Christchurch City Profile

Christchurch is the largest city in New Zealand’s South Island. Many say the city feels like an English locale as it does not have the multicultural population of many other Kiwi centers.

While the city has evolved to take on a more cosmopolitan flavor in recent years, its British roots are apparent in its manicured gardens, historic stone buildings, and vintage tram system. To discover Christchurch’s modern evolution, step away from the main streets. The city’s urban laneways are home to vibrant bars and nightspots, eclectic eateries, and trendy boutique shops. While the city has its own attractions, the surrounding Canterbury region is one of its greatest draw cards. Just a few hours from the city center tourists can discover Canterbury’s thriving wine region, icy glaciers, bubbling hot pools, and natural wildlife reserves.

386,100 [Source: Wikipedia – 2009]

Christchurch lies a third of the way down the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island. It is part of New Zealand’s Canterbury region, and sits to the east of the Canterbury Plains.

Christchurch’s climate is dry and temperate. Sea breezes from the northeast help to regulate the temperature in summer, so temperatures rarely rise above 23ºC. These same sea breezes make winters in Christchurch cooler than many New Zealand locations. Winter days tend to hover around 10ºC, although the temperature often drops to 0ºC at night. Frost forms on the ground around one fifth of the year, and it even snows a couple of times each year. Snow is more common in the hilly suburban areas than on the plains.

Places of interest

No matter where you want to go in Christchurch, you should get there on one of the city’s historical trams.

The lovingly restored public transport system takes 30 minutes to tour the city’s sights. It will take you to Christchurch’s shopping districts, parks, heritage buildings, and tourist attractions. The $15 NZD pass allows you to travel as much as you like over a two-day period. For a special tram experience, enjoy a gourmet meal at the Christchurch Tramway Restaurant. The relaxed pace of Christchurch can be best experienced in the city’s Botanic Gardens. The 30-hectare riverside location has more than 10, 000 indigenous and exotic plants. Thematic gardens, including the rock garden, the water garden, and central and heritage rose gardens, attract thousands of visitors. The lawns are perfect for a picnic lunch, while the playground is a big hit with kids. The Botanic Gardens are open daily and admission is free.

The Avon River flows down the heart of Christchurch. One of the most popular ways to appreciate this iconic waterway is to take an old fashioned punt down the river. The boats have Edwardian punters to do all the work, leaving you to sink down into the velvet cushions and watch the world go by. 30-minute punt tours travel around your choice of the city or parklands. While the waters of the Avon River are peaceful, adrenalin seekers aren’t forgotten at Christchurch with the city home to several beaches. The waves of Taylor’s Mistake make it popular with surfers and body boarders. The waters of Sumner Beach are a little calmer, making it a popular summer spot for families with young children. You can often spot friends enjoying a game of beach volleyball on the sand, or fishing off the rocks.

The Arts Centre is Christchurch’s cultural hub. The Gothic Revival buildings which once made up the University of Canterbury now house arts and crafts stores, theaters, an array of eateries, a farmers’ market on weekends, and a range of festivals throughout the year. You can wander the centre at your leisure or take a free guided tour between 10 am and 3:30 pm each day.

Where to eat
Christchurch may appear to look like an English city, but its most popular dining options borrow heavily from the west. Try the tastes of Thailand at Hammersley’s Thai and Bangkok Cuisine, Japanese delicacies at Blue Fish Sushi Train and Yamagen Japanese Restaurant, fiery Indian at Ruchee Indian Tandoori Restaurant and even Bangladeshi cuisine at Nobanno.

Gastronomes are also well catered for, with a host of fine dining restaurants in the city. Hay’s Restaurant will give you a taste of modern Kiwi cuisine. Its organic Canterbury lamb, raised on the family property, is legendary. Restaurant Piko Piko also showcases contemporary New Zealand dishes with an emphasis on indigenous ingredients. The restaurant pairs its award-winning food with live jazz music every Friday and Saturday evening. St Germain is an authentic French restaurant manned by two brothers from Britany keen to share the food of their homeland with New Zealanders.

Where to stay

Much of Christchurch’s character comes from its historic buildings. But they’re not simply remnants from the past. Many have been revamped into boutique motels and bed and breakfasts. Glenroy Hills in the beautiful Canterbury Foothills is a rural getaway. Color-coded rooms all have modern ensuite bathrooms and central heating for those chilly winter nights. There’s plenty of space for unwinding in the sunroom and lounge, where the hosts serve a full English breakfast each morning. Even travelers on a budget can enjoy Christchurch’s historical buildings. Dorset House is recently refurbished hostel with quality beds, electric blankets, and kitchen and laundry facilities. Entertainment is taken care of with complimentary WiFi access, a DVD player, cable television, board games, and a Nintendo Wii.

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