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ONE Day in Christchurch Itinerary: How to Spend the Day in Christchurch

ONE Day in Christchurch Itinerary: How to Spend the Day in Christchurch

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As the largest city on the South Island, it’s no wonder Christchurch is full of things to do. I’ve visited Christchurch tons of times, and I’m always looking for the newest restaurants, sightseeing opportunities, and activities each time I come back.

There’s an international airport here, so whether you’re enjoying an extended layover or just staying the night before heading out on a road trip, I’ve got a full-day itinerary for an epic stay in Christchurch.

I’ll include places to eat and some of the best ways to see as much as possible in a short amount of time. Read on for my top tips for spending a day in Christchurch.

One Day in Christchurch

Breakfast: Saturdays

Bailey with brunch at Saturdays Cafe in Christchurch
Bailey with brunch at Saturdays Cafe in Christchurch
Food at Saturdays Cafe in Christchurch
The food is so good!

The first stop on our itinerary includes a delicious meal and an epic view. Saturdays is located right by the water, but this beachside cafe stands apart from the rest.

Even after traveling around the country extensively, I am always in awe of the beautiful beaches in New Zealand. If there’s an opportunity to combine the ocean view with a scrumptious breakfast, well, sign me up!

When I go to Saturdays, I usually take advantage of their lovely outdoor patio which has plenty of umbrellas. But if you’re visiting on a chilly day, there is also plenty of indoor seating as well. I will say that Christchurch has nice year-round temperatures during the daytime, usually averaging 23°C (73°F) in summer and 11°C (52°F) during winter. For those visiting during the colder season, you can read my tips for visiting New Zealand in winter here.

There is a limited menu here with seasonal items, and everything I’ve tried is very tasty. Their Eggs On Toast is always a win in my book, and they also have sweeter options like Blueberry Ricotta Hotcakes that definitely hit the spot. What I really love is their coffee, and if you’ve read my other blogs, that should come as no surprise. You can check out the menu here.

When I’m not in the mood for a full breakfast, I love grabbing a coffee and strolling along the pier – but I’ll talk more about that below.

Saturdays is perfect for a relaxing place to eat, and I also think it’s a good date spot as well. It’s a very bright, warm atmosphere with rustic features and pops of pastels, making for some cute photos. It’s one of the best cafes in Christchurch which is why it’s at the top of my list!

They are open from 9 am to 4 pm Monday through Friday and open at 8 am on the weekends. Prices average around $25 NZD, and the servers have always been very welcoming. Plus, you can’t really beat a breakfast with beach views!

Morning: Soak in the He Puna Taimoana Hot Pools and visit the New Brighton Pier

Bailey enters the He Puna Taimoana Hot Pools in Christchurch, New Zealand
On a windy day, the warm pools are amazing!
Bailey relaxes in the He Puna Taimoana Hot Pools in Christchurch
It’s too hard to get out!

For our next stop of the day, we’re going right next door!

The He Puna Taimoana Hot Pools are one of my all-time favorite places to relax!

There are 5 different pools with varying temperatures and soaking in warm salt water has a lot of health benefits like helping ease inflammation. Honestly, the scientific benefits are a bonus because I need little to no convincing to sit in a hot pool, that’s for sure! If you’re like me, you’ll want to read my article all about the best hot pools in New Zealand (He Puna Taimoana is definitely one of them).

I also love that He Puna Taimoana is close to the beach. I get to admire the ocean views while relaxing in warm water, so it’s basically the best of both worlds.

Aside from their prime location, these hot pools are also super budget-friendly. It’s $21 NZD per adult which includes almost 2 hours of relaxation. If you’re following this itinerary, it only costs $18 NZD on weekdays from 10 am to 3 pm, which is a steal of a deal if you ask me! As if the views, price, and experience weren’t enough, there is also a steam room and sauna that you can use, so it’s essentially a full spa day for a fraction of the cost.

Christchurch residents also get a $4 NZD discount – one of the many perks of living here!

Because these hot pools are such a great deal, they tend to book up fast. I recommend reserving a spot on their website so you can guarantee a relaxing soak during your stay in Christchurch.

The He Puna Taimoana Hot Pools are located in front of Saturdays Cafe, so no driving is necessary. They’re open daily from 10 am to 7:30 pm, with extended closing hours on Fridays. Take it from me, you won’t want to skip this experience while in Christchurch!

Bailey walks the New Brighton Pier in Christchurch, New Zealand
I had bad weather the last time I went!
New Brighton Pier in Christchurch, New Zealand
I still love it though!

After breakfast and a relaxing soak, it’s time to enjoy a brief stroll down the New Brighton Pier. It’s less than a 5-minute walk from the hot pools and it’s a great way to round out the morning.

The pier is 300 meters long (984 feet) and was originally built out of wood in 1894. It used to be the only place people could shop on Saturdays and had a penny arcade and a nightclub at one end. In 1965, it was deemed “too run down” and was consequently demolished. Fortunately, enough people rallied together with the Christchurch City Council to get the funding to build the new pier which has been open since 1997.

The New Brighton Pier is now equipped with an award-winning library, a café, and a restaurant. One of my favorite parts of this pier is the light display from hundreds of colorful LEDs installed on the underside. If you have time at the end of your trip, I suggest coming back here to see the lights really shine at night. They reflect off the water and make for a really cool photo.

Visiting the New Brighton Pier is one of my favorite free things to do in Christchurch, and it’s an easy activity to add to any itinerary. You don’t need to spend a long time here, but as someone who makes it a point to stroll down the pier every time I visit Christchurch, I definitely think it’s worth the trip.

Related Read: If you extend your stay, I recommend checking out the best tours in Christchurch to see even more of the beautiful areas surrounding this city.

Midmorning: See the city by tram

A tram travels through Christchurch, New Zealand
A tram travels through Christchurch, New Zealand

The historic Christchurch tram is such a fun way to get around the city. Plus, on this full-day tram experience, there’s an option to explore 17 stops along the route!

The Christchurch Tramway is essentially like the hop-on hop-off bus tours that are so popular around the world. I personally love using these types of trams because it allows me to see so much more than I could on my own. Plus the drivers give commentary throughout the journey so I end up learning more about the area.

One such tidbit that I learned on this tour is that the first tram line was steam-powered and built back in 1880! That’s quite the historical precedent.

There are plenty of stops along the way, and I’ll touch on some of my favorites in the sections below. Spoiler alert: There’s a stop for lunch, which is my first suggestion.

The Christchurch tram starts here, where you’ll pick up your pre-purchased tickets. The stop is in front of the Cathedral Junction Body Corporate, which is about a 15-minute drive from the New Brighton Pier. It costs $40 NZD and lasts all day from 9 am to 6 pm, with the last pick up at 5 pm. One of the coolest parts is that kids 15 and under travel free!

You can check out the full tram map with stops here, but I’ll explain where to get off and on throughout this itinerary.

Once you hop on, take a few minutes to sightsee and take photos, but don’t get too comfortable because lunch is just a few stops away!

Lunch: Eat your way around Riverside Market

Bailey walks through the Riverside Market in Christchurch, New Zealand
There are so many vendors!
View from the second floor looking down at the Riverside Market, Christchurch, NZ
It’s a vibrant place to visit!

I recommend getting off the tram at stop 4 (near Cashel St and Oxford Terrace). The Riverside Market is just a short walk away. This is a huge indoor market in the Central Business District (CBD), with two stories of shops, restaurants, and bars.

There are tons of vendors and a lot of different international cuisines, not to mention local produce, arts and crafts, and even live music and family-friendly holiday events. This is one of my favorite places to stop in Christchurch.

Instead of recommending one place to eat (because that would be way too hard), I suggest taking a lap around the market and getting bites from each place that smells good. I love trying a little bit of everything, so it’s basically like a personal sampling tour!

Of course, you could also make a plan by viewing the layout and list of vendors on the Riverside Market website. I will say that I usually end up spending at least 2 hours here, and it’s very easy to lose track of time. Regardless of how long I stay, I can’t say I’ve ever left hungry.

The market stalls open at 7:30 am every day, and restaurants usually stay open late, so it won’t be a problem finding lunch here. There are also a few bars on site, and I personally enjoy grabbing a beer at the Kaiser Brew Garden on the top floor. They have plenty of beers on tap, and a good selection of ciders, wine, and cocktails.

Related Read: There are so many places to see outside the city, so I definitely recommend renting a car in Christchurch – or even a campervan – and traveling around!

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Afternoon: Continue on the tram

A tram drive by in Christchurch city, New Zealand
Take the tram and explore the city! Photo credit – TravellingLight

Don’t worry – we’re not done with the tram just yet! But before hopping back on the tram, I recommend walking over to the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial.

The memorial is located on the banks of the Avon River, a 5-minute walk from the Riverside Market. It was opened in 2017 on the anniversary of the 2011 quake. It honors the lives lost during this tragic event as well as the strength of the community and the bonds formed following it. There are 185 names on the memorial wall that list the victims, and there are places to sit and reflect around the memorial as well.

After a peaceful reflection, head back to stop 4 (near Cashel St and Oxford Terrace) to continue on the tram.

Another place I like to visit on the tram line is the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, in front of the stop at Montreal and Worcester.

This was another building that was almost completely destroyed by the 2011 quake, but it reopened in 2015 after extensive renovation, and now I think it’s one of the most beautiful and eye-catching buildings in the area. There are lots of exhibitions that feature local and international artists, and the gallery runs events and education programs throughout the year. It’s open from 10 am to 5 pm, with extended hours on Wednesdays, and entry is free.

From the gallery, you can walk about 10 minutes to get to the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. This is one of my favorite places to go for a stroll in all of Christchurch. They have sections devoted to different seasons, and even conservatories for those visiting in the colder months.

The gardens cover 52 acres of land, and aside from admiring the beautiful scenery, there is also a lot of artwork on display, a playground, and of course, a cafe and gift shop to explore. You can read about all the different plant species as well as special events on the Christchurch Botanic Garden website here.

After a nice leisurely walk through the gardens, hop back on the tram at the closest stop (Rolleston and Worcester).

If you have time, head to Quake City (at the corner of Armaugh and Durham). Quake City is an interactive museum for all ages with exhibits that show how earthquakes happen. It also educates visitors on how to prepare for them. After all, earthquakes have played a very important role in this city’s history. The museum is open every day from 10 am – 5 pm and tickets cost $20 NZD at the door.

Hop back on the tram after because as luck would have it, the tram’s last stop is where I recommend stopping for dinner. I just love it when a plan comes together!

Dinner: New Regent Street Precinct

Bailey at the New Regent Street Precinct in Christchurch, New Zealand
New Regent Street Precinct in Christchurch, New Zealand
Bailey enjoys brinch at a cafe at the New Regent Street Precinct in Christchurch
Brunch at Belle (café & micro roastery)

The New Regent Street Precinct is home to over 40 boutique shops, restaurants, bars, and accommodations, and is such a fun and unique area in Christchurch. It was built in the 1930s and the buildings are so cute and colorful and make for a great photo spot. In fact, it’s repeatedly been named “New Zealand’s prettiest street.”

A lot of the restaurants have outdoor seating, and I love people-watching, so I usually opt for a table outside.

One of my favorite restaurants in Christchurch is here, and while there are a lot of places to eat, I highly recommend choosing Twenty Seven Steps. I’m not the only one who thinks so either. They have consistently won awards for hospitality and “best restaurant” since they opened. The Venison and Fish of the Night are unbelievably delicious, and I don’t recommend skipping dessert either.

Twenty Seven Steps is extremely popular, and rightfully so. It’s definitely worth booking a reservation in advance. This is a pricier meal, but trust me, it is absolutely worth it. The food is top-quality, the service is always so friendly, the views of the street below are awesome, and I will 100% be back. They are open Monday through Saturday from 5 pm to 10 pm.

Another honorable mention goes to The Nook, which is a delicious Thai restaurant. They are open for dinner from 5 pm to 9 pm every day. Or for some tasty South American cuisine, head over to Casa Publica which is open from 12 pm to 12 am every day, and stays open to 2 am on Friday and Saturday.

For a complete list of restaurants, bars, and cafes on New Regent Street, check out their website.

Did you know – Regent Street is the only remaining heritage street in Christchurch?! The street suffered extensive damage in the 2011 earthquake but was reopened to the public two years later in April 2013.

Night: Go for drinks on St Asaph Street

For the last stop on my Christchurch itinerary, we’re headed to St Asaph Street, which is a 5-minute drive or about a 20-minute walk from the New Regent Street Precinct.

There are tons of bars along St Asaph Street, but I’ll highlight some fun ones below.

Scoundrel is a chill restaurant in a big, open warehouse with lots of character. The most obvious piece of decor is a big rusty truck filled with plants in the middle of the room. One of their biggest selling points for me was their wine on tap, but there is also beer on tap, cocktails, champagne, and bottles of wine as well! The servers here are very friendly, and they’re open until 9 pm on Sundays through Wednesdays, and 10 pm Thursdays through Saturdays.

Next door is a quirky venue known as Space Academy. This is a multi-purpose warehouse, but they usually have live music, quality beers on tap, and a good selection of wine too. They host an array of events, and it’s a really community-driven place which I appreciate. I also highly recommend grabbing a slice of pizza here if you’re feeling hungry.

Next on my list is Retropolitan Social. This is a spot with funky, 70’s-inspired decor and indoor and outdoor seating. I love the ambiance here and it’s such a fun place to grab a drink, plus their fondue is so good! There are 12 beers on tap and the bartender can make all the classic cocktails, live music on weekends, and TVs that broadcast major sporting events. They’re open every day except Mondays from 4 pm to 3 am.

For anyone with a competitive streak, book an event at Serve Ping Pong Club! This venue just opened in 2022 and they take reservations for groups to play ping pong and/or smart darts with 1 to 2 hours of playing time. It costs $15 NZD per person per hour, and while I haven’t been here yet, it’s on my list the next time I stay in Christchurch. They accept reservations up to 6 months in advance and you can book here.

Related Read: Another amazing place to visit in New Zealand is Fiordland National Park which is home to the top travel destination, Milford Sound.

Where to Stay in Christchurch

Crowne Plaza Christchurch
The Crowne Plaza Christchurch is a beautiful centrally located hotel. Photo credit: Crowne Plaza Christchurch

Although not a large city by international standards, Christchurch is big for New Zealand. As with any large city, picking the right place to stay is really important.

There are lots of different areas to choose from when deciding where to stay in Christchurch. To help you narrow it down, I’ve included my top choices near the airport, in the city center, and just outside the city.

By the airport

One of the best places by the airport is the Lylo Christchurch. It’s actually within walking distance of the airport! It’s also 2 minutes from a retail center and the International Antarctic Center. They have luggage storage, laundry, and a communal area with a kitchen. There are a variety of rooms with prices starting at $117 NZD. You can book this super convenient hotel through Booking.com.

Another cool hotel close by is the Commodore Airport Hotel Christchurch. Although a short drive away, it has a free shuttle, free parking, and amazing reviews. Rooms come with a balcony or garden access to get that fresh air before a flight. They also have a restaurant, bar, and indoor pool. You can expect to pay between $250-$350 NZD per night. For luxury right by the airport, reserve a room at the Commodore Hotel online.

City center

In the city center, the Crown Plaza Christchurch is perfect for a luxury stay. It’s a large hotel with amazing views of the city. You can grab a coffee at the on-site cafe or cozy up by the bar’s fireplace with a cocktail. It has a gym, restaurant, and spacious rooms. You can snag prices as low as $209 NZD when you book in advance online.

For budget travelers, the social but comfortable Urbanz is a good option. Although cheap, it’s located in the heart of the city and only a couple of minutes from Hagley Park and New Regent Street, which is full of bars and restaurants. It’s a trendy, modern space with a pool table, kitchen, laundry, and on-site bar. Dorm rooms cost about $41 NZD, and private rooms are $109 NZD. You can book this budget-friendly hotel on Booking.com or through Hostelworld.com.

Just outside the city

If you don’t mind staying a few minutes outside of the city center, I recently stayed at Tasman Holiday Parks Christchurch and loved it! It’s a holiday park, so perfect for those with a campervan or motorhome, but they also have newly renovated rooms and apartments available for a great price! There are plenty of facilities, including kitchens, BBQs, and a pool. Stays start at $114 NZD and can be booked online here.

Thanks for reading!

Bailey poses for a photo at New Regent Street in Christchurch, New Zealand
Thanks for reading!

I hope this blog has helped give you some ideas for how to spend your day in Christchurch. From enjoying gorgeous ocean views to eating all the goodies in Riverside Market, I always look forward to spending time here, and I’m sure you will too.

Thank you so much for reading my blog! I love traveling around New Zealand, so feel free to stick around and check out some of my other articles on My Queenstown Diary. I’ll list a few that you might enjoy below:

10 BEST Stops on the Drive from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo

How to Spend 3 Days in Queenstown: A Detailed Itinerary (by a local!)

31 BEST Things to do in Wanaka, New Zealand