Christchurch is the top city destination in the South Island. It is just the right size, not too big and busy, but big enough to warrant a visit and garner interesting attractions. It's setting near the coast, mountains and Banks Peninsula is a real draw, offering those with campervans some spellbinding drives.
The 'Garden City'is very much out of England, with many familiar sights, such as churches, English-named streets and even a river Avon with punting. The city lies across a fault line and has borne the brunt of earthquakes, as seen in late 2010/early 2011.
There is much variety, with colonial style architecture in the city centre, streets with wide terraces and the pretty River Avon. Christchurch Cathedral is one of the main landmarks of the city centre and remains, albeit with major damage, even after repeated earthquakes. Not far away in Latimer Square is the Transitional 'Cardboard' Cathedral which was built as a stand-in after the major earthquakes of 2010-11.
On Worcester Boulevard is the Gothic stonework Arts Centre. You can get good views of the historic buildings from Worcester Boulevard and Hereford Street. Canterbury Museum is the top museum, having some excellent Maori exhibits as well as offering a good family day out, home as it is to the Discovery Children's Natural History Centre. There's also an aquarium and kiwi birds are honoured at Kiwi House.
Other must-dos are a punt on the Avon, or indeed a relaxing picnic on the banks of the river, while the Botanic Gardens are nearby. Christchurch Gondola gives great views over the city and surrounds.
Best of all is the scope for daytrips and good driving by self-contained van. Summit Road is a fantastic drive to the south of town, taking in various hills, walks and sights. Lyttelton Harbour is a popular side attraction in this area, or you could head east to Sumner Beach. Banks Peninsula also has some amazing driving and you can do a loop taking in Akaroa and Pigeon Bay.
Amber Park Holiday Park is a relaxing complex in a garden setting to the west of town in the suburb of Riccarton. There is good access to the city centre by road and it has recently been renovated. The CBS Arena and TranzAlpine are nearby.
Meadow Park is a few kilometres to the north of the town with many campervan sites and self-contained units. It also features a swimming pool and kids' playground and is close to the Northland's mall and restaurants.
Akaroa Holiday Park is one of the top places to stay for those with campervan hire visiting the stunning Banks Peninsula, with fine views across Akaroa harbour. It features large, lawned sites and a swimming pool with section for tots.
Christchurch is spread out and uncongested and has fairly easy driving owing to its grid layout. There are some one-way streets and the city centre can get tricky with bus-only lanes, but there's lots of pay and display parking. It is located on the main State Highway 1, with easy access to points north and southwest.
- Speed limits in the city: 50kph.
- Speed limits on national roads: 100kph.
- Help number: 111