AirAsia recently launched a new route from Kuala Lumpur to Christchurch and brought back so much fond memories of New Zealand to me. Among all the places that I have visited in New Zealand, Christchurch is one of my favorite cities in the South Island of New Zealand. It is the largest city in the South Island and is considered to be the most English city among the rest in New Zealand. But to me, it is more like an English town rather than a city. It doesn’t have any of the bustling, noisy, big city feel. It is definitely a garden city!
A lot of the attractions in Christchurch city are within walking distance. Here I am going to tell you how to spend one fine day visiting those attractions on your feet. A green way while on holiday and burning off all the fat that you put on while feasting on your vacation 😉
Let’s start from the Christchurch Cathedral at Cathedral Square in the morning. When I think of Christchurch, the first thing that comes to my mind is the chalice at the Cathedral Square. It is a huge beautiful blue and silver color piece of art. The Christchurch Cathedral, besides being the most visited church in this country, remains the heart and soul of this city. Christchurch people will come here to celebrate and grieve in one of the 14 weekly services. The English Victorian Gothic church architecture attracts many visitors daily. Visitors can take an audio tour or join a free guided tour.
Around the Cathedral Square exists an abundant of gift and souvenir stores, including a large duty free store. But let’s not get side tracked and continue our walk along Cathedral Square to Worchester Street. This street meets Oxford Terrace (nicknamed The Strip) at the junction and continues to become Worchester Boulevard, forms the main dining and entertainment scene in Christchurch. Modern bars and restaurants including lovely cafes dot these streets, particularly along The Strip.
Our next stop will be Christchurch Art Gallery which stands at the corner of Worcester and Montreal Streets and it is only 500m from the Cathedral Square. It is totally free to visit this art gallery and you can even take free guided tour too. The art gallery is huge and you might need to spend around 2 hours here.
Diagonally opposite the art gallery is Christchurch Arts Center. It is another of my favourite places in Christchurch. The arts center is actually located in the former University of Canterbury. The buildings are typical of the Gothic Revival period of architecture. You can find a lot of galleries, art and crafts shops, cafes, restaurants and bars here. The arts center is the venue of the famous weekend art and craft market (every Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm) and Friday Farmers’ Market. You can buy genuine and good quality leather gloves and fine merino wool product here at a reasonable price. The famous Rutherford’s Den is inside the arts center. Lord Rutherford is well-known as “The Father of the Atom” and won the Nobel Prize in 1908. He completed his undergraduate degree at Canterbury College and performed much of his research in the basement den in the Clock Tower Building. The den is then restored as a multimedia interactive museum.
By this time, you should get hungry. So it might be a good idea to have your lunch at the various cafes and restaurants at the arts center.
After lunch, we can continue our journey to Canterbury Museum which is just next to the Christchurch Arts Centre and another admission free place for some heritage and cultural tour. Or for those who are tired of working, you can stroll around the Christchurch Botanic Gardens (which is just beside the Canterbury Museum) and even take a nap there. The gently flowing Avon River passes by the Botanic Gardens and you can go punting on the Avon River. There are three punting locations: city, park or Mona Vale. The park location operates from the historic Antigua Boatsheds, at 2 Cambridge Terrace, next to the Botanic Gardens, and close to the Canterbury Museum, Arts Centre and Art Gallery. For more information, check out their website: http://www.punting.co.nz/
If you wish to see more of Christchurch, you can take a Tram ride on Christchurch Tramway. The tram ticket lasts you for 2 consecutive days and allows you to get down and up at various stops along the city. You can even dine inside the tram at night time!
If you still have some time for the rest of the day and want an unforgettable scenic experience, you might want to consider traveling up to the Christchurch Gondola. The ride from the base station to the top takes around 15 minutes and you can expect a spectacular 360 degree view of the Canterbury Plains, Pacific Ocean and the Southern Alps.
Tips: Purchase a multi-pass ticket of Tram, Gondola or Punt combo (you can choose any combination) to save you some money. The ticket can be purchased at any Tram stops, the Tram Station, the Gondola Base Station or at the i-SITE.
So we have seen a lot in the day, what shall we do at night? Besides the usual dining and drinking, maybe a visit to a wildlife reserve? Willowbank Wildlife Reserve keeps the native species like Kiwis, Kea and also introduced species like wallabies. Visiting Willowbank Wildlife Reserve at night time is good as Kiwis are nocturnal birds. We can see the Kiwis in a natural and open enclosure, not behind a glass wall. However, you need to be very quiet if you want to have an up-close and personal encounter with the Kiwis as they are very shy. You can choose a guided night tour or walk on your own. Alternatively, you can also choose a combo package which includes Ko Tane (The Maori Experience) and/or with dinner. I took the combo package of a Ko Tane and a guided evening tour.
Ko Tane is an authentic Maori cultural tour. It gave me a wonderful experience as it provided me an insight into pre-European South Island Ngai Tahu Maori people culture, tradition and lifestyles. Ngai Tahu tribe’s ancestor traces back to Paikea, the original Whale Rider. Ngai Tahu is currently the dominant Maori tribe of the South Island. At the beginning, a chief was picked among us, the visitors and we were greeted by the blowing of the Putatara (conch) to inform of intruders or visitors. Our guide who was a tane(male) explained to us the customs of the Ngai Tahu tribe as we entered the Living Village. When we entered the Pa (village), a fearsome Maori warrior threw us the Wero, the traditional challenge to visitors where the warrior displayed a number of movements to find out the intentions of our visit. Do we come in peace or to fight? If the warrior confirmed that we came in peace, the chief of the visitors needed to pick up the Take laid by the warrior before we were allowed to enter to the next stage. Inside the village, the village chief spoke words of welcome and thanked the chief of the visitors for accepting the Wero to come in peace. Then the pressing of noses, hongi is the final part of the welcome process. This process means the sharing of life between the two parties and must be done between the two chiefs. Once in the village, we saw how the Maori people used to lead their life before the coming of the Pakeha (fair-skinned ones). Then the Maori culture performance began. They performed Waiata ringa (action songs with a hand display) which spoke about the events and family members of a great mana, poi (flax swinging ball) dance and also Haka (war dance) for us. We were also invited to try out the poi and Haka dance. It was really a fun, educational and entertaining night.
That’s how me and also you can spend a one fine day in Christchurch. However, there are more fun things to do here like visiting the International Antarctic Centre which is just across the Christchurch International Airport. Maybe you can come and have a look here before you board your flight leaving this beautiful city.
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Have fun in Christchurch and New Zealand!