Christchurch, the South Island’s biggest city, isn’t widely known as a beach destination. You won’t find exotic white sand or clear blue water, but there are plenty of interesting beaches in Christchurch, from popular dining / family outing spot Sumner to scenic spots such as Taylors Mistake and Tumbledown Bay.
Sumner Beach, and Scarborough Beach, which is right next door, is the place to go in Christchurch for a meal by the ocean and a stroll along the sand. There’s also a coastal cycling track which attracts plenty of visitors on weekends.
It’s a pretty good city beach destination — not a tropical paradise by any means but there’s plenty to see and do. Eat a meal with a view of the beach (rare in New Zealand), learn to surf and walk through the small cave. If you’re only going to visit one Christchurch beach it’ll probably be Sumner, and that’s not a bad thing!
A short drive over the hill from Sumner is Taylors Mistake, a stunning black sand beach that marks the start of the Godley Head Track, one of the best walks in Christchurch.
The view from above the beach is awesome and the beach itself, with its sheltered bay location and deep black sand is definitely a looker.
New Brighton Beach
New Brighton Beach joins Sumner as one of the “big two” beaches in Christchurch. It’s long (around 18 km) and features one of the longest piers in New Zealand. I’ve seen great photos of New Brighton Pier at sunrise, so if you’re into photography you might want to consider getting there early.
There are plenty of places to eat and drink close to the beach and there are also some hot pools with views of the ocean — we haven’t been to the pools yet but we’ll get there soon!
Beaches Near Lyttleton
READ MORE: 15 of the Best Things to Do in Christchurch
The best part (for me) about driving to these underrated beaches in Christchurch is the views you’ll see along the way. Also consider a trip to Quail Island if you’re in the area.
Banks Peninsula is massive, and I wouldn’t consider most of it to actually be in Christchurch. Akaroa is the main town on the Peninsula and it’s a unique destination with its French influence and beautiful hilltop views. On the way to Akaroa, close to Little River, there’s a turnoff to two of my favourite beaches in Christchurch.
READ MORE: The Scenic Drive from Christchurch to Akaroa
Tumbledown Bay and Te Oka Bay are beautiful black sand beaches and you’ll get nice beach views from the winding gravel roads between them. If you’re looking for a scenic drive from Christchurch and don’t want to go all the way to Akaroa this is the perfect option. There are heaps more beaches closer to Akaroa but I’ll save those for another post.
Beaches North of Christchurch
The suburbs north of Christchurch, such as Pegasus, Woodend and Waikuku are home to beaches — it’s pretty much one big stretch of coastline in fact. I’ve been to a few (Waikuku, Woodend and Amberley) and they’re all very similar.
I imagine these beaches mostly attract locals and probably aren’t worth seeking out for tourists looking for the best beaches in Christchurch. They’re nice enough though, so if you’re looking for a quiet spot for a walk you could do worse. Waikuku Beach was our favourite of the three.
And that’s it for my list of the best beaches in Christchurch. As you can see, Christchurch isn’t flush with beautiful white sand beaches and clear blue water. There are plenty of scenic beaches in Christchurch though, so if you want to explore some interesting coastal scenery when visiting the South Island’s biggest city then you have lots of options.
The best of those options is Sumner / Scarborough Beach for a meal by the water and a quick stroll, New Brighton for sunrise and dip in a hot pool, Taylors Mistake for great views and Tumbledown Bay for a fun road trip destination.
Are you planning a trip to the South Island? Check out our road trip itinerary!
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