Christchurch Motorhome Holiday Guide

 
Christchurch Motorhome Holiday Guide
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Christchurch Cathedral

European and Māori heritage blend together with urban regeneration to shape what is modern-day Christchurch — a city that’s progressing quickly towards its 21st century identity.

 

               

 

The Garden City

If you’d like to explore a place that’s constantly evolving — a city that’s still in transition — then the South Island’s largest town should be on your radar. Not only is it the gateway to Antarctica in this part of the world, it’s the gateway to the Southern Alps and all that the spectacular southern island has to offer.

 

Hagley Park blossoms

 

Christchurch was traditionally known as New Zealand’s most English of cities with some incredible architecture representing gothic revival and old English revival styles

The past decade has seen modern architectural buildings join the historical ones in the CBD. The contrast between old and new is something worth wandering the central city in its own right.

Hagley Park maintains its status as the beating heart of the city. It’s a hub of activity — from weekend sport to summer events and botanical gardens to free museums.

The Avon River runs through the city winding its way amongst the old and the new — before finding its way to the Pacific Ocean.

 

Getting around Christchurch

Exploring Christchurch by bike

 

New Zealand’s flattest city is mostly built on the Canterbury Plains right next door to Banks Peninsula. An outdoor enthusiasts playground, the peninsula is easily accessible whether you’re on foot, on a bike or touring by motorhome.

The mountains are only an hour away with some of the country’s best ski fields simply waiting for you to carve them up. The sea is ever-present with plenty of swimmable and surfable beaches. And the Port Hills on the southern edge of the city offer all the hiking and mountain biking trails you’ll need.

The central city area is laid out in a grid pattern — similarly to its sister city, Adelaide. It’s relatively simple to get around with one-way streets running east-west and north-south. Although parking is plentiful, the easiest way to get into the CBD and explore is via public transport and then taking to the pavements on foot.

 

Essential scenery — The Signs

 

The Crater Rim Walkway winds along the top of the Port Hills from Godley Head to Gebbies Pass. Four rest houses were built along or near the walkway as shelter for walkers migrating between Christchurch and Akaroa, namely:

The Sign of the Takahe

The Sign of the Kiwi

The Sign of the Bellbird

The Sign of the Packhorse

You can drive to three of these rest houses and enjoy the stunning views — though you’ll need to use your feet to reach the Packhorse Hut.

 

 

Things to see and do in Christchurch


Although the centre of Christchurch is undergoing a slow transformation bringing life to new bars and restaurants, the outdoors remains the same. The city, with Banks Peninsula as its playground, offers plenty of recreational activities.

 

Drive atop the rim of an extinct volcano

While you have wheels, why not use them — and drive up Dyers Pass Road to Summit Road where you can head northwest or southeast stopping where it’s possible to take in the magnificent views.

A section of the road underneath the gondola is still closed to vehicles but that makes it an ideal stretch for walking or biking. Take your time and enjoy the 360 degree scenery.

 

See Kiwi rustling for worms

The original place to see Kiwi in Christchurch is Willowbank — and it remains a fantastic wildlife park for both kids and adults to interact with some of the country’s native animals.


Willowbank pigs

Your family will be able to:

  • Feed the eels

  • Pet a kunekune pig

  • Try to find the tuatara.A nocturnal burrowing lizard-like reptile endemic to New Zealand

 

Discover a little history

The quality of the free museums in Christchurch is excellent. Canterbury Museum is the city’s main historical museum with exhibitions covering early Māori and European settlers. Be sure to check it's open before planning a visit as a redevelopment is scheduled to take place.

On the west side of the city is Wigram where the Air Force Museum of New Zealand is located. It’s a fun place to spend a wet afternoon with some interactive displays and a number of incredibly well-kept old aircraft.

 

Soak in seawater hot pools

Only a few years old, He Puna Taimoana hot pools in New Brighton sit right next to the sand and the sea. The facility harnesses the nutrient-rich qualities of the seawater too — by heating the salt water up to a range of temperatures between 26 and 39 degrees Celsius.

 

He Puna Taimoana Christchurch

 

Eat at the Lyttelton Farmers Market

Every Saturday morning the friendly folk over the Port Hills in Lyttelton put together one of the best weekend food and goods markets in the country — the Lyttelton Farmers Market.

Load up on some local cheese, bread and tasty treats from this popular Saturday get together.

 

Check out a few more appetising farmers' markets in Christchurch.

 

 

Spend a day in Hagley Park

Intelligently planned from the very beginnings of the city’s development, Hagley Park is one of the largest city parks — and is Christchurch’s biggest green space. Here you can:

  • Visit the botanic gardens

  • Explore the Canterbury Museum

  • Cycle or walk the many paths

  • See a live cricket match or attend an event

  • Play golf or watch Saturday sport.

 

Ride or walk up the Port Hills

 

The Christchurch Gondola is arguably the easiest, most scenic way of getting to the top of the Port Hills. The panoramic 360 degree views are superb, and you can even wander outside to find your own vantage point.

However, there’s another fairly easy way to get to the top — walking up the Bridle Path. Follow in the footsteps of Canterbury’s first European settlers who carved out this trail from the Port of Lyttelton to the Heathcote Valley.

 

Race down the Port Hills

A relatively new attraction to the city, the Christchurch Adventure Park offers plenty of downhill fun. Hire a mountain bike or a gravity quad and test your ability on the many trails. And if you need to learn some skills, you can through their skills clinics. For more biking adventures, take a look at our best day bike rides in New Zealand.

If you prefer to fly, try the highest and longest zipline in New Zealand. Then after you’ve had your thrill, visit the cafe and bar for a meal or a light refreshment.

 

Christchurch Zipline

 

Essential activity — Street art tour

One of the great positives to come out of post-earthquake Christchurch is the explosion in street art. If the CBD needed something to create vibrancy as it rebuilds, painting the walls with inspirational imagery was an astute move.

Check out this crowdsourced map of street art locations around Christchurch.

 

Cool down with penguins

A visit to the International Antarctic Centre right next to Christchurch Airport will get you as close as possible to Antarctica without actually flying there. Find out what it feels like to:

  • Be in a -18 degree Celsius storm

  • Ride an all-terrain amphibious Antarctic vehicle

  • Experience a 4D theatre

  • Check out little blue penguins.

 

Relax on New Regent Street

Indisputably Christchurch’s most colourful road, New Regent Street is a real gem in the middle of the city. It’s worth spending an afternoon or an evening here enjoying a fantastic meal or an indulgent drink.

And while you’re here, why not experience the Christchurch Tram which follows a loop track and passes down New Regent Street.

 

Hit the beach

Christchurch is not only within easy driving distance of the hills and mountains. It’s also swimming with great beaches literally within minutes of the central city. If the sun’s out and you need to take a dip, drive to one of:

  • Sumner - with iconic Cave Rock to explore, Sumner Beach is a fun weekend retreat

  • Corsair Bay - on the other side of the hill right next to Lyttelton is this sheltered and uber-popular swim spot

  • Taylor’s Mistake — the surf’s always up at Taylor’s so if you like waves, drive over the hill from Sumner to this legendary beach

  • New Brighton — wander the pier and watch the surfers and fishers, or go for a dip yourself.

 

Marvel at Riccarton Bush

Two hundred years ago, the land that Christchurch now sits on was packed with native kahikatea forest. Very little of that is now left — but there is a magic patch of pest-protected bush right in the middle of the city.

Riccarton Bush has a short loop trail that will give you a feeling of what the land used to be like prior to human settlement. Kahikatea is New Zealand’s tallest indigenous tree — and to look straight up from underneath one is breathtaking.


Christchurch Markets

 

When you visit, don’t miss historic Riccarton House where you can enjoy a coffee and the interesting Christchurch Farmers’ Market.

 

Visit the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial

Looking for a place to sit down, think and reflect on your own journey? This powerful riverside site remembers the lives that were lost during the 2011 earthquake — with the names of all 185 people named on the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial.

Visiting here on a slow walk from the Bridge of Remembrance (where soldiers left for WWII many years ago) is a sobering experience. You’ll find it purposely located where sunlight can reach it most times of the day.

 

Check out our top ten things to do in Christchurch.

 

What to eat in Christchurch

As the redevelopment of the central city continues to gain momentum, the options for food — and quality food at that — keep appearing. For the best eating Christchurch has to offer, take a wander through a few of these gems.

 

Riverside Market

One of the most memorable recent developments is the something-for-everyone Riverside Market. Inspired by the bustling food streets in Italy and Melbourne, it’s a place where you’re guaranteed to find a meal to satisfy your appetite.

Riverside Market isn’t the only option in town where multiple food vendors are assembled together.

 

Little High Eatery

With tastes ranging from Venezuela to Thailand and Japan to Mexico. Housing nine quite different family-run food businesses in what feels like a modern European marketplace setting, Little High Eatery is a must-visit.

 

Essential eatery — 5th Street

For high quality food in a beautiful atmosphere, unassuming 5th Street hidden away in the suburb of Sydenham is worthy of your time. A fine dining experience where you can trust the chef and be well-attended to with excellent service.

 

The Welder

Once a bunch of industrial workshops and now repurposed into authentic character buildings, The Welder is a wellbeing, hospitality and retail complex. Here you’ll find a Japanese Izakaya, a pizza joint, a local bakery and a tapas bar.

 

The Welder Christchurch

 

For more unforgettable places to eat, check out our 20 best food experiences in New Zealand.

 

Where to stay in Christchurch

Make the most of your campervan journey through Christchurch by choosing one or two of the best places to get some shut-eye.

 

Tasman Holiday Parks — Christchurch

Right in the heart of the city is a Tasman Holiday Park with large, medium and small powered sites. There’s a heap of fun for the kids to have at this commercial camping ground — with giant snookball, a jumping pillow, indoor swimming pool, and the slackline proving popular.

 

South Brighton Holiday Park

If you prefer to park up near the sea (or the estuary), book in at South Brighton Holiday Park. Proudly limiting commercial development and proactively encouraging recycling and sustainable use of power, this camp is a throwback to how camping grounds used to be.

 

Spencer Beach Top 10 Holiday Park

Not too far northwest of the city and very close to the beach is Spencer Beach Top 10 Holiday Park. Right next door to the campground is Spencer Park where Canterbury families frequent on weekends for barbecues and get-togethers. It’s an ideal spot to meet some friendly locals.

And if you’d like a little adventure to go with your choice of accommodation, just across the road is the dizzying heights of the Adrenalin Forest.

 

City Coastal Freedom Camping Zones

The eastern coast between Southshore and North New Brighton has a number of parking bays right behind the dunes. Not only will you have some shelter from the predominant easterly wind, you’ll also enjoy beach access making for a pleasant freedom camping experience.

Just be sure to check which parking bays allow freedom camping — and ensure you’re driving a certified self-contained (CSC) vehicle.


Want to venture beyond the Garden City? Take a look at our Christchurch to Queenstown and Christchurch to Milford Sound itineraries.

Then, see our best campsites in Christchurch blog to find your ideal place to stay.

 

 

where to go & what to do motorhoming in NZ