Welcome to Christchurch, the biggest city in the South Island. In 2011, it was shaken up and beaten up by a terrible earthquake. The town centre was practically destroyed and many, many people were made homeless. However, Cantabrians are a hardy and resilient bunch, and Christchurch is fresh and thriving once again. With the majestic Southern Alps as a backdrop, Christchurch is the perfect place to use as a base for your excursions or spend a weekend away. Check out our guide on how to spend a ripper couple of days in the fair Garden City.
Now, if you intend to become a veritable sponge of culture, soak in all the sights that Christchurch has to offer and immerse yourself in a few activities, then it’s imperative that you wrap yourself around the outside of a good breakfast (or brunch, if you’ve set your sleeping pattern to holiday mode). Christchurch has heaps of options when it comes to stoking up the fire after it’s been banked for the night. Why not grab one of the best artisan cups of coffee in town at The Caffeine Laboratory, followed by a hearty breakfast — our pick is the “mushroom medley” — at Addington Coffee Co-op.
Reflection by the River
Once you’re fed and watered, why not take a leisurely stroll over to the Canterbury National Earthquake Monument, which is located by the River Avon. It might sound like a bit of a gloomy first option, but the spot by the river is very pretty, and with a delicious breakfast sitting in the tum, reading the names of the 185 people who lost their lives is a poignant reminder of how lucky we are and how quickly things can change.
Montreal St, Christchurch Central +64 3-357 6300
Go Punting on the Avon
New Zealand meets England meets Venice! This is a really splendid way to see the city. You’ll be sitting and taking your ease as your Edwardian-garbed (think striped blazer and straw boater hat) punter guides you smoothly down the Avon River in your handcrafted flat-bottomed boat, pointing out the many interesting sights along the way. This is a fantastic option even in the winter; you’ll be supplied with umbrellas, blankets and even hot-water bottles should you need them. Punting is a great way to give that breakfast time to digest, whilst ticking off a bit of sightseeing.
2 Cambridge Terrace, Christchurch Central +64 3-366 0337
Take a Stroll in the Botanic Gardens
The Christchurch Botanic Gardens is like all great botanic gardens around NZ and provides a welcome and lush oasis in the middle of the city. A couple of hours will easily slide by here as you meander your way along. Obviously, there are plenty of species of native and exotic plants to have a gander at. There is the Central Rose Garden, Temperate Asian Collection, Vegetable and Herb Garden, Peacock Fountain, New Zealand Icon Garden and Water Garden to name but a few of the attractions to take a look at.
Rolleston Ave, Christchurch City Centre +64 3-941 8999
The key to any good day of sightseeing is to keep the strength up. There’s nothing worse than when you’re in the middle of some enlightening tour and the old stomach starts barking and growling. Strengthening meals are the key then. Utilise these strategic stops to experience some more of Chirstchurch’s culinary delights. Bacon Brothers for burgers, Zen Sushi and Dumplings or Dux Dine for a lovely nosh of seafood are all certain winners. However, it’s hard to beat Dimitris for a healthy, cheap and filling Greek lunch, and conveniently he is located at the next stop in our guide.
Retail Therapy at Christchurch Container Mall
After you’ve filled the tank again, take some time and look around Christchurch Container Mall. This is a brilliant, bohemian mall made entirely of shopping containers, and stands on the site of the mall that was destroyed in the 2011 earthquake. Get your shopping fix at the boutique stores and independent food venues.
After a bit of shopping and browsing and nibbling, it’s time to get cultural again. Head over to Durham Street and Quake City. This attraction exhibits items damaged in the quake and explains the destruction caused, tells stories of bravery and locals working together.
299 Durham Street North, Christchurch Central +64 3-365 8375
Finish your afternoon by taking the easy 15-minute drive out to the Christchurch Gondola. You can also catch a shuttle from outside the Canterbury Museum if you’re
lacking wheels. The gondola itself takes 10 minutes from the base in Heathcote Valley to the Summit Station. The views are spectacular and unique views of the city.
Christchurch is teeming with excellent dining options. Check out our guide to help narrow the search.
Christchurch Rebuild Tour
After another scrumptious breakfast/brunch, hop on this ninety-minute bus tour and get reacquainted with the layout of the city. It’ll give you more insight into the earthquake, what had to be done to salvage the city, and the plans for Christchurch’s future. The buses depart from outside Canterbury Museum at 11:30 a.m.
International Antarctic Centre
This fascinating, interactive and one of a kind experience is unmissable whilst you’re in the Garden City. It is the only place in the world — unless your next vacation is going to be Antarctica itself — where you can experience an Antarctic storm. Wearing the provided specialty clothing you can feel what it’s like to be in the midst of an icy, freezing storm. It’s fantastic. What with the Hagglund ride and watching the Blue Penguins, you should budget a good three hours here.
38 Orchard Rd, Christchurch Airport, Christchurch +64 3-357 0519
A Round of Golf
Why not walk off lunch with a round of the gentleman’s sport. There is quite the selection of golf courses in and around Christchurch. If you fancy being outside, and indulging in nine or 18 of the best, then the simply named Christchurch Golf Club is a fine bet, although you really can’t go wrong.
45 Horseshoe Lake Rd, Shirley, Christchurch +64 3-385 9506
A Last Shot of Culture
No visit to Christchurch would be complete without a walk past the Cathedral. After you’ve taken in this Christchurch icon, make your way to Canterbury Museum where you can have a look at Antarctic and Maori focused exhibitions. Once your cultural hunger has been sated, it’s time to pick another winning restaurant and enjoy a your last dinner in the Garden City.