Head to the South Island’s east coast and discover the beautiful 'Garden City' of Christchurch, between the Pacific Ocean and the Southern Alps. The town is continuing to recover from a series of earthquakes from 2010 to 2012 which unfortunately destroyed many of its gorgeous 19th-Century buildings, but it’s also famous for its contemporary galleries, open parks and friendly café culture. Explore this distinctly English-feeling city by bicycle, classic Edwardian punt and vintage tram, or just soak up the atmosphere with a leisurely stroll.
If you’re in Christchurch then be sure to make the trip down to Akaroa, a small town on Banks Peninsula. Here you’ll find a quaint lighthouse as well as the Akaroa Museum, with three heritage buildings showing the town’s British and French colonial history. Head to The Giant’s House, a quirky building with terraced gardens, colourful sculptures and mosaics, or visit Akaroa Harbour and book a dolphin cruise for the chance to spot the rare and playful Hector’s dolphins – they have easily distinguishable rounded dorsal fins and are only found in New Zealand waters.
GMT +12 hours (GMT +13 hours from the last week in March to the first week in October)
New Zealand Dollar (NZ$) comprising of 100 cents.
Christchurch: 24½ hours
English. Maori is also spoken but is not widely used.
Visas are not required for UK passport holders.
230 volt AC. Three round pin plugs are used, therefore an adapter is required.
**Getting around **
The city centre is easily navigated by foot and the winding River Avon and beautiful Hagley Park offer pleasant walks. The city is served by an efficient bus network that offers links to surrounding suburbs whilst a number of coach tours visit the highlights of the region and inform visitors about efforts to rebuild the city. Hiring a car is an excellent way to explore the city and its beautiful surroundings.
**Where to go **
The Re:START project set up in Cashel Mall introduces a unique collection of pop-up shops and cafés set in colourful shipping containers. The flagship Ballantynes department store leads the way, followed by exclusive fashion boutiques and gift shops such as Simply New Zealand which sells beautiful souvenirs including paua shell jewellery and merino scarves. Weekend market stalls showcase local arts and crafts and a number of buzzing cafés and a food-court provide refreshments. In Riccarton, just a ten minute drive from the city centre, you will find a host of shops and cafés at Westfield Mall.
**What do to **
Hire a punt and glide along the tranquil Avon River or dine at one of the restaurants dotted along the tree-lined banks. Hagley Park is a beautiful and tranquil space that is a delight to explore in all seasons. Take a picnic, feed ducks on Victoria Lake or admire the rose garden and collection of indigenous and exotic plants in the gorgeous botanic gardens. Behind the gardens you will find the excellent Christchurch Museum and although parts of the museum remain closed, visitors still have access to the arts and Maori galleries as well as the Early European Settlement and Victoria Museum exhibitions.
Christchurch offers a plethora of wildlife attractions. Discover native flora and fauna including wallabies and birds at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve where children can feed and pet the animals and even become a junior keeper for the day! Orana Wildlife Park, New Zealand’s largest wildlife reserve, is home to over 400 animals including cheetahs, zebra, meerkats and the elusive kiwi, New Zealand’s national symbol. Feed and pet the giraffes or enjoy exciting wildlife encounters such as the Lion Encounter Ride, where you enter the lion enclosure in a caged trailer during feeding time and come face-to-face with the hungry beasts. At the International Antarctic Centre you can enjoy informative and interactive displays, watch feeding time in the penguin pool, brace yourself for an Antarctic storm in the Snow & Ice Experience, and embark on a simulated cruise to Antarctica during the Ice Voyage 4D Show.
For a day at the seaside head east to New Brighton, Sumner or the charming French settlement of Akaroa which boasts craft stores and cafés as well as a host of activities. Go kayaking around the harbour, cruise in search of the playful Hector’s dolphin – the smallest and rarest species of dolphin or even go swimming with these delightful creatures. Just a two-hour drive west from the city centre will take you to the snowy peaks of Mount Hutt for skiing and snowboarding fun. Enjoy an introduction to the slopes, brush up on your technique or ski independently.
**Eating out **
A variety of restaurants serving international cuisine are scattered around the city centre whilst the nearby suburb of Addington is a thriving social hub, boasting a plethora of coffee shops and restaurants along with live music venues and the excellent Court Theatre. For an authentic taste of New Zealand cuisine, book a Maori experience and enjoy traditional rituals, singing, dancing accompanied by a hangi, where local dishes such as lamb and sweet potato are cooked for hours underground on hot stones.
Tipping is a matter of choice. For excellent service, a discretionary tip of 10% may be given.
The history of New Zealand dates back to approx. 1250 AD. It was discovered by Polynesians, who settled and developed a distinct Maori culture centred on kinship links and land. New Zealand is often referred to as the 'youngest country', as it was one of the last major landmasses to be inhabited, and has a fascinating mix of Maori and European heritage.