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Christchurch is the largest city on New Zealand's South Island. It is a ver important travel hub for all things to do with the South Island. If you are flying to the South Island from another country it is likely that you will end up at Christchurch International airport and if you get the ferry in from the North Island the most recognised route round the South Island would probably be to head to Christchurch maybe via Kaikoura and then pick up transport from there or hire your car/campervan from Christchurch.
Christchurch sits between the rugged east coast and the vast Canterbury plains to the west. Hence Christchurch can seem quite an exposed city for weather, when I was there it was very cold!
Christchurch is a pleasant city which is rather British in character, in fact it is said to be the most British of all the places in New Zealand and it's easy to see why. Christchurch feels very British and this is reflected in British style attractions such as punting, travelling on the tram, looking round historical buildings like the beautiful cathedral and eating in nice restaurants. Indeed many of the roads around Christchurch are linked to British cities such as Oxford, Cambridge and Manchester.
The city is very quaint and the main activites reflect this with the punting down the Avon, a wander round the botanical gardens, chilling out in pavement cafes and a trip up the Christchurch gondola among the most popular. A walking tour round the city is very pleasant so if you have a guide book look for a suggested route (the lonely planet one is good) or just simply wander round on your own accord - Christchurch city centre is fairly compact and easy to get around. The trip out to the gondola which traverses Mount Cavendish is recommended, just take a bus out there and once you make the journey up to the top you will be greeted with great views out to the coast one way and then across the Canterbury peaks the other way. The walks from here are also good with a variety of short and long walks available all taking in good views.
Make sure you visit the tourist information centre near the cathedral which gives very good advice on the sites to see in and around the city and trips you can do from here.
Christchurch is very chilled out and sedate as a city and I would definitely recommend a few days to take in its unique charm. Unlike the other places in New Zealand it doesn't really offer adrenaline fueled activites, it is more of a Salisbury if I had to compare it to an English city which is nice for a change from the rest of NZ.
The final leg of our New Zealand trip took us to the one place we always had in mind to visit. Since an old friend emigrated and took up residence just outside the city, this was always going to be a must, with the rest of the trip in many ways a filler for our real purpose here of going to see my friend. We had been told that this would be the place that would remind us most of home so we were quite intrigued as to if this was indeed the case.
Located on South Island, Christchurch is known as the most British of New Zealand cities and we found this to be the case. I certainly saw less people of Maori or Asian heritage here, although the dining seemed just as cosmopolitan as everywhere else. With a population of 344,000 it's a medium sized city by European standards. The Church of England settlement was established in 1850 and was intended to be of the same class structure as in the UK, with rich, thieving inbred morons, erm I mean landed gentry getting their hands on the decent farming land. Luckily though, as time went on, other migrants arrived and the character slowly changed, though the place still has a slightly conservative feel as a result of its past. I have a feeling this is one of the reasons many Brits emigrate to this part of the country; its often been said that this part New Zealand is a bit like the UK in the 1950s; make of that what you will!
The city centre is relatively compact and can be easily negotiated on foot, which is what we did apart from the few occasions my friend carted us around in his car to see the outskirts. We were staying close to Cathedral Square, the main square with the quite striking 18 foot high Metal Chalice sculpture, created for the new millennium. Christ Church Cathedral was built in 1881 and has some impressive features. Close to this, with access from the i-SITE tourist information centre, the Southern Encounter Aquarium & Kiwi house is an impressive collection of marine life. I was particularly impressed by the various fish tanks with explanations regarding which were native, which were imported and their effect on the environment. The highlight though was the Kiwi enclosure. Before you enter you are briefed on the shy and nocturnal nature of the kiwi, and you have to turn your mobile phones off. Then you are led to the edge of a darkened glass enclosed enclosure which is a recreation of the birds' native environment. At first we couldn't see anything in the dark. After a while something could be seen stirring at the back of the room. We assumed that would pretty much be it, but over a few minutes the kiwi hopped around, eventually coming quite close! We got a really good view of this oddly impressive creature with its wings evolved into just stubs.
The shopping area is very pleasant, with High Street in particular having some interesting looking boutiques. It's nice strolling around the main centre, and the Botanical Gardens and their interesting greenhouses offer nice scenery. We had a good look round the various gardens and had a nice coffee & cake in the visitors centre café. Various family groups could be seen canoeing around the waters. Near to the Botanical Gardens is the compact but well thought out Canterbury Museum which had particularly interesting exhibits, with a big collection of categorised stuffed birds, and an Antarctic exploration section. Christchurch is used as the gateway to the Antarctic for surveys and here you can learn about past exploits of Antarctic adventurers.
Victoria Park offers some peace & quiet in the middle of the city and will really remind you of home. Trams were active for about 50 years from 1905, and a restored tramway goes in 2 mile loop around areas of interest. We didn't do this but it did look quite nice. I don't recall seeing any gondolas punting in the Avon River flowing through the city centre but this is also possible to do.
EATING AND DRINKING
There was certainly no lack of choice in Christchurch for coffee and beer. The cool C1 Espresso (150 High Street) gave us an insight into the hip locals hanging out during the day, as well as a huge choice of tea infusions explained by knowledgeable staff. Neighbouring shops mostly consisted of trendy clothes shops. Elsewhere I tried a Banoffee Latte which really was as nice as it sounds.
One place we really liked (and made up for my Queenstown birthday nightmare) was the bar area of Poplar Street, with many bars opening onto the street competing for custom. One night we settled on the Twisted Hop and tried its many microbrewery varieties while we watched the world go by in the adjacent bars. It was a really buzzing area and I enjoyed drinking there a lot. I was intrigued by a Russian Vodka bar across the road but sadly didn't venture in. We did try the Macs Brewery Bar branch, next to the Twisted Hop, which compared favourably with the Wellington branch, though not as big. We were more than satisfied with the seafood platter we ate there. As if to remind us of our Auckland drinking experience, there also was another Belgian Beer Café (88 Armagh Street) near to Victoria Park and we couldn't resist having a Duvel there. I can vouch for its authenticity having spent some time in The Netherlands and Belgium, and this place could have been transplanted lock stock and barrel, down to the slogans written behind the bar in Flemish. I bet the moules were great if they used the huge green local mussels.
Oxford Terrace is another popular drinking area, although this looked a bit fancy to us and we didn't try any of the bars there.
As for dining, a decent, well priced lunch could be had at The High to Hereford Food Hall (266 High Street). We chose dim sum but could easily have had Greek, Japanese, Malaysian or Singaporean. Mum's 24 (728 Colombo St) offered Korean cuisine at a decent cost, evident by the many Korean students dining there, which made it exactly the kind of ethnic authentic experience I enjoy. There was a good choice of other cuisines dotted around, including Mexican, Turkish, Thai, the local fish & chips and a recommended Burmese which sadly we didn't have time to try. Intriguingly, there was another branch of Wagamama here, to go with the ones we'd seen in Auckland and Wellington. Personally I hadn't gone all that way to try what I could a mere 20 minute walk from my home, but I gather it's pretty OK.
In their home, my friend and his wife introduced us to local delights such as hokey pokey (basically Crunchie chunks) and pavlova, which the kiwis seem to be inordinately proud of, as if they had invented it (which they clearly seem to think). My tip is to not get carried away with it; my hosts warned me it seems very light until you go for seconds then you realise you're full! It is very nice though.
We stayed at the magnificent Heritage Christchurch hotel, which is the restored Old Government Building, which was excellent and there is a good choice of places to stay to suit all budgets, from campsites, hostels and guesthouses to high end hotels, many of which are walking distance to Cathedral Square. The city is apparently a bit more expensive than regional New Zealand to stay in, though.
We were actually staying some way out in the Kaiapoi area. We even managed to take part in the street BBQ where my friend lived, which gave us another insight into the friendly locals, many of whom made a special effort to come over to welcome us and tell us of their experiences in the UK, where many people seemed compelled to visit as their country of origin. We visited the close by Rangiora to go food shopping, which is apparently packed with UK expats. Nothing special there really, as it was more or less a couple of rows of shops, though special mention must go to Rangiora Bakery (http://www.rangiorabakery.com) , of which there is also a branch in Christchurch city centre, for it's delicious butter chicken pies. There are plenty of places in Canterbury worth visiting, but alas many of them require a car. Akaroa, the oldest town in Canterbury, is about a 2 hour drive away and is the site of the first French settlements. From this coastal town you can go on cruises to see dolphins, kayaking or just walk around the place. Closer to the city the International Antarctic Centre close to the airport offers information about the conditions and activities performed in the freezing conditions.
My friend took us through Lyttleton, the landing place of the Canterbury pilgrims, which looked quite pretty although we didn't stop as we were headed to the Port Hills where we got a great view over the Lyttleton Harbour and the many freight boats chugging in and out. While there was also visited Christchurch Gondola, which had a terminal in the Heathcote Valley and took us to the rim of an extinct volcano at the top of Port Hills. This gave us an all round view of the city and had a nice little coffee shop to enjoy this from in comfort.
We were also taken us to a place well known to locals, The Brew Moon Cafe and Brewery (150 Ashworths Road, Amberley, North Canterbury) which offered an excellent selection of microbrewery beers and tasty food. The beer platter was a good choice there to sample the various ales. We also managed to visit a nearby beach area which gave us a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean.
There was something fundamentally likeable about Christchurch. Perhaps it was the manageable size of the city, the proliferation of greenery or the wealth of dining and drinking options. It certainly was related to the fact that we had insider knowledge to call upon the whole time. Seeing a locals' experience always make a trip more interesting and we were lucky to have that. Whatever it was, it's somewhere I'd really like to revisit. I would certainly consider it a must in any New Zealand itinerary.
Here are a couple of useful tourism links:
Christchurch is in the Canterbury region of New Zealand's South Island and is the largest city on this island. Like the North Island's Auckland, it is a key arrival point and hub for international travellers.
Christchurch is situated close to the East coast and to the West lie the immense flat sweeps of the Canterbury plains. These vast plains feel flat, even to me, a native of East Anglia. Their main use is farmland and they require regular wind blocks of tall fences of trees to stop the topsoil from blowing away.
Named by the after Oxford's Christ Church (a college that one of the Canterbury Association went to), it was a colony sponsored by the Church of England about 150 years ago. Even today, the city centre has an extremely British in feel to it and even has a river Avon upon which you can go punting!The centre itself has the feel of a very small city, but this is deceptive as maps of the sprawling suburbs show.
It reminded me of a mixture between Oxford, Cambridge and St Andrews. Indeed, adjacent to the river on either side, the roads are called Oxford Terrace and Cambridge Terrace. This naming scheme can make navigation interesting on occasion - you start off on one road and it suddenly turns into a road with another name, then changes back again further down.
There is much for the tourist to do in Christchurch. I recommend the trams, the Botanic Gardens and the Canterbury museum in particular. I would very much like to see the Christchurch Gondola, a cable car that takes you to nearby Mount Cavendish, but it is not very convenient to access if you only have a short time in the city and are travelling by public transport. The public transport is, in my (very limited) experience very good - it was straightforward to get from the airport to the city centre by bus. The centre itself is small enough to walk around. Do take a look at the cathedral if you get an opportunity - I was lucky enough to visit when there was a carol service, to which I was immediately invited.
For accommodation, I stayed in the Copthorne Central - this was reasonably priced, comfortable and was, indeed, central. For food, I can recommend Dux De Lux, which is particularly good for vegetarian foods. From the centre, you can go on day tours to see Lord of the Rings sites, which are worth a visit if you have lots of spare money! There is even a Lord of the Rings shop in the tram station.
In conclusion, this is a very good city to go visit, even if you only have a couple of days to spare in your trip to New Zealand. It is extremely different from the rest of the country (and, sadly, has relatively little Maori influence in the city centre), so don't go for a taste of authentic New Zealand life.
Christchurch is the first city i landed in when traveling around new zealand and absolutly love the place!
In the city centre there is a big beautiful chruch, where you can go inside to have a look too! The city is also well known for its tram! The tram is a fun ride and a gentle way to view the city. The tram driver (when i last went) is from England originnaly and will spend plenty of time chatting with you telling you about the city and good places to go visit!
There are plenty of cafes and restaurants around the city to sample, from Indian, itallian, chinese, japanese and a mixture of all! these are reasonably priced.
The gardens in Christchurch are outstanding! so many beautiful flowers and trees and the walk along the river is great! very realxing way to spend you day. There are also those little long boats (cant remember the name eek) which will take you down the river, this is also worth the trip and is a unique experience!
There isnt much Maori culture in the centre of Christchurch, so it's worth exploring a little further to experience true Maori culture and traditions.
Christchurch is also a great base for exploring near by town such as lyttleton and Kaikoura, both well worth a visit! You can also catch the Tranzpennine train accross to the west side fo the island or up to picton to travel accross to the north island.
Christchurch is an 'Absolutelty Fabulous' City.It has a touch of everything for everyone. From infants to pensioners, the lifestyles are unlimited! I am personaly biased as a true blue born, and bred Kiwi,I have experienced all the life-styles from being a toddler, to a teen to a parent(except from being a pensioner that is!)Living in a safe, eco friendly enviroment, that has the benefits of a City. With beaches 15 minutes from the city centre, ski fields just over an hour away, and the superb views of the City from an ancient volcano that outskirts the Canterbury Plains below. In the Summer you can, experience from the choices of beaches, windsurfing, para-gliding, surfing the waves or relaxing on the beaches. But remember to cover up, Slip, Slop, Slap as the rays are pretty powerful. Visit the Wimakariri river where you can be thrilled with White Water Rafting or the infamous Jet Boat rides. Within the City Centre itself there are numerous parks that are safe, clean, and child friendly. Within Hagley park you can chill out, and watch the Summer festivities. Take you're children swimming in the free Swimming Pools, go punting on the River Avon with champagne, and a light lunch(very romantic), or there are always the horse drawn surry rides.The night life is diverse, and multi-cultural with the usual theme bars, you can experience Greek, Italian, Japanese, Turkish, and Irish Fare. Or try the local food on a Marae where you are fed and entertained by the local Maori(the original settlers to N.Z) The Strip is great for the young at heart with bars pumping with the latest sounds, and for those of us in search of something a little down beat with a flair, I personally recommend the Park Royal, or the CLVB both are classy Restaurant, Bar, Nightclub, scenes that value the customer who desires a personalised night out. In Winter Mt Hutt is one of the many great Ski-ing options, and only an hour or so from Christchurch by Car. Also an hour away from Christchurch
is Hamner, a small settlement with alot to offer, The local swimming pools are thermal, A bit smelly but fantastic in Winter basking in the therapeautic waters in snowfall is superb. On the way to Hamner why not Bungy Jump, "Terrifying" but thrilling! To live in or visit New-Zealand is an eclectic experience, Cantabrians (people from Canterbury, namely CH-CH)are relaxed easy going by nature. You'll feel at home with a New-Zealander! But contradicting that, to live in Christchurch, loving life, and experiencing every possible thrill seek is a life style. The outdoors, hard work, and an easy going attitude is what Cantabrians are. I guantee you will be welcomed, so let go of any inhibitions, get to know a Kiwi, and experience the true meaning of life! P.S remember that there are no real creepy crawlies in N.Z, and wildlife is limited to Opossums, so Aracnophobians relax!
Christchurch, top place. I lived there for about a year and had a great time. The place is layed out in a block formation, so is real easy to find your way around. Interesting streets. Colombo st, this is the drag strip of chch, and all the young hoons whizz up and down there at night, and especially at weekends, till they get nicked. By the way if you follow Colombo st out of town away from Bealey Ave, you go up a dirty great hill, and some windy bends. Stick with it, because when you get to the top, you can see all of chch sprawling below you, and at night it is breathtaking. Manchester street, hmm interesting, this is where the ladies of the night reside, usually toward the Bealey Ave end, I think its Hanover street that the transvestites hang out. The night life can be found at the strip in the centre of town, you can't miss it just follow the noise and happy people. Christchurch is just big enough to go out and make a totall fool of yourself, and not meet the same people the next day, but not too big to feel lost. For those of you that like strip joints, chch has its fair share, so no worries. During the day time, chch is a different place, very clean and tidy ( many a day I have walked around till night with bare feet and not had to worry, try that in England ! ) Its not called the garden city for nothing, plenty of parks all open, and city gardens make you feel at home and welcome. The river Avon runs right through the city and is a lovely place to have a picknick beside. In Hagley Park, in the summer they have Party in the park, a free concert of music and amusements, for the whole family. Public transport around is excellent, and the trams are cool. So many resterants and cafe's they are too many to mention. altough the bagel shop just off of Bealey Ave heading toward the park and it's on the left, is great. Accomodation for us, is cheap. Motels are usually about $60 to
$150, 20 to 50 pounds. Hostels are plentyfull and if you go for the smaller ones, ( which you have to book ahead ) you can get a lovely bed, sheets and all, in a room with up to 4 or so other people, for about 6 quid a night. This is by far the better option and safer too. Lots of Malls for all you shoppers out there, and plenty keep the kids happy. Kaikoura is about a couple of hours away, where you can go Dolphin and Whale watching, you have to do that ! Akaroa is good too. There are plenty of beaches and golden sand, clean sand ! Christchurch only has a population of about 300,000 so its not too crowded and I have yet to meet a nasty Kiwi. You can spend a week or more in chch and not get bored, so plan your time. There is too much to see in Kiwi and never enough time. Plan well and try to keep to a time table, that way you should atleast get to see most of what you want. Go enjoy, fall in love, I know I did. Happy days! Grizzlyj.
Christchurch is known as the garden city, with no fewer than 16 parks the floral displays are breathtaking and beautiful. A warm welcome awaits you wherever you venture, even strangers stop you in the street to welcome you to their city. The cathedral which dominates the centre of the city is very impressive and provides an ideal starting point for a tour of the city, along with the old fashioned tram that trundles around the streets. The standard of accommodation is excellent wherever you go, and good value for money. There are restaurants a plenty to choose from, a three course carvery costs around £5 a head, or you may prefer to sample more exotic food from Thai to Irish. Christchurch is served by a large international airport which is only 15 minutes drive from the city centre. The main thing that impressed me about this beautiful city was how wheelchair friendly it is. No matter where you go in the city wheelchairs are catered for, even public transport, the local buses all have ramps and spaces on board for wheelchairs, a refreshing change in this day and age. All in all christchurch has something for every traveller, whilst keeping its old world charm and individuality.
Christchurch is a wonderful place, especially to party! Apart from the groovy nightclubs, there's one pub that I loved so much and can't even remember the name of.... I bet that happens to the best of us! This particular pub however, has an Irish name and plays brilliant Irish music, and has great live bands! I swear.. the whole floor was bouncing! Christchurch is one of the main cities in New Zealand and it does have an International airport. The city itself is quite flat so feel free to walk for miles! In the city centre you can see the towns 'Wizard' predict the weather or just watch him try and cast magical spells. You may think that he's a bit of a nutcase but he's a 'mascot' of Christchurch and will never disappear like magicians normally do! You can also climb the many steps up to the top of the Cathedral where the view of Christchurch is absolutely spectacular! It takes 6 hours to drive to Invercargill, so that's six hours to reach the bottom of the earth! The beaches surrounding Christchurch are sandy, clean and semi-cold. (Remember.. this is the deep down Pacific Ocean) Take a little drive out to Littleton and see the harbour, also where Micheal J. Fox filmed the Frighteners.. a great movie! There are plenty of things to do and see in Christchurch, including a car trip to see the Moeraki Bolders. These are big canon type balls that have been sitting on the beach for thousands of years. Some believe that they were actually a living creatures that had been swept up on the beach by the sea's current and fossilised. Believe what you will, but they are certainly a rare vision at any beach!
Christchurch is the regional capital of Canterbury, New Zealand. It is the largest city in the South Island, as well as the second largest city in the country.