Sunset in Christchurch, New Zealand

10 Best Spots to Watch the Sunset in Christchurch

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Christchurch has some of the most epic locations for watching the sunset, with hues of pinks, purples, oranges and yellows painting the evening sky and the glittering city below. While you can see the sunset from pretty much anywhere, the best places to watch a Christchurch sunset are the hills high above the city, offering an insane vantage point of the land below. Most spots are within a 30-minute drive from the CBD. 

So whether you’re looking for the best place to snap sunset pictures or want a quiet spot to end the day, these are the ten best locations to watch the sunset in Christchurch.

Gibraltar Rock

Nestled in the Port Hills between Christchurch and Lyttelton, you’ll find Gibraltar Rock, a symmetrical pyramid poking out from the undulating landscape. It’s one of the best sunset spots in Christchurch, with spectacular views of the water and rolling hills below. 

Choose to climb Gibraltar Rock or watch the sunset with the towering feature in the foreground. Whatever you decide, you’re in for a treat. 

Quick Info: 

  • Roughly a 30 – 40 minute drive from the Christchurch CBD.
  • The climb up the rock takes about 40 minutes, and proper shoes are highly recommended.
  • Take water and extra layers or a windproof jacket as it gets windy and cold as the sun goes down. 
  • The sun goes down right behind Gibraltar Rock between February and October, making these the best months to visit. That said, it’s gorgeous year-round. 
  • Designated parking is available, but the road is quite windy, so take care when pulling over and accessing the track. 

Coopers Knob

If you’re looking to reach new heights, catching the sunset at Coopers Knob is a must. It’s the highest point in the Port Hills, offering unparalleled views of the surrounding hills, peaks, and water below. You’ll even get an insane view of Gibraltar Rock poking out from the landscape. 

From the top of Coopers Knob, you’ll be treated to 360° views, making it perfect for both sunrise and sunset. It’s best to arrive slightly early to enjoy the golden hour at the summit before the sun begins to sink. Coupled with Gibraltar Rock, this tied for the best place for sunset photography in all of Christchurch. 

Quick Info: 

  • About a 35 – 40 minute drive from the Christchurch CBD
  • Climbing to the top of Coopers Knob only takes between 15 and 40 minutes (depending on how fast you walk). 
  • Weekends can be pretty busy, so weekday evenings are the best to avoid crowds.
  • Bring extra layers as it can be very windy and cold at the top, especially when the sun goes down. 
  • Drone photography is particularly compelling from this spot! 

Mount Pleasant

Mount Pleasant is another Port Hills gem that makes for an epic sunset spot in Christchurch. The moderately easy walk starts from Summit Road in the Port Hills and hits a gravel road after climbing through tussock and speargrass for a little while. When you reach the radio masts on top of the hill, be sure to make your way to the trig for a panoramic view over the Canterbury Plains, the Kaitorete Spit, and Lyttelton Harbor. 

Continue to the top of Mount Pleasant, where you’ll find historic gun emplacements and open concrete structures from WWII. There are of course gorgeous views of the land below, made even more beautiful with the setting sun. 

Quick Info:

  • Only about 20 minutes driving from the Christchurch CBD.
  • The walk to the top is only about 1 kilometre and takes about 30 minutes.
  • After sunset over Christchurch, walk back the way you came, or continue along the Crater Rim Walkway. 
  • Sneakers are recommended, but the walk can be done in jandals if necessary. 
  • Parking at the top of Evans Pass or on the Cavendish saddle side. 

John Britten Reserve

Located on the fringe of the Port Hills, John Britten Reserve is another show-stopping spot to catch a sunset in Christchurch. It’s just next to the Mount Pleasant area and offers plenty of places to view epic colours over the city. However, hit the track for the best view and one of the flattest walks in the area. It covers the reserve’s top and boasts sprawling sights of the water, hills, and city below.

The track starts about one kilometre from Mount Pleasant on Summit Road, before the cattle stop on the right. Follow the path to the intersection of Mount Pleasant Road and Summit Road for the whole experience. 

Quick Info:

  • Roughly 25 minutes from the Christchurch CBD
  • The entire track is only 1 kilometre, and it’s one of the easiest in the area, with a few gentle climbs.
  • This walk can be done in jandals, but take care after it rains as it may be extra slippery. 
  • There’s parking either along Summit Road or in the Mount Pleasant Road car park. 

Bridle Path

Follow in the footsteps of early European settlers along Bridle Path, with a rich history and equally rich views. This track connects Lyttleton to Christchurch and dates back to 1850, when it was traversed on horseback, before the completion of Summit Road in 1857. Today, it towers high over the harbour and city with some of the most outstanding vistas in the area, making it a top spot to catch a sunset in Christchurch. 

Bridle Path access is abundant, with points in Heathcote at the gondola parking lot, Summit Road, Evans Pass Road, and the Barnett Park car park. Take your pick: drive to the top of Summit Road, or climb up from the Heathcote parking lot to watch pinks and purples light up the night sky over the water below. 

Quick Info:

  • Only 20 minutes from the Christchurch CBD 
  • If you start your walk from the bottom of the hill in Heathcote, it takes roughly 30 minutes to an hour to get to the top, as it’s quite a steep climb.
  • Bring trainers, water, and extra layers as it can get windy and cold when the sun goes down.
  • There’s a lot of room to spread out at the top of the track, so don’t be afraid to set off and explore to find the best view.
  • The sun lines up with the harbour during the summer months.

Godley Head

Take in otherworldly views from the Godley Head track during sunset. Christchurch is privileged to have such unbelievable spots to catch the evening glow, so put on your trainers and hit this piece of paradise. You’ll find the start of this sunset walk at the Taylors Mistake car park or the Godley Head car park on Summit Road.

The entire Godley Head track is a three-hour loop that traverses the coastal areas of Harrys, Boulder, Mechanics, and Breeze Bay, from high up on towering cliffs. Pass through a massive defence battery from World War II (dating back to 1939) and continue for panoramic views of the coastline, Christchurch, and the Banks Peninsula on a clear day. Just make sure that you’re headed west when the sun starts to sink below the horizon! The pastel hues will light up the harbour and city below, providing unforgettable views and one of the best sunset spots imaginable. 

Quick Info:

  • About 40 minutes from the CBD to Taylors Mistake
  • The walk can be steep and exposed at times, and the track is shared with cyclists, so stay alert and keep left. 
  • The entire track is just over 9 kilometres but is classified as an easy walk.
  • The history and gorgeous coastal environment make this track particularly fascinating and worth the visit for sunset.
  • Keep your eyes peeled for old cave dwellings on the cliffsides, two gun platforms, and views of the Banks Penninsula on a clear day.

Witch Hill

Witch Hill is a great spot to enjoy the sunset from ground level or after a bit of a climb. Choose to watch the sunset behind Witch Hill or scramble to the top through lava flows and massive boulders. You’ll want to wear sneakers if you plan on climbing Witch Hill for sunset. Still, this quick tramp is well worth it for panoramic views over Lyttleton Harbor and Christchurch’s rolling hills. Find it off the side of Summit Road, just beside Mount Vernon Park. 

The climb to the top takes about 20 minutes, but you’ll be perfectly happy from the bottom, with lots of grassy spots to park up and watch the sunset from. You’ll find that quite a few people enjoy scenic Witch Hill as the sun goes down, so consider visiting at sunrise instead to have the place entirely to yourself. 

Quick Info:

  • About a 30 to 40-minute drive from Christchurch CBD.
  • Sneakers are necessary if you plan to climb Witch Hill as it’s rocky and rough terrain.
  • Park in the Rapaki car park off of Summit Road.
  • Keep your eyes peeled for the Witch Hill war memorial at the top of the Rapaki Track, restored after its destruction during the earthquake.  

Mount Vernon

The Mount Vernon area in Port Hills offers a prime spot to catch a Christchurch sunset and has a little something for everyone. There are tons of different trails to explore and lots of space to spread out and enjoy the view if you don’t feel much like walking. 

When it comes time for sunset, you’ll have the best views from the Valley Track, which starts from Hillsborough Terrace and finishes at the Rapaki track. It climbs steadily towards Summit Road, giving trampers an epic vantage point on the valley and the setting sun. Take care during the winter months as the track can become slippery.

Quick Info:

  • It’s only a 10 to 15-minute drive to the Mount Vernon Valley Track car park from the CBD, but you can also drive to the top via Summit Road. 
  • The entire Valley Track is about 3.5 kilometres and takes roughly 45 minutes to complete one way. You can walk it in a loop to get back to the main car park. 
  • The track crosses farmland and can be very slippery after rain or during winter months, so proper footwear is necessary.
  • Make sure to leave all gates as you’ve found them and keep dogs on a lead at all times. 

Cashmere Hill Lookout

If you don’t feel like heading all the way out to Port Hills for a sunset, Christchurch has other legendary spots to enjoy, like the Cashmere Hill Lookout. This easily accessible point has an excellent uphill position for unparalleled views of the city, Canterbury Plains, and the Southern Alps. What’s more, it’s the highest point in Christchurch, accessible by public transport, so even if you don’t have a car, you can enjoy the beauty of this hidden gem.

There are many quaint spots to cozy up for a sunset, so bring a picnic blanket to spread out on the grass and watch as glittering city lights replace the sun. If you feel like stretching your legs, you’ll find an abundance of short tracks to different lookouts, offering plenty of room for the crowds who visit the enchanting Cashmere Hill. 

Quick Info: 

  • About a 15-minute drive from the CBD. Also accessible via the Blue Bus, which stops at Cashmere.
  • There’s a car park just off of Cashmere Road before the walking track.
  • Since this spot is easy to access, arrive well before sunset to secure the best spot.
  • This area is suitable for jandals and casual clothing but may get chilly as the sun goes down, so bring layers.

Akaroa Lighthouse

If you find yourself on the Banks Peninsula, the Akaroa Lighthouse is one of the best spots to watch the sunset in the area. Make your way down the easy path in the early evening to watch the sun glow golden on the surrounding mountains before sinking in the west.

Either watch the sunset from the lighthouse or find a spot to hang out on the jetty. While the sun will disappear quickly, if there are enough clouds, the colours will linger in the sky long after, with brilliant purple, pink, yellow, and orange shades. For another vantage point, make your way up Akaroa Heads, the original location of the lighthouse, and watch colours fade out over the ocean while the starry night sky reveals itself overhead. 

Quick Info: 

  • The lighthouse is about an hour and a half from the Christchurch CBD, perfect for a day trip or quick weekend away.
  • This spot is within walking distance from Akaroa town. 
  • The road to Akaroa Head (the former location of the lighthouse) is super steep and quite rough, so a four-wheel-drive best takes it on. If your car is two-wheel drive, stop at the flat patch before the end of the road and walk the rest of the way.
  • You can visit the inside of the lighthouse on Sundays from 11 am until 2 pm. 

Bonus: New Brighton Pier for Sunrise

Any early birds looking for the best sunrise spot will be blown out of the water at the New Brighton pier. Sitting outside the CBD, this beachy location is a prime spot to start the day, with dazzling pinks and purples lighting up the early morning sky.

There’s plenty of parking lining the beach and tons of space to spread out along the coast. The jetty is the most popular spot to catch a Christchurch sunrise, so don’t be surprised if you’re joined by early morning joggers, bikers, and dog walkers who stop to soak in the views. That said, it’s well worth it for the sheer beauty of the moment, as this is easily one of the most serene spots in all of Christchurch. Once the sun comes up, grab a coffee from a nearby cafe and start the day.

Quick Info: 

  • 15 to 20-minute drive from the Christchurch CBD.
  • Lots of parking near the jetty and along the beach.
  • Hop in the water for a swim or surf after sunrise or a nice morning walk along the beach.
  • This area can be crowded, especially in the summer, but it is well worth visiting. 

Further Reading:

For more information on Christchurch, read our other articles:

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