Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island with a population of 344,000. Christchurch is known as the "Garden City" not just because of its lovely botanic gardens in the centre of the city, but also because of the pride that local residents take in their own gardens.
Christchurch is located on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand and is a common gateway city for many of the Southern Island ski resorts as it is the closest international airport for most. If skiing futher south near Queenstown or Wanaka then you can get a connecting flight from here or there are regular buses as well.
The city is set around the Avon and Heathcote rivers, flat and easy to find your way around. Traffic is generally light, and it is a low-stress place to live with huge recreational opportunities. There are beach suburbs, and to the south the suburb of Cashmere climbs the lower slopes of the Port Hills, the rim of an extinct volcano. The port of Lyttelton sits in the old blast crater of this volcano. Christchurch has a long historic connection with Antarctica, and Captain Scott's widow donated a statue of the explorer, which sits beside the Avon in central Christchurch.
There are 6 ski areas within 90 minutes drive.
There is a city bus from the airport to downtown for $5, about 4 buses per hour.
Late afternoon flights from Australia arrive about 11.45pm or midnight. By then the buses have stopped running, and a taxi into town is about $30-$35. Sleeping in the airport is possible, it's quiet, the security guards will not hassle you and there are good free showers!
If you arrange it beforehand, transport operators will pick you up from the airport, or your accommodation, at about 7am and take you skiing. Transport operators include:
Places to Stay
- The Press is the Christchurch daily newspaper. It has a focus on local and South Island news. Anything the happens in the mountains or in Antarctica (known locally as "The Ice") features largely.
Radio stations include:
- National Radio (Radio NZ) 101.7 FM
- Concert FM (Classical) 89.7 FM
- Plains FM (Community Access Radio) 96.9 FM
- The Breeze (Easy Listening) 94.5 FM
- More FM (Easy Listening) 92.1 FM
- Classic Hits (60's, 70's, 80's) 97.7 FM
- Solid Gold (60's, 70's, 80's) 92.9 FM
- Radio Hauraki (Classic Rock) 1017 AM
- Tahu FM (Maori/youth music radio) 90.5 FM
- Radio Sport (Live commentaries) 1503 AM
- The Rock (Modern rock music) 93.7 FM
- ZM FM (Modern rock music) 91.3 FM
- The Edge (Youth-oriented radio) 89.0
- RDU (Student radio) 98.5 FM
Things to Do
You might end up in Christchurch for a day or two at the end of your holiday.
If the weather is good, consider hiring a bike, the city is flat and there are some nice rides along the Avon and Heathcote rivers. Or go for a couple of hours ride up onto the Summit Road of the Port Hills, great views. Bike trail maps available at any bike shop in Christchurch. There is mountain biking in the Bottle Lake Forest at the north-east edge of town, and plenty of tracks on the Port Hills.
A fun day would be to take a day bus pass, and use the city's network of buses. A trip on the number 10 bus to the Sign of the Takahe and Victoria Park for a gentle stroll up the hill is a good day out. Followed by another ride back to town and out to Sumner beach, where there are seafood restaurants and pizza eateries. Lyttelton is the port of Christchurch, a quaint little slightly-bohemian community. All sorts of eating options in great restaurants all over town. In the CBD, Manchester Street and High Street have interesting second hand book shops and music stores. The city has lovely botanic gardens in the centre, especially lovely in spring.
- If the weather is bad, consider going to the Canterbury Museum, which has a focus on alpine and antarctic exhibits.
- Roxx indoor climbing wall has top-rope and lead climbing, a bouldering room and a kids section.
- Orana Park is a surprisingly good free-range wildlife park at the NW edge of the city, with a good NZ native section.
Buying Ski and Outdoor Gear
Head for the intersection of Colombo Street and Lichfield Street, central downtown near the bus station. The two best shops are here: right on the corner (Bivouac) and just West along Lichfield Street (R+R Sport). Secondary shops such as Kathmandu and Snowgum are nearby, and Mountain Designs have shifted to Cashel Mall a block to the north (towards the cathedral), and walk west up the mall (towards the war memorial).
Renting Ski and Snowboard Gear
McEwing's is at 200 Yaldhurst Road, the road heading out of town towards the ski areas. A few minutes drive beyond the city limits, at the small settlement of Yaldhurst itself, is Gnome's Ski Hire at a Shell service station.