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Exploring Christchurch

Christchurch, set on New Zealand’s dramatically lovely South Island, became the centre of world attention in 2011 for all the wrong reasons when a devastating earthquake destroyed the heart of the city. Nowadays, recovery and rebuilding is well under way, restoring Christchurch to its former position as a hub for touring the natural beauty made famous by the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy.

Although Christchurch’s downtown core surrounding Cathedral Square is still under reconstruction, there’s plenty to see and do in and around the city before heading to the spectacular Southern Alps and the rural beauty surrounding the massive peaks. Car rental makes getting around the city and its outskirts straightforward, and there’s a useful bus service, although the popular tramway may not yet be in service. There’s an extensive range of accommodation, from ultra-modern hotels such as the ibis Christchurch and the new Novotel Christchurch Cathedral Square to motels, lodges, bed and breakfasts and boutique properties.

Sights nearby

Christchurch is a comparatively small city ringed by attractive seaside suburban towns and stunning rural vistas. It’s known as the gateway to the Antarctic, and its heritage and wildlife parks give a glimpse into its history and unique ecology.

- International Antarctic Centre

A world-class experience focusing on the city’s population as the port from which most Antarctic expeditions begin, the Antarctic Centre gives simulated polar weather, exhibits about the science missions to the icy continent, all-terrain vehicle rides, penguins and much more. It’s a great day out for families as well as adults fascinated by the world’s last, great wilderness.

- Ferrymead Heritage Park

For a glimpse into the early days of migration to New Zealand, a visit to this carefully recreated Edwardian settlement with its fascinating museum is a must. Kids will love attractions such as horse and carriage rides and vintage trains and trams, and the museum displays the everyday artefacts used by the settlers.

- Arthur's Pass National Park

Located in the magnificent Southern Alps, this national park is an unbelievably scenic drive from Christchurch or a spectacular train ride on the Transalpine which terminates at Greymouth on the west coast. Majestic mountains, forests, wild rivers and their gorges are a natural wonderland unsurpassed anywhere on earth.

Eating and drinking and shopping nearby

Dining out in Christchurch can be everything from budget to upscale in a Gothic stone castle perched on a hill just outside town. Known as the Garden City, Christchurch’s eateries at all levels make delicious use of fresh produce from the surrounding farming communities and the meats for which the country is famous. Both European and international cuisine can be had, and dining haunts are often combined with bars offering local boutique beers and a good choice of wines. Classic Kiwi fare is on offer at the city’s casino, and fish and chips is almost the national dish. For local crafts and local foods, the weekend farmers’ market is the place, with Saturdays for fruits, meats, local cheeses and home-made cakes and desserts. Sunday is artisans’ day, with ready-cooked gourmet dishes and local arts and crafts perfect for souvenirs.

Public transport

Driving in Christchurch is easy, and parking is usually no problem. Hiring a car comes into its own for touring the South Island’s scenic wonders and trips to New Brighton Beach, the weekend hub for most local people due to its regular events, quaint shops and beachside pubs. The city’s bus service is adequate, but occasional gaps in the service make getting around a slow process, especially late at night and on Sundays.

Christchurch travel guides

Christchurch travel guides