This city will steal your heart. The people of Christchurch have gone through more hurt and heartache than can be imagined after the devastating Canterbury Earthquakes. For those who know little about the events of the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes here’s a brief account.
On the 4th of September 2010 at 4.35 am the people of Christchurch, the Canterbury area and many other parts of New Zealand were jolted awake by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake. No lives were lost, but buildings were damaged and deemed unsafe leading to a state of emergency being pronounced in the city of Christchurch. The quake weakened many buildings and is one of the reasons why one of the aftershocks of this earthquake was ao deadly. It was at 12.51pm that a magnitude 6.3 earthquake tragically upturned the city of Christchurch leading to 185 people losing their lives. Thousands were injured, livelihoods were lost and houses ruined beyond repair. To put this into perspective in the Central Business District of Christchurch 70-80% of the buildings were destroyed by the earthquakes or have been taken down due to being deemed as structurally unsafe.
Christchurch is a city that is still recovering, still mourning lost lives and lost livelihoods, but it is also a place that has shown exceptional resilience and togetherness. From such tragedy, much hope and opportunity are being explored. If you ever choose to visit Christchurch you will not be disappointed; it is a truly inspiring place.
Here are 7 Awesome Things to do in Christchurch, New Zealand
1. Re:Start Shopping Mall
One of a unique shopping malls in the world. Re:Start was opened in October 2011 after the quakes to give businesses the opportunity to trade even after the majority of buildings in Christchurch’s CBD had been demolished. The mall was erected out of shipping containers that have been painted some beautiful, bright colors making the place feel positive and hopeful. With craft and gift stores as well as boutique clothing stores you can spend a fun few hours in the gorgeous little shops. The food trucks at Re:Start are also some of the best places to eat in Christchurch.
With prices ranging from around $5-$20 you can find Greek food, wood fired pizzas, a Mexican truck, donut stand and much much more.
2. Quake City Exhibition
If you want to find out more about the Canterbury earthquakes, this is the place to go. With a $20 admission fee, it is well worth the visit. The exhibition takes you back to 2010 and 2011 by showing news reports from the moments the devastating events of the earthquakes unfolded. The exhibition explains what an aftershock is, why liquefaction destroyed so many homes and the science behind why these earthquakes were so damaging. There’s also the chance to listen to the emotional stories of the people of Christchurch as they relay their experiences of the earthquakes. It’s an emotional couple of hours, but it isn’t all doom and gloom. The exhibition focuses on how the city has moved forward from such tragedy. You are left with a sense of positivity due to seeing for yourself how the people of Christchurch have come together with new, exciting plans to rebuild their beautiful city.
3. Botanic Gardens
Located close to the center of Christchurch the gardens are a beautiful place to go for a walk or take the kids to play. With free parking, there are some different gardens to stroll through including the New Zealand Gardens, Central Rose Garden, Azalea and Magnolia Garden, Temperate Asian Border and Herb Garden. The River Avon runs through the Botanic Gardens, and the visitors center, gift shop and cafe are well worth a visit.
4. Coffee tour
New Zealand is famous for it’s coffee (especially it’s flat whites). All around New Zealand you will be gifted with some of a unique coffee shops, meaning big brands like Starbucks are pretty much redundant in New Zealand. Christchurch offers some tremendous coffee shops which have had to deal with moving premises due to the Canterbury earthquakes. C1 Espresso, located on Tuam Street, has fabulous coffee. However, even cooler than that, if you order a burger after 3 pm it will come to your table via an air tube system at 140 kilometers per hour! As if that’s not enough, when you take a trip to the toilet, Harry Potter audiobooks (read by Stephen Fry) are playing on a loop. Other fantastic coffee shops to look out for include C4 Coffee also on Tuam Street, Black Betty on Madras Street and A Mouse Called Bean at Re: Start Mall.
5. Punting on the River Avon
No, you haven’t stumbled across Cambridge or Oxford in England. Incase you don’t know what punting is (I’m not sure many do) for $28 per adult you can relax on the Avon River while someone dressed in Edwardian clothes uses a long wooden pole to push you along in a small boat. Pretty hilarious, but it’s a great way to see the beautiful Botanic Gardens. The Antigua Boat Shed, where you start your trip, has a great cafe and is an interesting looking building. If punting doesn’t sound like your thing, you can rent single and double kayaks for $12 per person per hour, and if you really don’t want to go on the water, bikes can also be rented for $30 for a full day!
6. Walking Tours
Christchurch is an incredibly interesting city, and there’s no better way to experience it than walking around. If you prefer an organized walking tour, the “ChCh Walking Tour” starts at 10 am everyday and lasts around 2 hours. The tour is free but works off tips, so it’s up to you how much you pay. The tour covers how Christchurch came to be, the Canterbury Earthquakes and facts about the city today. There is no need to sign up for this walking tour. Just turn up at The Chalice in Cathedral Square before 10 am.
If you would prefer to see the city without a tour guide and walk around yourself make sure you head from the CBD to the white chair memorial. This will take you across the city and will let you see for yourself the momentous effort being taken to rebuild the city after the devastating quakes. The white chair memorial is a beautiful yet sad piece of art that represents the 185 people who lost their lives in the earthquakes.
7. Akaroa day trip
Akaroa, situated 75km outside of Christchurch, is a beautiful little French settlement with some art galleries, cafes, restaurants, craft shops and bars. Due to the nearby town Lyttleton suffering from severe damage to it’s large harbor in the Canterbury earthquakes, Akaroa became the place cruise ships port from around the world! From boat cruises to dolphin tours or just chilling on the beach, there’s plenty to do in the quaint little town. If you are driving to Akaroa in your own vehicle be sure to go via the Summit road for a gorgeous views of the area! If you don’t have a car, you can get the Akaroa Shuttle bus return for $50 (there’s a number of pick-up points in the city).
Where to Stay in Christchurch, New Zealand
Best Budget Hotel in Christchurch, New Zealand – Christchurch Top 10 Holiday Park
Showcasing a barbecue and hot tub, Christchurch TOP 10 Holiday Park is located in Christchurch in the region of Canterbury. Victoria Street is 3.7 km from the property. Hagley Park is 4 km from Christchurch TOP 10 Holiday Park. The nearest airport is Christchurch Airport, 6 km from the property.
Some units are air-conditioned and include a sitting area with a flat-screen TV and Blu-ray player. Christchurch TOP 10 Holiday Park also includes an indoor pool. You can play ping-pong at the property, and bike rental is available.
Best Mid-Range Hotel in Christchurch, New Zealand – City Central Motel Apartment
City Central Motel Apartments are 5 minutes’ walk from the temporary Cathedral and 11 minutes’ walk from New Regent Street. It is 6 minutes’ drive from Hagley Park and Christchurch Casino. Christchurch Airport is a 20-minute drive away.
Each apartment is decorated in neutral colors and offers a kitchenette or kitchen with a microwave and refrigerator. Featuring apartments with a private balcony and 500 MB of free WiFi per day. It offers free parking and outdoor seating.
Best Luxury Hotel in Christchurch, New Zealand – Peppers Clearwater Resort
Peppers Clearwater Resort is a stunning waterfront resort, just 8 minutes’ drive from Christchurch Airport. The resort offers comfortable accommodation and breathtaking views.
Guests enjoy an 18-hole championship golf course, which is home to the New Zealand PGA. Leisure facilities at Peppers Clearwater Resort include tennis courts and bicycle hire. Fly-fishing can also be arranged. Peppers Clearwater Resort also offers the award-winning Lakes Restaurant, BBQ facilities, a tour desk and free on-site parking.
The resort offers a range of modern accommodation including spacious guest rooms, suites, and villas, many with kitchen facilities.
CAR RENTAL TIP: We always try to rent our own car when we travel, so that we can explore off-the-beaten-path places on our own schedule. Check out the best deals on rental cars for your trip and explore your independence! Check cheap prices here, now!
About the Writer
We are Robyn and Carolyn; together we have started the travel blog Rupert on the Road, where we document our travels through video, pictures, and writing. Coming from the gorgeous Scottish countryside, we have a passion for adventure, budget travel, camping, vlogging and taking beautiful pictures.
If you enjoyed our article, please follow our further adventures:
Instagram, Youtube, and Tumblr