First time in Christchurch, New Zealand? A local gives you her top things to do in two days.
On day one
.. have a quick look around the city on the free electric shuttle.
Look for the yellow shuttle bus stops and just hop on board for a 20-minute ride to see where we locals spend our money and get an overview of part of the inner city. Once you have done that circuit take another ride, this time on the restored electric tram and see another part of the city – the Cultural Precinct.
I recommend you jump on and off this 2.5k route, visiting places such as our wonderful Christchurch Art Gallery; the old university site which is now an Arts Centre; the Canterbury Museum; New Zealand’s oldest Botanic Gardens, and also check out the vehicle-free, and very pretty, New Regent Street – a wonderful mix of early styles and pastel colours.
The whole route provides a huge choice of eating places – not one on them ‘for tourists’ but where we Cantabrians eat lunch daily. The choice is wide, from Indian to Japanese, from Thai to Greek, and many, many, other ethnicities, and of course lots of upmarket cafés.
Your choices for dinner at night are huge too: my recommendation would be to combine Maori culture with your meal. Willowbank Wildlife Reserve is only 15 mins from the city centre – transport leaves from ‘the square’ – combines with Kotane, the Maori Experience means you will have an evening with a uniquely New Zealand flavour. You will also be able to see our native kiwi in natural surroundings – this flightless bird is only found in New Zealand and we locals call ourselves kiwi too.
. . . is for the multi-award-winning International Antarctic Centre. Christchurch has long been the jumping off place for Antarctic exploration – from Robert Falcon Scott right through to today. This will take the entire morning as you experience an arctic storm, learn about the Antarctic, take a ride on a real Antarctic all-terrain Hagglund vehicle, and spend ages with the very cute, rescued, penguins in New Zealand’s first indoor-outdoor penguin viewing area.
After all this running around maybe you would like to spend some time making your own souvenir at Beadz in the Arts Centre, or, if you have children, Science Alive is a great destination (on the free yellow shuttle route) If neither of those appeal, and you still have some energy, take a guided bike tour! I can well recommend Christchurch Bike Tours for a two-hour trip from the city centre to Mona Vale. Christchurch is also called the City of the Plain so no hills and very comfortable retro bikes to travel on.
For dinner tonight, how about trying a New Zealand staple? Fish and chips – with our favourite tomato sauce – are not low-fat that’s true, but something we really, really love as a treat. Eat them out of the paper wrapping, with your fingers and you will know another reason we love them – no dishes to wash, just crunch up the paper and throw it in the rubbish. Enjoy your two days in my city.