One of the largest cities in New Zealand, Christchurch is known for its breathtakingly beautiful parks, gardens, and old historical buildings. However, in recent years the city has been the unfortunate target of a natural disaster. Two massive earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 resulted in the demolishment of almost 80% of its buildings in the historical city center. However, Christchurch has bounced back with strong resilience. Don’t be deterred by the sight of large scale construction that you see around you, it’s just the symbol of the city getting back on its feet. Scratch below the surface and you’ll be quite astonished by all there is to discover about this beautiful place.
Covering an extensive area of over 30 hectares, a stroll through the riverside botanic gardens is a special Christchurch experience. Spring is probably the best time to visit the gardens when a variety of flowers are in full bloom. There are thematic gardens where visitors can enjoy the thrill of discoveries, lawns on which you can relax and a playground for the kids. A cafe and gift shop are also located here.
This compact museum is a great place for understanding the devastating impact of the Canterbury earthquake. Photographs and video footage tell tragic stories of the destruction caused by the earthquake. On display are also the remnants of the cathedral’s celebrated rose window and other debris. The highlight of a visit here is the poignant film that recounts first-hand experiences of survivors.
Christchurch Art Gallery
It’s hard to imagine the shiny Christchurch Art Gallery was also one of the unfortunate victims of the earthquakes. For those who appreciate art, the recently renovated gallery is a beautiful place to spend some time. The collection is a mix of traditional and contemporary, showcasing both local and international work. Light installations and interactive sculptures add to the experience.
Riccarton House & Bush
Spread out over 25 acres, the historic Historic Riccarton House that was built in 1856 is an interesting place to visit. Flanked by pretty parkland and forest just beside the Avon River, this place is a treat. The restaurant on the ground floor attracts many customers but the small patch of bush behind the house is the big draw. Its significance to the land is immense as this is the last patch of the kahikatea floodplain forest in Canterbury. A Farmer’s Market is held on the grounds every Saturday.
The grand Arts Center was originally Canterbury college. The complex which was built in 1877, is a true masterpiece of Gothic Revival architecture. Just like most of the other historical buildings, Canterbury college was also affected and badly damaged by the earthquake. However, the complex underwent massive restoration work and was reopened for the general public in 2019. An array of shops, galleries, a museum, and cafes makes the visit here more enjoyable. The exhibition spaces often host markets, concerts, and other events.
The Canterbury Museum is especially appealing to children because of the dinosaur bones and mummy. However, there are plenty of other artifacts to keep adults interested too. The greenstone pieces (pounamu) at the Māori galleries or the recreation of Fred & Myrtle’s Paua Shell House are sure to catch your eyes. Christchurch Street, a recreation of the city’s colonial past is another interesting space within the gallery.
Hagley Park is a nature lover’s paradise. Stretching over 405 acres, the park winds its way around the Botanic Gardens. The tree-lined avenues are popular with joggers but its a great place for a leisurely stroll too. In spring, the blooming cherry trees add a special touch to the park. The Avon River meanders its way through the northern half of the park.
Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial
The wall which curves its way along the south bank of the Avon may seem like any other wall, but take a closer look and you’ll realize its significance. As the name suggests, the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial was built to pay homage to the 185 people who lost their lives in the earthquake of 2011. It’s a poignant reminder of one of the most tragic events in Christchurch’s history.
Orana Wildlife Park
About 195 acres of the Orana Wildlife Park are dedicated to African wildlife such as zebras, gorillas, rhinos and giraffe. The ‘open range’ zoo is designed to give as realistic an approach to the animals’ natural environment and is definitely not recommended for wandering inside the animal enclosures. Other highlights of the park are the walkthrough native bird aviary and the nocturnal kiwi house.
Transitional ‘Cardboard’ Cathedral
The iconic Cardboard Cathedral was formerly known as the Transitional Cathedral. It was built in the aftermath of the earthquake to replace the damaged cathedral. Designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, the 21m high building is made from 98 cardboard tubes timber and steel with a polycarbonate roof. The walls are formed by eight shipping containers.
For a unique shopping experience head to the Tannery on the banks of the Heathcote River. The former 19th-century industrial precinct has been transformed into a retail complex. A number of boutique shops here will delight shopaholics while the art and craft stores are great places to pick up a memorable souvenir. A deluxe cinema, bars, and restaurants are all located within this beautiful architectural complex.
Just So You Know:
- Christchurch is the oldest city in New Zealand, established on July 31, 1856.
- The city is strategically situated between snowcapped mountains and sun-kissed beaches so you can hike up the mountain and then dive into the ocean to cool off.
- Over 1000 parks are located in the city which gives it a distinct green color.
Get Some Culture:
- Isaac Theatre Royal – This iconic theater is a beautiful blend of the old and new; classic architecture fused with modern comforts. Functioning for over 100 years, the theater hosts various concerts, musicals, ballet, and even boxing events.
- South Island Wine and Food Festival – With over 40 wineries from around the South Island participating in this annual festival, you can be assured that you’re going to be in high spirits. The festival features wine tasting, gourmet food stalls, and free seminars.
Grab A Bite:
- Cassels & Sons: For beer lovers, the “Cassels & Sons” craft brewery is a must-visit. Along with a tasting of some great beer, visitors can also enjoy some sumptuous food.
- Fiddlesticks: This restaurant is a popular place for its bold flavors, impeccable service, and fine techniques. You can enjoy a meal here at any time of the day, starting with breakfast.