Christchuch, New Zealand’s Garden City, has a population of 400,000, around the same size as Wellington, and is located on the East Coast of the South Island, on the edge of the Canterbury Plains.
The city is still very much in recovery phase from the devastating earthquake of 2011, which destroyed much of the city centre. It remains though very much on the South Island tourist itinerary, with its Garden status of parks and gardens maintained and much admired, and has a growing arts and cultural scene.
Christchurch is the centre of South Island’s LGBT community, though it has only a couple of actual gay venues. There is a growing gay scene emerging here, and a renewed Christchurch Gay Pride Week was held in November 2013.
Christchurch International Airport serves both domestic routes and direct international flights from Australia, Japan, Singapore, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates.
A regular bus service links the airport to the city centre with a journey time of around 30 minutes. There are also plenty of taxis and car hire facilities at the airport.
InterCity Coachline buses travel north to Picton (for the ferry connection to Wellington), south to Dunedin and west to Queenstown and the West Coast.
The TranzAlpine train travels between Christchurch and Greymouth on the West Coast – which is a popular and scenic return day trip for tourists.
With the city located on a flat plain, cycling is a good option for getting around the city, with a good network of cycle lanes. The city centre is easily manageable on foot.
The Christchurch tramway is still closed due to the earthquake damage (September 2013).
Christchurch is rebuilding the city centre following the earthquake, and many innovative new facilities have opened as part of the new pop-up city.
Re:START is a new pop-up outdoor retail area made of old shipping containers, with over 50 retailers now, and has a really buzzy and fun atmosphere.
The Cardboard Cathedral opened recently as a temporary replacement to the damaged stone one, and is attracting a lot of interest as a beautifully designed and creative response to the damage, and has already become a new visitor attraction for the city.
The earthquake damage has become a tourist attraction of its own, with tours within and around the red zone available.
Take a punt on the River Avon for a very traditionally English experience.
Visit the award-winning International Antarctic Centre at the airport, complete with simulated polar weather.
Riccarton Bush is a remnant of the ancient Canterbury plain forest which has been preserved in the city.
Many of the main cultural attractions, including the Art Gallery and Cathedral remain closed.
Out of town:
Ride the Christchurch Gondola past the summit of the famous extinct volcano (newly reopened since March 2013).
Take the Summit Road (by car, bicycle or bus) along the crest of the Port Hills between Christchurch and Lyttelton for great views over the city and Pegasus Bay.
Visit Lyttelton – to see the port, the bay and busy harbour and its many cafés and bars.
Ride the white rapids down the Rangitata River.
Take the Tranz Alpine train from Christchurch to Greymouth and back.