The second-largest city in the country, and definitely the greenest, Christchurch, or the Garden City as it is known to locals, is one of New Zealand’s most popular destinations. The best part about the city is that its popularity lies not only with tourists but with New Zealanders as well. Many a local can be seen taking a break in this historic and picturesque metropolis. The areas surrounding the city are just as breathtaking, and many a day can be spent exploring the surrounding mountains, beaches and charmingly old-fashioned towns. There are several rental agencies in the city from which to book a vehicle for the trips.
Who to Book With
Several well-known rental companies are located in Christchurch. Popular options often include Europcar, Budget and Avis. There are also a few local companies like Kea Campers that have racked up good reputations. The offices of most of these agencies can be found at the airport and in the town centre around Lichfield Street. Most companies now have online booking facilities making hiring a car a much easier process.
Best Time to Go
Visitors can be found descending on the city at all times of the year but the most popular period is during the summer, when tourists hit the beaches. Autumn is also a pleasant time in the city and also the time when most festivals and music events take place. Travellers who do visit Christchurch during peak season are advised to make all bookings far in advance as prices tend to rise quite sharply.
Need to Know Essentials
Remember to take the following important documents along when collecting your rental car:
- A form of photographic ID like a valid passport
- Proof of deposit and the credit card used when making the booking
- A valid New Zealand driving licence or an International Driving Permit
For more info read our FAQ's.
Driving in Christchurch is a breeze and hiring a car is often recommended. The city does offer public transport services but these do not extend to all areas and generally operate on limited schedules. Christchurch is designed according to a simple grid system which is easy to understand and follow. Drivers should, however, always be armed with a reliable map as sneaky one-ways are prevalent and some major intersections are reserved for buses and taxis.
It is possible to find parking in the city but free parking is a rarity. Most of the parking areas in the city operate according to a pay-and-display system, where the fee amounts to about $2.50 per hour.
You can read more about general driving in our guide to New Zealand.
Christchurch is a relatively flat city and many parts can be easily navigated by foot or by bicycle. Unfortunately there is no train line in the city but there are reliable bus and taxis services. Hiring a car is not a bad idea, though, especially for travellers wanting to explore the outskirts of the city or move around on the weekends.
The bus service is the most reliable mode of public transport in the city operated largely by the companies Red Bus and Metro. The main point of connection for all buses in the city is the Bus Exchange. Tickets can be purchased from the bus terminal or on the vehicles themselves. Travellers have the option of purchasing a single journey ticket, amounting to about NZD$2.50 or weekly and monthly passes, which are loaded onto a MetroCard. Quite conveniently the city centre is serviced by the yellow shuttle, which is open to passengers free of charge. The route on which this shuttle operates is quite small but the service is nifty nonetheless.
Downtown is also serviced by a tramway that operates a larger loop than the free shuttle. The trams are restored carriages and are quite fun for tourists in the city who prefer to hop-on and hop-off to see the sites. The tram is a bit more expensive, though, with a two-day ticket costing about NZD$12.50.
Taxis can be found all over the city and can either be hailed from the side of the road or booked in advance of the journey. None of the taxis in the city have metres but the fares are standard across all vehicles and companies. Negotiating a fare is not generally common practice but travellers could always try their luck. A few reputable companies include Blue Star and Gold Band.
While the city is well worth exploring, Christchurch is located in one of the most beautiful regions in the country. Situated somewhat centrally on the southern island, Christchurch is perfectly placed to explore the greenest countryside the southern hemisphere has ever seen.
Hanmer - Located less than two hours away from the city is the quaint village of Hanmer. The village is extremely popular with locals of Christchurch who often break away to Hanmer on long weekends and holidays. The most popular attraction here, by far, is the hot springs. There are many pools bubbling with piping hot natural minerals. During school holidays travellers may not be able to get a spot as the pools are quite the attraction.
Akaora - Located just over an hour's drive from Christchurch, the perfect day trip destination. Located right on the seaside, and displaying a distinct French heritage, Akaora is a great place to catch a tan and grab a few croissants before heading back to Christchurch.
Arthur’s Pass - There are many scenic drives in the area but perhaps the most popular of all is Arthur’s Pass. Lovers of the outdoors will not only appreciate the gorgeous mountain route but also the activities at the end of the line. Many hiking and trekking groups descend on the pass during the summer to take on the pass’s challenging routes.