Christchurch is the largest city of New Zealand's South Island with 350,000 inhabitants. The city centre and many residential suburbs (especially in the east) were heavily damaged in a series of earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. The re-construction of the central city is underway with many new buildings being constructed, however, there are many city blocks of bare land. Many of the heavily damaged eastern suburbs were declared "Residential Red Zones" and 8000 houses have been demolished or removed. No decision has been made on what use will be made of this vast area.
Christchurch has a good public bus network. Fares can be paid in cash to the driver or debited from your Metrocard. To obtain a Metrocard you need to supply a Christchurch address. It costs NZ$10 and you need to put $10 credit on it. The card can be re-charged with $10 each time or a multiple ($20, $30, etc.).
- With Metrocard: Zone 1 is $2.55, Zone 2 is $3.75
- Without Metrocard: Zone 1 is $4.00, Zone 2 is $5.50
In Christchurch you can take your bike with you on the local buses. The Bus Interchange has free indoor bike racks for up to 100 bikes with the area monitored by security cameras. There are also storage lockers available to store your gear while exploring the central city - cost $2 for an unlimited time.
It is really doable, even from the city to the airport. More on Hitchwiki.
As most of Christchurch is flat cycling is a popular method of transport. Since the 2010-2011 earthquakes more cycle lanes and cycle-only paths have been created as the repair work has been done. Cycling in Christchurch is a good website to keep up with the cycling community in Christchurch.
- Airline: GrabaSeat
Hostels can be found through BBH website. There has been a shortage of hostel beds since the earthquakes of 2010-2011 when most backpacker hostels were destroyed or demolished.
Freedom camping is prohibited in all of Christchurch city and on Bank's Peninsular unless in a camper van with a self-containment certificate. Christchurch City Council introduced the freedom camping ban on March 16th 2016 following numerous complaints from residents about the behaviour of campers. A new Freedom Camping Bylaw had come into effect prior to the 2015-16 summer which restricted freedom camping to several designated sites however due to freedom campers leaving rubbish strewn about and shitting in the bushes (despite toilets available) these sites are now closed. Getting caught freedom camping anywhere in Christchurch city or on Bank's Peninsular will result in a $200 instant fine.
If you are arriving later in the day without planned accommodation it may be better to ask to be dropped on the outskirts before you actually enter Christchurch. Both highways entering from the North and the South are surrounded by a lot of partial rural and suburban (ie Belfast suburb) where you can either sleep in a paddock (take normal trespassing precautions) or small park. In the morning you can hitch further into the city or take a bus.
There is the massive Hagley park area is really doable but it might be better to just take your sleeping bag in some bushes rather than a tent (even though the huge field are tempting) due to the potential of unwanted attention from late night drinkers etc, and the fact that each field is owned by a private entity who won't take kindly to finding you sleeping there. The golf course, under a tree, is a good choice but be careful not to wake up too late and take a ball in your head :)
Unless you want to jump the fences, the Botanic Garden is not really an option as it is closed at night and routinely patrolled by security staff.
A good place for discreet camping with a small tent (or no tent) are the sand dunes along Marine Parade between North Beach and New Brighton. The area opposite Rawhiti Domain/Thompson Park is good and also north of Waimairi Beach.
The Cashel Mall area of the central city has free wifi! The main Bus Interchange has electrical powerpoints (but no internet). All Christchurch Public Libraries have free wifi. The business precinct in the sea-side suburb of New Brighton offers free wifi throughout as does the New Brighton Public Library.
Busking on city streets in designated areas does not require a permit from the Christchurch City Council but certain conditions must be met. Busking outside supermarkets can be very rewarding - some supermarkets may chase you away but most aren't bothered by your presence. Also outside The Mad Butcher shops and The Warehouse can be good busking sites.
The central city (CBD) was heavily damaged in the February 2011 earthquake so there are not many pubs, nightclubs or activities in the city centre although a few new bars and cafes are now open. Most bars (with live music) are located on Lincoln Road in Addington and on Victoria Street to the northwest of the old CBD. Worth a daytime visit is the nice Botanic Gardens (closed at night) and Canterbury Museum. The Re:Start Mall in Cashel Street is constructed from colourful shipping containers. The Christchurch Art Gallery re-opened to the public in December 2015. The CoCA Gallery reopened in February 2016 after undergoing serious repair work. There are many interesting Gap Filler projects around the central city. There are many weekend farmer's markets in several suburbs and at The Commons in the central city.