Brimming with art, innovation, mouthwatering food and inspiring activities, Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island.
Famed for being the gateway to adventure, Christchurch is just a stone throw away from a myriad of thrilling activities. But, it is also the perfect destination for some much needed R&R.
The Garden City
Brimming with gardens, parks, rivers, and cycle paths – this innovative city is taking the lead in New Zealand to foster a greener environment for its residents and visitors alike.
During his visit to Christchurch, Sir John Gorst of the British Government was struck by the city's resemblance to the garden cities back in his homeland. Impressed by the abundant green spaces and well-planned urban environment, he declared Christchurch as a "garden city." With this declaration, Sir John Gorst coined the title for the first time, acknowledging and highlighting the city's remarkable focus on parks, gardens, and its harmonious blending of nature and urban living.
Today, you can explore the Avon River as it flows through the heart of Christchurch, creating a picturesque landscape. Alongside the river lies Hagley Park and the iconic not-to-miss Botanical Gardens. This space is the largest urban park in New Zealand. With expansive green space features open fields, beautiful historic trees, and recreational facilities, it provides a haven for outdoor activities and relaxation.
Whether you're after a weekend getaway, in between train journeys or enjoying a stay-cation, there is a range of fantastic options to stay in Christchurch.
If you're journeying to Christchurch by camper van, why not explore the many camping facilities. From New Brighten to Godley Heads, Canterbury Plains to Banks Peninsula or the city - there are a myriad of comfortable places to rest easy.
Christchurch Railway Station
Located just 10 minutes from the central city, Christchurch Railway Station is home to both the Coastal Pacific and TranzAlpine journeys. With ample parking available for cars, motor homes and buses, this location is tucked into the heart of Addington, which housed the railway yards and workshops since the late 1800s.
Find out more about the station, including maps, parking, and amenities and the Coastal Pacific & TranzAlpine timetables.
Getting to Christchurch
Travel to Christchurch by train aboard the heavenly TranzAlpine train, or the iconic Coastal Pacific train. You can choose one of our day experiences, or book a short escape and discover the cultural buzz of Christchurch.
Sir John Gorst of the British Government bestowed the title of "garden city" upon Christchurch during his visit, acknowledging the city's striking resemblance to the green and well-planned urban environments of his homeland. This designation aptly captures Christchurch's commitment to abundant green spaces. Embodied by the picturesque Avon River flowing through the city center, the sprawling Hagley Park, and the iconic Botanical Gardens, Christchurch offers a sanctuary of open fields, historic trees, and recreational opportunities for both locals and visitors to enjoy.
Known for its pioneering spirit, Christchurch played a significant role in New Zealand's railway history. In 1863, the country's first steam train embarked on its inaugural journey from Christchurch to the nearby port of Ferrymead after being built at the very site the TranzAlpine and Coastal Pacific train departs today.
The legacy of Christchurch's railway heritage extends further, as it was home to New Zealand's first railway workshops. In 1889, as mentioned, the country's maiden domestically constructed locomotive was produced in Addington, the site where the modern Christchurch Station now stands. Adjacent to the station, the Addington Water Tower stands as a testament to this history, serving as one of the earliest examples of reinforced concrete structures. Today, Christchurch Station proudly hosts two of New Zealand's three long-distance passenger trains—the TranzAlpine and Coastal Pacific—continuing the tradition of railway travel and connecting travelers with the awe-inspiring landscapes of the country in regional destinations.
The history of Māori settlements in Christchurch traces back to when the land was inhabited by tribal groups of Hāwea, Rapuwai, and Waitaha from the larger Te Waipounamu region. These indigenous communities thrived on the island for centuries, leaving behind a rich cultural legacy. Later, the region saw the arrival of more recent tribal migrations, including Ngāti Māmoe, Ngāti Wairaki, and Ngāi Tahu, who further contributed to the vibrant Māori presence in Christchurch. The enduring connection between the land and its indigenous people adds depth and significance to the city's heritage, as Māori history and traditions continue to shape the cultural fabric of Christchurch today.
Christchurch's history began in England in 1848, with the creation of the Canterbury Association. The association was backed by the Church of England with the intention of helping impoverished parishioners. The industrial revolution was in full swing during this period, and many of England's skilled rural labourers were unemployed and surplus to requirement. The Canterbury Association promised a new life in New Zealand, where their skills were needed, and the land would be theirs.
The association decided it would build a city called Christchurch and began to plan its design before the first immigrant ship had even arrived. The city's name was based on the Oxford College of Christ Church, and its design reflects its English namesake. The Canterbury Association successfully applied for city status in 1862, despite having a population of only 3000. This status was later revoked, and Christchurch officially became a city in 1868.
City status was important to the Canterbury Association, as it made Christchurch more attractive to the prospective English immigrants that were needed to build the city! Introducing New Zealand's first steam train in 1863 also made Christchurch an attractive proposition. Soon an English city was taking shape on the Canterbury Plains.
Building the city's municipal center with limited labour and funds proved difficult. Although the city's plans were drawn up in the 1850s, it wasn't until the turn of the twentieth century that the city began taking shape. At its heart was the magnificent Christchurch Cathedral with its 63 m spire broadcasting the city's status across the region. Around the Cathedral were college buildings and premium residences, and the city fanned out from there.
Christchurch's history took a tragic turn when a powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the city in September 2010, causing significant damage to its structures. Despite the challenges, life in Christchurch persevered, but the city's resilience was tested once again on the fateful day of 22nd February 2011.
At 12:51 pm, a devastating 6.2 magnitude earthquake rocked the city, inflicting further destruction. The impact was particularly severe as it caught the people of Christchurch off-guard, going about their daily routines, working at their desks, and enjoying their lunch breaks. The earthquake shook buildings to their foundations, leaving a trail of devastation in its wake.