I’ve spent my fair share of time in Christchurch and now it’s time that I share with you my thoughts on the city, and more importantly, what you should do if you find yourself here for a few days.
Christchurch was not my first choice of New Zealand city but I’ve actually come to like it more and more as time went on and I’m actually a bit sad to leave after 6 months.
I would have rather found work in Auckland or Wellington but Christchurch has some redeeming qualities about it that make it a city not worth missing, even if you’re just passing through.
It might come as a surprise to you but back in 2011, Christchurch was hit with a massive 6.2 earthquake that changed the city forever, and everyday in the city is a constant reminder of the destruction it caused.
In many ways, the city never actually recovered and even now as I write this 7 and half years later, there’s still a massive amount of work to do.
The quake has become an identity for the city and now it’s known as quake city here in New Zealand.
With that little preface out-of-the-way, let’s get started with the list, in no particular order.
Top 10 Things To Do In Christchurch
1. Hagley Park and Christchurch Botanic Gardens
I like to call it Central Park but it’s really called Hagley Park, is a large grassy area that is impossible to ignore on your way into the city center. The botanical gardens are a very small portion of the park but will still take you about 2-3 hours to walk around and see everything there is to offer in the gardens. There are events going on in the Botanical Gardens from time to time so it could be something worth investigating further if you’re in the area.
Besides the website being in the top 10 worst websites I’ve ever seen, this small little colorful street hosts a variety of boutique shops, ice cream, coffee, restaurants and whatever else you’re into. I particularly enjoyed South American restaurant here. There’s honestly not much to see but it’s worth just walking though at the very least.
Where all the rich people live in Christchurch. JK. That may or may not be true. I’d live here if I was rich and wanted to live by the beach with some amazing walking tracks all around. In fact, it was recommended by a local to go to Taylor’s Mistake walking track and I have to say, For a short 2-3 hour return walk, it was incredible. If walking tracks are not really your thing, Sumner itself has a nice little beach-town vibe going on and is easily reachable by bus.
4. Port Hills on the Banks Peninsula
The Port Hills are the hills of the Banks Peninsula that overlook Christchurch and surrounding Canterbury Plains. There’s so much to do here if you love the outdoors. Countless walking tracks, mountain biking tracks, and paragliding goes along with amazing views in every direction. I really enjoyed spending time up here and it’s one of the things I will miss most about Christchurch.
Besides hating the spelling on ‘Lyttelton’ this place is absolutely lovely. Settled into the aforementioned Banks Peninsula, it’s the biggest seaport in the greater Christchurch area and services a large portion of the Canterbury region. To be honest I only came here once but got the gist of it. It’s an extremely steep seaside town and if you go high enough on the surrounding hills you get some amazing views of the Banks Peninsula and port itself.
There’s two main ones, the “Quake City” Earthquake museum and the Christchurch Art Gallery. I did not go to the Quake City one but rather enjoyed spending time in the Christchurch Art Gallery. Quake City costs $20 and I would imagine proceeds go to the rebuild effort but I don’t know for sure. The art gallery on the other hand is completely free to the public and as someone who can’t resist a free museum, I really enjoyed it.
7. Gap Filler
After the earthquake a small group of citizens got together and formed a non-profit aiming to fill in the missing spaces left over from the destruction of the earthquake. They have a few notable projects throughout the city that intend to revitalize some of the energy taken from the city in the aftermath of the quake. I haven’t seen them all but I’ve been to a few of them in my time here. My favorites are the Super Street Arcade, a large retro arcade video game played on a large screen on the adjacent street and The Dance-O-Mat, a coin-operated dance floor. Visit their website to see all the other projects they’ve done around the city.
On a map, this is the very center of the city. Left destroyed by the earthquake and still sits neglected, unrepaired, and fenced-off to this day. It’s an everyday reminder to locals of the earthquake that killed 185 people and that the city will never be the same. Luckily, that’s about to change. In September 2017, more than 6 years after the initial destruction, they’ve finally come to a decision to rebuild the cathedral to it’s basic design at the cost of the church, taxpayers, and donors. The article says it’ll take 10 years and cost $NZ104 million so come back in 10 years and it might be reconstructed by then. The temporary “Cardboard Cathedral” is the ChristChurch Cathedral transitional church and is open to the public year-round along with the usual churchy Sunday sermons. The website states that “it is the world’s only cathedral made substantially of cardboard.” Now that’s worth checking out, even if you aren’t religious.
Stands for the Old Government Building and is right next to many other spots that I mentioned already. The building itself was, as you might have guessed, a government building, but now it is a high-class hotel and fancy restaurant/bar. I ate dinner here once and it was delicious, albeit a bit too fancy for me. I am but a simple pleb.
10. High Street
You could consider High Street the center of the city center. An incredible amount of damage from the earthquakes led to many of the buildings along this street irreparable and in need of demolition. High Street itself has undergone an incredible transformation into a premier shopping district with some of the newest and cleanest structures around. There’s a mix of new and clean alongside old and gritty here. My favorite spot to grab a drink here is Smash Palace and not to mention the former High Street Post Office transformed into the C1 coffee shop. They even serve curly fries in transport tubes mounted on the ceiling and is a must-see just for that reason.
11. Open City https://www.opencity.org.nz/
Not really a thing to do but rather a collection of free things to do in Christchurch! Some of them are only for kids or are simply looking at the sky but it could give you some ideas if you’re on a budget.
12. Take a day trip out of the city
Well, this one is actually a recommendation to get out of the city and see some of the surrounding areas that are a day trip’s drive away. That includes the Hanmer Springs hot pools (article coming soon), Whale Watching in Kaikoura, or Kayaking in Akaroa. All great things to do in the Canterbury region.
13. Calendar Girls
Can’t believe I’m saying this because this is a family friendly website …but… if you like more “adult services and entertainment” there’s plenty of that here… Moving on!
14. Container Mall
If you’re reading this, it’s already gone and you missed it. It was exactly as it sounds. A mall made of shipping containers. While a new mall was being constructed all the vendors needed a place to put their wares so they built a container mall. I was fortunate enough to see it in December 2017 before it was torn down.
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