Christchurch from above

New Zealand’s second largest city is affectionately known as the gateway to the South Island, and was recently named 2nd on the New York Times’ list of places to visit in 2014. The city is also famous for being an official departure point for a number of Antarctic expeditions, but to dismiss Christchurch as a mere stepping stone would be truly unfair. Despite suffering a series of terrible earthquakes between 2010 and 2011, out of the ongoing rebuilding process a vibrant and resilient Christchurch is beginning to blossom. Here are a few things you have to do whilst in the area...

Witness the revival of a city

The old provincial council building in Christchurch

The devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 caused billions of dollars’ worth of damage to Christchurch and the surrounding area. The road to recovery for this city has been a long one, and the rebuild is still not yet completed. Having said this, the locals have approached the process with an astoundingly positive attitude, as well as some ingenious short term solutions. A great example of this is the now famous Cardboard Cathedral. The original cathedral was severely damaged during the earthquakes, so this unique, temporary home was designed by architect Shigeru Ban, and is now arguably the most photographed building in the city.

The city’s resilience is best encapsulated by the Gap Filler Project; an urban regeneration initiative which attempts to convert vacant, damaged areas into creative spaces beneficial to the community.    

Partake in some immersive Christchurch experiences

The old cathedral aside, luckily some other centrepieces of Christchurch’s culture survived the earthquakes. These include both the Air Force Museum and the Antarctic Centre. New Zealand’s Air Force Museum is dedicated to the country’s military aviation heritage, and displays many old aircraft and exhibits from years gone by. The Antarctic Centre provides a range of pretty cool experiences, including the chance to see if you can handle an Antarctic storm and the opportunity to meet some blue penguins.

Embark on a stunning train ride  

Whilst in Christchurch you should definitely take the opportunity to board a train on one of the fantastic routes that departs from the city. Firstly, there is the Coastal Pacific train. The line runs up the east coast from Christchurch to Picton, stopping at the incredibly picturesque Waipara and Kaikoura on the way. The trip is the perfect way to see more of the South Island, and gives you easy access to some of New Zealand’s lesser known gems. For a journey inland, and the chance to view some of the finest landscape New Zealand has to offer, consider boarding the TranzAlpine, which heads North West out of Christchurch, meandering through mountains, glaciers and gorges before reaching its destination in Greymouth on the west coast of the South Island. Either of these trips could not be further from your everyday train commute.  

Climb high on the Christchurch Gondola

The view from the Christchurch Gondola

For breathtaking panoramas of Christchurch and its surroundings, take a trip on the Gondola above Port Hills. It is a truly unforgettable sightseeing experience, and although most people associate a gondola with navigating the canals in Venice, you won’t be left disappointed once you reach a height of over 1km. Out to the north west you can see the cityscape of Christchurch, and to the south are extraordinary views of Banks Peninsula, whilst the Pacific Ocean stretches endlessly out to the north east.