20 July 2015

10 things to do in Christchurch, New Zealand

Christchurch broke our hearts. 4 years after the 2011 6.3 magnitute earthquake, there are still families affected by the violent tectonic shaking and insurance companies running out of budget to get them back on their feet. Every where you walk through the quiet city there are reminders of the devastation – a half standing Cathedral surrounded by fallen masonry, orange construction cones barring entry and staircases leading to nowhere.

On the flipside, the ‘number-8’ wire sensibility – the particularity Kiwi knack for making do and succeeding with whatever is to hand (and if you’re a farmer it’s usually 8-gauge fencing wire) – is everywhere. Take the surprisingly beautiful Cardboard Cathedral, the stunning murals painted on the exposed walls of buildings, wire fences set with colourful patterning and the ReStart mall made from shipping containers.

10 things to do in Christchurch New Zealand

Most tourists use Christchurch as a journey point to the rest of the South Island – somewhere to collect a rental car, as a relaxing day in-between rushing from mud geysers in the North to glaciers in the South and a place to stock up on supplies for extended roadtrips down the wild, winding West Coast.



10 things to do in Christchurch New Zealand

As non-car drivers – ok, ok, that’s a lie as I can drive but are too chicken to - we decided that it wasn’t worth risking over-planning and relying on unconnected public transport to shepherd us around on a tight schedule along the country to Queenstown. Instead we thought we’d spend a few days getting to know Christchurch a little better. Slow travel I believe is the buzz phrase. We travelled a little slower than planned, but hey, sometimes that’s the joy of life.

With 3 days to spend in this small city, known as the English Garden of New Zealand, we planned for one day to explore, one for catching the Transalpine Express to Greymouth and back, and one whale watching in Kaikoura, before an early morning flight took us to family hugs in Tauranga.

10 things to do in Christchurch New Zealand

Our plans became slightly awry due to after effects of a strong storm battering New Zealand, so we discovered a little more of Christchurch than we had planned (thanks also to a tour operator forgetting to tell us of a tour cancellation) but it meant we really discovered New Zealand's second largest cities. When you go though, make sure you're searching Christchurch, New Zealand - google kept recommending hotels in England which could have made life a little complicated...

1. Take a romantic picnic and get a bit lost in the Botanic Gardens.
We didn't mean to get lost, but it was lovely to wander amidst the carefully selected rose garden, groves of trees and slightly wild sections of New Zealand flora and fauna.


Christchurch Botanic Gardens New Zealand

Christchurch Botanic Gardens New Zealand
 Christchurch Botanic Gardens New Zealand

2. Meander through the fascinating collections of Canterbury Museum. 
Completely free, the Canterbury Museum was a lovely hour or so that we learned about New Zealand history, Antarctic expeditions (as kids at Primary School we would have conference calls with scientists living in the sub-arctic continent as New Zealand is the closest country) and were really surprised at the variety of exhibitions.


3. Discover the quiet gems of the city on the picture perfect tram route.
We were charmed by the friendly drivers, the immaculately kept historic trams and the fact that they're so low tech that at one particular junction you have to flip the back of your seat over to turn the other way around.

 Christchurch Tourist Tram New Zealand

Christchurch Tourist Tram New Zealand

4. Try the most delicious bacon sandwich you'll ever find in a shipping container.
Go to the ReStart mall, flag down a table at Hummingbird Coffee and order their bacon & egg sandwich. A perfect brunch pick me up.

10 things to do in Christchurch Coffee and cafes  10 things to do in Christchurch Coffee and cafes

10 things to do in Christchurch Coffee and cafes

5. Spot a green sheep and go on an art hunt.
Not content with letting a stereotype die (my home country had a 12 sheep to 1 human ratio at one stage), the vehicle bollards in Christchurch are beautifully funky Sheep.

10 things to do in Christchurch Art walks

Beautiful murals have started to line bare walls.

10 things to do in Christchurch Art Murals

10 things to do in Christchurch Art Murals

Even the construction barriers have been made beautiful.

10 things to do in Christchurch Art Murals

...and some of the art is intriguingly surreal.

10 things to do in Christchurch Art Murals

6. Drink Wizard approved coffee.
Christchurch has a bevy of coffee shops coming back to life phoenix-like; some as temporary pop-ups, some on their original premises and a few in brand new re-incarnations.
 10 things to do in Christchurch Coffee and cafes

10 things to do in Christchurch Coffee and cafes

7. Admire the temporary ingenuity of the Cardboard Cathedral.
Designed by architect Shigeru Ban and seating around 700 people, the transitional Anglican Cathedral was set up in 2013 to act as a (controversial) civic and concert venue.

Cardboard Cathedral 10 things to do in Christchurch New Zealand

Cardboard Cathedral 10 things to do in Christchurch New Zealand 
 Cardboard Cathedral 10 things to do in Christchurch New Zealand

Cardboard Cathedral 10 things to do in Christchurch New Zealand

8. Take in a spot of Theatre or watch buildings as they are re-constructed before your very eyes.

10 things to do in Christchurch New Zealand


9. Perhaps take a punt along the river.

10 things to do in Christchurch River New Zealand
 10 things to do in Christchurch River New Zealand

10. And last of all, remember.


...and these are all before we get to the jaw-dropping scenery!

Have you been to Christchurch (UK or NZ)?

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