The Ultimate Local's Guide to Christchurch & Surrounds

The colourful facades on New Regent Street on a sunny day.

Christchurch Ōtautahi is proud to be a place full of rich experiences that no matter where your interests lie or what stage of life you are at, this city is sure to deliver in spades.

Armed with local insider knowledge, this guide gives you the very best that Christchurch Ōtautahi has to offer and ensures you won’t run out of things to do anytime soon.

Words by: Julia Rutherford

For the concrete jungle-loving foodies among you, there are many unique neighbourhoods in the inner city to explore, with plenty of top-notch cafés, restaurants and bars to easily spend a day moving from one meal, snack and drink to another.

And for those who feel like an adventure and getting out and about into the surroundings of the city, there are day trips aplenty that are oh so close. Whether it’s heading out to the coastline to explore an ecological reserve or into the wine country of Waipara, these are beautiful scenic drives, and the best thing is they’re only just over an hour away.

Live it up in Lyttelton on a Saturday

A Saturday exploring the charming port town of Lyttelton is a weekend day well spent. Whether you choose to drive through the tunnel or take the more scenic route over the Port Hills, make sure you get there by 11 am so you don’t miss out on the best of the weekly farmer's market. Taking over a section of London Street, stalls are set up selling everything from fresh produce to artisan products with live music to enjoy as you browse. If you need some caffeination, pop into the beloved Lyttelton Coffee Company for an expertly roasted and brewed cup of coffee. If it’s a nice day and you can nab an outdoor table, it makes for a perfect spot to market watch. Feeling refuelled, pop next door to Henry Trading a treasure trove of a shop where the focus is on supporting local and ethical producers. If you’re needing a gift for someone (or a treat for yourself), it’s just the place to find something unique and special. 

One of the best parts of Lyttelton’s portside location is the number of incredible walks that are close by, so stretch those legs and work up an appetite! You can walk along the coast, which will deliver stunning views across Banks Peninsula, and find yourself coming across pretty bays such as Corsair and Cass. Or you can head up the hills and tackle the Bridle Path and again be rewarded with those peninsula views.

A few hours spent exercising means a reward of a delicious late lunch or early dinner for sure, and luckily Lyttelton delivers on this front. If you’re feeling like woodfired, cheesy goodness make a beeline for Arbour. Feeling more like Asian-inspired share plates, then SUPER has you covered. Or not really sure what you feel like food-wise but just want a great atmosphere and something delicious, it’s hard to go past Civil and Naval. And there you have it, a day full of the very best Lyttelton has to offer; you’ll be wanting to head back and do it all again the next Saturday!

Hangs at The Arts Centre/Te Matatiki Toi Ora

Cafes key icon. Galleries and museum key icon. Theatre and performance key icon.

2 Worcester Boulevard, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora is a treasure in the heart of Ōtautahi Christchurch. Its restoration following the earthquakes has been important to so many locals and it is amazing to see it thriving.

Begin your visit to The Arts Centre in the Old Boys High building with a coffee stop at Frances Nation Grocer. Grab your oat flat white (or order of choice) and a delicious snack to go, and you’re ready to explore the independent shops. Just outside the building is the Custard Square Bookshop, a cute caravan full of second-hand books to peruse.

Then it’s back inside to browse your way around, from specialised fashion store Indigo & Provisions to the beautiful and serene home and lifestyle space of Frances Nation (yes, the namesake of the grocer where you got your coffee). This part of the Arts Centre is not only home to these boutiques - you will also find Absolution, the very best tattooists and body piercers in the city and Rekindle, a workshop space that celebrates resourcefulness and provides opportunities for local craft practitioners and the public alike.

After a few hours spent exploring here, you will have well and truly earned a bit of a sit-down and some refreshments. There is no better spot to head to in the Arts Centre for this very purpose than Cellar Door. The interior here is a Pinterest dream, with exposed brick, deep forest green walls and appropriate wine decor dotted around. The wine tasting flights are a must and a chance to sample wines you may not have come across before, as well as tried and true favourites. Curate your own cheeseboard or snack on a bowl of fries, sip your wine flight and reflect on a day enjoyed at Te Matatiki Toi Ora.

A Day Trip to Black Estate & Brew Moon

Waipara, North Canterbury

A Christchurch city dweller’s favourite day trip would easily be a drive out to wine country, or as it is more officially known, the Waipara region.

Spoilt for choice when it comes to cellar doors to go wine tasting, make sure you designate a driver before setting off and reward them with a delicious lunch at Black Estate. Dine on an appetising seasonal menu and take in the rolling views of the valley and the vines. Local and organic produce are heroes in the dishes, and a wine tasting is not to be missed.

Make your way around other vineyards, tasting and enjoying the scenery, and when it’s time to head back to the city, a pit stop at Amberley’s Brew Moon is highly recommended. This family-run craft brewery and pizzeria hits the spot after a day of wine tasting. With that cosy neighbourhood pub feel, enjoy some woodfired pizzas and perhaps one of the seasonal beer options on tap. You’ll be so glad you extended your day trip.   

Local Foodie Favourites

The Christchurch Ōtautahi food scene rivals the very best overseas foodie destinations (speaking completely impartially of course!). If you only have a limited amount of time in the city, then you will want to fit in as much eating as possible and won’t want to miss these local favourites.

Starting things off with a classic pub, Somerfield’s Moon Under Water is one of those neighbourhood pubs where regulars and first-timers are all welcomed with a friendly smile and great service. Excellent brews are on tap, with a particular focus on stouts, and the all-important pub grub of burgers and pizzas is executed brilliantly.

Down the road in Sydenham, you’ll find 5th Street, brought to you by local hospitality heroes Chris Penny, Max Perry and Samson Stewart. Walking in here is so aesthetically pleasing, and it just gets better from there. With small and large plates on the menu, this is a restaurant that works for all kinds of occasions, and it’s easy to see why it’s booked out most nights of the week. So make a note to call ahead and see for yourself what all the fuss is about!

Speaking of impeccable, next door to one another at the city end of Papanui Road you will find Londo and Gatherings, where both have exquisite and carefully curated wine lists. Why not start at Londo with a glass of wine and something delicious to eat, then move on to Gatherings for your next course, or vice versa? Location is everything after all! 

Moving into the central city, the vibe and energy of Oxford Terrace is hard to go past. Modern Asian eatery King of Snake is a perennial favourite, and with an elevated position above both Cashel Street and the Avon River, it’s dinner with a view. Moving down a few city blocks to pastel pretty New Regent Street, it’s gin gin for the win, with a stunning interior (that’s made many an Instagram post) to a bar that’s stocked with over 100 varieties of its namesake spirit. There’s also a drool-worthy food menu, and you will find it hard to narrow down your choices… always a good dilemma to be faced with.

Strap in for an adventure to Hinewai & Hickory Bay

Day trip adventures around Ōtautahi Christchurch really are plentiful, and if you are looking for one that is slightly more off the well-trod path then keep on reading. Just over an hour’s drive from the centre of the city, heading towards the southeast of Banks Peninsula, is Hinewai Reserve, an ecological restoration project run by Maurice White Native Forest Trust and the inspiring Hugh Wilson.

There is an extensive network of walking tracks across the reserve, and it is an opportunity to experience the trust’s work fostering the natural regeneration of native vegetation and wildlife. Keep on driving around the peninsula, and you’ll find yourself at Hickory Bay, a popular surf spot and an all-round stunning vista. If you’ve got the time and don’t need to rush home, why not stay the night and book into the beautifully curated cottage or cabin at Hickory Bay Cold Water Surf Resort? It’s a chance to truly unwind and take in the beauty of your surroundings.

Photo by: Jackson Bright

Playtime for the young (and young at heart)

Cafes key icon.

277 Manchester Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

After a family fun day in the city? Begin your morning with coffee for the adults, fluffies and hot chocolates for the kids and brekkie for everyone at one of the city’s most popular cafès, Child Sister.

With a light and modern interior, and a food menu that is sure to satisfy every age and their tastebuds, it’s a great place to hit before crossing the road to the Margaret Mahy Playground. This truly is playground heaven, with something for all ages to play on and enjoy. From giant slides to climbing walls and creative structures, this is sure to keep the kids entertained for hours. Plus those adults who tend to hit the playground after dark.

New Brighton date night

Date night doesn’t get any better than a soak in the hot pools, followed by one of the best burgers in town.

Head to the seaside suburb of New Brighton and right on the waterfront is He Puna Taimoana Hot Pools. Book yourself in for one of the last sessions of the day and enjoy ocean views as you relax and soak in these luxurious hot pools. You can also choose to spend time in the steam room and the sauna.

Once your session is up, take advantage of the location and stroll along the New Brighton pier, taking in extended views down the Canterbury coastline and across the Southern Alps. Now after all this relaxing and marvelling at the scenic surroundings, you’re sure to be hungry, and it’s pretty hard to go past The Burger Joint.

Tucked down Carnaby Lane, this is a favourite among New Brighton locals and it’s pretty easy to see why. Not only do the burgers score 10/10 on taste level, but owners Sam and Caroline also put a strong focus on using real, local produce to make what they serve. Order a dessert to share to wrap up the evening and that’s a pretty successful New Brighton date night.

Not to be missed: Christchurch Farmers Market

Markets key icon.

16 Kahu Rd, Christchurch & Canterbury

Come rain or shine, on a Saturday morning the grounds of Riccarton House are buzzing with stalls full of local producers. This is the home of the Christchurch Farmers Market, and year after year its popularity among locals continues to grow. It really is the prime place to experience the best of Ōtautahi’s makers, bakers and food heroes.

There is so much variety here, with everything you could need to fill your pantry including fresh produce, eggs, meats, baked goods and deli items. There are also the stalls making food to eat then and there, such as decadent porridges, bacon sandwiches that are hard to beat and toasted bagels that start your morning on the right note. It’s a good idea to get to the market early - after all, that’s more time to make multiple trips around the stalls!

Neat Christchurch & Canterbury Places

Empire Chicken

Table of fried chicken and sides from Empire Chicken in Christchurch.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury

A fried chicken establishment to rival the big dogs.

Downstairs Bar

Dark moody image inside Downstairs where their is bright feature lighting.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
Bars key icon. Restaurants key icon.

What do you get when you marry the cosy vibes of an intimate pub with the sophistication of an inner city wine bar? You end up with the best of both worlds and the result is Downstairs on New Regent Street.

Movementor Pilates

An empty pilates studio.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
Stay and explore key icon. Wellbeing key icon.

Movementor is a well-known Pilates studio situated within the Beckenham hub at the corner of Christchurch’s Colombo and Tennyson Streets.

Recycle Boutique Christchurch

Staff picks rack.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
Fashion key icon.

Recycle Boutique challenges the status quo as one part designer boutique, one part second hand shop and one part sustainable shopping option.