Christchurch is a hub of cool, quirky and the gateway to adventure!
Filled with an air of innovation and creative regeneration, Christchurch – the largest city in the South Island – is a unique destination to explore and is blessed with a large dose of adventure right on its doorstep.
There was a time when Christchurch was known simply as ‘The Garden City’ – visitors went there, wandered around the beautiful English-inspired gardens and heritage buildings and then left. The Christchurch that you’ll discover today is more multi-dimensional as a result of the need to rebuild after the severe earthquakes in late 2010 and early 2011 which damaged over 80% of the buildings in the city centre.
Christchurch - the original home of Haka Tours!
Christchurch now is a city with a flourishing hospitality scene, quirky public art on pedestrian-friendly streets and distinct experiences you won’t find anywhere else: a cathedral made out of cardboard, a central city playground that is the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere, and ‘the gateway to Antarctica’ where you can take a Hagglund snow-vehicle ride!
It’s a city that is very close to our hearts here at Haka Tours. Not only does every Haka tour that visits the South Island come through Christchurch, but our company was founded here!
Canterbury is a fantastic base for South Island travellers
The greater Christchurch and Canterbury region offer ideal landscapes – from alpine scenery to serene coastal beaches – for day trips with lots of opportunity to enjoy mountain biking, cycling, hiking, beaches, skiing and snowboarding in winter, and culinary and vineyard escapades! Nearby, Akaroa township is a charming seaside village famous for its French history and quaint character – and the world’s smallest dolphins. While 90 minutes’ drive north of Christchurch is Hanmer Springs which offers a chance to soak in natural hot springs.
With Kaikoura in the northern part of Canterbury, it’s no surprise that the annual Best Trips issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine named Canterbury as one of the world's best adventure destinations to explore in 2019! If you’re on one of our South Island tours, we venture to Kaikōura and Lake Tekapo from Christchurch.
Not-to-be-missed Christchurch attractions:
Boutique shopping and great coffee amidst the pastel hues and Spanish-Mission style architecture in New Regent Street.
Catch a show at the iconic Isaac Theatre Royal which has been lovingly restored to look just as incredible as when it opened in 1906, but now is regarded as the safest, strongest and most spectacular performing arts venues in Australasia.
The Christchurch Art Gallery and CoCA (Centre of Contemporary Art), Canterbury Museum
The Arts Centre – a hub for arts and entertainment located in the impressive neo-gothic former University of Canterbury buildings.
The Botanic Gardens and Antigua Boat Sheds from which you can take a punt down the Avon River.
The ruins of the Christchurch Cathedral in Cathedral Square and the famous Cardboard Cathedral (we’ll visit this on our tours).
The bohemian artists, cafés, quirky shops and eateries in the suburb of Lyttleton.
Hop on a wonderfully restored tram for a tour of Christchurch’s city centre.
Mountain biking enthusiasts should look to the legendary Port Hills for a myriad of tracks including scenic cross-country rides with breathtaking views, and down hill tracks to get the heart pumping.
Four Things You Need to Know About Christchurch
Christchurch is the home of the Wizard of New Zealand! No, he has nothing to do with Gandalf and the LOTR crew, but he is a much-loved part of Christchurch and he was the first man in the modern world to be appointed by a government as an Official Wizard! You can sometimes see the Wizard during lunchtimes in New Regent Street, or perhaps helping the people to discover more magic at the Margaret Mahy Playground.
If your Haka tour starts or ends in Christchurch, consider staying on a day or two longer to fully appreciate the amazing eateries, bars and cafes. Food played a big part in getting the city to its feet again after the earthquakes, and the hospitality scene in the city and suburbs is positively buzzing.
Speaking of accommodation, we happen to have a hostel in Christchurch! Located just over 10 minutes’ drive from Christchurch CBD and close to public transport and local beaches, Haka Lodge Christchurch is the base for many of our tours and gets some great reviews on Tripadvisor. Stay with us, enjoy the garden full of native trees and hook up to the unlimited free WiFi.
The 2010/2011 Christchurch earthquakes were detrimental to the city and yet also produced some innovative initiatives on how to keep a community thriving during such hard times. The earthquakes forever shaped the city and we recommend taking time to reflect on the devastating impact the quakes had. Visit the 185 chairs an artistic memorial (near the Cardboard Cathedral) that represents the 185 lives lost in the 2011 quake. Or visit the official memorial on the banks of the Avon River (near Montreal Street bridge). For $20 you can also explore Quake City: a multi-sensory exhibition that features video footage, photography, artefacts and survivors’ stories.
Four Free Things to Do in Christchurch
Discover why Christchurch is named the Garden City in the two major adjacent gardens: Hagley Park (alongside the Avon River) and the Botanic Gardens. No matter the season, or the weather, a stroll through Christchurch’s Botanic Gardens is time well-spent. The ever-changing beauty of this extensive oasis of calm is a perfect backdrop for some time out or a picnic.
Okay, so it may be a dedicated children’s play space, but the Margaret Mahy Family Playground is built for the young at heart – and is open after dark so you don’t have to queue with the kids! This park – named after one of New Zealand’s most famous children’s authors and designed in part by the children of Christchurch – is two hectares of awesomeness where you can bounce, slide, climb, race on a flying fox and enjoy uncomplicated physical fun!
Head to the hills and stretch your legs while enjoying spectacular views across the Canterbury Plains to the Southern Alps and taking in Lyttleton, Christchurch and Banks Peninsula. Although Christchurch city is pretty flat, the Port Hills offer plenty of walks and mountain biking opportunities, while the tussock grasslands and rugged rock out-crops make a picturesque backdrop for a picnic.
It’s not quite free, but if you pop $2 into the coin slot of the repurposed ex-laundromat washing machine at DanceOMat, plug in your device or hook up to the bluetooth capabilities, your $2 powers four speakers which surround a custom-made dance floor and you can jump and jive, bop, boogey and hip hop to your sounds. Grab a group of friends together and have a mini dance party, or just stop by and check out the local talent (talented dancers, that is)!
Photo Credits: ChristchurchNZ
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