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Christchurch is New Zealand’s second largest city and the largest on the South Island. Boasting an international airport just a 10-15 minute drive to the UC campus and the city centre, it is known as the gateway to all the breath-taking scenery that our country is known for. Christchurch is nestled between the snow-capped Southern Alps and the warm bays and beaches of the eastern coastline. It is one of only a few cities in the world where you can ski and surf on the same day, but don’t head straight home after hitting the slopes, you are going to want to ease your tired muscles in the natural hot springs on the way back to the city!
The weather in New Zealand may be a little different from your home country. Depending on what part of the world you come from our seasons may be different too!
Spring: September - November
Summer: December - February
Autumn: March - May
Winter: June – August
Even though New Zealand is located in the South Pacific, at times the weather is extremely variable – commonly described as “four seasons in one day”.
This unique climate makes New Zealand one of the most picturesque and diverse countries in the world – alpine ranges, tropical rainforests and golden beaches, all in one compact place!
Christchurch is sheltered by the Southern Alps which protects it from the rain that other parts of the island receive. We can get beautiful blue skies at any time of year, and we are known as the driest city in New Zealand, but the weather can be difficult to predict, a dull morning can end up being a hot day and vice versa, so always be prepared.
Need to get a cell phone?
No doubt as soon as the plane lands on the runway at Christchurch Airport you will want to call your parents or friends to tell them you have arrived in paradise! The good news is that you can. Once you have cleared immigration, picked up your luggage and passed through customs, you will walk out into the main foyer of the airport. A number of telecom service providers have booths or shops at the airport, so you can pick up your New Zealand SIM or Micro SIM card before you even leave the airport arrivals hall. If you don’t have a mobile phone you can buy one here also. If you forget to pick up your SIM card at the airport then you can buy one from any mobile phone shop in the city or the shopping malls, service stations and even some corner stores. Here are links to some of the main mobile phone providers in New Zealand. Don’t forget to shop around for the best deal and package to suit you:
Christchurch is an easy city to get around, the terrain is quite flat so it is very suitable for walking and cycling. If you want to go further you can always catch the well-serviced bus routes. There are bus stops dotted all over the city and surrounds, as well as a new bus exchange in the city centre. It is best to use a Metrocard, instead of paying with cash. We will help you organise one during orientation week with us, or you can pick one up from the bus exchange. There is an app that you can download which will tell you when your next bus is due and help you plan your trip. The different bus routes are all colour coded, so it is easy to find your way and when you use your Metrocard you receive great discounts and even free transfers. Metrocard users also benefit from a capped daily amount, regardless of how many buses you take that day on city centre routes.
When in the city centre you can also catch the Christchurch City Tram. These are beautiful old trams that traverse our city streets. While they are considered more of a tourist attraction than a mode of transport they are a fun way to get to know the city, the drivers are really friendly and act as tour guides during your trip. Tickets can be purchased from the driver or from various stores around the city and you can get discounts to other attractions in the city and even yearly passes. If you want to enjoy the tram experience then start your journey at Cathedral Junction to get the full experience.
If it’s out of the bus hours or you are not on a bus route, you can always catch a cab/taxi. These are run by private companies and there are many to choose from. You can call a taxi to come to pick you up and they will drop you off wherever you like. You can also catch a cab from many of the taxi stands that are all over the city, and outside the airport and shopping malls. Here are just a few links to taxi companies, but there are many many more!
Shopping, shopping and…shopping!
Who doesn’t love a little retail therapy? Whether you are an experienced shopaholic or you are just looking to pick up the essentials, there are shopping malls surrounding the city that can provide you with everything you need. The closest one to the University is Westfield Riccarton. This is within walking distance from UC and is also a major hub for the public buses.
The city centre is a distinctive, vibrant, colourful, and prosperous place to be. It has a certain ‘arty’ feel that radiates from the beautifully painted murals to the novel sheep shaped traffic barriers and pop up sculptures. There are more than 300 retailers in the city centre. Riverside Market is a fresh take on inner-city life. It is right in the heart of Christchurch, looking over the Avon River with an exciting new development consisting of a 7-day-trading, indoor farmers' market, linked to a vibrant network of boutique retail, restaurants, cafes & bars - Riverside is a unique inner-city shopping experience for the local community and visitors to enjoy (Source: Riverside).
Eating, drinking and festival galore!
Food, glorious food! Christchurch is home to some fantastic restaurants and boasts cuisine from all over the world. There are many food trucks that pull up all around the city and suburbs which really add to the street food culture and relaxed alternative vibe in the city. If you like eating out then Christchurch is the place to be.
No matter which direction you choose when you drive out of the city, you will find even more niche little cafes and eateries. Christchurch has some world-renowned wineries right on its doorstep and there are many little craft breweries, organic cafes and cheese farms to complement them.
Kiwis love good food and they especially love their barbeques. And yes, it is tasty, but it may not suit you. Don’t worry! Christchurch is a great place to source food from all over the world. There are international grocery stores, supermarkets and restaurants that cater to just about everyone’s tastes and needs, and in all corners of the city too. There are many great options just within walking distance of the University. So whether you want to cook some dishes that you like from home, eat out with some friends, or get adventurous and try some Kiwi classics, you should be able to find everything you need close by.
New Zealand has a great live music scene and Christchurch is right on the pulse. There are many live music venues in the city that host local, national and international live acts throughout the year. Here are just a couple of them:
One of the defining features of our city’s landscape is also one of our best recreational resources. Hagley Park is one of the largest city parks in the world and it dominates our city centre. Surrounded by beautiful trees it is home to a range of recreational options including a golf course, rugby fields, tennis courts, cricket oval, running tracks and even an assault course. You can relax by the lake and read a book under the trees, visit the botanical gardens or attend one of the many festivals and concerts it hosts there every year, some festivals such as the World Buskers Festival is free to attend!
Pretend you are a tourist
It won’t take you long to start feeling like a local in Christchurch, but it sure is fun to pretend you’re a tourist. You will see some amazing things that you might otherwise walk straight past. Have a look at these links to see what you can do in your spare time.
If you’re looking to get away from the city, whether for the day or the weekend, then there are many things to choose from. Kiwi’s are an outdoor-loving bunch (they did invent the bungee jump after all), so a walk in the Port Hills, mountain climbing in the Southern Alps, skiing in one of the many ski fields close by, or swimming and surfing on our beautiful city beaches are all within easy access.
If you want to go a little farther afield then the breath-taking scenery of Milford Sound, Queenstown and the rugged West Coast are all within driving distance, or commutable by bus or train. Don’t forget to stop off at the glaciers on the West Coast – a trip around the South Island of New Zealand is mind-blowingly beautiful and always a great adventure….I guess it’s the stuff movies are made of!
Do it like the locals…
People in Christchurch love being outdoors, and with the spectacular, safe, clean country they live in, it is easy to see why. They love hitting the beach for swimming, surfing and paddle-boarding. There is windsurfing and kitesurfing for the more adventurous. Hillwalking, camping and trekking are all part of a normal weekend. Christchurch also has excellent mountain bike parks and trails. There is a zoo, native wildlife park, go-karting, paintball, indoor climbing centre (for the winter months) and then there is Adrenalin Forest (not for the faint-hearted)! So if sky-diving and bungee jumping excite you, prepare to be dazzled!