Nz south Christchurch Street Art
Nz south Port Hills Christchurch Julian Apse 2
Nz south Christchurch Street Art
Nz south Port Hills Christchurch Julian Apse 2


Christchurch is the perfect base for South Island exploration. The Banks Peninsula, the stunning Southern Alps and the famous Canterbury Plains are all within easy reach. The surrounding Canterbury region offers picturesque towns and thrill-seeking experiences. It is a region of impressive contrasts and a haven for those seeking incredible scenery and adventure. From lush vineyards and rugged coastlines to towering mountains and pristine glacial lakes.

Where should you visit in Christchurch?

Hike to the top of porter Hills for panoramic views of Christchurch


Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island, and the second largest in the country. A flight from Auckland will take 1 hour 20 minutes and a drive from Queenstown 6 hours. It is located on the east coast, 363 kilometres north of Dunedin. With a population of around 370,000 people, it is one of New Zealand's larger cities.

The regions of Christchurch and Canterbury are set against the majestic backdrops of both alps and the ocean. Journey through the Southern Alps by train, investigate the night sky in the world’s largest International Dark Sky Reserve or get up close with whales in Kaikoura.

Dolphins jumping around | New Zealand wildlife
Have close encounters with whales and dolphins in Kaikoura
© TravelEssence
Adventure jet boating in Queenstown region | New Zealand holiday
After your adventures in Queenstown embark on a scenic six hour road trip to Christchurch

Explore the Canterbury region

Sit back and relax in Hanmer Springs’ natural hot pools, delve into boutique galleries and hidden bays in Akaroa and enjoy the locally grown produce of the North Canterbury wine region.

Or, take in the pristine lakes, spectacular glaciers and the mighty Alps of the Mackenzie district and Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.

Brown vegetation, white snow fulled mountains and blue glaciers/Mount Cook National Park
Conquer the towering Alps of Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
© Rob Suisted
A colourful hot air balloon with snow caped mountain peaks in the background
Go hot air ballooning in the Canterbury region

Surrounding areas


Just 75 kilometres from the city of Christchurch, on the southeast side of the Akaroa Harbour, the charming town of Akaroa was the only French settlement in New Zealand. It will have you captivated with its historic buildings and passion for fine food.

Nestled in the heart of an ancient volcano

Explore the village with its colonial architecture, galleries, and cafes. Relax or take part in the many activities that are on offer. Discover the dramatic outer bays and take your time to soak in the magic of this area. We recommend more than a day to truly experience this little piece of paradise.

Swimming with dolphin's | New Zealand wildlife
Spot wildlife as you explore the coastline


Lyttleton is a historic and quirky portside town just a 20-minute drive from the centre of Christchurch. With a bohemian vibe and great cafes, it attracts visitors from all over the world.

Lyttelton can be reached by an impressive road tunnel. It's a colourful town, home to a community of nearly 3,000, brimming with artists, cafes, slightly off-the-wall shops and restaurants. This small town is known as one of the most creative communities in the Christchurch region. Try delicious treats at the Lyttleton Farmers' market, spend the day at the beach at Corsair Bay or take a ferry over to Quail Island.

Aerial view of a portside town
Discover the historic port town of Lyttleton
Aerial view of a town surrounded by a harbour and mountains
Hike, bike or walk through nature


The picturesque coastal town of Kaikoura is the perfect place for spotting whales and dolphins, going on coastal walks, and feasting on fresh crayfish. It is an easy two-hour drive north of Christchurch making it a fun stop on your way to Marlborough.

Enjoy encounters with whales, fur seals and dolphins

The village is nestled between the rocky Seaward Kaikoura Range and the Pacific Ocean. In winter the landscape changes to a dramatic snow covered wonderland and is spectacular to witness. Whales, fur seals and dolphins live permanently in the coastal waters and whale-watching trips are aplenty, leaving the town several times a day. When taking a break from marine life, there are plenty of cafés, restaurants and shops to explore.

Snorkling and swimming with dolphins | New Zealand active holiday
Tick swimming with dolphins off your bucket list in Kaikoura
Aerial view of green hills, blue ocean and a village
Take long walks along the breathtaking coast

Things to see and do

From rolling plains to towering mountains, spectacular coastline to glacial lakes, the Christchurch and Canterbury region has it all. See marine life in Kaikoura, head west to the mountainous Arthur's Pass, or across the plains to the starlit Mackenzie Basin.

See the city through the eyes of artists

After the devastating earthquakes in 2011, Christchurch was rebuilt as a more creative and artsy urban centre. Wander through the streets admiring the colourful murals that tell stories of the city's resilience and unbeatable spirit.

A woman cycling past a huge mural in a city
Appreciate the colourful murals in the city centre
© Miles Holden
A woman cycling past a white art building
Architecture and art are part of the creative urban centre
© Miles Holden

Hike the famous Hooker Valley Track

The Hooker Valley Track, in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, is one of the best half-day walks in the region. You'll get to see the peak of New Zealand's tallest mountain, Mount Cook, across a glacial lake.

Go stargazing

During the day, the deep blue depths of Lake Tekapo are incredible but at night the sky comes alive and the stars glitter and gleam in a spectacular natural light show. It's an experience not to be missed.

People hiking over a frozen lake in snow capped mountains
Go hiking on one of the best tracks in New Zealand, Hooker Valley Track
© Tourism New Zealand
Lake Tekapo sky observatory | New Zealand holiday
Be blown away by the clear skies and bright star at Lake Tekapo

Travel on a train through the Southern Alps

The TranzAlpine journey through the Southern Alps is one of the most scenic train rides in the world. Start the journey from Christchurch or Greymouth. If departing from Christchurch, you’ll travel through the scenery of the Canterbury Plains and then up into Arthur’s Pass National Park.

From here, you’ll venture down into the forests of the West Coast, arriving in Greymouth. The trip takes four hours one way, or nine hours return but why not stay a while and explore the rugged coast and glaciers of the West Coast?

View of a lake and mountains
Relax as you travel by train through the Canterbury Plains
View of green hills and white snow capped mountain peaks
Enjoy the views from one of the most scenic train rides in the world

Parks and nature

Christchurch is known as New Zealand’s garden city with over 1.200 parks and gardens. Choose to place to play, relax or be adventurous at any of the neighbourhood parks with family playgrounds or the wilderness walks on the Port Hills.

Explore a place of ever-changing beauty

At the heart of Christchurch's reputation as the Garden City, the Christchurch Botanic Gardens are a place of ever-changing beauty. Showing off the flora and fauna of New Zealand and other parts of the world, the Gardens feature one of the most impressive collections of exotic and local plants in New Zealand. With more than 1.1 million visitors each year the Botanic Gardens are one of Christchurch's most popular attractions.

A man and woman walking in a park in full blossom
Enjoy fresh air and a stroll in the many parks in the city
© Julian Apse

Walking and hiking

Arthur's Pass National Park is the halfway point between Christchurch and the West Coast and is a beautiful place to go walking or hiking. The dense forests are often dripping in rain, creating stunning waterfalls and crystal clear streams. Explore the historic village and popular Devil's Punchbowl track. Keep an eye out for birds such as kea, which frequent the village.

The Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway juts out from the rugged east coast of the region and it’s a must-do if you’re nearby in Kaikoura. Experience ocean views and while you're there, the chances are high that you’ll spot some seals, whales or dolphins.

A lodge nestled in a lush green forested mountain with snow-capped peaks
With a historic village, waterfalls and rugged mountains, Arthur's Pass is a stunning place to hike
Panoramic coastline with a pebbled beach, blue water and mountains
Relish the spectacular coastal views of Kaikoura

Food and wine

City bars and cafes

The Christchurch city centre is brimming with innovative bars and restaurants. On High Street, visit the quirky bar and burger restaurant called Smash Palace named after a classic Kiwi film. And just across the river, the Victoria Street precinct is the city’s newest 'eat street' with several bars and restaurants. For a truly unique experience, hop on board the Christchurch Tram and enjoy an evening of Canterbury’s cuisine coupled with sightseeing.

Suburban dining

A short 10-minute drive from the city centre, Addington is home to popular cafes and pubs, including Addington Coffee Co-op and the funky Pedal Pushers. A short distance from Hagley Park, the pretty suburb of Merivale boasts some of the city’s busiest restaurants while the suburb of Fendalton offers the opportunity to experience several types of cuisines and dining experiences side-by-side.

Sample the best of the Christchurch food scene
Explore several types and styles of cuisine in around Christchurch


The city has several micro-breweries offering tours and a chance to sample some of the region’s award-winning beers. These include Harrington’s, Three Boys Brewery and Wigram. The best places to taste local brews include The Brewery and The Twisted Hop in Woolston, a short 10-minute drive from the city centre.


For a fresh and authentic Canterbury culinary experience, visit one of many Christchurch markets. Try gourmet food, and browse artisanal goods and fresh produce. Markets are a great spot to mingle with locals and learn more about their homemade products. Christchurch Farmers’ Market and Riccarton Market are popular and Lyttleton Farmers’ Market and Akaroa Markets are also a must-visit.

Fish and vegetables delicately plated for fine dining
Discover world-class dining in the Canterbury region
Two people sitting on a bench near a food truck with a view of the ocean
For the freshest cray fish, Nins Bin in Kaikoura is the place to be
Nz marlborough sounds

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Museums and art galleries

Christchurch's art scene is visible throughout the streets and public spaces of the city with vibrant murals and funky art installations. You will find galleries with unique paintings, photography, pottery and much more all over the city.

The biggest and the most famous gallery, the Christchurch Art Gallery has something for everyone. The art on display ranges from old masters to modern art. The Art Gallery also runs regular events including talks, museum tours and film evenings.

Glass and steel architecture of the Christchurch art gallery
Explore vibrant art galleries scattered all over the city
Enjoy the evening lights of Cathedral Square

Hanmer Springs

An easy 90-minute drive from Christchurch, the resort town of Hanmer Springs is a year-round holiday destination for adventure and indulgence. Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa offers the perfect balance of fun and relaxation, with a selection of hot pools that will leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed.

Surrounded by mountains and forests, this charming town is filled with boutique shops, cafes and eateries. If adventure is what you are after, you can go hiking, mountain biking, horse trekking, bungy jumping, jet boating or, in winter, hit the slopes and go skiing.

Wander along the picturesque Waiau river in Hanmer springs


Ski like a local and enjoy the stunning mountain backdrops, relaxing local hotspots and wide open slopes that Christchurch has to offer. Take a short drive from Christchurch to the ever popular Mt Hutt and have a day of fun on the slopes. Or stay in Methven for a few days while you conquer Mt Hutt.

Skiing at Mount Hutt | New Zealand active holiday
Experience some of the best skiing slopes at Mount Hutt
A village surrounded by snow covered mountains
Have fun conquering the pristine ski slopes

Public transport

Taking the bus is the easiest way to get around Christchurch. While there aren't many options for local transport you'll be able to get to most places on the bus.

A fun way to experience Christchurch is to take the tram. Although, it is meant to be a means of sightseeing more than public transport. If you want to transport yourself around the city centre in style then the tram would be the way to do so. The tram takes you on a one-way loop of the city centre stopping at 17 different places and you can hop on and off at any stop.

Christchurch tram
Ride in style on the Christchurch tram

Where to stay?

Make your trip extra special by experiencing a unique stay from our large collection of hand-selected accommodations located in Christchurch and its surrounds. Your travel specialist will match you with accommodation that suits your wants and needs. A journey where your accommodation is an experience in itself.

Sunny terrace | New Zealand holiday
Relax on a sunny terrace and take in the views
Lodge surrounded by garden
Stay in a comfortable family lodge to explore the region

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Why book with us?

  • A well-designed holiday, just for you
  • Small-scale accommodations run by friendly local hosts
  • Carefully recommended activities based on your interests
  • A travel tempo and driving distances that match your needs
  • Ingrained sustainability in all facets of your holiday
  • 30 years of experience in travel to New Zealand

Let's design your holiday together

We'll take the time to get to know you to match your fully bespoke holiday with your pace, your interests, and anything you desire. Combined with first-hand, local knowledge, you'll receive a mapped-out itinerary from us - but the process isn't done until you are 100% satisfied. We take care of every detail, so you can focus on relaxing, rejuvenating and reconnecting with yourself and the world around you. Get in touch to get started now.

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Discover a world beyond ordinary

At TravelEssence, we specialise in crafting custom-made holidays that take you off the beaten path and create memories to last a lifetime. We believe in connecting with the heart and soul of a place, introducing you to the locals who call it home. Engage in conversations with fascinating individuals who will share their stories, traditions, and way of life, leaving an indelible mark on your journey.