When people think of Christchurch they immediately think of Earthquakes – or more specifically the 7.1 on the Richter Scale Earthquake that occurred in September 2010, and the one 6.3 magnitude Earthquake that occurred on the 22nd February 2011 and the aftershocks that followed.

The 2010 Earthquake certainly shook the city, but it was the 2011 Earthquake that destroyed around 80% of the city centre’s building including Christchurch Cathedral and a 6 storey building that housed the TV station. Some 1300 building in the city were destroyed, and 185 people were killed in the quake.

Today the City is still suffering the effects of the devastation, but there is a new sense of City pride, creativity and community happening too- and Christchurch is once again a city that should be high on your list of cities to visit.

When you fly into Christchurch or take off from the International or Domestic Terminal in Christchurch you get a fantastic view of the vast patchwork of green paddocks and farm houses on the Canterbury Plains, and then shortly after the Alps come into view. It is definitely worth getting a window seat if you can for the stunning panorama below you.

In Christchurch City there is a lot to see and also being so close to the coast but also the Southern Alps and ski fields – there is also a lot of places to see and travel to that are all close by including Mt Hutt Ski Fields, Methven Ski Resort as well as Mt Cook all relatively close to Christchurch.

Christchurch City –

Christchurch has a population of around 340,000, so quite a big city by New Zealand standards, and there is a lot to see and do. These are some of the places to visit –

  • Cathedral Square – was and is the centre of Christchurch where the Cathedral and other buildings around it were either totally or mostly destroyed. It is again open to visit and see the work that is being undertaken to restore the City Centre.
  • Tram – the beautiful old trams have been restored and travel from 7 Tramway lane in the city centre to stops at some of the main city attractions – including the Avon River, and Botanic Gardens. See tram.co.nz
  • Punting on the Avon River – a great way to see and feel the vibe of the City. The punts leave from the Antigua Boat Sheds, 2 Cambridge Terrace (Tel: 3-366 0337). The punts and the Boatshed have both been a feature of Christchurch since 1882, and rowing the small wooden boats, or lying back while someone else rows and just enjoying the Avon a great way to gain an appreciation for Christchurch. (See boatsheds.co.nz ) . You can also hire bikes here too.
  • Open Top Bus – travels to many of the City’s main Tourist attractions with a commentary to explain what you are seeing.
  • TRAIN TRIPS – To see parts of New Zealand’s East Coast – catch the Coastal Pacific Train that travels from Christchurch to Picton along the coast, crossing 175 bridges as it travels north. To see the Southern Alps and travel to Greymouth on the west coast through Arthurs Pass – catch the Tranz Alpine train – both great Train journeys to take.
  • Cardboard Cathedral – 234 Hereford St (See cardboardcathedral.org.nz ) was built when the main Cathedral suffered massive damage in the Earthquake. This is well worth seeing to gain an insight into what can be achieved through both imagination and the human spirit.
  • Botanic Gardens and ‘The Caterpillar Tour’– Travel on the Electric open seat vehicles (caterpillars) Hop on/hop on as you travel around the gardens that first opened in 1863. The trip takes almost a full hour to see the Gardens which have the Avon River flowing around the perimeter and next door is Hagley Park also bounded by the Avon River – a large open space with old English trees, lots of grass and pathways, sporting and play areas. Victoria Lake is also here too where you can feed the ducks.
  • Christchurch Art Gallery – was partially destroyed in the Earthquake, but the museum has temporary places to display some of their artistic work. Check with the Visitor’s centre in Rolleston Street.
  • Christchurch Casino – was New Zealand’s first casino when it was built in 1994. Here you will find gaming tables and also restaurants and other entertainment.
  • Gondola Cable cars – travel from 10 Bridle Path Rd, Healthcote to the summit of Mt Cavendish for great views over the city and countryside. See gondola.co.nz
  • International Antarctica Centre – 38 Orchard Rd, near the Airport (See www.iceberg.co.nz) . You can catch the Penguin Express bus to the Centre, and here you will experience and get to understand the Antarctica.
  • Hanmer Springs – is a white water adventure on the Waiau River about 1 ½ hours from Christchurch. (See thrillseekers.co.nz). There is a shuttle bus to take you from Christchurch (Tel: 0800 242 663) and the Adventure starts at 839 Hanmer Springs Rd, Hanmer Springs. Also in Hanmer Springs there is the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa, and over 50 kilometres of walking and bike tracks, as well as horse riding and 4WD adventure drives to do. Mt Lyford and Mt Terako ski fields are about 75 kilometres from Hanmer Springs.
  • Ferrymead Heritage Park – 81 Ferrymead Park Drive, Heathcote – a recreation of a 1900’s small town with a tram, steam train, station, houses, shops, church, gaol and a whole lot more. See ferrymead.org.nz Tel: 3- 384 1970.
  • Willowbank Wildlife Reserve & Ko Tane Living Maori Village – 60 Hussey Rd, Northwood. ( See willowbank.co.nz ) to see some of New Zealand’s amazing wildlife.
  • Orana Wildlife Park – McLeans Island Rd (See oranawildlifepark.co.nz) . This is an open range zoo/park.
  • Manaia Native Habitat – 287 Okuti Valley Rd, Little River on the Banks Peninsula – a place to find original native forest, and the birds that live here. (Tel: 3 325 1014)
  • Canterbury Museum – Rolleston Avenue, next to North Hagley Park. One of the best collections and information sources in New Zealand. See canterburymuseum.com
  • Air Force Museum – 45 Harvard Ave Wigram. See airforcemuseum.co.nz
  • Okains Bay Maori and Colonial Museum – about an hour from Christchurch on the Banks Peninsula on Okains Bay Rd, Okains Bay (See okainsbaymuseum.com Tel: 3-304 8611.
  • Yaldhurst Museum – 26 Schools Rd, Yaldhurst in Christchurch. A car museum with over 160 great cars to see ( See yaldhurstmuseum.co.nz Tel: 3-342 7914)
  • Frensham Gardens – 139 Old Tai Tapu Rd. See frensham.co.n Tel: 3- 3228061. You need to phone to book a tour of this beautifully designed garden.
  • North Hagley Park – is next to the Botanic Gardens
  • Riccarton House and Bush – 16 Kahu Rd, Riccarton (Tel: 3- 348 6184) Two houses including Riccardon House and Deans Cottage set in a large garden that has a 600 year old Kihikatea tree and well as many other trees and garden areas.
  • Wineries – head to Waipara, about 45 minutes from Christchurch to see over 100 different wineries in the Waipara area. There are also Olive Groves, lavender farms and nuts being grown here, and on Sundays the 1882 Weka Pass Railway operates.

Christchurch is certainly a beautiful city surrounded by hills, the harbour, Canterbury Plains and beaches and coastline. In winter there are the ski fields not far away, and in summer there are the beaches – some of the best being Redcliffs, Sumner and Waimari Beaches, and then there are the hills – Port Hills being one of the main attractions. Port Hills has mountain bike trails as well as walking trails, and being so close to Christchurch makes it very popular with locals as well as tourists.
Then of course there is Lyttelton and its Harbour, and the Banks Peninsula to see too – all close to Christchurch.

Lyttelton – and Lyttelton Harbour are only a short distance out of Christchurch with the two separated by a 2 kilometre long tunnel that runs under the mountains. Lyttelton has a population of around 3000 people, and is where cruise liners dock when coming to Christchurch. Besides the small town and its cafés and eating places, there is also a Ferry Service that can take you to Quail Island, just off-shore. This small island was once a Leper Colony, and then for a time it was used by Antarctica Explorers, Captain Robert Falcon Scott(1868-1912), Ernest Shackleton(1874-1922) and Robert Byrd (1888- 1957)as a Quarantine Station and also for training Russian Sled dogs and Manchurian ponies before setting out on their Antarctic expeditions. The Quarantine Station was operational between 1901 and 1929. The concrete base remnants of the original kennels can still be seen on the island.

The Ferry Service (See www.blackcat.co.nz for timetables and destinations) which has operated since 1888 will also take you from the B Jetty Wharf in Lyttelton to the other side of the Harbour to Diamond Harbour – and the ferry ride, harbour and also landscape around you make for a good trip. Also the Company can take you to see Hector Dolphins too, and there are lots of walking trails of both short and longer distances to go on.

Akaroa – is on the Banks Peninsula and was the original French Settlement in New Zealand (see New Zealand History section of this website). There are still street names in French and Akaroa is about 80 kilometres by road from Christchurch. The road takes you to Little River, and then through mountainous roads so takes about an hour and a half to get there, but it is worth the trip and also staying over if you can. In Akaroa there are all the water sports and activities – from sea kayaking, yachting, sail boarding, swimming, jet skiing, paddle boarding and also great walks, horse riding, quad bike rides and tours organised by a number of companies. Look for interesting historic houses, farm stays and bed and breakfast places, and check out the Akaroa Museum, churches, Giant’s Cottage (68 Rue Balguerie ), Barry’s Bay Cheeses and the Hector Dolphin Cruises, as well as the Pohatu-Flea Bay little Penguin Colony. Good food and coffee too is a bonus!

Kaikoura –

Kaikoura is 180 kilometres north of Christchurch in a stunning location – with deep ocean on one side of a peninsula with high cliffs and inlets, the Canterbury Plains and then a backdrop of the snow top Kaikoura ranges. You can stand on the Esplanade and look out to the ocean or turn and look to the mountains behind you.

Just off-shore the ocean drops into a deep 2000 metre deep channel, which attracts whales, dolphins, seals and other wildlife to the region – with lots of tour operators providing whale watching, dolphin spotting and other scenic wonders from boats but also aircraft too. Great fishing, diving and other water sports are all here too, with mountain climbing, the Kaikoura Track walk along the coastline and even Llama Trekking all available.

To appreciate this great little town of around 3500 people, head to Fyffe House on the top of the Peninsula at 62 Avoca Street, or take a Maori Culture Tours (See www.maoritours.co.nz ), and for a unique experience swim with seals at 50 West End (See www.sealsswimkaitoura.co.nz)

ALSO SEE – Ski Resorts including Mt Cook on a separate section of this website.

Happy Travelling!

Geoff Stuart

Happy Traveller

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