While you’re here, you won’t want to miss –
Two devastating earthquakes in September 2010 and February 2011 have not daunted the people of Christchurch, NZ’s second-largest city. Much of the neo-gothic architecture was destroyed along with other buildings in the central city and some eastern suburbs.
Rising in their place are buildings that display the optimism and courage of “Cantabrians,” the people of the city and the wider environs of Canterbury. As the city rebuilds, new attractions join many of the pre-earthquake things to do in Christchurch to make a stop here on your vacation a must do.
Imagine a cardboard Cathedral, pop-up shopping precincts and transitional city projects. They’re real, and they’re happening, along with vibrant public art and amenities and eye-catching temporary shops and commercial enterprises.
Many of Christchurch’s familiar activities and traditions continue to be enjoyed – relax in a punt as you’re propelled down the Avon River by an experienced boatman while enjoying the weeping willow trees, water birds and beautiful views.
A must see while you’re in Christchurch is the Canterbury Museum’s Quake City exhibit in the Re:Start container mall. You’ll learn of the geological events that led to the disasters and the Maori legends that foretold them in a multi-sensory and informative exhibit you won’t forget.
The spirits of the locals are buoyant with hope and optimism for the future. Christchurch is both new and old – and the places and activities that have excited visitors in the past are still there to thrill and entertain.
The “Garden City” is headlined by two great floral festivals each year. The Festival of Flowers is held in February and the Ellerslie International Flower Show is held in North Hagley Park in early March – optimum times of the year for spectacular blooms.
In addition, the Botanic Gardens have one of the finest collections of exotic and indigenous plants in the country. The gardens are partly enclosed by a loop of the pretty Avon River and crisscrossed by bridges.
Head over to the Travis Wetland Heritage Park – almost 300 acres of lowland freshwater wetland located in the city. Managed by the Christchurch City Council and the Travis Wetland Trust, volunteers have reclaimed farmland to restore the wetland’s features to pre-European settler conditions. The wetland is now home to 35 native bird species and many pre-European plants. Strolling along the walking track takes a bit more than an hour.
For something completely different, the International Antarctic Center gives visitors an interactive and exciting experience of the southern continent. Many Antarctic missions are organized from here, so the Center is designed to give visitors a chance to experience this remote area. Highlights include a penguin colony which can be viewed either from outdoors or downstairs in the pool auditorium.
To see the city in its entirety, take a gondola ride to the top of the Port Hills. You’ll be carried more than a half-mile to the collapsed crater rim of an extinct volcano that exploded 6 million years ago.
View the harbor and Lyttelton, Christchurch’s port. To the west, the Southern Alps seem closer than they really are and to the east, the ocean views are endless. If you feel up to it, return via the walkway, or by road. Either way, the views are magnificent.
Many of Christchurch’s best known restaurants closed because of the earthquake. Thankfully, others are in the process of rebuilding or relocating, while more have popped up in a different guise.
Under The Red Verandah has moved into a new home in Linwood. Featuring fresh, local, organic and gluten-free baking, it’s well worth the 30 minute walk from town. For other dining choices, ask the locals where the new or transient “pop-ups” are – you’ll love the enthusiasm and exuberance of these entrepreneurs who are keeping the city going.
More to See in Canterbury
The province of Canterbury, with Christchurch at its center, stretches from the Southern Alps to the Pacific Ocean, and so encompasses a huge variety of things to see and do, from perusing the markets to sampling excellent cafes and bistros, from catching up at the free WiFi spots to wandering the beautiful parks and gardens.
If you like to be out and about, there is much to enjoy – horse trekking, day tours into the Southern Alps by 4WD and jet boat, balloon flights over Canterbury, and white-water rafting.
The Adrenalin Forest challenges thrill-seekers with its multi-level aerial obstacle course of rope bridges, Tarzan swings and flying foxes reached from platforms constructed in the forest canopy. For Hobbit fans and scenery-lovers, there are also Lord of the Rings tours into the high country of the Southern Alps.
Christchurch is a city in transition, with plenty of things to see and do. No matter whether the venue is historical, transitional or brand spanking new and contemporary, you’ll love the enthusiasm you’ll find.