Whether you get your kicks from rugby, street art, luxury hotels or cool bars, Christchurch and its dramatic backdrop of the Southern Alps have all the ingredients for a perfect long weekend. We’ve found the best things to do, places to stay and the coolest spots to eat and drink.
The best things to do
Just 50 minutes’ drive from Christchurch, the emerging Waipara Valley sub-region is earning accolades for its cool climate riesling, chardonnay and pinot noir. But why drive when you can fly? A chopper tour with GCH Aviation will give you a bird’s-eye view of the stunning South Island landscape and whisk you in rock-star style to cellar door tastings at five of the region’s top wineries.
Hike the Port Hills
Image credit: ChristchurchNZ.
Separating Christchurch from the port of Littleton, the Port Hills are a locals’ playground. A guided hike across the wild volcanic landscape with Crater Rim Walks will reveal secluded bays lined with colourful baches (beach shacks), dramatic lookouts over millennia-old formations and a colourful modern history.
Take a punt
Discover the city the old-fashioned way with a punt along the crystal-clear Avon River. Starting at the charmingly ramshackle Antigua Boatsheds, you’ll glide upstream in a flat-bottomed boat to the Botanic Gardens, accompanied by the informative patter of your pole-wielding guide.
Splash to your heart’s content
Only 15 minutes from the centre of Christchurch, the beachfront New Brighton Hot Pools – also known as He Puna Taimoana – lets you soak your cares away in five saltwater pools heated to different temperatures. Double down on the aquatic indulgence with a visit to the plunge pool, steam room and a sauna with incredible ocean views.
Where to stay
Sudima Christchurch City
Just a short walk from the central city, this 86-room luxury boutique hotel boasts stylish modern interiors as well as carbon-neutral status. On top of its impressive environmental credentials, it offers excellent à la carte breakfasts at restaurant Vices & Virtues and indulgent pampering (hello, heated bamboo massage) at the independent day spa Moss.
Bucolic views of Hagley Park make this five-star hotel embody Christchurch’s “Garden City” status. The opulently decorated rooms and suites subtly pick up on the botanical theme, while an impressive collection of innovative New Zealand art decorates the public areas (you can also book a private guided tour, complete with a complimentary glass of NZ sparkling).
The best restaurants
Climb the stairs (all 27 of them) to the convivial dining room in a character-filled heritage terrace. The menu of this Christchurch resto-hero delivers bold flavours in spades, from a savoury baked blue cheesecake with the sweet note of manuka honey to a proudly regional Canterbury beef fillet with truffle butter and Yorkshire pudding.
Start your morning with a jaunt to this little café tucked into a corner of in The Welder, a converted warehouse in the hip South Town neighbourhood. Local roasters Embassy Coffee take care of caffeine needs, while the artisan baked goods ballast excellent brekkies including an oozy mushroom bagel melt and avo sourdough with cucumber pickles.
As iconoclastic as Christchurch itself, this warehouse decorated in brocade and greenery has some of the most exciting food in the city. Much like the fit-out, the menu brims with brio – sticky fried chicken is finger-lickin’ good in pungent chilli sambal, while charry broccolini on whipped hummus with a punchy black-olive salsa hits a home run for vegetarians. The drinks list offers stylish cocktails as well as a good showing from the thriving NZ craft beer scene.
A bustling market hub complete with 40 fresh food stalls and 30 ethnically diverse eateries, Riverside Market is Christchurch’s new foodie mecca. Open seven days from 9am-6pm, the market occupies a prominent corner near the Avon River and features hole-in-the-wall coffee shops and rooftop bars and restaurants with broad balconies perfect for watching the action below. There’s even a jazz club that gets the crowds bopping every Thursday evening.
The best bars
The Last Word
Image credit: Nancy Zhou / ChristchurchNZ.
Tucked down the pedestrian-only heritage precinct of New Regent Street, this whiskey specialist will dazzle aficionados with its comprehensive list of 320 drops. But it’s not all about the wee dram: within the softly lit walls of this intimate salon lies a world of mixology and a wine list bedded in NZ’s best.
Image credit: Anna Frances Pearson / ChristchurchNZ.
Rugby fans rejoice. The giant TV screen means you don’t have to decide between sport and your own playtime, but Welles Street is no mere sports bar. On a South Town back street, this very modern the pub boasts 18 beer taps, Greek-accented food (yes, that includes souvlaki and chips) and a leafy street-facing atrium for people-watching par excellence.
Top image credit: Graeme Murray/Tourism NZ