Having a hard time deciding between Christchurch and Wellington? Learn how these two New Zealand cities differ and which one would appeal more.
Christchurch and Wellington can be seen as relatively large cities compared to other towns or cities in New Zealand.
The first noticeable difference between Wellington and Christchurch is their size. Wellington city is much smaller than Christchurch, and you easily notice this by the distance you have to walk to get from point A to point B.
Wellington is a compact city in which you can easily walk from place to place. Christchurch is more expansive and feels spacious, so it takes longer to get to places by foot. So if you visit Christchurch, it is highly recommended to rent a car, although you can get to most places by catching a bus.
The second noticeable difference is the lay of the land. Christchurch is flat. It gets hillier as you go more towards Banks Peninsula, but for the majority part, Christchurch city centre is flat.
Wellington, on the other hand, is hilly. The city centre is backed by hills and there is also hills lining the harbour. Mount Victoria, which is not a far walk from the city centre, is a good example of a hill that is more or less right in the city.
You may have heard of the earthquakes that devastated Christchurch and brought down many (historic) buildings. With the rebuild of Christchurch after the earthquakes, Christchurch acquired a more modern look than Wellington, although Wellington does not look that old.
However, Wellington has more heritage buildings left than Christchurch. And in between those, there are tall modern buildings.
So if you are looking for a good mixture of old and new architecture, Wellington would probably be the city to visit instead of Christchurch.
Wellington has a typical North Island feel and smell to it, which is that of bush; native bush. And Christchurch has a typical South Island feel to it, which is a barren and dry feel with lots of wide open areas.
Just like Christchurch, Wellington is not immune to earthquakes, since it lies directly on a fault line. And there are many faults in the greater Wellington and Marlborough regions anyway.
So if you are someone who would not want to experience the earth shaking under your feet, you may want to avoid both cities.
However, I live in Wellington and can attest to the fact that you generally do not feel earthquakes – which tend to take place on a daily basis – because they tend to not be that large.
An earthquake that has a magnitude of 3 or less is hard to feel, unless you happen to be close to the epicentre. Earthquakes that have a magnitude of 4 or higher can be felt, even if they take place far away somewhere in New Zealand.
If you want to go for a stroll among plants and flowers, both Christchurch and Wellington have botanic gardens you can visit right in the centre of the cities.
In my opinion, the Christchurch Botanic Gardens are more beautiful than the Wellington Botanic Garden, but it depends on the season and what you prefer to see.
While the Wellington botanic Garden is slightly larger than the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, the Christchurch Botanic Gardens feel more spacious and flat.
The Wellington Botanic Garden is hillier and you can sometimes feel like you are walking in a jungle, which adds to the feeling of being far away from city life, while the city is not that far away.
So each garden is unique in its own way.
The biggest difference between Wellington and Christchurch is probably the difference in weather. Wellington is known for its wind and its cooler temperatures year round, while Christchurch is known for its dry and warm weather, especially in summer.
And while neither Christchurch nor Wellington have ski fields, you can drive out of the cities to go skiing. However, the drive you would have to make takes much longer from Wellington than it does from Christchurch.
Mount Hutt ski field is about an hour's drive away from Christchurch, while Mount Ruapehu ski area should take close to 4 hours to reach from Wellington.
Wellington is known for its large concentration of bars and restaurants in its centre. While Christchurch also has a variety of restaurants around the city, the concentration is much larger in Wellington. This is also thanks to the compactness of Wellington.
While you can get scenic views from above in both Wellington and Christchurch, you would have to leave Christchurch city centre and then hop into the Christchurch gondola (or walk up) to get scenic views from above.
Because Wellington is so hilly, it is quite easy to walk up a hill and get scenic views. Two scenic viewpoints that are easily accessible right from the city centre are the Wellington Botanic Garden (you can take the cable car up) and Mount Victoria (you can catch a bus up the hill if you don't want to walk).
One last difference is that you can walk to the sea (harbour) from Wellington's city centre, while you cannot do the same from Christchurch's city centre – you would have to drive to the sea, because it's too far to walk. Wellington's harbour can be very scenic on a sunny day.
Choosing between Wellington and Christchurch is a difficult decision to make, which I think will boil down to what kind of environment you like, that is, open or close.
If you like a compact city where you can walk to almost everywhere including restaurants and a beach, then Wellington might be the city for you. If on the other hand you like to be in a city that feels spacious and you have rented a car in Christchurch, then Christchurch might fit the bill.
If I had to choose, I would choose Christchurch, because I like wide open spaces. But I live in Wellington and must say that I like it most for not having to drive to anywhere despite the fact that I like driving a lot.
Each city has a different feel to it, so if you have the opportunity to visit both, please do so.
Note: This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm all details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
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