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Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand. It is the major international entry point for touring the South Island and has enough attractions to be a worthwhile destination in itself. Christchurch is in the process of recovering from a large earthquake in February 2011 that severely damaged the city, killed 185 people and displaced many more. Parts of the city may be off limits due to demolition and construction work, but the remainder of the city and region are open for business and the city remains a viable gateway to the rest of the South Island. (less...) (more...)
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Points of Interest in Christchurch
- Arts Centre, Worcester Blvd. Gothic Revival stonework of former University campus. This area was damaged during the 22 Feb 2011 earthquake. While reconstruction work is taking place these buildings are closed to the general public. However, the beauty and historical significance of these building can still be appreciated by viewing them from surrounding streets such as Worcester Blvd and Hereford St and the excellent Canterbury Cheesemongers still operates from a modern building within its precincts.
- Christchurch Art Gallery, Worcester Blvd and Montreal St (one block east of Botanic Gardens), +64 3 941-7300. Th-Tu 10:00-17:00, W 10:00-21:00. Spectacular new $47 million facility opened in 2003, the largest in the South Island, with over 5000 items and visiting exhibitions. The gallery is closed for repairs but it is exhibiting at 209 Tuam St and at ArtBox (on the corner of Madras and St Asaph Sts). Usually free.
- Air Force Museum, former Wigram Airfield, Main South Rd, ☎ +64 3 343-9542. Daily 10:00-17:00. Opened in 1987 before the closure of the Christchurch RNZAF base, this museum has full-size replicas of fighting planes and dramatizes the history of New Zealand's Air Force from World War I to Vietnam and beyond. Bus from Central Station platform 'C', 5 Hornby, 81 Lincoln or 88 Rolleston. Free.
- Botanic Gardens, Rolleston Ave, car park entrance Armagh St, ☎ +64 3 941 7590. Gates open 07:00 until one hour before sunset, conservatories 10:15-16:00. Information centre open 10:15-16:00 daily summer, 11:00-15:00 winter. 30 hectares of exotic and indigenous plants and trees wrapped in a loop of the picturesque Avon River and linking to the 160-hectare Hagley Park. These put the "Garden" in the "Garden City", and the combined total with Hagley Park makes them the second largest inner city park in the world (after New York's Central Park).
- Canterbury Museum, Rolleston Ave at end of Worcester Blvd (adjoining Botanic Gardens), +64 3 366-5000. 09:00-17:30 daily summer, 09:00-17:00 winter. Includes colonial, Maori and natural history sections, Antarctic exploration display, and visiting exhibitions. Admission free to main exhibits (but donation appreciated), $2 for Discovery children's section.
- Ferrymead Heritage Park, Ferrymead Park Dr (Ferry Rd east from city, or take the 30 Sumner bus from the Bus Exchange and to the Heathcote River Bridge, then first right down Bridle Path Rd), +64 3 384 1970. 10:00-16:30 daily. A recreated Edwardian township and museum with horse and carriage (daily), tram (weekends and school/public holidays) and train (first and third Sunday) rides. Due to the voluntary nature of the historical societies managing Ferrymead, not all attractions may be running at all times. Special events are often held and the park has been used to film the TV One reality show 'Colonial House'. Admission price is based on whether trams/trains are operating or not, and include unlimited rides if available. $10, $5 child with trams/trains; $6, $3 child without.
- International Antarctic Centre, Christchurch Airport, ☎ +64 3 353 7798, toll-free: 0508 736 4846 within NZ. 1 Oct–30 Apr daily 09:00-19:00; 1 May–30 Sep daily 09:00-17:30. A world-class Antarctic experience with simulated polar weather, Hagglund All-Terrain Vehicle ride, penguins, extensive exhibits about Antarctic science missions, café and gift shop. $55, $36 child. Unlimited Hagglund all day rides $20, Penguin Backstage Pass $20, $15 child.
- Orana Wildlife Park, McLeans Island Rd (10 min drive W of airport), ☎ +64 3 359-7109. Daily 10:00-17:00, last entrance 16:30. New Zealand's largest wildlife sanctuary and conservation project featuring endangered animals from around the world. The park's design minimises fences and cages in favour of natural boundaries and habitats. $14 ($12 for 14:30), $6 child. Lion Encounter (limited 20 tickets per day, participants must be above 1.4 metres in height).
- Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, 60 Hussey Rd (off Gardiners Rd), ☎ +64 3 359 6226. Daily 10:00-22:00, kiwi viewing from 11:00. A smaller park than Orana, with a focus on New Zealand species including kiwi in a natural environment. $16, $8 child.
- Yaldhurst Museum, Main West Rd (near the airport, first right past Yaldhurst Hotel), +64 3 342-7914. 10:00-17:00 daily (17:00-21:00 by arrangement for groups of 10 or more). Mostly interesting for its collection of over 150 classic and vintage vehicles. $15, $5 child.
- Riccarton Bush. The last remaining forest remnant on the Canterbury plains is in Christchurch city. If your time is limited in NZ, this is a great way to experience an example of the country's native forests. The circular track passes under tall Kahikatea trees, and there is a diversity of small trees, shrubs, climbers and ferns. Christchurch's oldest house, Dean's Cottage (built 1843) is adjacent. Five minutes drive from central city and easily accessible by bus.
- Earthquake Tourism. Tours of affected sites both inside and outside the "red zone" are available. Visitors can also make their own way to sites of particular significance such as Christchurch Cathedral (viewed from Gloucester/Colombo St); the Catholic Basilica (South Barbadoes St, just north of Moorhouse Ave) and the construction site of the Cardboard Cathedral (Madras/Hereford). Memorial sites include the 185 white chair memorial (Madras/Cashel) and the site of the CTV building (Madras/Cashel).
Christchurch was established in 1850 by English settlers. Its English heritage, now largely demolished, showed in the older buildings, especially in the cultural precinct along Worcester Boulevard (which is open from the Avon towards the west), where most heritage buildings remain. The River Avon flows through the central city and disrupts the regular rectangular layout of the city streets.
Christchurch is known as the Garden City, a well-deserved name. Looking from a few floors up, one is struck by the number of trees that grow like a forest throughout the suburbs.
At 04:35 on Saturday, 4 September 2010, the city and region was hit by a magnitude 7.1 earthquake, located 10 km deep and 40 km west of the city centre. Parts of the city were damaged, but there were no fatalities thanks to lucky timing and New Zealand's stringent building codes. However, five-and-a-half months later, at 12:51 on Tuesday, 22 February 2011, a magnitude 6.3 aftershock struck 10 km south of the city centre at 5 km deep. Already damaged buildings collapsed, killing 185 people, 115 of which resulted from the six storey Canterbury Television building collapsing and catching fire. Liquefaction severely affected the eastern suburbs, resulting in 10,000 homes having to be abandoned due to land damage.
International tourism, especially foreign-student education for the Asian market, was a growing sector of the Christchurch economy until they were scared away by continuing quakes. The electronics and software development industries remain strong.
Christchurch has lost some of its residents post-earthquake, with many departing to other Australian and New Zealand cities. The Wellington conurbation, again vies with Christchurch for the position of New Zealand's second largest urban area. (Christchurch still remains the second largest city, as Wellington is actually four cities.)
A very hip scene has developed in some of the suburbs close to the centre, and many 'gapfiller' projects (as part of the earthquake recovery) are stunning. Lonely Planet declared post-earthquake Christchurch as one of the top 10 travel destinations in the world.
For on-line visitor information, see the official Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism site.
- The Summit Road, drive it or bike it or take a bus then walk it. The road (and the Crater Rim Walkway) traverses the crest of the Port Hills, which separate Christchurch from Lyttelton Harbour. Breathtaking views over Christchurch, the Southern Alps, Pegasus Bay, Lyttelton Harbour and Banks Peninsula - often all from the same vantage point. Lots of sheep on the walkways, some of which traverse working farms. (It is not possible to drive along all of Summit Road because it is closed due to earthquake damage).
- Punting on the Avon, punts depart from Antigua Boatsheds. Glide down the river in Cambridge University style with a uniformed boatsman.
- Antigua Boatsheds, 2 Cambridge Tce, ☎ +64 3 366-5885. Daily, summer 09:30-17:30, winter 09:30-16:30. Boat hire from historic British boatsheds for a hands-on water experience. $7/hr canoe, $12/half-hr rowboat, $14/half-hr paddle boat.
- Christchurch Casino, 30 Victoria St, ☎ +64 3 365-9999. Daily except Good Friday, 25 Apr, 25 Dec. Dress code (jeans now allowed). You get a free meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner) if it is your birthday (booking essential, e.g. by phone).
- Christchurch Gondola, 10 Bridle Path Rd, Heathcote Valley, ☎ +64 3 384 0310. Daily except 25 Dec 10am-5pm. Ride in an enclosed gondola car up to the summit of the Port Hills then view the Heritage Time Tunnel exhibit, take an outdoor nature walk, visit the cafe and shop. The trip takes 10 min but it is recommended to allow an hour all up. From 1 Nov to 31 March, a shuttle bus runs from the i-Site visitor centre and Canterbury Museum on Rolleston Ave at 40 minutes past the hour each hour from 9.40am until 3.40pm. Adult $25, child (5-15 years) $12, passenger & own mountain bike $30, or with mountain bike hire $70. Discount of 10% when booking online 7 days in advance..
- Creative Workshops. Spend a day with a local artist or craftsman and share his skills and passion.
- Adventure Ride (Guided off-road motorcycle tours), ☎ +64 27 451 0584. 10 days. All tours include an experienced guide, transport from Christchurch, motorcycle or ATV rental, fuel, insurance, riding gear, lunch and support vehicle.Overnight tours also include twin share accommodation and all meals. 5-10 day tours require a minimum of two riders.
Christchurch has the busiest program of annual festivals of any New Zealand city.
- Summertimes runs from December through to late February and includes a number of major free events in Hagley Park, which attract audiences of up to 100,000. It consists of music, arts, culture and sporting events.
- The World Buskers Festival. Runs for two weeks in January and usually features about 30 comedy, street, and circus acts from around the globe.
- The Festival of Romance lasts for 10 days leading up to Valentine's Day and includes a range of romantic activities.
- The Christchurch Garden Festival takes place in March.
- Kidsfest is on during the midwinter school holiday.
- Christchurch Arts Festival is the largest arts festival in the South Island and takes place every second year around Aug-Sep (last held 2013).
- Carnival Week is centred around a number of events taking place in November - Guy Fawkes' night (a major public firework display at New Brighton Pier), the two New Zealand Cup (trotting and galloping) horse racing meetings, and the Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral show, which is the largest in the country.
- Carols by Candlelight is a long-standing tradition on Christmas Eve, now held in Victoria Square.
- Buy from a local supermarket, the yellow coloured Pak'n'Save is probably cheapest overall, although their range is limited to popular brands and store brands. The black/green coloured Countdown and beige coloured New World are more expensive, but have a wider range and they can have some seriously cheap specials.
- Fish'n'chips are still the cheapest meal out. 'Halswell Fish and Chips' offer the best fish and chips in town! Look for their contact details, in the phone books.
- Fruit and vegetable shops offer locally grown high quality fresh produce for prices often much cheaper than supermarkets. The Funky Pumpkin is one such example.
- Perry's Cafe, 145 Madras St (opposite Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology). M-F 08:00-17:00. Surprisingly good cafeteria-style food with touches of cafe class, gets crowded around lunchtime. $5-7.
- Shinsengumi - The Sushi Revolution, 169c Wairakei Rd, Bryndwr. Generous "lunch boxes". Does lovely fresh salmon / avo sushi.
- Welcome, 2 Wharenui Rd, Riccarton (just off Riccarton Rd). Delicious Chinese vegetarian meals, including a four course meal deal for under $20. Don't miss the hotplate and clay pot special dishes too!
- Holy Smoke, 650 Worcester St, ☎ +64 3 943-2222. Closed Su M nights. Excellent quality restaurant specialising in food that has been manuka smoked in house. The smoked salmon alone is well worth the trip.
- Dux Dine , Formerly one half of the Dux de Lux at 41 Hereford St, the restaurant Dux has now moved to 28 Riccarton Rd after the earthquake ☎ +64 3 348 1436. Pescatarian restaurant with lovely garden seating, the pizzas are good value to share, and the salads are fantastic. Also serves their craft beers including alcoholic ginger beer. $15–30
- Strawberry Fare, ☎ +64 3 365-4897. Hagley Park end of Bealey Ave on Carlton Mill Cnr, In the heart of Christchurch, Strawberry Fare carries an extensive menu of modern interpreted New Zealand dishes as well as many dessert dishes to die for. Reservations are required.
- Under the Red Verandah, 502 Worcester St, ☎ +64 3 381-1109. offers a range of food incorporating fair trade coffee, free range eggs and gluten free baked goods
- @Tony's, 2 Waterman Place, Ferrymead Central, ☎ +64 3 348-5644. M-F 12:00–14:30, M-Sa 17:30–22:00, Su 17:30–21:00. Good Teppanyaki with special all you can eat deals Tu-Th. Mains $24-32.
- Rotherhams of Riccarton, 42 Rotherham St (next to Riccarton Mall), ☎ +64 3 341-5142. Tu-Sa. Bookings highly recommended, especially Th-Sa.
- Pascatore and 50 Bistro at The George hotel, 50 Park terrace, +64 3 379-4560. Amazing food, wonderful hotel. Great views of Hagley Park from Pescatore.
Christchurch's Asian district is mainly in the Riccarton/Upper Riccarton area.
- Chinese: Church Corner is often considered Christchurch's unofficial 'Chinatown'. It offers many shops, for example, Chinese supermarkets, all kinds of Asian restaurants and more.
- Korean: There are many Korean restaurants in the (unofficial) Chinatown area, and down in the shopping precinct near Westfield Riccarton. KOSCO, a Korean supermarket, has several branches in Christchurch, including one in Riccarton.
- No. 4, 4 Mansfield Avenue. Relaxed during the day and busy (but not too busy) on weekend nights. Great wines, Monteiths beers and a solid menu.
- Bog Irish Pub. Located in The Speights Ale House, 263 Bealey Ave.
- If you fancy a short drive or bus ride (approx. 15 minutes from city centre), go to The Wunderbar in Lyttelton. It has a small room for gigs and is popular with artists. The Monster Bar (downstairs, next door) is an excellent Yakitori restaurant and bar though smaller and with more of a focus on DJs.
- Aikmans Bistro & Bar, an upscale drinking spot in the trendy Merivale area. 154 Aikmans Rd, Merivale.
- Ivy Cafe & Bar, 150 Aikmans Rd, Merivale.
- Speights Ale House Tower Junction. A relaxed atmosphere bar, a great place for meals. Tower Junction Mega Centre, 55 Clarence St, Riccarton.
- The Watershed Restaurant & Bar. Overlooking the waterfront in Ferrymead. 12/23 Humphrey's Drive, Ferrymead.
- The Craic Irish Bar, 84 Riccarton Rd.
- Dux Live  sells its own beer and alcoholic ginger beer, and has gigs, usually free, from local bands and beyond. Originally one half of the "Dux de Lux", following the 22 Feb 2011 earthquake, it has reopened at 363 Lincoln Road (behind the Mobil station)
- Addington Coffee Co-Op  sells Fair Trade coffee and clothing in a lively atmosphere
- Ballantynes, ☎ +64 3 379-7400. Corner of Colombo and Cashel. The major upmarket department store. Adjacent to it is Re:START with a mixture of boutiques cafes and bars. Has now re-opened for business and is open seven days a week.
- Re:START is a mall that replaces part of City Mall which was quite badly destroyed in the earthquake. The shops are made out of cargo boxes (shipping containers). Many local and internationally-renowned brands are operating within Re:START.
- Locals tend to shop at the many suburban malls, the largest of which are Westfield Riccarton, Northlands and The Palms in Shirley (continual expansions see them leapfrogging in the rankings of the country's largest malls).
- The Warehouse. Common throughout New Zealand, and with several stores in Christchurch, these big red stores contain a variety of bottom-end products including clothing, tools, camping equipment, toys, music, etc. Their motto is "where everyone gets a bargain" and most things are made in China. While you might not find the top quality brands here, prices are cheap.
- Riccarton Rotary Market. Su 09:00–14:00 - wet or fine. Selling all sorts of things from plants, fruit and vegetables to kiwi souvenirs and cheap Asian wares. Has performances, bouncy castles and food.
- Christchurch Farmers Market. Meet the growers, farmers, brewers and other artisan producers. A lively affair every Sa 09:00–12:00 on the grounds of Riccarton House.
- Christchurch Artisan Market. Takes place at Riccarton House on Su 11:00–15:00. In addition to ready to eat foods you will find arts and crafts made locally.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Christchurch on Wikivoyage.