For a small country, New Zealand leaves a big lasting impression. When I tell others I am from this beautiful part of the world, it is often met with nostalgic stories of their own visit, or people telling me how much they want to visit. Movies like Lord of the Rings certainly showcased the diverse landscapes of mountains, plains and lakes down the length of the country.
For any travel blogger, it is easy to forget to write about your own home. The one place you know like the back of your hand and can offer advice about to any traveler. Luckily giffgaff asked a few travel bloggers to write about their hometowns to offer need-to-know tips and advice for a new international campaign.
Due to the devastating earthquakes that shook Christchurch in 2010 and 2011 (and the many aftershocks following), the city is very different from the one I grew up in with a lot of familiar historical sights gone. Though, after what has been a challenging time for many, it has also led to a lot of great new business opportunity.
Work is booming for engineers, builders, tradesman, and for all of the other flow on businesses. There has been a lot of growth from foreign expats moving to Christchurch due to the amount of work opportunities, so hopefully this local’s guide of what to enjoy in Christchurch (complied with some of my favourite pastimes and eateries) will help those new to town.
Eat (and drink) your way around the city
With the city centre out of action, much of the nightlife has moved to surrounding suburbs in Addington, Ferrymead, Merivale, Riccarton and even Woolston. A popular Christchurch spot, Dux-de-Lux has since opened Dux Dine (for drinks and dining) and Dux Live (for drinks and gigs). Other popular restauarants and bars include Aikmans, Bloody Mary’s, King of Snake, Lone Star, No.4, Passengers & Co, The Pedal Pusher, The Twisted Hop and Town Tonic to name a few. Phew!
Here are a few of my other personal favourite local eats:
Brunch (or lunch): The Raspberry Cafe. A little out of the city in Tai Tapu, but it’s a great garden setting in the summer sun. If it’s brunch with a view you are after, you can’t beat She Chocolat in Diamond Harbour. They do great sharing platters. Just try and walk past their hand made, in-house chocolates without buying any after. I dare you. Closer to town café, Hello Sunday, or Town Tonic should do the trick for your weekend coffee and brunch needs.
Chinese: Joyful, Sampan House, or for a quick, no fuss lunch you can’t beat the popular Dumplings (or better known as the ‘$2 rice’ place). A family business that has been in town for almost 30 years.
Japanese: I love some good teppanyaki. @Tonys is the place to go with two locations in Riccarton and Ferrymead. If you want to sit at the teppan bar for the authentic experience and have egg thrown at you, it pays to book. Monday to Thursdays they also offer an all you can eat! For a less busy experience, Yamagen is nice for a special night out.
Markets: Christchurch has some fantastic local farmers markets with locally grown produce and loads of delicious food on offer. Be careful going their hungry. Two of my frequented weekend markets are Riccarton Bush and Lyttelton.
Mexican: There is a fantastic little local Mexican restaurant tucked away in Sumner with delicious food and equally good margaritas. If this sounds like you, pop along to Headless Mexican.
Pizza: Ask any local where you should head to for pizza and Winnie Bagoes will be the answer for good reason. Their tasty gourmet pizzas are freshly made and have to be tried. Two of my other favourites, Club Bazaar and The Ruptured Duck closed due to the earthquakes, but fingers crossed these both re-open.
Enjoy the outdoors and get active
After following my advice above of where to eat, it’s now time to burn it all off! For a city nicknamed ‘The Garden City’, there is no excuse for not getting outdoors and enjoying the green space and nature on offer. Bike around the Port Hills for challenging, but scenic views of the city, walk around the Botanic Gardens, or along one of the many trails that weave their way around the hills, run around Hagley Park or hire a canoe and paddle down the Avon river.
Or, if your stomach is still too full, opt to go punting down the Avon and have someone else do the hard work for you.
Put it in the diary
Christchurch hosts a range of awesome events and festivals during the year from arts, entertainment, culture, movies and food – all of which are well worth putting in the diary. Belly laugh and be amazed at The World Buskers Festival every January, enjoy local flavours at Blues, Brews & BBQs, soak up culture at the Chinese Lantern Festival, watch fireworks at New Brighton pier, or enjoy one of the many events that make up the Summertimes Festival. Be sure to catch the free Summer Theatre – The Outwits are hilarious and are not to be missed.
For New Zealand’s second-largest city, Christchurch is pretty laid back. Being on the coast and close to so many beaches certainly helps this lifestyle. There is something nice about being able to escape the day-to-day with a walk along the shore. On warm, sunny days – get down to trendy Sumner beach, watch the surfers over the hill at Taylors Mistake, or have the pier as your backdrop in New Brighton.
Shop up a storm
A unique shopping experience, the outdoor Re:START container mall has cropped up, re-opening many of the stores in the central city who were previously located down Cashel Mall (London since followed this idea with BOXPARK in Shoreditch). After shopping up an appetite have a bite to eat at one of the cafes, or my recommendation – a souvlaki from Dimitris. You can thank me later.
Merivale, Sumner and Lyttelton also have some good shopping with smaller, boutique retailers. If it’s more of the chain and larger retailers you need, Westfield mall in Riccarton has all bases covered.
Soak up the views
Christchurch is a very flat city apart from the Port Hills, so it is easy to soak up the views from one of the many vantage points. Drive up to the Sign of the Kiwi, Sign of the Takahe, or catch the Gondola up to the top and enjoy a ride in a cable car while admiring the view.
Support post-earthquake initiatives
The city is slowly seeing a rebirth of sorts with many pop-up initiatives and some good old Kiwi ingenuity. One initiative bringing a lot of colour and joy to the city is Gap Filler. Their aim “to temporarily activate vacant sites within Christchurch with creative projects, to make for a more interesting, dynamic and vibrant city”. It has brought art, mini golf, outdoor cinema, music and my all time favourite, The Dance-O-Mat. Plug in your mp3 player, put a $2 coin into the washing machine and VOILA! The lights turn on and the large outdoor dance floor is yours to bust out your best dance moves. It was even good enough for Prince Charles and Camilla during their visit. Check out the video here.
I applaud the community for coming together after these natural disasters and the business owners who are using their initiative through caravan cafes & restaurants, pop-up shops and container bars (to name a few) to get the city back up on its feet. Keep supporting those who are working hard to rebuild the city and give love back to the local community.
Take a day trip
If you are looking for a day trip out of the city, you are spoilt for choice. Located on the east coast of the South Island, Christchurch is well placed to get away to other gorgeous towns and activities. In just over an hour you can be soaking in the natural thermal pools in the alpine village of Hanmer Springs (a favourite pastime of mine), wine tasting in Waipara, hitting the slopes at Mt Hutt, or Porter Heights ski fields and enjoying the French town of Akaroa.
To keep up to date with the latest in bars, restaurants and events in Christchurch, check out some of these other helpful websites:
Have you ever visited Christchurch? Add your tips in the comments, or let me know if you have any other questions I can help answer.