Region in Profile: Christchurch

Posted by:
25 Sep 2014

Often referred to as “The Garden City” because of its many expansive parks and gardens, Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island and the third most populous urban area in New Zealand. It was first thought to have been settled by tribes hunting Moa (a giant bird that is now extinct) around 1250 CE, with the first European settlers arriving in early 1840.

The local people of Christchurch enjoy an active lifestyle while surrounded by both natural and man-made environments that have been hailed as world-class areas time and time again.

Whether you like wandering the inner city shops, taking a walk along the Avon River, visiting museums and galleries or taking advantage of the area’s bike tracks, surf beaches or ski slopes, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Christchurch Botanic Gardens

Student city

With four English New Zealand schools, poly technical institutes, university campuses and other tertiary institutes, you’ll have no problem finding students to make friends with. If you want to meet new people and help the community, you could consider joining the UC Student Volunteer Army.

This “regiment” was started by Sam Johnson after the 2010 earthquake, and eventually had up to 13,000 volunteers working each day after the February 2011 earthquake. The Student Army is still in operation today, helping those still affected by the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, and volunteering in other non-profit organisations.

Christchurch remains a world-class area for education, sports, culture, arts, music and extreme activities. Try surfing, skiing or snowboarding, a round of golf, or take a dance or art class.

Dance and live theatre is also popular, so there is no shortage of plays and stage shows to take part in or be entertained by.

Areas of interest

If you’re in The Garden City, you certainly can’t miss out on the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Wander and view the array of beautiful buildings, trees, art and flowers. The garden borders on Hagley park, Christchurch’s largest park – perfect for exercise or a relaxing walk or picnic.

The Avon River meanders through the city and not only provides wonderful walking and biking tracks, but the opportunity for tours in hand-crafted flat-bottom boats, propelled by a skilled punter.

A popular destination at the moment is the Re:Start shipping container mall, built as a retail and eatery area. As the name suggests, shops are made from re-furbished shipping containers – so they are quite an attraction by themselves!

You’ll find retailers selling clothes, books, gifts and souvenirs, as well as an extensive food court, banks and hair salons. Quake City is also located in the mall. It’s a multi-sensory attraction informing visitors about the Canterbury earthquakes, and some of the interesting ideas that resulted  like a cycle-powered movie...

The river Avon

Awesome activities

If you love being outdoors then you’ll love living and studying in Christchurch! According to the Christchurch website, “There is nowhere else in the world where within two hours of an international airport you can ski at a world class alpine resort, play golf, bungy jump, go rafting, mountain biking, hot-air ballooning, wind surfing, whale watching and visit world class wineries and gardens.”

If you have your own bike, skis, snowboard or surfboard, there is little to no cost in riding the bike trails or hitting the beach or the slopes.

You also won’t want to miss these other great activities:

  • Visit New Zealand’s only open-range zoo, Orana Wildlife Park. There are a number of animal feeding options, including hand feeding giraffes and driving through the lion enclosure in a caged truck.
  • Visit the Antarctic without leaving Christchurch – the International Antarctic centre hosts a variety of activities including a snow and ice experience, surviving an Antarctic storm, learning about Scott base and meeting Little Blue Penguins.
  • For a 360° view of Christchurch, take a ride on the gondola over the city with views of the Canterbury Plains and the Southern Alps.
  • For cheap, fresh, local produce and second-hand goods, the Riccarton Farmers’ Market is the place to go, held every Saturday at Riccarton Bush.
  • If you like live music, then don’t miss the Big Band Festival held on the afternoon of the 25th of October.
  • Don’t forget to visit all of the beautiful parks and public gardens in and around Christchurch – there are information sessions, activities and festivals held at many of these parks throughout the year.

Farmer's market

Resilient and Innovative Christchurch

The earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 showed just how resilient Christchurch is as a city and community. Since the earthquakes, residents of Christchurch along with thousands of workers and volunteers from around the country have been working to clean, fix and rebuild. A lot of public input was used to create a plan of how the city would be repaired, including ideas for parks and entertainment centres.

 The city has seen significant growth as the central city rebuild starts to ramp up, along with 50,000 new houses expected to be in place by 2028. These changes have made Christchurch an even more interesting and dynamic place to live.

Mountain biking in Christchurch

Was this guide helpful? Have we missed any activities or attractions that you enjoy? Let us know in a comment below.

Photo credits:
Beautiful Christchurch Botanic Gardens by Jocelyn Kinghorn, CC-BY-SA-2.0
The River Avon by Robert Cutts, CC-BY-2.0
Farmers’ Market by William Murphy, CC-BY-SA-2.0
Mountain Bike by, CC-BY-2.0