Christchurch & Akaroa Holidays

Rare dolphins and penguins, vintage trams, a dash of Frenchness and a city reborn: Christchurch & Akaroa are the South Island’s most surprising destinations.

When it comes to tales of resilience, recovery and regeneration, Christchurch has more than its fair share. This most English of New Zealand’s cities, once known for its 19th-century Gothic-revival architecture, was irrevocably altered between 2010 and 2012 by a series of earthquakes and aftershocks that left four-fifths of its central area in ruins. The city rising from the rubble – it’s still a fascinating work in progress – has retained its leafy, laidback atmosphere but now has a much more modern face. Glide along the River Avon through the ever-changing centre on a wooden punt steered by a traditionally dressed ‘chauffeur’ who can explain what’s been lost and gained or see it all from the seats of a colourful vintage tram.

There’s more to the South Island’s largest city than seismology, however. The 75-acre Botanic Gardens – one of many green spaces – has shady lawns for picnics, native gardens and historic greenhouses. The thriving art scene encompasses everything from the forward-looking Christchurch Art Gallery in its curving glass home to a host of colourful murals. Foodies, meanwhile, will appreciate the superb food and drink offering, with its microbreweries, ‘eat streets’ and artisanal markets.

South of Christchurch, the ancient volcanic landscapes of Banks Peninsula are a treasure trove for outdoor enthusiasts. Paddle a kayak through scenic inlets to a colony of tiny unique penguins, put out to sea to spot the smallest dolphins in the world and follow trails to sacred sites and remote beaches. The closest thing to urban bustle here is the sleepy waterside township of Akaroa, filled with quaint colonial cottages. Its earliest settlers arrived here from France, something reflected not only in the street names but in the excellence of the local restaurants, too.

Whether you’re into cute wildlife or evolving cityscapes, talk to us about creating your dream holiday in Christchurch & Akaroa.

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Christchurch & Akaroa Hotels

Our recommendations for the best places to stay in Christchurch & Akaroa

Beaufort House, Akaroa

A charming historic house with tranquil gardens

Chateau on the Park - Christchurch, a DoubleTree by Hilton

A serene hideaway just outside of the city centre

The George, Christchurch

Award-winning luxury boutique hotel

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TranzAlpine Train from Christchurch or Greymouth

Journey aboard the renowned TranzAlpine train from Christchurch and Greymouth via Arthur’s Pass. Enjoy the magnificent alpine scenery as the train crosses the Canterbury Plains and heads through the Southern Alps where it wind its way through the Waimakariri Gorge. The train arrives in Greymouth at 12:45pm which allows you plenty of time to pick up a hire car and continue your journey to the glacier region. The excursion also operates in reverse or as a return. You can upgrade to the Scenic Plus Dining experience which includes local delicacies which are created on board using the finest farm-to-rail produce.

• Duration: full day
• Times: 8.15am to 7pm
• Departs daily from October to April
• Departs Friday to Monday between May and September
• Operates year-round
• Group experience

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Whale Watching from Kaikoura

Every whale watching tour is different. Sperm whales are yearround residents so your chances of spotting one are very high. You can also see dusky dolphins, New Zealand fur seals and albatross year round. Dependent on season you can also spot Humpback whales, Pilot whales, Blue whales and Southern Right whales. There are also opportunities to see orcas as well as the world's smallest and rarest dolphin - the Hector's dolphin.

• Start times: 7.15am, 10am, 10.30am, 12.45pm, 3,30pm
• Departs daily
• Operates year-round
• Group experience

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Get to know Christchurch & Akaroa and those important practicalities when planning your perfect holiday.

Capital
TIME DIFFERENCE

GMT +12 (with New Zealand Daylight Time and New Zealand Standard Time applied, this largely equates to 11 hours ahead of the UK from early April to late September and 13 hours ahead from late September to late March)

CURRENCY

New Zealand dollar

FLYING TIME TO DESTINATION

25½ hours (not including stopover time)

RELIGION

New Zealand has no state religion but the majority of people are Christian

LANGUAGE

Māori and English

Where are Christchurch & Akaroa?
The South Island’s largest city, Christchurch is around a third of the way down the east coast, tucked into the bottom corner of Pegasus Bay just north of Banks Peninsula. Akaroa lies on the peninsula itself on the south-east shore of a deep, sheltered harbour. Christchurch’s airport is served by flights from a range of domestic destinations, as well as Australia, Singapore and Fiji. The city is also the terminus for two of New Zealand’s most scenic railway journeys, the Coastal Pacific that wends its way beside the ocean from Picton and the celebrated TranzAlpine that takes in the Southern Alps on its route from Greymouth.

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A city reborn
Christchurch suffered badly during the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, losing around 150 heritage buildings, but has recovered strongly. A reinvigorated city centre featuring some of the country’s oldest buildings interspersed with cutting-edge architecture, recreated landmarks and vibrant street art has helped to put it back on the tourist map. Browse its top-notch galleries and kick back in the pretty green spaces – this is a sophisticated and distinctly English-feeling city, so when you’re not walking you can cycle, hop on the vintage tram or punt down the Avon River.

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Drinking and dining
With its clutch of award-winning microbreweries, Christchurch is a joy for beer lovers. Sample immaculately crafted brews as the finale to a tour of where they’re made or seek out some of the city’s inviting specialist bars. On the food front, spare the time to wander around one of the many farmers’ markets, where you can feast your eyes on displays of super-fresh local ingredients and treat your tastebuds to ready-to-taste goodies from brownies to global-themed dumplings. As for sit-down culinary experiences, there’s a wide choice of styles and influences throughout the wider area, from fine French dining in Akaroa to innovative, laidback venues in Christchurch’s trendy ‘eat streets’.

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Banks Peninsula & Akaroa
All that’s left of two volcanoes that rose from the seabed more than 10 million years ago, Banks Peninsula offers rolling hills, a heavily indented coastline and Pacific Ocean views. It’s excellent walking territory, with trails of all lengths that take in anything from Māori sites to sandy beaches and volcanic plugs. Built on the edge of an extensive natural harbour, tiny Akaroa (population 700) was settled first by the French, who arrived just in time to discover that the British had acquired sovereignty over the whole country. Undaunted, they built themselves cottages along lanes with French names and set about creating a home-from-home, which remains a charming place to stroll almost 200 years later.

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Dolphins and penguins
The protected waters around Banks Peninsula are home to a fascinating variety of marine animals, including several rare, unique and captivating species. The most famous local inhabitants are the playful Hector’s dolphins, one of the smallest cetaceans, found only in New Zealand. Take a boat trip from Akaroa Harbour for a chance to spot some of these smile-inducing creatures in their natural habitat – they have easily distinguishable rounded dorsal fins. At Pohatu Marine Reserve, the main draw is a population of white-flippered penguins, a variant of the Australasian little penguin found nowhere else. See them on a sea-kayaking safari or from waterside hides on a guided walking tour.

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Get active
Banks Peninsula may be a popular destination for sea kayaking thanks to its deep sheltered bays, but it’s not the only area around Christchurch where you can get moving on land and water. The city itself is full of green spaces where you can walk, run or hop on a bicycle, while the surrounding region is studded with nature reserves. Hike and/or pedal through a variety of habitats, from native forests and wetlands to windswept coastlands. If you’re more of an action-loving water baby, head south east to the city limits to the wonderfully named Taylors Mistake Beach – it’s a popular surfing spot backed by century-old beach huts known as baches.

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Christchurch & Akaroa Weather

Dec - Apr

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