Christchurch's Secret Spaces and Places
There’s something thrilling about discovering a secret place. Whether it be a little speakeasy underground or a garden not on any map, it’s a gift for you to enjoy.
Christchurch is full of these little gems, perhaps because it’s a city that’s been evolving ever since the earthquakes, or maybe because the landscape lends itself well to secret spots. Either way, between speakeasies, hidden beaches, and secluded gardens, there’s plenty to explore in the South Island’s largest city. So tell your friends — or don’t — and enjoy the finest in hidden Christchurch.
The Austin Club
A favourite on the scene, Austin Club is a speakeasy-style bar located in the basement of a CBD building. A password is needed to enter (hint: it's on their website and Instagram), and once you’re in, you’ll understand why this place should be kept a secret. It’s tiny but manages to fit quite a few patrons around the wooden bar and a few in an adjoining room that holds a teeny stage for nightly performers. The cocktails are expertly prepared and often are new takes on old classics.
The Last Word
Christchurch Central City, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury
This Christchurch institution is relatively well known, but we still consider it a hidden gem because it's just so good. Located on New Regent Street, The Last Word features a cosy upstairs and down and outdoor space with plenty of blankets. There's an impressive list of whiskeys, wines, beers, and cocktails, and if you’re hungry, order a bowl of chips and kiwi dip or treat yourself to their cheese boards. The friendly staff will make sure you’re comfortable and are happy to recommend something new.
level 1/98 Victoria Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury
Boo’s is easy to miss on Victoria Street. Its small signage and tiny staircase are easy to walk right by, but to miss it would be a shame. Once you’re upstairs, you’ll likely hear live music coming from the tiny, intimate room, so perch at the bar to enjoy the best of both worlds. Featuring an extensive cocktail list with many classic American favourites, you’ll surely find something to wet your whistle here. If you’re hungry, sidle into the leather booths and order yourself something indulgent — perhaps melted pimento cheese dip or some sliders to share?
Christchurch’s Secret Gardens and Beaches
John Britten Reserve
Mount Pleasant, Christchurch 8081
Tucked away in Mt Pleasant sits the John Britten Reserve, the perfect place for an after work walk or bike ride. The John Britten Track traverses over the top of the reserve, offering beautiful views and less crowds than other popular tracks in the area.
Camp Bay is a magical spot in the Banks Peninsula. Located a short drive from Diamond Harbour, this smaller bay is a great spot to boogie board, soak up the sun, or simply take an ocean dip. A small, sandy shore provides plenty of hours of exploration. There’s even a little cave that can be found if the tide is right, so plan on a whole day of relaxing at this lovely bay.
Cunningham House, Botanic Gardens
Inside the Botanical Gardens sits the Cunningham House, a tropical paradise, especially in the dead of winter. The conservatory itself is a true stunner, built in 1923 and listed with the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga. Feel the tropical respite from the minute you walk through the glass doors and marvel at the expanse of interesting plants. While you’re inside, wander into the Townend House, the flowering conservatory next door that offers a brilliant array of colours and species. Finally, the Garrick House cannot be missed — it’s chock full of interesting cacti and succulents and makes for a warming treat in winter.
Edmonds Factory Garden
Tucked off of Ferry Road in Phillipstown is Edmonds Factory Garden, commissioned by Thomas Edmonds, the baking powder factory’s owner in 1932. The gardens feature a rose garden, shrubbery, dwarf conifers, and an oval garden, all available to sit and enjoy for free.
The Residential Red Zone are areas of Christchurch that were heavily affected by the earthquakes that are now being restored for recreational use. One of the largest swathes of red zone — the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor — is becoming reimagined into a mix of native habitat, paths, community spaces, and more. The space is home to many former residential gardens and open spaces, making it an excellent place to relax under a big shade tree, play some frisbee, or enjoy a bit of foraged fruit. Community projects abound in this area, so be sure to search for telltale signs of regenerative planting, fundraisers, and more.
Tai Tapu Sculpture Garden
Open by appointment, the Tai Tapu Sculpture Garden is home to budding and established sculpture artists’ work, as well as a native regeneration project. Walk through the regenerative forests and take in the bird life and song, complemented by the stunning beauty of the sculptures that surround.
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