Two of New Zealand’s finest cities go head to head. If you had to choose between them for your holiday which would win? In the North Island corner is Wellington while representing the South Island is Christchurch.
The city centre of Christchurch is quite flat and you won’t get any hilly terrain until you move towards Banks Peninsula. Whereas, Wellington is a hilly city with Mount Victoria in walking distance of the centre. As Wellington is more compact than Christchurch you can walk to most places but these will often be hill walks. You may need a car to get around in Christchurch but at least you won’t be taking it up any inclines. Although you can discover Christchurch on a classic 1960’s London open top double decker buses (closed top in the winter months) or the city tram if you prefer.
Thanks to its rugged terrain, it’s very easy to find a hill in Wellington to walk up for scenic views of the area. However, you’d need to leave the city centre of Christchurch and hop onto the gondola to take in the scenery. This is such a beautiful way to take in the sights though that the inconvenience almost isn’t one.
Wellington is home to the Museum of New Zealand with interactive experiences and free entry. It also has Wellington Museum housed in a historic building on the waterfront and was voted as one of the top 50 museums in the world by The Times newspaper. Wellywood (an amalgamation of Hollywood and Wellington) is where you can tour the Weta studios, the company responsible for special effects in The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies. Christchurch lets you experience an Antarctic storm at the International Antarctic Centre and come face to face with classic aircraft at The Air Force Museum, also with free entry.
Christchurch has been badly damaged by earthquakes over the years, particularly in 2012. However, several restored heritage buildings in Christchurch are due to reopen in 2017. Wellington has many heritage buildings of its own and is a good mix of old and new architecture.
Places to eat
Wellington not only has more restaurants and bars than Christchurch but more per capita than New York and they’re easier to get to thanks to the compact nature of the city.
It’s easy to walk to the harbour from Wellington’s city centre but you’d need a vehicle to get to the sea from Christchurch.
Christchurch has theatres, cinemas, family activities and entertainment hubs. However, Wellington has a reputation as the cultural capital of New Zealand where you can see a live show and concert any night of the week. It’s also got Jackson Street (the longest street in the city) with its funky cafes, unique galleries and fashion.
Wellington can be quite windy and offers cooler temperatures throughout the year, while Christchurch tends to have dry and warm weather, particularly during the summer months.
You’ll have to drive out of both cities to find ski fields. Mount Hutt ski field is just an hour from Christchurch whereas Mount Ruapehu ski area is a 4-hour drive from Wellington.
Each city has a Botanic Garden but Christchurch’s feels spacious and flat while Wellington’s is hillier and sometimes feels a bit like a jungle.
So, it looks like Wellington beats Christchurch. It has more bars and restaurants, lots of entertainment and is in walking distance to pretty much everything. However, the weather is warmer in Christchurch, skiing is nearer and, when it comes to getting around, the terrain isn’t such a workout. Both have amazing views and the result was quite close so I would heartily recommend visiting both cities. After all, you have travelled to pretty much the ends of the earth so a one hour flight between cities doesn’t seem so much.