Triple pass includes the 2-day tram pass, the Christchurch
gondola ride plus a 30-minute punt ride. The tranquil and relaxing 30-minute
punt ride takes you down the Avon River through the historic inner city of
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Zealand's city of gardens...
Chirstchurch is renowned for its elegant grey stone 19th-century buildings but has examples of almost every kind of 20th century architecture, from '30s deco apartment blocks to mirror-glass commercial monuments. Cathedral Square is at the heart of the city, but the cathedral is not as dominant as it once was, being somewhat over-shadowed by modern highrises. However, as always, it's still the place to meet locals and visitors alike.
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The Garden City
With one third of its area devoted to parks, reserves or sport fields, Christchurch is aptly named the "garden city. " Flowers and trees also line the city streets, and many a private garden has the finest roses and rhododendrons you'll find anywhere. The Botanic Gardens, perhaps New Zealand's most mature and beautiful gardens, comprise brilliant formal flower gardens interspersed with magnificent specimen trees, tucked into a loop of the Avon River, whose grassy banks separate the gardens from the playing fields and leafy avenues of Hagley Park.
After circling Hagley Park and setting the boundaries for the Botanic Gardens, the Avon River meanders through the city, under bridges and past historic landmarks. The best way to experience the river is by boat; you may rent a canoe or paddleboat, or do it in style by punt. The river also flows through Mona Vale Homestead, set amid colorful gardens and parks in Fendalton. At the Orana Park you can see wildlife from New Zealand and around the world in almost ideal viewing conditions, while at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, where many endangered New Zealand species are bred, you can walk among New Zealand birds and farm animals.
Sports to see:
Boasting over 400 lush, green, un-crowded and beautifully maintained courses, set amidst the most magnificent and dramatic panoramas in the world, New Zealand truly is a golfer's paradise. Between its two major islands and what is probably the most incredible range of terrain - much of it on the hilly side of topography - New Zealand is one of the few countries that can emulate the demanding Scottish links. Click here to see all Christchurch Golf Courses
Art and science
Christchurch has excellent museums. Adjacent to the Arts Center is the Canterbury Museum specializing in natural science, as well as the recently established, award~winning Maori and moa~bird gallery. The nearby Robert McDougal Art Gallery, accessed from the Botanic gardens, features early and contemporary New Zealand, British and European works. The International Antarctic Center, near the International Airport, is a new facility highlighting New Zealand's association with exploration of this continent, via an amazing sound and light show.
Architecture and history
Ferrymead Historic Park incorporates a New Zealand Edwardian town with functioning shops, restored trams, steam engines, rail and transport history, and the southern hemisphere's premier collection of fire~fighting equipment. The Royal New Zealand Airforce Museum is widely recognized as one of the world's best aviation museums. The old Canterbury Provincial Government Buildings reflect the distinctive Gothic architecture of the last century.
Check with the visitor information center for opening hours to view the magnificent interior. At Lyttelton, the port of Christchurch/Canterbury, is a unique castle-like signal station, surmounted by a time-ball signalling device dating from the last century. Open 10am-4pm, every day except Friday.
The Deans Homestead, Kahu Road, set amid beautiful native trees, was built by one of the early settlers to the region around 1840. The humble cottage on the estate, Canterbury's oldest building, is open daily for free. "Sign of the Takahe," an impressive Gothic-style stone building on the Cashmere Hills, with commanding views of the city and Canterbury Plains, is now a cafe/restaurant.
Where to shop
A shopping stop not to be missed is the thriving Arts Center set amid the Gothic stone cloisters of the former university, where you'll find an amazing amount of color and activity. Wander among the arches and quadrangles and take in the bars, restaurants, outdoor cafes and craft studios, which sell everything from bone carvings to designer carpets. On the weekend the centre bubbles with life: jostling people, smells of exotic food, and interesting music and open-air markets. In the nearby downtown area, you will still find long established traditional department stores, with the glamour and elegance of an era now almost past.
What to Eat
Linger over coffee and a croissant in a French boulangerie, or grab a spicy Mexican burrito on the run. You can drink sake in a traditional Japanese setting, or eat your sushi in a public bar, tuck into beef or lamb grilled on an aromatic-wood pit barbecue, eat Italian, savor seafood, or fill up on crunchy whole-food salads. There are even restaurants dedicated solely to desserts. Many cafes cater to early diners, so it's possible to visit a theater or concert, or perhaps dare a flutter on the horses.
If you are not exhausted by your day's sightseeing, you might like to brave the noise and bustle of a pub and hear a local band play. If you fancy a quieter environment, you might consider a chat with friends in a peaceful garden bar, over a cool beer brewed on the premises, or perhaps sample some local vintages at a wine bar in a garden setting.
What to see or hear...From February on there is likely to be live theater, a concert, or perhaps a ballet or opera performance coinciding with your visit. Christchurch has an excellent regional symphony orchestra, and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra visits regularly. Fans of choral music may be lucky to catch a concert in this city, renowned for its excellent choirs.
What to do
The twisting channels of Canterbury's wide rivers support trout and salmon fishing, not to mention jetboat trips. Christchurch is a city of festivals, with a special spring celebration in September and a carnival in November comprising horse racing and an Agriculture and Pastoral Show. From mid to the end of February there's a floral festival.
A gondola ride up Mt. Cavendish on the Port Hills affords magnificent views of Lyttelton, the port of Christchurch/Canterbury, the Southern Alps and the extensive Canterbury Plains. At the terminus there is a "time tunnel" display and restaurant. Take the shuttle from the city. Tours, including local high lights, as well as further-afield trips to Mt. Cook, Akaroa on Banks Peninsula, Hanmer Springs, and whalewatching at Kaikoura, are available from Christchurch.
Riding the TranzAlpine
If you're a railway enthusiast, or just enjoy spectacular mountain scenery, you should travel New Zealand's most scenic rail journey-the TranzAlpine across the Canterbury Plains, up mountain valleys, through the Southern Alps, descending through the lush West Coast rainforests to Greymouth. The return trip can be accomplished in a day, but once on the West Coast you should take the opportunity to explore further; you won't regret it!
This Christchurch hinterland of highly-productive farmlands extends from the east coast silvery beaches to the beckoning jagged peaks of the Southern Alps on the western horizon.
Boating on the Plains
A feature of the Canterbury Plains is its wide shingly rivers, whose multitude of shallow channels and shingle banks were almost impossible to navigate before the advent of the jetboat, invented by a Canterbury engineer. These days, visitors can enjoy the thrill of speeding through these ever-changing twisting channels on rivers such as the Rakaia and Waimakariri. Trout and salmon anglers may well find it also worth their while trying out their skills here.
Around 62 miles/100 km west of Christchurch, drowsy in the summer heat, lies the small country town of Meffiven, which in winter becomes a vibrant ski resort for the nearby internationally renowned Mt. Hutt ski slopes. Only the southern region, centered on Queenstown, has more commercial ski fields than Canterbury. Most years they are open from mid~May to mid-November, so it's possible to experience winter and summer activities in one vacation.
The nearest hiking trails to Christchurch are on the Port Hills, right on the city's doorstep. You could walk the historic Bridle Track, the route taken by the early settlers from the port of Lyttelton to Christchurch. Beyond Lyttelton there's Banks Peninsula's grassy rounded hills and infinite number of bays to be explored. From the Port Hills you will glimpse the snow-capped peaks and foothills of the Southern Alps, inviting you to walk the park trails located there.
Investigating the Banks Peninsula
It's easy to understand why Captain Cook thought Banks Peninsula to be an island, as it's almost surrounded by ocean. just over the hills from Christchurch, the bustling port of Lyttelton is nestled in one of the many harbors on the indented Banks Peninsula coast; another is the site of Akaroa, a once-French settlement still sporting French street signs, quaint cottages and an excellent folk museum.
On half-day cruises of Akaroa Harbor you are able to observe
seals, dolphins, penguins and other shore birds, as well as evidence of the area's
volcanic origins. Hanmer Springs is an oasis set amid the mountains and sunburnt
hills of North Canterbury, where you can relax in the hot, soothing mineral waters or walk
the trails through the surrounding plantations of many tree species planted early this
New Zealand's second major international airport is located in
Christchurch. This means visitors do not necessarily have to back-track to Auckland to
leave the country, and, of course, they may choose to arrive in Christchurch first and
possibly depart from Auckland.
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