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Best Beach in Christchurch: Things to do in Sumner, New Zealand

Sumner, New Zealand, is a vibrant seaside suburb in Christchurch with stunning coastal views. The beach is surrounded by natural beauty and offers a relaxed atmosphere. We recently stayed there and found many fun activities and attractions, from seaside walks and caves to charming cafes. Please keep reading to discover all the cool things to do in Sumner, New Zealand, and why Sumner Beach is the best beach in Christchurch.

View of the sand, sea and Cave Rock at Sumner Beach, New Zealand

Discovering the Best Beach in Christchurch

Sumner is known for its stunning, vast beach where visitors can sunbathe, swim, or stroll along the promenade. However, the drawcard is the iconic Cave Rock, a striking natural formation that adds to the area’s allure and provides a picturesque backdrop for photos.

We have visited Christchurch many times over the last twenty years, staying in many different areas around the city and visiting many beaches. However, on this most recent trip in April 2024, we decided to stay in Sumner and explore one of the best beaches in Christchurch. We found so many cool things to do in Sumner, NZ, and if you are on the fence about visiting, we urge you to get off the beaten track and take a seaside excursion there.

Cool Things to Do in Sumner, Christchurch

For adrenaline lovers, surfing at Sumner Beach is a must-try experience. However, those who prefer a relaxing seaside getaway can spend a few days lazing on the sand, taking strolls, exploring, and dining out in Sumner cafes and restaurants.

Sumner Beach, New Zealand

Sumner Beach is the suburb’s highlight, offering a picturesque setting for sunbathing, swimming, and family fun. In summer, lifeguards patrol swimmers and ensure a safe environment. 

Experience the stunning beauty of this place, with its 400-metre stretch of sandy paradise and many beachside activities, and you will see why it is the best beach Christchurch has to offer.

One of the best things to do in Sumner is the sunset at Sumner Beach
Sunset from Sumner Beach is one of our favourite things to do in Sumner.

Explore Cave Rock Sumner

The main reason we were drawn to stay in the area was to explore Cave Rock and get some photos of this epic cave at different times of the day. It did not disappoint!

Known as Tuawera in Maori, the volcanic rock is a fun family activity. You can walk through the cave from one end and exit near the shoreline at low tide.

Rock climbers can get their thrills by climbing to the top of the rock for panoramic views. At the top, there is a historic signal mast.

Be careful, though, as the steps are steep.

Huge Cave Rock in Sumner
Cave Rock Sumner

Take an Esplanade Walk

Among our favourite things to do in Sumner is to take a scenic walk along the Sumner Promenade. 

The walk lets you soak in the coastline’s panoramic vistas and the views of Kaikoura in the distance, and you can admire the houses perched atop the hills.

The path is flat, wide, and suitable for strollers, wheelchairs, joggers, and dog walkers. There are benches and toilets available.

View from Sumner Beach, the best beach in Christchurch, to Scarborough Beach
Sumner Promenade with views to Scarborough Beach

Visit Nearby Christchurch Beaches 

Scarborough Beach

After seeing Cave Rock, head along the esplanade to Scarborough Beach. 

The 15-minute walk from Cave Rock on the esplanade offers stunning sea views.

Stop by Scarborough Park, which is perfect for picnics. The surrounding trees provide ample shade. For families with children, there is a playground and paddling pool nestled beneath the cliffs.

Scarborough Beach Christchurch is ideal for surfing, and lifeguards are present during busy times.

Taylors Mistake Beach

Taylor’s Mistake Beach is great for swimming, bodyboarding, and experienced surfers. 

It is just a short drive away, or you can walk from Sumner to Taylors Mistake. The 8 km walk follows Sumner Promenade to Scarborough, ascending 120 metres over the hill to reach Taylors Mistake. The walk offers stunning coastal views.

Sumner Beach, Scarborough Beach, and Taylors Mistake Beach are the best Christchurch New Zealand beaches (along with Brighton Beach, Christchurch’s most famous beach suburb). 

In fact, they are actually considered to be some of the best beaches in the Canterbury region.

Walking Tracks & Cycling Trails

From Taylors Mistake, you can continue to Boulder Bay for more spectacular ocean views.

The Awaroa/Godley Head Loop Track also starts at Taylors Mistake, passes Boulder Bay, and loops back. The stunning 9 km walk is one of the best walks in Christchurch, offering fantastic coastline views from the cliffs and historical WWII relics.

Port Hills surrounds Sumner, boasting many other walking and cycling trails for all fitness levels. 

Whether you prefer a stroll along the beach or a challenging hike up the Port Hills, there’s a route to suit all fitness levels.

New Zealand South Island Travel Insider Guide Tip: Make sure to look out for wildlife while on your sea view walks. Although we didn’t see any, there have been reports of people spotting seals and dolphins! 

Take the Te Ara Ihutai Christchurch Coastal Pathway to Ferrymead Bridge

The 6.5 km pathway follows the ocean heading north. On your way, you’ll pass Gallons Point and Shag Rock at the mouth of the Avon Heathcote Estuary. 

There are benches along the route where you can sit and enjoy the views. If you love photography, we recommend taking a walk at sunrise or sunset for spectacular photos at Shag Rock.

Catch a Beach Sunset

Another thing we especially love when we travel is seeing the sunset. Especially if there’s water involved and doubly so if there’s a restaurant with water views and a sunset. (Skip to our section on “Best Restaurants in Sumner Christchurch” if you are like-minded)

You can catch the sunset anywhere along the beach and see the stunning display of colours across the water.

Sunset on Sumner Beach with a hand in view holding a glass of wine

Go Surfing

Imagine experiencing the excitement of surfing in New Zealand at the best beach in Christchurch.

Sumner and Scarborough are the best beaches for surfing in Christchurch. The gentle waves are perfect for beginners.

You can rent a board and go out on your own or take a surf lesson, which is available for the entire family.

Located right next to Cave Rock, you will find Stoked Surf School. The all-female coaching staff provide expert instruction and equipment rental.

Alternatively, there is Learn to Surf, which also offers lessons or hire boards and gear.

Stand-Up Paddle Boarding (SUP)

Try stand-up paddle boarding, the latest waterborne activity in the area.

Christchurch Paddleboarding offers hire and or rentals.

Attend a Festival

The Single Fin Mingle is a surfing event held annually in Sumner. The festival features surfing displays and four days of art, film, and live music, including an after-party! 

The community event brings together some of the best surfers in the country, is at the top of our South Island must-do list, and is one of the coolest things to do in Sumner.

Go Horse Riding

Experience the thrill of horse riding at Sumner Valley Riding School, which has excellent facilities for all abilities.

Private and group lessons are available.

Take Advantage of the Photography Opportunities

The coastline and surrounding areas offer many incredible photo opportunities.

You can capture beautiful landscape photography, including wildlife like seals, dolphins, and migratory sea birds such as Godwits.

However, colourful houses and unique architecture add to the village’s charm and also provide visitors with photo opportunities.

View across the sand to the houses perched on the hill at Sumner Beach
View of the houses perched on the hillside, Sumner Beach

Grab an Ice Cream

Your Sumner things to do list must include ice cream! 

There are many ice cream shops in the area, and nothing feels more like you’re on vacation than an ice cream at the beach.

Sumner Ice Cream Parlour, across the road from Cave Rock, has a good selection.

Utopia Ice offers handmade French-style artisan ice cream and vegan selections.

Go Shopping at Sumner Village

The quaint village offers a delightful small boutique setting and a pleasant ambience for browsing or shopping.

Sumner shops include clothes, home and giftwares, surf shops, art galleries, hairdresser, spa and beauty therapy services.

Additionally, you can find food shops, cafes, restaurants, bakeries, and a supermarket.

Indulge in the Best Sumner Restaurants, Christchurch, New Zealand

Restaurants and cafes in Sumner Christchurch really surprised us. For a small suburb, it certainly packs a punch when it comes to its diverse food offerings. You can find everything from Vietnamese, Indian, Korean, Turkish, and woodfired pizzas, all within the vicinity. 

While we look forward to visiting and trying them all, we can tell you about our favourites from the ones we ate at.

Seafood Chowder with a piece of bread
Seafood Chowder at Beach Restaurant in Sumner

Beach Restaurant Bar Sumner

There is nothing more we foodies love than a meal with water views, and when we heard that The Sumner Beach Bar is the only beachfront restaurant, it was a big drawcard for us to stay overnight in the area!

For this reason alone, it is the best of the Sumner Beach restaurants. However, besides overlooking the ocean, it offers a laid-back atmosphere and delicious dishes.

We went there a few times and tried many menu items, including seafood chowder, pizza, salmon, and a selection of vegan small plates.

We loved the waterfront dining so much that we returned for breakfast. The coffee and cake are delicious, too.

Bonobo

What a delightful surprise to find a vegan cafe in Christchurch serving 100% plant-based meals and drinks.

One of our family members is vegan, and getting vegan food in Christchurch can be challenging. However, the area has so many vegan options she was delighted.

On the day we visited Bonobo, it was packed. Many customers enjoyed coffee, vegan cake, or vegan lunch. 

The menu was so diverse that it was hard to choose, but we ordered the Bonobo burger, which tasted like meat, chips and a blueberry muffin. The muffin was decadent and was devoured before we remembered to take any photos!

We rated Bonobo as one of the best vegan restaurants in Christchurch that we have visited.

The Bohemian Bakery

Another surprise was The Bohemian Bakery, which serves coffee, pastries, croissants, and fresh bread. 

It’s hard to find a vegan bakery in Christchurch, so the best thing was that they also had vegan bread and croissants, along with the non-plant-based versions.

We bought bags full of baked goods for the picnics we love on our travels.

Sumner Social

We love the decor at this majestic restaurant. In addition to offering good vibes and gorgeous sea views, it also has outdoor street-side seating.

The small plates, the tacos and the cocktails are our favourite things on the menu.

Fire And Slice

This pizza shop is one of the best pizzas we’ve had in a long time.

The woodfired pizza is handmade dough with locally sourced ingredients.

They have gourmet options, like Peri-Peri Prawn and the Salmone Pizza. Our favourite was the Veggie Delight.

Urban List ranked Fire and Slice among the 50 best restaurants in Christchurch.

Accommodation Sumner Christchurch

For those looking to extend their stay, a range of accommodation options from luxury motels to cozy bed and breakfasts is available to suit every budget and preference. 

We enjoyed staying at the Cave Rock Guesthouse, which boasts breathtaking ocean views. Its central location is opposite The Beach Restaurant, Cave Rock, and the Sumner Promenade. Additionally, it is conveniently within walking distance of the Sumner shops and village, just under ten minutes away.

We booked the two-bedroom apartment, which occupies the entire second story of the building. It boasts two generously sized rooms, two ensuites, a kitchen, and a sunny sitting area overlooking the beach.

The guesthouse made our stay extra special, and we highly recommend it for those who want to immerse themselves in the beach experience.

Historic white timber house with ferns and a gate
Cave Rock Guesthouse

How to Get There

Getting to Sumner is easy, whether arriving from Christchurch city centre or Christchurch airport. 

By bus, the Purple Line No. 3 Metro bus takes 40 minutes from Christchurch City Centre. From the airport, the trip takes 1 hour and 5 minutes, covering a scenic route across the suburbs of Christchurch.

By car, it is a 20-minute drive from the city centre. 

Is Sumner NZ worth visiting?

That brings us to the all-important question of whether you have time or inclination to visit one of the best beaches in Christchurch.

Christchurch’s beach suburbs are often overlooked by tourists due to the abundance of attractions in the city and their location further away from the centre.

However, Sumner is a lovely day trip from Christchurch, offering sun, sea and a laidback bohemian vibe.

So, if you love the beach and seek out beaches wherever you travel, you should definitely go and see the best beach in Christchurch.

For those who want to stay overnight, there are many fun things to do in Sumner, including stunning beaches, water activities, incredible rock formations, gorgeous water and landscape views, delicious dining options, and cozy accommodations.

We love the seaside resort vibe, the Sumner Beach cafes and quaint shops, and the many easy beachfront walks. When we are there, we feel like we are miles from a city, so we will definitely be back.

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