The best happy hours in Christchurch
There are plenty of enticing cocktail bars, beer gardens and social clubs where you can get great drinks deals in New Zealand's Garden City.
- February 2019
Being on a budget doesn’t mean missing out on the fun Christchurch has to offer. The city has a buzzing nightlife with secret cocktail bars and noisy live music venues – all with great happy hour deals. A local shares their insider knowhow on the city’s best watering holes.
Retropolitan Social Club
Step back in time to the 1970s and sun yourself in the garden bar (under a retractable roof), relax on the mezzanine or dine at the restaurant of this versatile venue where happy hour is on from 4-6pm on Wednesdays with AUD $12 cocktails and 25 per cent off house wines, tap beers and ciders. Located three kilometres south-west of the city centre, the club is decorated with over 800 items of 70s-themed décor – complete with paisley carpet – offering a museum-like feast for the eyes. You’ll find the quintessential dish of the decade here: fondue mains and desserts. But this is also home to the city’s best reuben sandwich. If you’re feeling energetic, there’s a seven-metre shuffleboard to compete on.
The Poplar Social Club
Award-winning bartender Charles Gillet draws in crowds with his cheeky banter at this sophisticated cocktail lounge opens in new window, located at the crossroads of the four avenues that form the city centre. With six craft beers on tap as well as 24 cocktails, it’s easy to sit back and enjoy the relaxed ambience and tunes over pre-dinner drinks. The social club is open Wednesday to Sunday from 5pm until late with occasional deals like AUD $10 cocktails..
Social Wine Bar
This is a classy after-work hotspot opens in new window in the CBD with a marble-top bar that James Bond would approve of. Try the Passion Mojito or one of five tap beers, including the popular Cassels and Sons Milk Stout. Hungry? Don’t miss their legendary cheese platter. “The Social Hour”, when you can sip on AUD $12 cocktails, runs Sunday to Thursday 5.30-6.30pm.
Located on the terrace, above sister bar Kong on the Avon River, this jazz mecca is one of the grand masters of bars in Christchurch. They always have deals (think AUD $15 cocktails), which you can find on social media and are open daily from 2pm until late. With live music every night, the balcony and dance floor provide a mellow environment for traditional jazz, blues and soul while still catering for late-night crowds with big party-style bands until the wee hours. There are cocktails, six tap beers and a huge wine list on offer.
Jump off the tram on the prettiest street in Christchurch – New Regent Street – and behind the historic Isaac Theatre Royal you’ll find the monochrome entrance to this boutique bar. The Institution has a cocktail for every occasion and five rotating taps with Kiwi and international beers but if you can’t decide, just order the tasting tray. There are blackboard walls and tables you can get creative on or just perch at the upstairs window and soak up the views. With deals like AUD $10 craft beers and cocktails changing daily, it’s open from 4pm Tuesday to Friday and 2pm on weekends.
The Astro Lounge
Located opposite Christchurch Arts Centre, this Star Wars-themed beer garden is popular for its fun loving, child- and pet-friendly atmosphere. Find low-priced drinks Thursday to Saturday from 4pm onwards and Sunday from 12pm, plus live music on most nights. The quirky bar serves more than 20 craft beers, two tap beers and a selection of burgers, snacks and platters such as the Constellation Platter of “Yoda cold cuts” and “Vulcan pickles”. Cocktail lovers shouldn’t miss the Passionfruit Mojito.
A favourite with locals, this award-winning bar is famed for having the largest bourbon collection in New Zealand so it’s no surprise that bourbon-based cocktails are their specialty. This relaxed space with comfy wall booths has great food and even better live music so you’re in for a good time any night of the week – and every hour is happy hour as there is always a good deal on. Arrive after 10pm and try any of the 250-odd whiskies, over 40 craft beers and eight tap beers. Boo’s is open seven days from 4pm to 3am but Wednesday’s open mic nights are infamous.
Red Light District
If damn tasty cocktails are your thing, don’t miss the hidden Victoria Street entrance to Red Light District – you’re looking for Charlie Winston’s of Chelsea Drycleaners in the laneway. This place has a mysterious vibe that will make you feel like you’re in a spy film. Low, red lighting and down-tempo hip-hop set the mood and the enthusiastic staff takes a unique approach to creating cocktails in all shapes and sizes. If you try only one, make it the 36th Chamber – a refreshing blend of dry gins, pomegranate, herbal liquor and citrus. Bar snacks are also available and drinks are flowing from 5pm until late from Tuesday to Thursday and from 4pm, Friday and Saturday. Ask a bartender for “the menu behind the menu behind the bar behind the dry cleaners” menu to unlock special drinks and discounts.