Christchurch is a popular travellers hub in the South Island of New Zealand. Its central location, ample services and incredible scenery make it the ideal place to pick up a motorhome and head out on a road trip to explore every inch of the magnificent South Island.
After suffering a devastating earthquake in 2011, the city is in the midst of a massive phase of growth, with new arcades, cafes, restaurants and precincts opening on every street every single week. It’s the perfect time to pay a visit and check out the vibrant atmosphere and modern new architecture before adventuring out to experience New Zealand’s scenic beauty in all its glory.
Here are a few basics to get you started when you pick up your Christchurch campervan.
Where to pick up your Christchurch motorhome
Many travellers will pick up a motorhome from Christchurch Airport as soon as they fly in. All of the main suppliers are located in the streets surrounding the terminal, so you can pick up your rental from Maui, Apollo Motorhomes, Lucky Rentals, JUCY, Tui, Spaceships, and more.
Central city depots
Christchurch’s city centre is still rebuilding, but there are a couple of depots right on the edge of the CBD where you can pick up a motorhome. Freedom RV is on Ferry Road, which is just a few minutes from central Christchurch.
If you’re heading inland - and especially if you’re heading south - Blenheim Road is one of the main arterial routes out of the city. It’s also where you’ll find a number of rental depots where you can grab your motorhome at the start of a trip. Affordable Caravans, the Christchurch RV Centre, Canterbury Caravan Court, TrailLite Motorhome & Caravan Centre are all found on this road.
What to do in Christchurch before you leave
Walk through the CBD
The central business district of Christchurch is currently one of the most fascinating on the planet. Brand new shops and offices with elegant architecture and buzzing cafes stand next to empty lots from demolished buildings. Bare walls have been painted with incredible murals all over the city, such as the beautiful ballerina on the back of the Isaac Theatre Royal and the Antarctic penguins next to Cathedral Square. The icon of the city, the Cathedral, is fenced off and in ruins as nature reclaims this massive stone church. It’s certainly an awe-inspiring sight and is a good place to truly appreciate the power of the earthquake that brought it down. Nearby, the new ‘cardboard cathedral’ replacement offers a wonderful insight into the creativity of the New Zealand people in the face of adversity. Grab a coffee at the famous C1 Cafe or a whiskey at The Last Word cocktail lounge, and enjoy this easily walkable city centre for a relaxing afternoon.
Take a ride up the gondola
The Christchurch Gondola will take you on a scenic ride up the side of Mount Cavendish for a stunning view over the city and the iconic patchwork Canterbury Plains and snow-covered Southern Alps beyond. There is a cafe and restaurant at the top, and you can head out on a scenic walk as well, so don’t forget to bring your hiking boots.
Stroll through the Christchurch Botanic Gardens
Christchurch is known as the Garden City, so a walk and a picnic through the central Botanic Gardens is a must. Founded in 1863, the gardens cover 21 hectares and include a native section, a rose garden, an archery lawn, and a cafe for refreshments.
Visit the International Antarctic Centre
Christchurch is the main launching point for expeditions to Antarctica from New Zealand, giving inspiration to the International Antarctic Centre. Located right next to the airport, it’s a good first stop if you’re picking up your motorhome when you disembark your flight. Take a peek to see Little Blue Penguins, go on a Hagglund ride, survive an Antarctic storm, and learn all about this special part of the world and life at Scott Base.
Handy petrol stations in Christchurch
Regardless of which direction you’re headed, there are petrol stations all over the city and on main routes heading away from Christchurch so you can fill up before you begin your road trip (and before you return your motorhome to the depot).
Caltex Main South: On the left side of the road, ideal if you’re taking the inland route south.
Challenge Halswell Road: On the left side of the road, good for road trips south down the coast.
Z Moorhouse Ave: Left side of the road, good for filling up as you drive through the centre city.
Z corner of Main North Road and Johns Road: Fill up here if you’re making your way north. This is the last fuel stop before you hit the Christchurch Northern Motorway.
Top motorhome road trips from Christchurch
With international flights arriving daily, Christchurch marks the start of many road trips all over the South Island and New Zealand. Be sure to read up on the tips found in our New Zealand driving guide before you set off, as the conditions on the road can be quite different to anywhere else in the world, and of course, you’ll be driving on the left!
Pick up a motorhome from Christchurch and head as far south as south goes. This round-trip will take you down the coast of the South Island to see the penguins and podocarp forests of the Catlins, before stopping off in Invercargill and heading back up through adventurous Queenstown and on to Christchurch via the inland route.
Head north with your Christchurch camper and make your way to the sunny haven that is Nelson. This itinerary starts in Nelson for a round trip to Christchurch, but it won’t take too much creativity to turn it on its head. You’ll get a taste of the coast and its whale-watching mecca of Kaikoura, as well as a glimpse of the beautiful inland route and the beaches at the tip of the island.
Make your way west across the island to the wild and wonderful west coast before turning south. This one-way trip will introduce you to some of the island’s most epic scenery, then drop you off in Queenstown, where you can skydive, bungee jump, and pretty much do anything else adrenalin-inducing that you can think of in the adventure capital of the country.
For the ultimate road trip from Christchurch, flip this Auckland-to-Christchurch journey upside down and make your way through most of the country all the way to the Big Smoke in the north. Along the way, you’ll travel the coastal road on the South Island, cross over with the InterIslander Ferry, spend time in cosmopolitan Wellington, and take the scenic route up through the North Island, hitting iconic hot spots all the way to the City of Sails.