Queenstown vs. Christchurch

Learn in what ways Christchurch and Queenstown differ from each other and what makes each one of these two New Zealand cities unique.

Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island of New Zealand, while Queenstown cannot be called a full-fledged city yet although it is rapidly getting there.

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Queenstown is a town but rapidly growing towards becoming a city.

Look and feel of the two cities

Christchurch felt and looked very English, meaning that there are lots of people from Great Britain living there in addition to older buildings – those that have been left standing after the earthquakes – having an English feel and architecture to them.

Queenstown does not really have an English feel to it, neither does it have a typical small-town New Zealand feel to it.

The city center is relatively modern with fancy shops, and there aren’t many old buildings except for older houses that may have been there for a while.

Christchurch airport vs. Queenstown airport

Christchurch has an international airport, while Queenstown does not. At least, it is not officially international.

However, flights from outside New Zealand – mostly from Australia – do arrive in Queenstown, so technically speaking, Queenstown airport is an international airport but not as large and busy as Christchurch airport.

Activities and attractions

People generally visit Christchurch for subdued activities such as seeing buildings, visiting parks, and general entertainment. And while there are hills around Christchurch, people don’t generally go there for the scenery.

Tram in Christchurch city, South Island, New Zealand

When people visit Queenstown on the other hand, it is mostly for adventure sports or to see the scenery. Needless to say, the crowd that Queenstown attracts is typically also much younger than the crowd that Christchurch attracts.

Skiing in Queenstown vs. skiing near Christchurch

In winter, Queenstown transforms into a skiers and snowboarders mecca. It is not unusual to see people with all of their skiing gear waiting at bus stops in Queenstown.

The same thing does not happen in Christchurch. The nearest ski field to Christchurch is Mount Hutt, which is about an hour and a half away from Christchurch. It does not take such a long drive to get to ski fields around Queenstown.

Lakes in Queenstown vs. lakes in Christchurch

It can literally take you five minutes to walk from Queenstown city center to a large lake (Lake Wakatipu).

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In addition, heading into the solitude of nature or walking up a hill such as Queenstown Hill to get gorgeous scenic views is never far away anywhere in or around Queentown.

In Christchurch you do not have such a luxury. There is the Avon River, though.

And except for parks like, for example, Hagley Park and the Botanic Gardens, you would have to take a drive to get out of the busy city center before you can reach a peaceful and quiet place where you can go for a walk.

While there is a lake right in the center of Christchurch in Hagley Park (Victoria Lake), it is not as large as Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown. For a lake that is a bit larger (Lake Ellesmere), you would have to drive to the south of Christchurch city center.

Beaches and coast near Queenstown or Christchurch

Christchurch is not far from the sea, while Queenstown is.

To get to the sea on the West Coast, you would have to go over mountains. Needless to say, it takes a long drive to get to the coast from Queenstown because Queenstown is surrounded by mountains.

This is not the case for Christchurch. Christchurch is pretty flat and beaches and the coast are never too far away.

A calm Lake Wakatipu in winter, Queenstown, New Zealand

Services and facilities

Both Christchurch and Queenstown are good cities to use as a base for travel because they both have lots of facilities and are well-serviced with restaurants, shops, gas stations, and supermarkets.

Queenstown is a bit more touristy than Christchurch, though, and therefore also caters more to tourists than Christchurch.

Queenstown city center is also more compact than Christchurch city center, which means that it is easy for someone who does not have a car to walk around Queenstown to buy food or book a tour. Christchurch is more expansive, so it takes a while to get to places if you do not have a car. There are busses available in both cities for those who want to get around without a car.

However, renting a car might be essential in both Christchurch and Queenstown if you want to get out of the city center and visit places in the neighborhood of Christchurch or make short day trips from Queenstown.

Christchurch or Queenstown?

I like Queenstown better than Christchurch without a doubt. While Queenstown tends to be busy, it is small enough that I don’t feel overwhelmed by its size like I tend to feel when driving through Christchurch. It also has quick access to what I like: nature.

 

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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