8 Ways to Enjoy Christchurch For Less Than $8!

By: Kristen Fellers

Christchurch used to be known for her quintessential elegance. Parks and fountains adorned her neighborhoods, and the Avon River weaved lazily around the central business district. Despite being the largest urban area on the south island of New Zealand (and the third largest in the whole country), she was known to the world as the "Garden City". 

In 2010 and 2011, a series of massive earthquakes violently shook the Garden City. Residents and travelers fled, seeking firmer ground. Since then Christchurch has had more than her fair share of destruction, construction, aftershocks, and negative press.

Two years later, however, the once delightful yet proper Christchurch has a new attitude. Now she's quirky, she's imaginative, and she's actually quite brilliant. She's a mixture of old charm, modern innovation, and classic beauty. In this era of transition and inspiration, now is the time to visit Christchurch, New Zealand.

A quick thought before we get started though... No one likes reading that article in that one magazine with the amazing photos that suggest that you spend only $499/night for a "Budget Luxury Resort". Seriously? I don't know about you, but $499 is usually just about my whole vacation accommodation budget. For a week. With this in mind, I've compiled the eight things you mustn't miss when you visit Christchurch, and this list won't break the bank. Not even if you're a broke college student.

8 Ways to Enjoy Christchurch For Less Than $8!
  1. Take an afternoon and be amazed by the new Central Business District (CBD):

    Load up on snacks and water, put on your walking shoes, and prepare to be inspired. There is so much creativity flowing from the artistic minds here in Christchurch. Sure, we wish the earthquakes never happened, but since they did, we're making the best of it. There are murals on street corners and cocktail lounges in shipping containers. Definitely don't miss the ongoing construction of the Cardboard Cathedral, or the fantastic and funky vibe at the outdoor biker bar in a bus: Smash Palace. Before you head out though, check out the innovation coming from the folks at the Gap Filler organization. Their awesome ideas are spread throughout the CBD (and the whole city), and their map may help you better plan your exploration.
    Cost: FREE, or $6 for a pint of local brew at Smash Palace on Thursdays!
    Bonus: Free Friday night board games at the Pallet Pavillion!

    Smash Palace, the only place you can drink beer inside the bus!
    Smash Palace, the only place you can drink beer inside the bus!


  2. Enjoy a romantic moment at New Brighton Pier

    The New Brighton Pier extends 300 meters over a sandy beach into Pegasus Bay, with views out to the Pacific Ocean. Fishing and birdwatching are popular here during the daytime, but it's in the night when things really light up. At dusk, the pier is lit from beneath with a rainbow of LEDs, which reflect off the ocean to create an image that most Hollywood love scenes can't contend with. The pier is also home to several events, from live music to beach volleyball and more. What better place to share a special moment with your partner (or a friend!)?
    Cost: FREE
    Bonus: The early bird catches the... sunrise! Standing at the end of the pier, you may as well be suspended over the edge of the earth as you take in one of Christchurch's famously stunning sunrises.


  3. Sip on a "cuppa" and some people watching at the re:START Mall

    Shopaholics unite at the re:START Mall on Cashel Street! Browse through over 50 shops... er... shipping containers? The re:START Mall is a brilliant collection of shipping containers turned retail stores, located in the central CBD. Grab a cup of coffee at one of the two container coffee shops, and take in the colorful creativity! On weekends there is frequently live music at the west end, and street performers throughout.
    Cost: $4.50 for a latte... but in New Zealand you'll be ordering a "flat white"!

  4. Get your blood pumping in Victoria Park

    Victoria Park, or "Vic Park" to locals, is a large public park in the Port Hills, situated on the south side of Christchurch. Vic Park has everything from scenic walking trails to black diamond mountain bike tracks for your hiking or cycling pleasure. If you don't fancy a steep climb up the hill, you won't be left out! Hop in your car and take Dyers Pass Road all the way to the top of the ridge. Here you will find stunning views of the Canterbury Plains and the Southern Alps.
    Cost: FREE
    Bonus: Check out the war memorial of the 19th Battalion, sited within the park. Here you will find the perfect picnic spot, where shade is provided by native trees from each area where the Battalion fought during WW2.

    A mountain biker enjoys the sweet ride in Victoria Park
    A mountain biker enjoys the sweet ride in Victoria Park


  5. Savor a double scoop of ice cream while ambling around the quaint seaside suburb of Sumner

    Who doesn't love a charming beach town? Although the entire eastern side of Christchurch borders the Pacific Ocean, Sumner definitely stands out as the place to enjoy the sea. Grab an ice cream cone at the local dairy, and prepare to relax. Of course there's shopping and restaurants aplenty, but don't forget your sunscreen and a frisbee! The beach extends for 5 kilometers, making plenty of room for everyone to enjoy.
    Cost: $4.00 for a double-scoop.
    Bonus: Cruise on over the hill to Taylor's Mistake. This beach is the place to watch the surfers catch a wave, or give the surf a try for yourself!

    The view from your beach towel in Sumner
    The view from your beach towel in Sumner


  6. Stroll the Christchurch Botanical Gardens

    Let's face it: Christchurch is a big and bustling place. But when you enter the serenity of the Botanical Gardens, you'll leave all the commotion behind. Curl up on a bench next to one of the many ponds and watch the ducks float by. Or bring a blanket and some friends and claim a spot on the lawn to enjoy a little glass of local Sauvignon Blanc (but we call it Savi!)  There are native forests, fantastic flower gardens, and massive shade trees of all shapes and sizes... Don't forget to bring stale bread or left over chips to feed to the ducks!
    Cost: FREE

    One of the countless beautiful corners of the Botanical Gardens
    One of the countless beautiful corners of the Botanical Gardens


  7. Indulge a little at the Saturday Farmers' Market at the Riccarton Bush

    From 9am 'til noon every Saturday, the best vendors from the area unite for the Christchurch Farmers' Market. Located at the Riccarton Bush, this market combines stellar produce, pastries, and coffees with downright elegant scenery. Wander along with a bubbling brook on your left, and various tasty treats to your right. There's something for everyone's tastebuds to enjoy! There is also ample of space to sprawl out on the grass and take a nap after you indulge...
    Cost: FREE, at least until you are mesmerized by the local artisan cheeses...
    Bonus: Also located at Riccarton Bush is an ancient native forest reserve. See Christchurch how it would have looked before settlers changed it forever. The reserve is home to many trees and animals that are at risk of being extinguished from New Zealand.


  8. Check out one of the many FREE events at Hagley Park

    Hagley Park is a massive city park located adjacent to the CBD. Hagley is home to numerous playing fields and walking tracks, as well as the lovely botanical gardens, all of which are open year round. Besides being immense and beautiful though, there is another reason that Hagley Park is #1 on my list. This reason is the various eclectic and entertaining events that take place here, and many of them are free! From December until March, there is something unique happening just about every weekend. Check out the links below to a few (free) favorites from this past summer... (something to look forward to next year
    Classical Sparks: the phenomenal Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and several other musicians take the stage for this unique event, which pairs classical music with fireworks, and a few other surprises!
    Sunday Bandstand: something to go with your weekend picnic... every Sunday afternoon, a different local band performs.
    Chinese Lantern Festival: celebrate Chinese New Year with the whole family at this free event, complete with traditional music, acrobatics, and dragon dances!
    The Wind in the Willows: a live production running nearly every evening for a whole month in a beautiful outdoor venue
    Cost: FREE

    The community coming together on a summer night to enjoy Classical Sparks
    The community coming together on a summer night to enjoy Classical Sparks

About the author

Expat Blog ListingKristen Fellers is an American expat living in New Zealand. Blog description: Im a California girl who moved to New Zealand with my cycle obsessed husband, my nursing career, and of course, my bike!
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Contest Comments » There is 1 comment

George wrote 6 years ago:

It really is wonderful to see Christchurch picking itself back up, and moving on from such tragedy. With spirit like the Cantabrians have though, it was inevitable ;)

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