When I was preparing the New Zealand Roadtrip Compilation, I realized that I have missed the Garden City of the South. My excuse? I found it difficult to write about it.
Here's a video of our recent road trip to Christchurch
Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, also known as the Garden City. Christchurch features grand stone buildings, Elizabethan Architecture, and lots of gardens.
I personally call NZ, Heaven on Earth for its boundless beauty, cleanliness, friendly citizens, and almost perfect attributes. It's one of the places on earth that is free from any dangerous predators such as land snakes, crocodiles, and deadly spiders due to its geological climate.
Backpacking with Kiwi Experience Bus
I had two different impressions of Christchurch as a traveler. One as a backpacker and the second as a family traveling together in a rental car.
This was before the 6.3 magnitude earthquake that wreaked havoc in February 2011.
We were in our late twenties back then and even though we felt too old being surrounded by younger kids in the green-colored bus, it was an authentic and pleasurable way of traveling.
We loved the flexibility of not planning anything and the bus organizes the activities and lodging for you. This allowed us to stay or leave a place anytime we pleased.
Christchurch Tramway still exists today. Explore the City's architecture and history in heritage style.
Where We Stayed
I used to write travel journals in a notebook and I came across something I wrote about Christchurch back in 2007:
24th March 2007, Saturday (First Day) "Christchurch Airport"
We arrived in the afternoon after a 19-hour flight via Emirates Airlines from Dubai where we had a 1-hour stopover in Sydney, Australia. We took a bus en route to the town center from Christchurch Airport roughly 20 minutes drive. We were both feeling sleepy due to the time difference. I fell asleep on the bus immediately. We checked in at Stone Hurst Backpackers Inn, where Yohann stayed during his first trip in New Zealand in 2001. There were no double rooms available so we took an ensuite for the first day. We spent the entire afternoon sleeping. We went out to explore the city by nightfall.
This was Stone Hurst Backpackers in 2007.
We re-visited the same backpackers during our New Zealand Family Roadtrip in 2018 and it was heartbreaking to see that we couldn't find it and this was all we found on Gloucester Street.
On our recent family trip, we rented a lovely Airbnb home instead. Check out the House Tour Post
The commercial establishments of Christchurch were low-rise buildings and a major part of these were demolished due to the impact and damage caused by the disaster. They had to rebuild the entire city which gave a chance for residents to contribute their ideas via the 'Share an Idea' campaign which was taken into account by the urban designer and city council. The people wanted to keep the city low-rise with bike lanes and more parks.
Oxford Terrace before the quake
25th March 2007 - Sunday (2nd Day)
"We enjoyed the walk around the town center, Cathedral Square with the giant chess, Avon River, Art Center, Botanical Garden, Christchurch Art Gallery, and the Bridge of Remembrance. We had lunch at Hungry Wok at the food court. In the afternoon, we went back to the hostel where we relaxed. There I got to taste NZ beer -TUI for the first time."
Avon River (Canterbury) jumped out like an image from a postcard the first time we saw it. It flows through the heart of Christchurch. Families enjoy leisurely afternoons punting. Still, punting on the Avon River is a great way to view diverse foliage and wildlife against the charming architectural backdrop.
We tried to look for this exact spot above but couldn't find it and this was the closest image of the Avon River that we have spotted.
Christchurch Art Gallery
Christchurch Art Gallery is the largest and most popular public art space in the South Island of New Zealand. I am impressed by how the building along with its glass facade survived the strong quake.
The Bridge of Remembrance
The Bridge of Remembrance was built over the Avon River to connect Oxford and Cambridge Terraces to remember those who died in World War I and World War II.
It was welcoming to see something familiar. The buildings around it however had changed.
Re:Start - Christchurch Container Mall
To get back Christchurch to its feet after the major quake, a temporary shipping container mall was built in 2011. Container shops and food caravans provided service to residents. This retail destination is still present several years later. It's located on Cashel Street, near the Bridge of Remembrance.
Christchurch Botanic Garden
We could spend the whole afternoon exploring this Botanic Garden known as the "Green Heart of the Garden City" It's a 21-hectare park that has 10 varieties of gardens. It is open daily with free admission from 7 am. Please check the local tourism center as it's currently closed due to pandemic alert levels.
I will write a separate post to show the different parts of the gardens.
The Cathedral Square and the Christchurch Cathedral used to be one of the liveliest areas. There was a magician surrounded by spectators right at this square on the below-left photo. From the large group, he called me out as an unwilling volunteer to demonstrate his skill.
During our last visit, there was nothing festive about the square. Today, it's even quieter. With the destruction of the Christchurch Cathedral, a Transitional Cathedral was built.
Christchurch was unrecognizable. It is amazing how fast the city recovered with the 5-year re-build despite the devastation. However, even with the ongoing construction and modern re-development that we saw, the atmosphere was somber, far from how vibrant it was during our first visit. It still is beautiful but the quaint charming garden city that was once there is gone.
What we saw was a veil of melancholy and resilience that drapes around the modern architecture that thrives there now.
I'm sure the new generation may not have experienced using this phone booth and probably wonders what they were there for. Sadly, they won't have that chance for this may not be there anymore.
Thank you for reading! In my succeeding post, I will share a trip to the Christchurch Gondola and more in-depth posts about each sightseeing destination.
If you're in the area, you might as well try and visit Akaroa.