Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and is conveniently nestled on the coast at the eastern side of the expansive Canterbury Plains. Also known as the ‘the Garden City’, Christchurch is famous for its beautiful gardens, expansive parks and pretty tree lined streets that instantly make you feel at home.
This unique and interesting city is a sightseer’s paradise with everything from stunning heritage buildings through to modern architecture, beautiful beaches to majestic mountains, adventure and art, the choices are endless! Want to find out more about Christchurch and its people? Read on!
Starting at the foothills of Banks Peninsular and sprawling northwards, the city of Christchurch offers a vastly different landscape to many New Zealand cities. The Southern Alps provide a majestic backdrop in the distance while the sprawling Canterbury Plains make up the distance in between.
The Pacific Ocean forms Christchurch’s eastern border along with the popular white sandy beaches of New Brighton and Sumner. Discover forest parks, reserves, wide open farmland, braided rivers, native forest and much more!
The streets of Christchurch have familiar British names, such as Hereford, Gloucester and Worcester and the city follows the traditional layout of an English city with a central square and a grid like pattern of streets. The Avon River winds its way through the central grid, drawing the focus through the neighbouring Hagley Park.
Hagley Park is around one third the size of the central Christchurch area making it a wonderful green space for city dwellers and workers during their breaks. Hagley Park is also home to the Botanic Gardens and the Canterbury Museum.
After the devastating effects of the 2010/11 earthquakes the city of Christchurch today represents a defining moment in history. Originally built with a strong English influence, the newer more modern buildings that have emerged from the Rebuild provide a vibrant contemporary feel alongside the remaining historic structures.
On the 4th of September 2010 and again on the 22nd February of 2011, Christchurch was dealt two devastating blows – first a 7.1 magnitude and then a 6.3 magnitude earthquake – just two in a series of quakes measuring over magnitude 5 that rattled the city for some time.
Unfortunately these quakes brought much of the city’s beautiful heritage buildings to ruin, and many were either reduced to rubble or demolished due to rebuild cost or safety issues. Today Christchurch is in a constant state of growth and invigoration, still the internationally-renowned ‘Garden City’, proud of beautiful spaces and resilience of its people. Christchurch remains as strong, warm and vibrant as ever.
Christchurch is made up of a wide range of people from various nationalities; its estimated population as at June 2019 was 385,500 according to the Christchurch City Council and Statistics NZ projections.
The median age of the Christchurch population was 37.1 years at the 2018 Census and males slightly out number females with the official numbers coming in at 183,972 and 185,034 respectively.
Ethnic groups of people living in Christchurch City identify as European, Māori, Pacific and Asian, with the majority identifying as or of European decent (77.1% as at the 2018 Census). The majority of migrants who have settled in Christchurch have come from the UK, Europe, Australia and Asia.
Although generally considered colder than most New Zealand cities, Christchurch actually has a pretty comfortable climate for most of the year. Relatively mild temperatures are the norm with the some extremes (by NZ standards) during winter and summer.
Rainfall is not as prevalent as other major NZ cities meaning your travel plans are less likely to be interrupted (Christchurch has only around half the rainfall as Auckland).
Sunshine hours sit around 2000 per year, similar to Melbourne Australia, or Toronto Canada but much higher than London in the UK. Snow fall is possible in Christchurch but it is very rare with severe weather events and snow issues more likely at higher altitudes. See more on the current Christchurch weather here or New Zealand climate conditions here or see below for our summary of the seasonal weather conditions in Christchurch.
Autumn is usually a pretty stable time for Christchurch, temperatures are mild with less likelihood of strong winds. Expect average daytime temperatures of around 14-19°C and night time of around 8 degrees. In Autumn don’t miss the browns, reds and golds of the falling leaves from the tree lined streets and across Hagley Park – great photo op!
Summer temperatures in Christchurch average around 17-26°C during the day however warm North West winds can raise these temperatures up to 30 degrees or more. Night time temperatures sit around and average of 12 degrees. Summer is the perfect time for hitting the beach in Christchurch.
Average daytime temperatures in winter are around 10-15°C, but on overcast or windy days it can feel a lot colder. Temperatures can drop below 0°C at night but not consistently and expect a frost or two during June, July and August. Once or twice a year snowfall is possible within the city limits but it settling for any length of time or disrupting transportation is extremely rare. There are 12 ski fields within 3 hours drive of Christchurch – winter is the perfect time to hit the slopes!
With average daytime temperatures of around 15-19°C Christchurch in the Spring is a welcome change from the chilly winter months. Night time temperatures come in at around 5-7°C but with beautiful warm days that follow. Don’t miss the masses of daffodils in Hagley Park!
Sometime abbreviated to “ChCh” the city’s name was originally established in March of 1848 suggested by one of the prominent founders John Robert Godley. Christchurch is also known by its Māori name of Ōtautahi (the place of Tautahi).
A people known as the ‘Moa Hunters’ were the first to arrive back in 1000 AD, with Maori from the North Island making their way South around 1500 – 1700 AD. By the 1800’s Ngāi Tūāhuriri a sub-tribe of Ngāi Tahu were in control of the land Christchurch now sits upon.
Early European visitors are thought to have arrived around 1815 to 1820 and the original settlers to the Christchurch area by 1840 and onwards. See here for more detailed information on the history of Christchurch courtesy of Christchurch Libraries.
While Christchurch may have started from humble beginnings, it is now a large sprawling city with many outlying suburban areas and satellite towns dotted around its edges. Unlike Auckland or Wellington it is relatively unrestricted by borders such as coastline and steep hills and continues its outward growth in both the north and westward directions. Some places of interest in Christchurch and its surrounding area are listed below.
Christchurch is full of great things to see and do, with plenty of fun for all ages. Narrowing it down to just 5 of the best was a tricky process but see below for our top 5 attractions in Christchurch you simply cant miss.
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