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Christchurch Cruise Port Guide

On a Christchurch cruise, you’ll discover the second-largest New Zealand city and urban hub of the vast Canterbury region, celebrated for its alpine landscapes, marine wildlife, and protected dark skies. Visitors stopping here on a New Zealand cruise will find vibrant street art splashed across prominent city sites, a booming arts and hospitality scene embracing new laneways and dining precincts, and diverse city attractions.

World-class architecture and design meet skilfully restored heritage treasures set between vast areas of green parks and gardens alongside the banks of the ambling Avon River. The central city is flat, easy for walking and cycling, or you can take the scenic route on a heritage tramway. Beyond the city, explore the diverse natural playground of the Port Hills and craggy Banks Peninsula with its walks, cycling tracks, and New Zealand’s longest chairlift, where the views stretch from the Pacific Ocean to the snowy peaks of the Southern Alps

Cruises to Christchurch, New Zealand

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Top Sights & Attractions for Cruises to Christchurch

Gardens and Parks

It’s never hard to find a peaceful garden or a park while you’re in port on your Christchurch cruise—the city boasts 740 parks covering 7,400 acres. The biggest of these is Hagley Park, with its avenues of centenarian trees, daffodil fields, and vast lawns. Nearby, the over 150-year-old Christchurch Botanic Gardens are bursting with color. Enjoy a picnic at the botanic gardens or drop into the Ilex Café located on-site for a coffee or lunch.

The Christchurch Tram

Christchurch’s iconic and beautifully restored heritage trams trundle through the inner city on a hop-on, hop-off journey that transports visitors back in time and into the future through the city’s changing cityscape. A full circuit is about 45 minutes, and it’s a great way to see the main sights and learn about the city’s story. End your ride on New Regent St., which features 40 colorful Spanish Mission buildings built in 1932 that are now occupied by eateries, bars, and boutique shops.

Banks Peninsula

South of Christchurch and about 90 minutes by road, Banks Peninsula is a volcanic outcrop that offers rich wildlife experiences in natural surroundings. Akaroa is a small village on the shores of a large natural harbor that fills an ancient volcanic cone. This coast is home to rare Hector’s dolphins, little blue penguins, and New Zealand fur seals. Take a wildlife cruise or explore Akaroa’s unique French history and local produce, which includes wine, olives, cheese, and salmon.

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Top Things to Do in Christchurch

Go Punting on the Avon

There is no more quintessential Christchurch experience than relaxing on the water in an Edwardian punt as you glide down the peaceful Avon River. Let your guide show off the gardens and city from a new perspective.

Catch an Exhibition at Te Puna o Waiwhetu

A central city landmark, the Christchurch Art Gallery is a contemporary architectural statement with an undulating glass and metal facade. It is the largest art institution in the South Island and home to one of New Zealand’s most important public art collections.

Ice Experience at the International Antarctic Centre

Christchurch is the “gateway to the Antarctic,” the setting-off point for Antarctic scientific expeditions. The International Antarctic Centre gives visitors a taste of the southern continent with an interactive, fun, and immersive glimpse into life on the ice. For wildlife fans on a Christchurch cruise, plan your visit during one of the little blue penguins’ feeding times.

Zip Down Christchurch Adventure Park

Take a ride on New Zealand’s longest chairlift for a thrilling zipline or downhill mountain bike adventure in Christchurch Adventure Park, a massive outdoor terrain on the hills above the city. You’ll be surrounded by stunning views from the dual zipline, chairlift, biking and walking trails, and even the café deck.

Top Food & Drink Spots in Christchurch

Twenty Seven Steps

Address: 16 New Regent Street, Christchurch, New Zealand

Climb up the steps of this charming restaurant on trendy New Regent Street and choose from a menu filled with fresh, locally-sourced ingredients and an impressive list of wines from New Zealand’s Waipara region.

Town Tonic

Address: 335 Lincoln Road, Christchurch, New Zealand

Town Tonic is the hip go-to for Christchurch’s cool and sophisticated residents. The restaurant features a welcoming hub of slick interiors with an impressive wine list and an epicurean experience by executive chef Jamie Bennett. Try the chef’s five-course tasting menu, which changes regularly.

SUPER

Address: 5 Norwich Quay, Lyttelton, New Zealand

Munch on bao buns, kimchi fried rice, donburi, and other Asian-fusion specialties at Super, a popular restaurant in Lyttelton with vegan-friendly dishes and a spectacular cocktail list. It’s close to the waterside, grows and sources locally, and puts the environment first.

The Lotus-Heart Vegetarian Restaurant

Address: 363 St Asaph Street, Christchurch, New Zealand

The best place to find vegan fare during a cruise to Christchurch is Lotus-Heart. You’ll also find plenty of gluten-free and raw-focused dishes. Try the masala dosa, a delicious lentil crepe filled with rich potato masala.

Riverside Market

Address: 96 Oxford Terrace, Christchurch, New Zealand

The downtown Riverside Market is Christchurch’s indoor market featuring 30 eateries, 40 market stalls, and a rooftop bar. Don’t miss the bacon at Bacon Bros Burgers—and make sure to add a side of deep-fried cauliflower to your order.

Culture and History of Christchurch, New Zealand

Maori had been living in this region for about a thousand years before Europeans arrived, evidenced by ancient Maori rock art sites discovered south of Christchurch that provide insights into this early culture. Christchurch’s modern heritage goes back to early 19th century English settlers who were attracted by the large tracts of land suitable for farming. Meanwhile, the little seaside village of Akaroa still celebrates its early French origins.

Christchurch, New Zealand Cruise Port Facilities and Location

On a cruise to Christchurch, you’ll either dock in the main port of Lyttelton or in Akaroa, located about an hour and a half south of the city. The port of Akaroa is small, so cruise ships will anchor off shore and you will be tendered to shore on smaller boats. Once on land, you’ll be in sight of and only a two-minute walk from the small town center of Akaroa, where you’ll find shuttles available to transport you to Christchurch. If you dock in Lyttelton, you can get to central Christchurch via shuttle, taxi, or bus, all of which take around 20 minutes.

Transportation in Christchurch

It’s easy to get around on your Christchurch cruise. If you’re sticking to the city center, the streets are flat and the downtown area is walkable. The Christchurch Tram travels through the city center and stops at popular sites and attractions. Taxis and Uber operate here, and car and bike rentals are available. Bike tours are increasingly popular with tourists on a Christchurch cruise.

Shopping Near the Christchurch Cruise Port

At the historic Christchurch port town of Lyttelton, you’ll find a quirky artistic atmosphere with cafés, quaint shops, and restaurants to enjoy. Christchurch is only 20 minutes away, and in its city center, also known as the CBD, you’ll find a mix of popular brand stores, vintage shops, and cozy boutiques. For locally-made clothes and items, head to the Tannery, an airy shopping center where you’ll find everything from souvenirs to home items to the latest in fashion and beauty. At The Colombo, squeeze in some shopping and then have a coffee at one of its European-inspired cafes, or watch a movie at the arts cinema. If you’re there on a Sunday, head to the Christchurch Farmers’ Market at Riccarton House, where local artisans sell all kinds of handmade items that make for perfect gifts to bring back home.

Local Currency & Tipping Customs

In New Zealand, the official currency is the New Zealand dollar (NZD). Most New Zealand businesses accept credit cards, with Visa and Mastercard the most widely accepted. Carrying a little extra cash can be helpful for small purchases. You’ll find an ATM at any local bank. Tipping isn’t customary in New Zealand, but you can feel free to round up to the nearest New Zealand dollar (NZD) or add up to 10% for great service. Service charges are not usually added to the bills you’ll get when docked on your Christchurch, New Zealand cruise.

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