Anytime is a good time to visit Christchurch, but December marks the start of summer and you can’t beat the warmer months in New Zealand’s third largest city. Wedged between the Southern Alps and the Pacific coastline, Christchurch is the gateway to many of the South Island’s most magnificent natural attractions and iconic outdoor experiences, but equally, the city itself offers plenty of summer fun and a warm welcome to match.
Here are six reasons why you should plan a Christchurch short break in December. Book your stay with Choice Hotels.
1. The weather is great
A great holiday or short break always starts with great weather, and that’s exactly what you can expect in Christchurch in December. The average daytime temperature is a very pleasant 22 degrees. With an average of just five rainy days in December, your odds there are pretty good as well. Travelling in summer also means more hours of daylight, which means more time to enjoy the amazing activities that this city is famous for.
2. Enjoy the city’s signature outdoor experiences
Speaking of which, punting on the picturesque Avon River has been a much-loved part of visiting Christchurch for decades. There’s no better time than a summer’s day to take to the water in a traditional flat-bottomed punt, with a boater-and-braces-toting punter to pole you along. Shared rides run for 30 minutes. Equally popular is the Christchurch Gondola – a cable car ride that offers sweeping 360-degree views of the city, Canterbury Plains, and the Southern Alps. On a bright sunny day, the vistas are truly spectacular. The city’s popular hop on hop off heritage Tram Tour offers comprehensive commentary, and will connect you with the punting and the shuttle out to the gondola boarding point.
3. Immerse yourself in the beauty of the city’s parks and gardens
You’ll have had a taste of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens from your punt, but there’s a lot more to this gorgeous green space at the western end of the CBD to be enjoyed in December. In fact, by nature, every season nature offers a completely different experience in the gardens. One of the nicest ways to experience it, especially in summer when the all-weather sides of the vehicle are rolled up, is the Botanic Gardens Tour by electric shuttle. Sit back, relax and enjoy your guide’s expert commentary on the native and exotic species of flora showcased in this Christchurch horticultural highlight.
4. You can hit the beach
Christchurch isn’t generally touted as a beach break destination, but trust us, there are lots of lovely patches of sand that are within easy reach of the city, either by car or public transport. December is the perfect time to get out and enjoy them. With its village vibe, Sumner Beach is a delight and there are plenty of cafes in which to grab a coffee or a snack to enjoy on the beach. Directly east of the city, New Brighton has its iconic pier and a bunch of family-friendly amenities, while just a short drive from the port town of Lyttleton, Corsair Bay is known for its gentle waters and relaxed feel.
5. You can dine al fresco
We all know that dining outdoors is one of the best things about summer, and many Christchurch eateries just love taking it outside. We mentioned Sumner Beach. While you’re there, head across to Beach bar and restaurant, which has an awesome deck overlooking the ocean. There’s a focus, understandably, on seafood and the freshest NZ produce. For casual outdoor eats in the city, you can’t beat Smash Palace on High Street. Its handcrafted burgers (it even makes the buns!) are legendary. Also try the new Fat Eddie’s for a spot on their terrace and a range of shared platters to choose from. Just next door, the Terrace Tavern offers a mouth-watering menu of modern New Zealand cuisine. Also check out the Friday Street Food Market, which brings together a clutch of 17 food trucks in one handy location in Cathedral Square.
6. Attend the South Island Wine and Food Festival
You’ll need to get cracking on this one (or start planning for next year!). The fabulous South Island Wine and Food Festival is held in Christchurch’s Hagley Park in early December and celebrates the South Island’s top drops and tastes. Dozens of wineries participate in the event, drawn from the Marlborough, North Canterbury, Canterbury and Central Otago wine regions. Mix and mingle with winemakers and food producers, watch demonstrations, enjoy live music, and so much more. It’s a delicious day out!
Need a place to stay?
December is peak season in Christchurch, which can mean peak hotel prices. Econo Lodge Canterbury Court offers great value accommodation, just a few minutes’ drive from the Christchurch city centre. There are 20 ground floor rooms in a tranquil garden setting, all with kitchen facilities for those looking to self-cater.
Situated north of the CBD, Quality Hotel Elms features stylish and contemporary accommodation. Perfect for business or leisure travellers, the hotel features a range of room types — including standard rooms, executive suites and a luxury apartment.
Located 10 minutes’ drive from Christchurch Airport and just a few minutes from Hagley Park and the CBD, Comfort Inn Riccarton’s one, two and three-bedroom apartments have fully equipped kitchenettes. There are also studio rooms and spa suites available.
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has previously had the opportunity to travel the world as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten.