Planning a solo trip to Christchurch (Ōtautahi)? Here’s everything you need to know for your visit:
- The largest city on New Zealand’s South Island, with population about 402,000.
- Considered the gateway to Antarctica, due to expeditions and programs based in the city.
- The Maori name for Christchurch is Ōtautahi (“the river mouth”).
- Nickname: Garden City
- Currency: New Zealand Dollar (NZD).
- Spoken languages: English and Te Reo Māori.
- Best time to visit: from September to November to see the blossoms, bluebells and daffodils that have made the city famous.
- Arriving via airport: Christchurch International Airport (CHC) runs shuttles that deliver passengers door-to-door, as well as city buses that connect to the city centre and further afield. Travel by taxi takes 15-20 minutes and costs NZ$45-NZ$65.
WHERE TO STAY
- Best hostel for solo travelers: Urbanz Christchurch. The main draw here is the location: right in the centre of town. Big rooms, clean beds, and a relaxed & friendly environment. Not a party hostel – perfect for exploring the city. Large kitchen and common area.
- Bealey Avenue and Papanui Road are thronged by a wide variety of hotels and bed & breakfasts, and serve as a central locations from which to explore the city.
- Most cultural and historic attractions are found in the Central Business District or CBD – note the location of the Red Zone, the cordoned section where the rebuild is taking place.
- Metrocard is the secure stored-value card that eliminates the need for change on public transportation. Take advantage of this payment system, offering up to a 25% discount on cash fares.
- Buses and trams operate around the city with tickets priced on a zone system, with the Inner Zone charging NZ$3.20 (NZ$2.30 on Metrocard), while Outer Zones charge NZ$1.60 (NZ$1.15 on Metrocard).
- Taxi fares differ from company to company, due to de-regulation of the service in 1989. A starting fare of NZ$2.80 with an additional NZ$2.50 per km is considered a competitive rate. Call 377-55-55 to pre-book with First Direct.
- Drinking age is 18, and last call is 3 AM.
- Pop-up shipping container bars and cafes have been springing up in advance of the CBD rebuild. Lyttelton and Addington offer crafted beer and mellow music.
- Victoria Street offers plenty of restaurants-cum-bars that stay open till the early hours, with crowds kicking back to DJ sets.
- Merivale is popular for its open-air terraces and entertainment. Choose among restaurants, bars and nightclubs for any taste.
- Great bars in Christchurch that locals love: Rascal High Street, gin gin (cocktails and food), Cellar Door, and O.G.B Bar & Cocktail Bar.
- Bars with live music: 12 Bar, Embankment Tavern, and darkroom.
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- The Air Force Museum of New Zealand hosts one of the world’s finest military aviation collections.
- The Canterbury Museum showcases fascinating exhibits on Māori culture, as well as a recreation of a Victorian Christchurch Street.
- The International Antarctic Centre is an educational and interactive experience centered around the Hagglund Ride.
- The Bridge of Remembrance is one of two war memorials dedicated to those who perished in World War I, as well as in the aftermaths of conflicts in Borneo, Korea and Vietnam.
- Riccarton Bush is the region’s only remaining kahikatea floodplain forest, a scenic stroll among 600-year-old trees.
- Take a walk through the Christchurch Botanic Gardens to see the best collection of plants and flowers indigenous to New Zealand.
- Unwind amid the serene wildlife at Hagley Park, the stage for the annual Ellerslie Flower Show (attended by tens of thousands of people from all over the country).
- Follow the Avon River as it crosses the city or board a punt and admire the gardens and lawns that earned Christchurch its nickname of “Garden City.”
- The city’s urban solution to its retail renewal comes in the form of the Re:START container mall, which now houses over 50 businesses.
- Great restaurants that locals love: Twenty Seven Steps ($$$ – European), 5th Street ($$$), Gatherings Restaurant, Smokey T’s ($$ – Barbeque), Pot Sticker Dumpling Bar ($$), Grater Goods ($$ – vegan).
- Where to find good cheap eats: the suburb of Sumner is emerging as the idyllic destination for leisurely brunch and dinner, while Sydenham has seen the opening of new restaurants and cafés for all tastes. All-time favorite Victoria Street is home to several Asian food stalls and brand new concepts.
- Dangerous areas: Christchurch is a very safe city to travel to. The only real trouble happens in the early hours of the weekend, when drunken brawls sometimes break out.
Recommended trip duration: 1-2 days