Christchurch Destination Guide
Christchurch is on the east coast of New Zealand's South Island, at the edge of the fertile Canterbury Plains. It's the gateway for exploration of the South Island as a whole, including the Southern Alps – where you can ski, hike, visit the country's highest mountain and touch a glacier. The scenery is as stunning as the postcards promise and there's a range of tours to suit any temperament and budget. Christchurch itself is picturesque; it's New Zealand's oldest city and extensive parks and green spaces have prompted its nickname 'garden city'. After damaging earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, almost all Christchurch is fully functional again.
Fancy a taste of the South Pole, without actually having to go? One of the popular things to do in Christchurch is visit the International Antarctic Centre, where you can have your own interactive experience of the frozen south; yes, it includes penguins. To soak up the city's English heritage atmosphere, you could also go punting in Christchurch's Botanic Gardens. With an ideal climate for ballooning, Christchurch surrounds treat you to Alpine and ocean views. If you've the kids in tow (and even if you haven't) the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve gives you the chance to see and learn about New Zealand's favourite bird. A day cruise from the city's port, Lyttelton, also gives you the chance to spot dolphins, seals, whales and albatrosses.
Eat and Drink
Christchurch restaurants, bars and eateries – from fancy to informal – have a sense of intimacy about them. There's far more to this city than burgers and beers. Though the popular Burgers & Beers in Sydenham has a groovy, unpretentious feel and provides what it says on the tin. Local ingredients are used to make the burgers and the chips will make you want to come back for more. Fine dining options (with equally attractive wine lists) include Saggio di vino, Pescatore Restaurant, Rotherhams of Riccarton and Cook'n with Gas. If you've a hankering for Asian, you can't go past the fabulously-named and well-cooked King of Snake.
Where to Stay
In the hills to the south of Christchurch is the refined Otahuna Lodge – 'Otahuna' is Maori for 'little hill among the hills'. This is a truly luxurious getaway. For central 5-star luxury, The George is an example of Christchurch accommodation at its finest. There are also bed and breakfasts, cottages, hotels, motels, retreats and holiday parks across the city and at its fringes. The surrounding hills and plains lend themselves to secluded and romantic getaways but feel free to come on your own and make new friends too. Whenever you grab a flight to Christchurch, there'll be a cosy room awaiting you to suit your tastes and budget.
Who'd have thought there could be so many uses for sea freight containers? From shipping to shopping, Christchurch's Re:START Mall is a collection of shops based in shipping containers. The first retail activity to recommence in the CBD after the 2011 earthquake, this funky, colourful collection of 27 shops, boutiques and eateries does the spirit of Christchurch proud. Given Christchurch's status as a gateway to Antarctica, this is a good city for adventure clothing. Home of the Merino, you can also find fine woollen clothing and even Merino-possum fur blends.
Christchurch like a Local
Christchurch is home to a strong and resilient community. After earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 caused widespread damage to the central business district, commercial life has been re-entering the city thanks to the will and innovation of the locals. The inner suburb of Addington is a new live entertainment hub – the Court Theatre has relocated here and Dux Live is a new music venue. Addington is also the place to find a saliva-inducing selection of North African food at Simo's Deli. The neighbouring suburb of Sydenham has also housed 'refugee businesses' from the CBD during the city's reconstruction and the area south of Moorhouse Ave is now affectionately dubbed 'SoMo'.