Christchurch may not have the spectacular appeal of other spots in the South Island, however, it is the place where we went to university and will always hold some incredible (and sometimes messy) memories. Canterbury University is a great place to study and the campus is always good for a reminiscent stroll. I can’t really write about Christchurch without mentioning the devastating earthquake that changed the city forever in 2011. The contrast between the city before and after was crazy and was a defining part of our university experience. Nevertheless, the city is bouncing back and slowly rebuilding with a lot of the buildings being restored and reopened. One such building is the Arts Centre, is s made up of the old university buildings built in 1878 and is a good place to walk around, grab a coffee and check out some displays. Its located right in the city centre so is easy to find. In fact, the city centre is filled with some great restaurants, bars and cafes, so if you find yourself spending a night in Christchurch then head straight for the city centre.
Nearby the Arts Centre is the beautiful Hagley Park and Christchurch Botanic Gardens which are both lovely places to go for a walk or run. The Avon River flows through the city and Hagley Park and offers kayaking and punting to those wanting to experience the city from a different perspective. The Canterbury Museum is also in the area and is a good place to learn a bit about New Zealand’s history and the history of Christchurch and Canterbury. The ChristChurch Cathedral used to be a major tourist draw and a great place to visit, however, the earthquake did some serious damage and its not open for visitors yet – the restoration process is slowly starting so hopefully it will open again in the future. In the meantime you can check out the Cardboard Cathedral nearby, which has been set up as an alternative, its a pretty unique place to have a look at so I definitely recommend you pop in.
On the outskirts of what is a pretty flat city, are the Port Hills. Heading up here is a great way to get a view over Christchurch and to go on one of the many walking trails in the area. Christchurch is also very picturesque in the winter with snow blanketing the city for a few days of the year. Winter is not the best time to visit the city, however, you could use it as a start point for a ski trip to Mt Cook.
Just outside of Christchurch are the beaches of Sumner and Taylors Mistake and are great to visit in the summer. The drive around the coast to Sumner is spectacular with the cliffs descending straight down to the ocean. Its really crazy to see the houses perched way up at the top. Grab some fish and chips and lounge on the beach for a lazy afternoon. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous then I suggest heading further on to Taylors Mistake. This rugged beach is great for swimming, cliff jumping and for the 3hr loop track to Godley Head and back. I highly recommend spending a sunny afternoon out here.
A mere hour and a half from Christchurch is the famous Akaroa and gorgeous Banks Peninsula. Akaroa is where the first settlers from France came to New Zealand so the town has a very French vibe with some great bakeries. Too be honest, other than the great bakeries and as a place to go on a boat cruise to see the small Hector’s Dolphins (highly recommend), Akaroa is not that great. The town is always very busy and the beach is pretty dirty. Instead, head around and explore the Banks Peninsula’s other bays and view to get a better feel of the area.
Christchurch wouldn’t necessarily be on the top of your list when visiting New Zealand, however, it is often a starting point for your South Island adventure. If you have a few days in the area then it will pleasantly surprise you. There are quite a few accommodation options and you can expect to spend about NZ$150 per day.