The area of Redcliffs was first populated by humans about 700 years ago. In the 14th century, large groups of Māori, initially the Waitaha people and then the Ngāti Māmoe tribe, settled in the area. The Ngāi Tahu eventually displaced Ngāti Māmoe and were still living in the area when the first Europeans arrived.
During 19th excavations of Moa Bone Point Cave in Redcliffs numerous artefacts were found. These included moa bones and egg shells, bones of seals, birds and fish, shellfish and many Māori taonga. This suggests that Moa Bone Point Cave was used as shelter by the first Māori people but also used as a place to store valuable items.
The suburb is most directly accessed from the city centre by a causeway that crosses the Avon Heathcote Estuary and is the suburb immediately before Sumner. Alternatively, Redcliffs can be accessed through McCormack's Bay Road, which circles the perimeter of the Avon Heathcote Estuary. The coastal road from Redcliffs to Sumner allows for further access to the port and suburb of Lyttelton and the Port Hills, and an alternative—if long—route to the city centre.
Redcliffs is characterised by rocky, hilly geography and has many natural caves in its sides. The domineering cliffs of Redcliffs are a snapshot of the region's volcanic origins. The cliffs are tinged with veins of red tephra, and composed of 'A'ā lava flows; the suburb draws its name from this the most notable of its physical features.
Barnett Park, open to public access, and a product of the earliest council recreation planning in the wider Christchurch region, is located in Redcliffs. The suburb also hosts a bowling green, and a smaller park adjacent to the estuary which bears the suburb's name, Redcliffs Park.
2011 Christchurch earthquake
In contrast to the September 2010 earthquake, Redcliffs and the surrounding hills suffered significant damage in the 22 February 2011 earthquake. Dozens of houses were deemed unliveable and hundreds more damaged. There was a large scale evacuation of several streets in Redcliffs at 10pm on Thursday, 24 February after some cliffs surrounding Redcliffs were deemed unstable. The following morning, a few streets or partial streets remained cordoned off but many people were able to return to their homes immediately.
By 7 March, detailed geotechnical inspections of the affected land inside the remaining cordons began with a view to removing them. They were removed on 8 March.
In the meanwhile, Redcliffs citizens experiencing a near-total information-vacuum from officialdom launched a local information centre on 26 February, followed by a regular newsletter from 27 February, followed by two support websites.
On 2 March, Redcliffs resident Peter Hyde launched a viral call to encourage more support, especially key supplies and information, for the worst affected Eastern suburbs of Christchurch. In particular those to the north of Redcliffs such as Parklands, Aranui, Bromley, Avonside, Bexley and New Brighton.
The local school, Redcliffs School, was temporarily relocated to Van Asch Deaf Education Centre, 4.5 km from the original Main Rd site after the June 2011 aftershock. This decision came after concerns of the safety of pupils as the cliffs behind the school became unstable. In 2015 and 2016, Redcliffs School faced the risk of closure due to the risk of further disruption. After community backlash, it was decided to build a new site in Redcliffs Park, across the road from the original site. It is expected to open in the beginning of 2020. 
- "About Redcliffs » Redcliffs Residents Association". redcliffs.org.nz. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
- "Te Ana o Hineraki — Moa Bone Point Cave". my.christchurchcitylibraries.com. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
- CCC, 1984
- Real Estate Institute of New Zealand
- "Television | Scoop News". Scoop.co.nz. Retrieved 14 August 2013.
- "BBC News - New Zealand earthquake: Hopes fade for 200 missing". Bbc.co.uk. 24 February 2011. Retrieved 14 August 2013.
- Hyde, Peter. "Tuesday March 8, 6pm". Redcliffs Community NewsSheet. Webcentre Ltd. Retrieved 8 March 2011.
- Hyde, Peter. "Redcliffs Community NewsSheet" (PDF). Redcliffs Community NewsSheet #1. Webcentre Ltd.
- "Redcliffs Community NewsSheet - Webcentre Ltd". Webcentre.co.nz. Retrieved 14 August 2013.
- Hyde, Peter. "Christchurch Quake - More Action Needed in Eastern Suburbs Right Now". Webcentre.co.uk.
- "Christchurch's Redcliffs School move to be fast tracked". Stuff. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
- Admin. "Principal's Welcome". Redcliffs School. Retrieved 30 September 2019.