You might have taken Christchurch off your holiday destination list for a while – and yes, since the quakes things have been a little messed up, that’s for sure.
But it’s been more than six years since the worst of that happened, and the city has been rebuilding and recreating itself throughout that time.
With the exception of a few standouts where nothing appears to have happened (sssh Cathedral), progress throughout the city has been great and brand new buildings plus innovative places to relax, eat, shop and be entertained are right there waiting for you to visit and enjoy!
We’ve pulled together a mega blog post with a summary of 10 great reasons to come and visit and stay for a while – even if it’s when you are heading out of the country for a break, or when you are arriving back in the city from overseas. One day’s stay just isn’t enough – trust us!
1. The Rebuild!
As mentioned above, despite reports to the contrary, the rebuild of Christchurch has progressed at some pace. If you haven’t visited for a year or two, you will see dramatic changes to the central city in particular, with many new buildings complete and many more very close to completion.
Government departments have moved back into the central city, along with new retail complexes, the bus exchange, plenty of brand new parking buildings and all the supporting places to eat and drink coffee etc that central city workers need to keep them going.
2. CBD Eats and Drinks -St Asaph Street, Stranges Lane, Little High Eatery, High Street/Tuam Cnr, Dux Central, Carlton Corner, Victoria Street
Among the new places to eat and drink, some particularly worthy of mention have clustered together in various spots – which we humans seem to like because that means plenty of choice and an easy wander if you want to move on to the next option (or your first pick is a little crowded).
To start with, one of the first streets in the CBD to have come alive post-quake is St Asaph Street. Formerly a one-way road to nowhere in particular, thanks to being outside the original CBD red zone, it’s now the home to a range of bars, cafes and restaurants including Engineers, Corianders (great Indian food), The Cuban, Bessie (for steak lovers with deep pockets), Baretta, Cafe Valentino for Italian food, Empire Bar and Isakaya nightclub, Mish Mash, Steampunk Laboratory for Korean food to go, St Germain (fine French cuisine), and Madame Woo (Malaysian and Chinese street food, kiwi style).
Head up to the corner of High Street and St Asaph and you can check out the Boxed Quarter – an innovative precinct developed in conjunction with Ara (formerly CPIT) where you can find creative businesses, food and art spaces. It’s also home to RDU – the student radio station formerly located at the University of Canterbury campus.
St Asaph Street is also just a block from the Bus Interchange, which makes it accessible if you don’t have your own transport or want to enjoy some bevvies without needing to catch a taxi home.
Through the carpark near the St Asaph and High Street corner, you can access Little High Eatery (plus Madame Woo and St Germain.) Little High contains 8 different places to eat and drink and has really taken off since opening mid-2017.
The atmosphere is warm, inviting and eclectic. From the inside you would have no idea you are in a brand new building – the designers have done an awesome job. This new spot is providing popular at all times of the week, so be prepared for a bit of a wait if you head in there at a normal meal time!
Then you have so many places to choose from – a block over on Lichfield Street – again intersecting with High, you can find Stranges Lane, which is now well established. If you’re familiar with “old Christchurch” it’s where Java Coffee used to be, and just over the road from the former SOL square in Lichfield.
Eatery and bar Strange and Co, chicken and waffles spot Orleans and the tiny but perfectly formed Lower 9th Diner make up the trio of businesses in this triangular space with a shared eating and drinking courtyard between them. Right next door is Vespa bar, so there are plenty of options right here. The tram even heads down this part of High Street, so you can hop on for a ride if you feel the urge.
And not to forget a couple of other great spots in this neck of the woods – the Dux Central building which includes various bars, Potsticker Dumpling Bar and more, plus Brick Farm/Smash Palace in High Street near the Manchester Street corner, and of course the famous C1 Espresso, home of the pneumatic slider and curly fries delivery (and all the rest).
This part of town is rapidly filling in with interesting places to eat and drink, so be prepared to have a wander around.
Over the other side of Cathedral Square, follow the diagonal pattern that started with High Street, by finding Victoria Street, close to the currently-under-restoration Christchurch Town Hall on Kilmore.
Along Victoria Street, again you’ll find an interesting mixture of bars, nightclubs, cafes, restaurants, Christchurch Casino and even a strip club if that takes your fancy!
Standouts are Black and White Coffee Cartel, Spice Paragon (Asian fusion), Mexicano’s, The Dirty Land cocktail bar, King of Snake (Southeast Asian and Thai inspired food) Saggio di Vino (fine dining with stunning wine cellar), The Bog (Irish bar), Boo Radley’s Bar, Little Neighbourhood Garden Bar, Rockstar Pizza for pizza and live entertainment, Vic’s Cafe and Bakery, Procope Cafe and Hachi Hachi (relaxed but great Japanese food), and one of the city’s oldest pizza establishments Spagalimis now in a new home in the former Harlequin Public House on the Salisbury St corner.
Keep heading north at the end of Victoria, across Bealey Ave to the cluster of food and beverage places that make up Carlton Corner, including the rebuilt Carlton Bar and Eatery, Gatherings (unique, locally sourced vegetarian meals), Sun Dog Diner, Vesuvio Jazz and Tapas Bar, Maison de Crepes, Keo Thai for classic Thai food.
3. Places to Shop – The Tannery, The Colombo, Merivale, Northlands, Eastgate, Sumner, Riccarton, the CBD Retail Precinct, ReStart mall, New Regent Street
Shopping (or browsing) might be your idea of heaven – or the opposite, but there are definitely some new and different places to engage in retail therapy around the city. In the central city there’s the brand new ANZ Centre, filled with retailers and a very cool central courtyard area. It’s located on Colombo Street on the site of the old Triangle Centre, and just across Cashel Mall, The Crossing (pic below).
From there you can wander down Cashel Mall and check out the retail action, with the ReStart Container Mall still in operation at the far end of the block. From end of summer 2018 ReStart will be replaced with the construction underway for the new central city Farmer’s Market – set to rival Melbourne’s Victoria Markets by all accounts!
Jump on the tram for a circuit or two and hop off on New Regent Street – one of the prettiest retail spots in the city for sure. You can get back on the tram again any time you like to venture further. There are plenty of cafes and bars along this small stretch, plus a range of interesting shops of all kinds.
If you’ve got transport and are keen to explore a little further afield – perhaps on an outing to Sumner beach, there’s the Tannery – a restored former Tannery (surprise) on the banks of the Heathcote River, that includes a wide range of retail spaces, cafes, movie theatres and the Blue Smoke live performance venue. This is definitely a cool place to browse at your leisure, and again has been designed to look as if it has been there since Victorian times. Nice to see some character being retained (or created) around the place.
The seaside suburb of Sumner also has plenty of shops to browse, cafes and restaurants to relax in – and of course the beach to enjoy.
The city also has malls located through the suburbs, from Merivale Mall to Northlands (along Papanui Road), Westfield (Riccarton Road), and Eastgate Mall – on Linwood Avenue en route to Ferrymead and Sumner.
4. Places for the kids to have fun – Margaret Mahy Playground, Roxx Clip n Climb, Imagination Station, Inflatable World, Garden City Bowl, Mini-golf, Mega Air Trampoline Arena, Gapfiller’s Street Arcade live video game
The city is full of fun things for kids (big and small) to enjoy. The list above is just a start!
The Margaret Mahy Family Playground is pretty special and has proved to be popular at all hours of the day – there will always be people there enjoying the park – and there are coffee and ice cream trucks on hand to keep everyone refreshed. New Regent Street and the tram track is also just a block or so’s walk away.
More recent additions for the young and young at heart are indoor trampolining venues like Mega Air in Carmen Road and Flip Out Trampoline Arena in Maces Road – bouncing is so much fun!
Perhaps one of the coolest and most unique places to play is the Street Arcade live video game. The controller is as large as you are, and located on the corner of High Street and Tuam, while the screen is on the opposite side of the street on the wall of the Vodafone building. It’s free to play and this is definitely a game for two people at a time. Get your name on the high score board and you’ve left your mark on new Christchurch for sure.
5. The Great Outdoors – Beaches, Mountains, Parks and Gardens, Cycleways, Walkways, Christchurch Adventure Park, Golf courses
Christchurch is perfectly located at the centre of the South Island’s east coast to enjoy the beach in the morning and the mountains in the afternoon if the urge takes you.
Using the city as a base to head to the mountains for winter skiing, or Porters Pass to let the kids toboggan for free, make snowmen and through snowballs right there on the side of the road makes for a great holiday right there.
If you’re an outdoors action freak, there are so many options, from surfing and windsurfing to rock climbing, mountain biking, and walking.
Or if you prefer your outdoors activity to be a little more sedate, the city has more golf courses that you can shake a putter at, and gardens galore for horticulture lovers.
6. The Great Indoors – Horncastle Arena, Isaac Theatre Royal, The Piano, the Court Theatre, Christchurch Arts Centre and soon the restored Town Hall
Being entertained with world class music, drama, and shows of all kinds is definitely a great reason to come to the city, and we are rapidly getting up to speed with wonderful venues that truly enhance the experience. Horncastle Arena is the covered venue for the majority of international musos who come to town, while the Isaac Theatre Royal is the choice for a range of performances, from ballet to travelling musicals, orchestral events and much more. Just check their website to see what is coming up and get those tickets booked.
Christchurch’s Court Theatre in Barnard Street, Addington, continues to deliver world class theatre experiences, with the occasional rumble of a train going past to keep you on your toes! (It’s perfectly safe of course.)
The Piano in Armagh Street (backing onto the Isaac Theatre Royal in the Performing Arts Precinct) is the latest addition to venues in the city, opening in 2016 and so far having hosted the Christchurch Writers Festival and a plethora of other performance events.
And in 2018, our wonderful Town Hall will be fully restored again and providing the custom built acoustics of the auditorium for more memorable performances.
7. Places to look at things – Canterbury Museum, Christchurch Art Gallery, Wigram Airforce Museum, Ferrymead Heritage Park, Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, Orana Park, The Antarctic Centre, Christchurch Arts Centre
Apparently when people visit places they don’t live, going to look at things is a popular recreational activity. If that’s your thing, Christchurch definitely has you covered.
There are plenty of options – from historic and sciencey things at the Canterbury Museum; to arty (and also some historic) things at the Art Gallery; flying things at Wigram Airforce Museum; more old things out at Ferrymead – including some you can ride on and interact with; live furry, feathery and fuzzy things at Willowbank and Orana Park, and plenty of cold things at the Antarctic Centre.
See – all options covered.
8. Sporting Events – AMI Stadium, Christchurch Adventure Park – re-opening for Summer 2017, Addington and Riccarton Racecourses, Hagley Cricket Oval, Christchurch Marathon
Despite the fact that the former Lancaster Park/Jade/AMI Stadium is no more, Christchurch is still the venue for plenty of sporting activity – and of course home to the fabulous Crusaders rugby team. They play throughout the winter months in the Super Rugby competition, from their interim home at former Rugby Park in Addington – now renamed AMI Stadium.
Canterbury’s Tactix netball team plays from Pioneer Stadium, while international standard cricket has a new home in the lovely Hagley Oval in the heart of the city.
Christchurch attracts perhaps the biggest numbers each year to Cup and Show Week – featuring the Canterbury A and P Show, and of course a week of racing at both Riccarton Racecourse and Addington Race Course.
9. Arts and Cultural Events – the International Busking Festival, the Christchurch Arts Festival , Kidsfest (July school holidays), Summertimes programme
Christchurch City Council’s Events team have built the city an enviable reputation for year round events that are really worth getting here to attend. Across the summer months, the Summertimes programme offers a diverse range of concerts, shows and activities for the whole community to get involved in – most of them absolutely free of charge.
The International Buskers Festival overlaps in the summer months, bringing performers from around the world to indoor and outdoor locations around the city each year.
Kidsfest happens in the July school holidays each year, and provides an excellent range of activities to keep kids entertained over the most challenging set of school holidays.
And the Christchurch Arts Festival delivers more world class entertainment of a wide range of types to audiences of all sizes.
10. Markets Galore – Christchurch, Lyttelton, North Canterbury
Christchurch and the surrounding areas have plenty of thriving markets on different days of the week and the weekends. Some of the most popular are the Farmer’s Market on each Saturday at Riccarton House in Christchurch – a great place to pick up delicious eats and drinks from a range of local growers and manufacturers.
Make sure you also check out the Sunday Rotary market at Riccarton Race Course – which is a large and diverse market catering for everyone. Stalls range from plants to bric a brac, gifts, food and much more; Lyttelton Market on a Saturday morning is also another popular one (and gives you a chance to queue up for one of those amazing doughnuts from Glamour Cakes if that is your thing); the Opawa Farmers Market is also on a Saturday morning and all products sold at this market are organic. Out of town, head to Amberley for the weekly Farmers Market on a Saturday morning from 9 – 12. Lke all of the above markets, it pays to get there early for the best selection of all the goodies on sale.
11. (Bonus Reason) Things that move – The Christchurch Tram, Punting on the Avon, Double Decker Bus rides, Christchurch Gondola
If you enjoy moving while doing your touristing in the city, make the most of the various modes of transport to get around Christchurch. The Christchurch Tram gives you a taste of “old Christchurch” and runs on a circuit around the inner city. Great way to get a first hand look at all the changes. You can hop on and off the tram at any stops on the circuit, re-using your ticket to continue with the ride. You can even book a table in the Tram’s Restaurant car and have a lovely meal while you travel. For another classical Christchurch experience, you can book a tranquil ride on a Punt along the Avon River which has been renewed and revitalised post earthquake. This is a lovely romantic thing to do – you can even take a picnic hamper with you. For a ride that gives you a higher vantage point, hop onboard one of the Double Decker bus rides around the city and beyond. And then to get right above it all with a view of the whole of the city and the Canterbury Plains, you can take a ride on the Port Hills Gondola (cable car) and check out the Plains as well as a view over Banks Peninsula and Lyttelton Harbour.