River Avon, Christchurch
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River Avon, Christchurch

© www.newzealand.com / Hiroshi Nameda

Christchurch travel guide

Christchurch, the largest city on New Zealand’s South Island, has bounced back from the devastating earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 in an admirable manner.

Once characterised by wide tree-lined avenues, heritage buildings and British-style atmosphere, Christchurch now finds itself reinvented. But don’t feel for a minute that this is a “dark tourism” destination – the creative locals breathing new life into the city have made it more than a worthy destination.

Following the earthquakes, more than 70% of the buildings in the CBD were marked down for demolition, but now boutique hotels, new bars, independent stores and public artworks have sprung up in their place.

The city’s always impressive green space remains intact, but alongside the likes of Hagley Park and its Botanic Gardens you’ll also find a range of innovative construction projects such as Re:START, a shopping and dining complex located in old shipping containers.

Elsewhere, the so-called Cardboard Cathedral was unveiled in 2013 – a remarkable construction that seats 700 people and uses thick cardboard tubes to form an A-shaped roof.

Still known as the Garden City, Christchurch lies at the southern end of Pegasus Bay, halfway along the South Island’s east coast. Outdoor thrills are rarely far away: the Mount Hutt ski area in the Southern Alps is just an hour's drive west from Christchurch, while whale-watching tours can be incorporated into day trips to Kaikoura, a few hours north.

A few historic buildings do remain in the city centre. The old tram is back looping a track that runs through handsome New Regent Street and The Square, before passing the Arts Centre and the Gothic revival building that houses the Canterbury Museum. As well as telling the story of the city’s past, the museum houses numerous artefacts from Antarctic expeditions as Christchurch is an “official gateway city” to the Great White Continent.

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