Hotels in Christchurch (South Island, New Zealand)
Hotels in Christchurch
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Christchurch – A City Reborn from the Rubble
Christchurch is New Zealand’s third most populous city and the largest on the South Island. It is a city that retains a strong sense of its British heritage and offers many attractions and hotels as well as beautiful, snow-capped mountains and glaciers in the surrounding Canterbury region. Unfortunately, in 2010 and 2011, earthquakes devastated parts of Christchurch. Refusing to be beaten though, the spirited locals have used ingenious methods to get the city functioning again, allowing it to continue welcoming large numbers of visitors from all over the world.
Christchurch City Centre
Thanks to its compact size, a lack of hills and a grid street system, Christchurch is easily explored on foot or bicycle. Many visitors head straight for the city centre, which was heavily affected by the earthquake. It is an area known for its hotels and historic attractions: at its heart is Cathedral Square, where buskers, public speakers and entertainers congregate. Points of interest here include a large chess board and the ruins of Christ Church Cathedral, a striking reminder of the more recent earthquake’s aftermath. Anglican worshippers have been temporarily accommodated in the clever Cardboard Cathedral, literally made from cardboard, albeit in tube form, and further strengthened with timber and steel: it can be found on Latimer Square, just a few minutes’ walk away. In front of the ruins is The Chalice, a piece of modern sculpture in the shape of an inverted cone, a forlorn attempt to mirror the Cathedral’s now-departed spire.
Victoria Square and the River Avon
It’s not surprising that Christchurch is known as the Garden City – it is blessed with many green spaces beloved by locals and tourists alike. Just to the north of Cathedral Square is Victoria Square, the site of markets and fairs before being transformed into an attractive park in 1897. Statues of Captain James Cook, the British explorer who mapped the coastline of New Zealand in 1769, and Queen Victoria are prominent focal points and, at the edge of the park. The River Avon gently meanders its way through the city with its tree-lined banks; a popular pastime it to take a relaxing cruise in a punt, a flat-bottomed boat, along the river. Astride the river is the Hamish Hay Bridge, New Zealand’s oldest cast iron and stone bridge. Following the river along its route to the east takes in the Bridge of Remembrance, a wartime memorial. Several excellent hotels are located nearby too.
Hagley Park and Botanical Gardens
Further on, the river meets Hagley Park, another beautiful green space. It’s a sporting hub with football and rugby pitches and a running track that’s popular with early-morning joggers. Also within the park is Christchurch Botanic Gardens, the perfect place to unwind while enjoying the rich colours and fragrances of the roses, hydrangeas and other stunning flowers. For a spot of local history, a short walk away is Canterbury Museum. Established in 1867 and housed in an attractive Gothic Revival building, its collection features artefacts from early Maori settlements through to the arrival of European settlers and later. There’s so much to see here that a whole day can quite easily be taken up observing the fascinating exhibits. Before heading back to the hotel, a trip to the Isaac Theatre Royal on Gloucester Road for an evening show is highly recommended; built in 1908, it’s a beautiful heritage building that’s recently been restored to its former glory.
Cashel Street and Re:START Container Mall
Cashel Street, known for its shops, restaurants and hotels, was greatly affected by the earthquake, with City Mall being forced to close. Understandably, businesses wanted to get trading again as quickly as possible and a solution was found in the form of shipping containers with the creation of Re:START Container Mall; the containers, painted in bright and vibrant colours, now house all manner of businesees including fashion boutiques, gift shops and cafés as well as numerous food stalls. To get a real sense of the human and economic impact the earthquakes had on Christchurch, Quake City, just across the road, is a sobering and uplifting experience. Through the use of eye-witness testimonials and interactive exhibits, it brings home the brutality of such natural disasters and the resilience of humanity. A short walk, on the corner of Cashel Street and Madras Street, is the 185 Empty White Chairs earthquake memorial, with each chair representing a life lost in the tragedy.
Day Trips and Excursions
Outside the city centre, Air Force Museum of New Zealand on Harvard Avenue features 28 aircraft and a flight simulator and a short drive along State Highway 1 is the International Antarctic Centre; here visitors can experience what it’s like to be caught in a snowstorm and enjoy a ride on a Hagglund, an all-terrain vehicle. Further along SH 1, animal-lovers will want to visit Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, which houses New Zealand’s five famous indigenous animals: the Kiwi, Kea, Tuatara, Kaka and Takahe. To get a sense of the beautiful scenery, a trip on Christchurch Gondola cable car is a must: a shuttle bus there can be caught from Canterbury Museum. If there’s still time, a journey to Greymouth on the TranzAlpine Ride railway is highly recommended; it travels along the Waimakariri River across the Southern Alps. It takes 4 1/2 hours each way, giving an hour in Greymouth. Alternatively, a night in a local hotel is also an option.
Hotels in Christchurch
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