2 DAYS IN // Christchurch, New Zealand

Like a phoenix that is not quite ready to fly, Christchurch is, currently, not a “must do” on the tourist trail. We spent two nights and one full day there at the end of March 2017 and that seemed plenty.

It has been six years since the last large earthquake and there is regeneration happening all over the city centre. To our eyes it seemed disjointed and as a visitor I would have loved to see a scale model of what the planners have in mind. I have no doubt that in ten years’ time a beautiful city will emerge from the ashes of the earthquakes, but at present the city is a building site. Nevertheless, there are still things to see and do in one of New Zealand’s largest cities.


IMG_1748Views of the damaged Cathedral.

Magnificent 7 // Christchurch, New Zealand

1. Explore Canterbury Museum

2. Stroll around the Botanical Gardens

3. Take a walking tour

4. Relax on New Regent Street

5. Visit the Cardboard Cathedral

6. Take in the White Chairs installation

7. Shop at the Re:Start Container Mall

Getting there –

We drove from the West Coast through the Lewis Pass and Arthur’s Pass to Christchurch. Details in my South Island blog (coming soon!).

Where we stayed –

We stayed at the Novotel in the City Centre. Good location and car parking next door for $12 a day. Rooms were OK, not very personable, big and bland. Breakfast very expensive.

To Eat and Drink –

Seasons coffee house at the Junction Arcade near the tram stop served great breakfasts. Terrific service. Good prices. Recommended.

Café Stir on New Regent Street served good spaghetti dishes.

To note –

Parking in the city centre can be expensive.  The Novotel wanted to charge $35 for each 24 hours.  The car park on waste ground literally 10 metres away costs $12 for all day and all night.  The only way to get a 24 hours ticket was to pay by card, otherwise you had to be back at the carpark to feed money in the meter at 0930.

Re:START Container Mall – This is empty in the evening and the food outlets close late afternoon.  It is quite eerie in the evening.

Magnificent 7

1. Explore Canterbury Museum

Situated in the city centre on Rolleston Avenue since 1870, the museum undertook a 10-year earthquake-strengthening project that was completed in 1995. Consequentially the Museum only lost 3% of its collections during the earthquakes. Why we rated this museum so highly was Anthony, the museum guide on the 3pm free tour, who led us through the museum, stopping at various exhibits. In an hour we received a condensed history of both New Zealand and Christchurch. There were rare Maori artifacts, an Antarctic gallery, an interactive Victorian street scene as well as some unusual exhibits (e.g. an open Egyptian sarcophagus with an x-ray of the mummy inside). An added bonus was the Air New Zealand exhibition (far more interesting than it sounds!) that charted the rise of the airline, had examples of cabins from the past as well as a virtual reality demonstration of what flight could be like in the future. Terrific.

2. Stroll around the Botanical Gardens

Alongside the River Avon in central Christchurch, the Botanical Gardens are a lovely green space, giving rise to Christchurch’s nickname as the Garden City. The Gardens cover a large space and are beautiful. There is an extensive range of formal gardens as well as various conservatories and a New Zealand Garden featuring native species. Nice Visitor Centre.


3. Take a walking tour

This was a free tour by a local, Michael who had a penchant for ending every sentence with ‘sweet’. Not the best tour we have been on, but we saw the main sites and learned about the devastation caused by the earthquakes. Worth doing to get reference points for things you may want to see later. Sweet.

4. Relax on New Regent Street

This relatively short pedestrianised street has Spanish-style architecture and calming pastel coloured buildings. Full of boutique shops, coffee houses and restaurants, this is a pleasant area to spend a few hours.


5. Visit the Cardboard Cathedral

The former Cathedral was badly damaged and there does not seem to be a clear consensus as to whether to pull it down and rebuild it or to repair it. In the meantime, Christchurch has a Transitional ‘Cardboard’ Cathedral designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. It is not made completely of cardboard, however cardboard tubes are used in the construction. The separate spire situated in the park opposite fits on the top of the Cathedral when you stand in the right place in the park, however a tree in full bloom somewhat spoils the effect. It would work in winter. It is well worth the time to visit and read the story behind the church (and its stained glass window).


6. Take in the White Chairs Memorial

There are 185 white chairs that include a baby’s car seat, a high chair, a wheelchair, various armchairs and dining room chairs each representing one of the 185 lives lost in the 2011 earthquake. The chairs are on 185 square metres of grass where a church once stood. It is a poignant installation and memorial.


7. Shop at the Re:START container mall

When the earthquakes struck the city centre shopping areas were destroyed. Re:START is a temporary shopping mall built with colourful shipping containers. There are mainly boutique shops (we also found a bank ATM in a container as well). Worth a look.


Lessons Learnt!

Christchurch city centre is being rebuilt from its foundations. All the underground facilities were damaged and it is taking a long time to get the city regenerated for the future.  But there are glimpses of the phoenix rising.

Fun fact: C1 Espresso on the corner of High and Tuam Streets uses a pneumatic tube delivery system to deliver burgers to diners’ tables.

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