Zealand, but none as much as this tender little white fish. Often served fried into an omelet called a whitebait fritter, this is a quintessential taste of New Zealand. 
     
    4. Kumara. A type of sweet potato that was brought to New Zealand by Maori settlers from Polynesia, the kumara is a staple of the cuisine here. It shows up in all sorts of forms, so be sure to try it at least once.
     
    5. Pavlova. This classic dessert of airy meringue layered with lemon curd and fresh fruit was created in New Zealand, so it’s a must. It was named after Anna Pavlova, a famous Russian ballerina who visited New Zealand in 1926.
  • On September 19, 2012
    Jeff Fleisher answered the question: Jeff Fleisher

    Where is the best nightlife in Christchurch?

    Most Christchurch nightlife used to be centered in the few blocks around Cathedral Square. But since that area was hardest hit by the 2011 earthquake, many of those venues are closed indefinitely. However, the Christchurch Casino has reopened, with casino games as well as live bands on weekends and other scheduled events. Much of the Christchurch bar scene has temporarily shifted to the nearby suburbs. Speight's, an excellent South Island brewery, runs ale houses in the city and in nearby Ferrymead. You’ll find several other bars and clubs in Ferrymead, and also in Riccarton and Merivale. More bars and clubs are expected to reopen in 2013, though most have not yet set specific dates.
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  • On September 19, 2012
    Jeff Fleisher answered the question: Jeff Fleisher

    What is the best way to see Christchurch in one day?

    If you only have one day to explore Christchurch, Forbes Travel Guide suggests you wake up early and take a stroll around Cathedral Square, checking out the rebuilding efforts and the city's English architecture. Take a punt boat down the Avon River, then get some eating and shopping done at the Re:START complex on Cashel Street. In the late morning, take a short trip to either Hanmer Springs for a spa day or a bungee jump; or head to Akaroa to see dolphins and explore the French shops. Get back late in the afternoon, in time for a booked tour at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, which offers a chance to see native animals and take part in a Maori culture show, with a hāngi for dinner. Late night, visit a bar in Ferrymead or one of the other near suburbs, or make a stop at the Christchurch Casino.
  • On September 19, 2012
    Jeff Fleisher answered the question: Jeff Fleisher

    Where is the best shopping in Christchurch?

    The accommodations in Christchurch are more likely to be found in quaint country inns than in luxurious full-service hotels. And unfortunately, several of the city’s luxury hotel choices are still rebuilding post-earthquake. Until construction is complete, here are Forbes Travel Guide editors’ suggestions for the five best places to stay in Christchurch.
     
    1.  The George Christchurch. With modern decor in a vintage structure, this highly-rated boutique hotel is an ideal blend of Christchurch sensibilities, and overlooks the Avon river. With a staff ratio of 1-to-1, you’ll find the ultimate in attentive service at The George.
     
    2. Rendezvous Hotel Christchurch. This large hotel is right near Cathedral Square, and rooms offer views of the Southern Alps. The Rendezvous has a large gym featuring a sauna, and the rooms have stylish amenities.
     
    3. Millennium Hotel Christchurch. The Millennium is known for its large, well-appointed rooms and ideal location right on Cathedral Square, near the city's art gallery and Botanic Gardens. It’s not as plush as a luxury hotel, but it’s a convenient and comfortable place to stay.
     
    4. Terre Vive Luxury Suites & Apartments. A brand new property built in 2012, Terre Vive is a boutique apartment complex. Each room includes a kitchenette, full bathroom and complimentary Internet access; some also have Jacuzzi tubs and balconies. It’s just a short stroll from central Christchurch and Victoria Street.
     
    5. Otahuna Lodge. An exclusive country estate featuring just seven suites, the Otahuna Lodge personifies the term boutique. Each room in the historic building shows its heritage in features like moldings, ornate fireplaces, carved inglenooks and stained glass windows. Service is wonderfully warm as well, recalling a time past.
  • On September 19, 2012
    Jeff Fleisher answered the question: Jeff Fleisher

    What are the best things to do with kids in Christchurch?

    The natural beauty of Christchurch and the surrounding terrain is just magical, especially for children. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the best things to do with kids in Christchurch.
     
    1. Tour Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. This small zoo has all sorts of creatures native to the southern hemisphere that you might not see elsewhere. They include fallow deer that will eat from your hand, ostriches, wallabies, lemurs, and even a nocturnal kiwi house. At night, the reserve hosts Maori cultural shows, featuring dancing and storytelling.
     
    2. See a rugby game. Christchurch and the Canterbury region routinely yield some of New Zealand's best rugby players. With its regular stadium under repair, the Crusaders squad now plays at a park in the suburb of Addington, but still boasts an outstanding roster.
     
    3. Stroll through The Botanic Gardens. The city's quaint Botanic Gardens are worth a stroll, and they’re a great place to spot unusual local birds. The exteriors of many closed buildings nearby, like the Arts Centre and Museum of Canterbury, are worth a look for their vintage English architecture.
     
    4. Take the TranzAlpine Railway. One of the best short train rides in the world, the TranzAlpine goes across the South Island to the west coast city of Greymouth roundtrip every day. The scenery is beautiful, the train ride itself is fun especially for kids, and Greymouth is a pleasant spot.
     
    5. Visit Hagley Park. This gorgeous public park near the city center is also doubling as the city's events and festivals hotspot. It hosts outdoor concerts, art festivals and other fun events. Check the schedule for what's going on during your stay.
  • On September 19, 2012
    Jeff Fleisher answered the question: Jeff Fleisher

    What are the best things to do in Christchurch?

    Christchurch has a wide variety of attractions ranging from natural wonders to man-made edifices that show the country’s English roots. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the five best things to do in Christchurch. 
     
    1. Go punting on the Avon. A local tradition is to take a 1900s-style, flat-bottomed punt boat along the Avon River; if you’ve been to Venice it might remind you of that city’s gondolas. You sit back while a punter rows the small craft along the peaceful Avon in downtown Christchurch.
     
    2. See a show at The Court Theatre. Formerly housed in the downtown Arts Centre, this renowned theater company has temporarily relocated to suburban Addington, but still performs exciting new plays and popular favorites.
     
    3. Stop by Cathedral Square. The pre-earthquake center of the city is now fenced off. It used to house regular public events, but it's still worth walking around the area to see the rebuilding efforts and really get a sense of the earthquake's impact. The Cathedral itself sustained heavy damage, but is still worth a distant look.
     
    4. Explore Hanmer Springs. Take a day trip to this picturesque town not far from the city; it’s a short trip by car or shuttle bus. Hanmer Springs was built on a hot spring perfect for a swim or a spa day, and is a popular destination for adventure activities like bungee jumping.
     
    5. Take a Black Cat Cruise. See the city from the water on a two-hour nature cruise on Akaroa Harbor. If you’re lucky, you’ll see the rare Hector dolphins as well as seals, petite blue penguins and sites of historical importance.
  • On July 25, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What is there to do in Akaroa?

    Just east of Christchurch on the Banks Peninsula sits the town of Akaroa, which is an ideal destination for a day trip, either by tour bus or rental car. Akaroa became New Zealand’s major French settlement in 1840, and still has a French influence, from street names starting with “Rue” to French-style cottages flying the red, white and blue flag. Akaroa offers many diversions, from exploring the town's famous artisan craft shops to enjoying the pristine harbor. Horses, mopeds and boats are all available for rental. Organized harbor cruises from Akaroa will take you to see the Hector's dolphins, one of the most rare dolphin species in the world, or let you pay a visit to a colony of little blue penguins.
  • On July 25, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best places to stay in Christchurch?

    The accommodations in Christchurch are more likely to be found in quaint country inns than in luxurious full-service hotels. And unfortunately, several of the city’s luxury hotel choices are still rebuilding post-earthquake. Until construction is complete, here are Forbes Travel Guide editors’ suggestions for the five best places to stay in Christchurch.
     
    1. The George Christchurch. With modern decor in a vintage structure, this highly-rated boutique hotel is an ideal blend of Christchurch sensibilities, and overlooks the Avon river. With a staff ratio of 1-to-1, you’ll find the ultimate in attentive service at The George.
     
    2. Rendezvous Hotel Christchurch. This large hotel is right near Cathedral Square, and rooms offer views of the Southern Alps. The Rendezvous has a large gym featuring a sauna, and the rooms have stylish amenities.
     
    3. Millennium Hotel Christchurch. The Millennium is known for its large, well-appointed rooms and ideal location right on Cathedral Square, near the city's art gallery and Botanic Gardens. It’s not as plush as a luxury hotel, but it’s a convenient and comfortable place to stay.
     
    4. Terre Vive Luxury Suites & Apartments. A brand new property built in 2012, Terre Vive is a boutique apartment complex. Each room includes a kitchenette, full bathroom and complimentary Internet access; some also have Jacuzzi tubs and balconies. It’s just a short stroll from central Christchurch and Victoria Street.
     
    5. Otahuna Lodge. An exclusive country estate featuring just seven suites, the Otahuna Lodge personifies the term boutique. Each room in the historic building shows its heritage in features like moldings, ornate fireplaces, carved inglenooks and stained glass windows. Service is wonderfully warm as well, recalling a time past.
  • On July 25, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best places to eat in Christchurch?

    The dining scene in Christchurch is more on the casual side, just like the hotel offerings and the lifestyle. But with that said, there’s a thrilling amount of diversity in the types of cuisine available. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ suggestions for the five best places to eat in Christchurch:
     
    1. Pescatore. The name sounds Italian, but this stylish restaurant in the George Hotel offers modern Mediterranean fare by chef Reon Hobson. Creatively conceived menus include the Decision, in which diners choose four courses from options like buckwheat risotto with oxtail, escargot and bacon gelée or pumpkin soup with a Parmesan crisp. 
     
    2. 50 Bistro. This casual-but-smart restaurant in the George Hotel offers one of the best dining experiences in all of New Zealand. Chef Andrew Brown creates seasonal, ingredient driven menus with dishes such as milk-fed lamb with pappardelle, fennel and lemon oil and a dessert trio with rhubarb compote, rose meringue and raspberry sorbet.
     
    3. Cook’n’ With Gas. Set in an 1860s villa, this cheeky restaurant with the massive gas flame out front serves up a fun atmosphere along with chef Bruce Griffiths’ award-winning fare. Pair dishes like hot-smoked venison, rabbit and chorizo soup or chicken mousse with a selection from the extensive wine and cocktail menu.
     
    4. Traiteur of Merivale. If you’ve found a lovely spot for a picnic or want a gourmet feast in your hotel room one night, then head to Traiteur of Merivale. This gourmet takeaway shop sells all sorts of delicacies by the kilo such as lamb meatballs in apricot sauce, sausages, pâte and pickles, as well as wine.
     
    5. Tiffanys. Gastronomic British fare awaits at Tiffanys which is set in a historic Tudor house surrounded by gardens that’s not far from the river. Pegasus Bay crab ravioli, Canterbury beef filet, and a selection of New Zealand cheeses are among the offerings on the à la carte dinner menu.