The Garden City recovers from adversity to build a bold future

The largest city in the South Island is also the country’s third most populous, and its position a third of the way down the east coast makes it a convenient gateway to the rest of the island. Nestled east of the Canterbury Plains, it has its own satellite harbour town, Lyttleton, just across the Port Hills, where cruise liners deliver their sightseeing passengers. Ravaged by two major earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, the city is in recovery mode, with the rebuilding of the CBD and affected suburbs continuing apace. Many heritage buildings were lost, yet there’s a lot of excitement about the future look and vibe of the city centre, which is already buzzing with new bars, restaurants, shops and civic spaces. Located just an hour east of Mt Hutt ski resort, the city is also a major transit point for skiers and snowboarders looking for perfect conditions. Meanwhile, great trout- and salmon-fishing spots abound at any number of lakes and rivers within easy reach.

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Things to do

  • House of cardboard

    Cathedral Square gives visitors poignant insight into the damage inflicted by the earthquake, with the Anglican cathedral that gives the square its name a mere shell of its former self. As a counterpoint, visit the innovative Cardboard Cathedral, constructed as a temporary replacement.

  • Ice capades

    Visit the Antarctic without leaving Christchurch by exploring the International Antarctic Centre, featuring a visitor centre known as The Antarctic Attraction that boasts wild little blue penguins on the road to recovery.

  • Memory Banks

    Just 84km east of Christchurch on Banks Peninsula, Akaroa is an English and French settlement bursting at the seams with colonial and Maori history. A popular resort in summer, it offers swimming with dolphin tours that are a major drawcard.

  • Snow much fun

    An hour inland from the CBD is Mt Hutt with its 365ha of slopes for snow bunnies of all ages and abilities. The season generally begins in mid-June and runs for several months. A daily shuttle service operates between Methven and Christchurch.

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Airport information

CBD 12km

Travel time 15-20 minutes

Taxi Approx NZD $45-65

Super Shuttle from NZD $24

Metro bus 29 NZD $8 (adult), NZD $5 (child)

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When to go

Christchurch’s temperate climate means moderate rainfall and lots of sunshine, even in winter, when temperatures often fall below 0°C. The winter months fall at mid-year and snowfalls occur occasionally, though heavy frosts are more common. Summer begins round Christmas and sees mild, warm conditions, with temperatures sometimes soaring into the 30s and beyond.

The city no longer hosts the annual Ellerslie Flower Show but still abounds with entertainment and cultural activities. For 21 years, the World Buskers Festival has delighted, amused and bewildered people in mid to late January, taking back the streets as a platform for expression and joviality. New Zealand Cup and Show Week in early to mid November is a cornucopia of horse racing, fashion, food and entertainment targeted at locals and visitors alike.

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Getting around

Two bus companies, Red Bus and Go Bus Christchurch, and a ferry service are jointly marketed as Metro, plying a comprehensive range of routes throughout the city and outer reaches. Central Station is at Lichfield and Tuam Sts. The ferry connects Lyttleton to Diamond Harbour. Christchurch Tramway plies a one-way circuit around the CBD, primarily for tourists. Beyond that, cycling is a great option for getting around a predominantly flat city.

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