I am not sure just where to start to tell you about local hotspots in and around Christchurch New Zealand. As the rebuild of the City ‘hots up’ there are just so many amazing places to visit! As a born and bred “Cantabrian” (citizen of Christchurch and Canterbury area) I find it challenging to keep up with everything that is going on. Let’s start with one of my favourites:
The Christchurch Arts Centre
The Centre is located in the neo-gothic former University of Canterbury buildings, the majority of which were designed by Benjamin Mountfort.
The complex is undergoing upgrading and repairs following the 2011 earthquake. Watching the Stone masons repairing and replacing some of the facades can bring tears to this local’s eyes. The upgrade is being managed so that both visitors and locals can access areas as they become available. The pace and changes that are happening are just mind boggling.
During a recent visit I discovered The Bunson Cafe – situated adjacent to Rutherford’s Den (a tribute to Ernest Rutherford, with interactive scientific and educational displays on show). The café has been refurbished in keeping with an historic building, even the dining furniture has an old school look about it.
Watch out for Events that are located in the environs of the Arts Centre. Recently I took my grandson to watch some of the street performers who were part of the World Famous Christchurch Buskers Festival. If you are planning a visit to Christchurch during January – make sure you plan your trip to coincide with the festival. Outdoor Cinema is proving very popular at time of writing.
As part of the rebuild of the various buildings and quadrangles retailers are gradually moving back in. I was delighted to see The Cheesemonger – has recently moved into the refurbished retail area. A huge favourite of locals and visitors alike – featuring a Delicatessen and Café with food for cheese lovers to drool over.
Dining Hot Spots in Christchurch
Dining in Christchurch is also a challenge these days in that there are so many new restaurants opening you literally cannot keep up!
I have heard amazing things about Mumbaiwala Indian Street kitchen. The word from those who have experienced street food in India – “it’s just like being there”.
One of my favourites is King of Snake – South East Asian Thai cuisine. Order a selection of the small sharing plates and take the opportunity taste a dish that you wouldn’t normally order.
For carnivors – especially steak lovers Bloody Marys is favoured by locals and visitors alike.
This week I took some visitors to Hello Sunday Cafe for lunch. They raved about the food and the ambience. Located in Sydenham on the South West side of the city it is a great place for to Lunch or Brunch with a Mediterranean style menu.
Christchurch Adventure Park – our newest Hotspot
The Adventure Park opened in November 2016 and has far exceeded the developer’s expectations of number of visitors. Thousands of locals and tourists have arrived each day since the opening in December 2016.
Traversing the Christchurch Port Hills, the bike park features a 1.8km lift to take down-hill bikers (with their bikes) up to the top of the various trails, offering all the options from beginner to experienced riders. If you just want to check it out you can sit in the café and watch everyone else doing the hard work required to go up and down the hills.
Ironically at time of writing the Adventure Park has been temporarily closed due to a large fire in the Port Hills – the infrastructure has been saved and the owners are working on getting the tracks back up to pre-fire condition. Check out the website for updates.
New Regent Street
Originally opened in 1932 as a private development, New Regent Street in central Christchurch is a really stunning street to visit. Built in Spanish Mission architectural style it is one of Christchurch’s most visited streets.
There is a range of boutique businesses and dining experiences and if you feel like a good coffee you can sit street-side and people watch. The Tram has a stop on the street and watching it come and go seems to take you back to a time when the pace of life was slower and you got to enjoy the journey. There are so many good options for a coffee – my favourite – The Caffeine Laboratory – great coffee and some great small plate options if you are hungry.
Margaret Mahey Playground
Just east of New Regent Street on Armagh and Manchester streets is the newly opened Margaret Mahey Playground. Even if I don’t have children with me I love to have a wander round. It has to be the best playground in New Zealand. Built by the government to provide for children from the city and surrounds its a wonderful place to relax. The interactive water features are just amazing.
Margaret Mahey is New Zealand’s popular author of children’s and young adult books. She wrote more than 100 picuture books, 40 novels and a collection of short stories. Margaret passed away in 2012.
I am told that if you visit after dark you will find adults enjoy the playground even more than the children have during the day!
Holidaying always offers that lovely window of time to check out the retail scene. Christchurch’s
hotspot for shopping is definitely Ballantynes Department Store (or Bally’s as the locals call it). Think Macy’s or Debenhams even Harrods. However, it does have its own unique culture. A myriad of products from all over the world; menswear, womenswear, furnishings, stationery, designer shops, crystal, delicatessen, beauty counters, gorgeous New Zealand giftware – you name it – they have it.
Surrounding Ballantynes (which is in the heart of the city) are other major retail blocks and the last of the pop up shops in the Restart Mall.
Hot Spots outside of the City
Around one – two hours drive from the centre of Christchurch there are many hotspots to visit. here’s a few options – there are lots more!
Hanmer Springs – New Zealand’s alpine spa village. Soak in the hot pools, have a game of golf, enjoy the retail area, walk or cycle in the forest.
I regularly spend a couple of days in Hanmer Springs. The pools just seem to renew my energy and I always head home feeling as though I have been away for at least a week!
Akaroa –a historic French and British settlement. Explore the village with its colonial architecture, galleries, craft stores, and cafés. Relax or take part in the many activities that are on offer. I love a trip to Akaroa – when you get to Hilltop the view over Banks Peninsula and all the bays is breath-taking.
Gore Bay – Gore Bay is a tiny bay east of Cheviot (State Highway 1 on the way to Kaikoura). I recently visited after several years of driving past the turnoff on my way to Kaikoura. It is such a peaceful area, you can walk along the beach and not see another soul. It’s quirky, with all manner of housing from the traditional Kiwi Bach to some really lovely permanent homes. A tiny Holiday Park has caravans parked on the edge overlooking the sea.
We headed back to Christchurch and stopped at the Cathedrals Viewing platform (see pic on page header) and the Hurunui River (pic below) – just stunning.