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Christchurch Itinerary: How to Spend Three – Seven Days in Christchurch

Christchurch Itinerary: How to Spend Three – Seven Days in Christchurch

The South Island’s biggest city will likely pull you into its orbit at some point while exploring (or living in) New Zealand. There’s a lot to do in Christchurch, and even more if you include all the surrounding areas. So many walks, day trips, beaches and cool places to eat! Our Christchurch itinerary will give you some ideas on how to spend your time in Christchurch, whether you’re visiting for a few days or a week (or more).

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Three Days in Christchurch

Our three-day Christchurch itinerary gives you a good introduction to the city, taking you to some of the best viewpoints, beaches, activities and food spots.

Day One

On day one in Christchurch I’d recommend sticking to the city centre. There is heaps to explore and its relatively compact, meaning you won’t have to walk too far to get places if your hotel is central. You’ll want to check out the Avon River, which flows through the heart of Christchurch. You can explore this area by foot or by boat. The Antigua Boat Sheds is the starting point for punting tours on the Avon River. Other places to check out include the Botanic Gardens, Canterbury Museum and some of the earthquake memorials.

Avon River, Christchurch, New Zealand

You’re bound to get hungry at some point, and Riverside Market is the perfect spot to go. It’s full of restaurants and small food stalls — we go there for most of our meals in Christchurch as it has a big variety of places to eat. The Terrace, next to Riverside Market has plenty of great options for dinner and drinks. 

You can also check out one of the city’s rooftop bars like Pink Lady (located at The Muse Christchurch Art Hotel).

Another cool area to explore is the colorful New Regent Street and nearby Isaac Theatre Royale, a fantastic venue for music and entertainment. Check out their upcoming shows here.

Other options for your time in central Christchurch include a vintage tram tour.  A great way to explore the city centre highlights is via the hop-on, hop-off tour by vintage trams. There are plenty of great stops including Cathedral Square, Canterbury Museum & Botanic Gardens, Riverside Market and High Street.

You can also check out nearby Riccarton to see an impressive old house, a bush walk and a shopping mall.

Day Two

If you spent your first day in Christchurch exploring the city then you’ll want to spread your wings a bit on day two. What this entails depends on your interests, so I’ll give you a few options. The first is to head to Sumner, home to the most popular beach in Christchurch. There’s heaps to do in Sumner, including the walk to Taylors Mistake, the Godley Head Walk and the Eastenders Track. Nicholson Park is worth a visit if you prefer not to have to walk far for your views.

Ferrymead Heritage Park (a museum/ recreation of an old town) and the Christchurch Gondola are also close to Sumner. You could easily spend a day in and around Sumner, and there are places to stay out there too if you prefer the beach to the city.

If you’d rather explore the hilltops then a drive up to Summit Road is another great way to spend a day. Head up Dyers Pass Road, turn left at the Sign of the Kiwi Café and then drive along Summit Road — so many short walks, cycling trails and roadside viewpoints — highlights include Sugarloaf Scenic Reserve and Mount Vernon Park. You can also turn right at that café — lots of cool places on that section too.

So, day two could be the Port Hills (Summit Road) or Sumner, or a combination of both. New Brighton is also a good place to go (beach / really long pier) and Lyttleton (harbour suburb) could be an option too.

There are lots of places to eat in Sumner (“The Beach” restaurant is one of the best ones, located right on the beach), and if you’re looking for somewhere else to eat in the city check out Little High Eatery (like a smaller version of Riverside Market).

Little High Eatery

Day Three

Day three on our Christchurch itinerary is also full of options. You could see some of the other parts of Sumner / the Port Hills (you definitely won’t see it all in a day), explore the city in more depth (museums, galleries and cool places to eat) or head to New Brighton or Lyttleton and the bays towards Diamond Harbour. You could take a boat over to Quail Island.

Other things you could do on day three include the Antarctic Centre and Orana Wildlife Park. These two places are perfect if you’re travelling with kids (as is Ferrymead Heritage Park).

Day Trips

If you only have three days in Christchurch and you won’t be travelling elsewhere in the South Island I reckon you should consider a day trip away from the city. Christchurch is very centrally located. Within two hours’ drive you could visit Castle Hill, Arthurs Pass (TranzAlpine Train), Akaroa, Hanmer Springs.

Other places to visit include Lake Coleridge, Rakaia Gorge and (a little further away) the Hakatere Conservation Area where you’ll find Mount Sunday, one of the most impressive Lord of the Rings filming locations.  

Five Days in Christchurch

An extra two days in Christchurch gives you plenty of time to explore the city. Slow your pace down and enjoy the sights or try and cram a couple more day trips in! You could even do a day trip to Mount Cook, but it’d be a long one if you’re driving yourself or you can consider joining day tour to Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook from Christchurch.

If you have five days in Christchurch it could be a good idea to spend one or two of those nights elsewhere. Lake Tekapo / Mount Cook, Akaroa and Kaikoura are the obvious choices, but you could also head over to the West Coast (Punakaiki would be a good place to stay). Or spend some time in the mountains (so many options including Lewis Pass, Arthurs Pass, Lake Coleridge, Rakaia Gorge and many more).

A Week in Christchurch

A week in Christchurch is probably too long if you’re only staying in the city, but with so many places within a few hours’ drive you could do several day trips or stay a few nights somewhere else. If you had a week in Christchurch and weren’t travelling onwards after, I’d advise you to spend at least a night (two or three would be better) in the Mount Cook / Lake Tekapo area.

If you are spending a week just in Christchurch then you’ll find enough to keep you busy. There are countless walks in the Port Hills and you’ll find more than enough nice places to eat and drink.

Christchurch Itinerary Details

Our Christchurch itinerary is fairly loose, which is the way we prefer to travel. New Zealand isn’t a great place to plan out every hour of your trip, mostly because of the weather. It’s temperamental at the best of times, and the weather can easily ruin your plans.

If you’re into hiking and seeing beautiful views you’ll want to time your walks with the best weather. For example, you’d flip the first two days of this itinerary if the weather was bad on the second day but not the first, as it’s better to explore a city on a grey day than a beautiful nature area (which almost never look as good in bad weather).

Where to Stay in Christchurch

Staying near the city-centre is ideal if you’re wanting to explore Christchurch. From five-star hotels to boutique hotels, check out The George | Fable Christchurch | Quest | Sudima Christchurch City |The Muse Christchurch Art Hotel
There are some slightly cheaper accommodation options near the city-centre including BreakFree on Cashel | JUCY Snooze Christchurch | The Bealey Quarter | Colombo Lodge – the latter two offer free parking. 

Sumner and New Brighton are two great areas to explore while you’re in Christchurch. Check out Sumner Bay Motel |South Brighton Holiday Park | The Pier Lodge Bed and Breakfast.

Tours and Activities

City tours and activities:  Hop-On Hop-Off Tour by Vintage Tram | Gondola Ride | Gondola and Tram City Tour Combo | Vintage Tram, Punt and Gondola Ride ComboChristchurch International Antarctic Center Orana Wildlife Park Admission | Willowbank Wildlife Reserve.

If you have a bit more time, check out: TranzAlpine Train and Castle Hill Day Tour | Guided Crater Rim Walk in Banks Peninsula | Godley Head & Lyttelton Guided Walking Tour.

Are you planning a trip to New Zealand? Check out our South Island travel guide!

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Jon Algie

I'm a South Island local -- born in Timaru and raised in Dunedin. I left the island in 2006 and returned 10 years later. Having seen a good chunk of the world I realised how special this place is -- the most beautiful island in the world! Seven years (and almost 400 posts) later I'm still helping locals and tourists alike plan their trips around the South Island.