Over 150 years ago some hardy English settlers scrambled up the steep slopes of the
Nowadays few people arrive on sailing ships, most fly into . On a fine day they enjoy a panoramic view of the city, lying on the edge of the Canterbury Plains; bound to the east by the Pacific coastline, to the south by the hills of
Central Business District
This wonderful district is still recovering from the February 2011 earthquake, and tourists should be aware that some sections have been blocked off for renovation. However, most of the district has recovered and remains as charming as ever!
The city's Anglican heritage is evident in
Taking a tram is a pleasant way to see the western CBD, including the
Experience the spectrum of entertainment at the
Further south, you will discover an eclectic mix of restaurants, art galleries, bookshops, red light establishments, and a variety of churches, from the traditional to the more lively Pentecostals.
West of Cathedral Square
West of Hagley Park, Riccarton is best known for its large indoor shopping facility,
Hornby has cinemas and is the site of November's annual Agricultural and Pastoral Show where country comes to town for three days.
North of Cathedral Square
Merivale is a fashionable suburb with cafes, designer clothing and a growing reputation for antiques. To the northwest,
South of Cathedral Square
At Addington, the
East of Cathedral Square
The suburb of Linwood is a very old part of town, but sports fans will appreciate the rugby fields and cricket grounds of
The pick of the city's beach suburbs, Sumner is a favorite summer swimming spot with the landmark
Outside the City
Canterbury is renowned for its wines. A drive around Banks Peninsula to the early French settlement of
And in keeping with true Canterbury pioneering spirit, head towards the Southern Alps and check out the numerous ski fields and all the action adventure tours of the Southern skies, rivers and harbors.
Bursting into culinary life in the late 1980s, Christchurch is fast developing a reputation for the dazzling range and sophistication of its cuisine and locally-produced wines. From the rolling hills of the Banks Peninsula to the vast central plains and small valleys of the north, the Canterbury region boasts award-winning vineyards, innovative cafes, restaurants and bars, specialty cheese producers, chocolate makers, and a burgeoning array of boutique breweries.
For a city that flaunts its Englishness, the food styles are supremely far-ranging and there is something to enliven even the most jaded palate. Choose from Mediterranean, Italian, Indian, French Continental, Vegetarian and South American cuisines. With the Asian migration to this region there has also been an explosion of flavors and styles from the East-Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian and Korean. In the hands of the many talented chefs, these flavors and influences are culminating in a unique cuisine often referred to as "Pacific Rim." And as every chef will confirm, no visitor should leave town without tasting some the region's specialty of lean, tender Canterbury lamb.
Overlooking the Avon River, along Oxford Terrace, is "The Strip" - a major part of Christchurch's cafe and restaurant scene. By night, "The Strip" transforms as DJs and local bands pump it up in Christchurch's hottest nightspots.
A modest budget is no obstacle to great and innovative cuisine. There is the European-styled Café Valentino offering award-winning Mediterranean-inspired food or Topkapi with its special brand of authentic mouth-watering Turkish fare. Christchurch is brimming with every flavor and style from around the world.
For the ultimate in choice, however, the food stalls at the Arts Centre Weekend Market are difficult to beat. Choose from an enormous variety of offerings--Thai, Czech and Lebanese—all very tempting.
The coffee connoisseur is also well catered for, with cafes such as Coffee Culture which roasts their own special blends on the premises.
While the heart of the culinary scene beats within the confines of the inner city, some of the best dining can be had in and around the suburbs. In the delightful seaport of Lyttleton, the kitschy Wunderbar is a great place to relax over a drink while enjoying excellent views of the harbor. Five minutes drive north from the city center is Merivale, an upmarket shopping district with a good range of cafes and bars to match. Brigettes Restaurant & Bar is an award-winning coffee specialist and serves a scrumptious brunch. However, if 19th-century charm is the order of the day then the romantic ambiance and authentic Indian cuisine of Little India is difficult to beat.
On the Wine Trail
With its long dry hot summers, Canterbury has developed a flourishing wine industry. The heart of the winemaking area is here, in the Waipara Valley, where vineyards such as Pegasus Bay which has received international recognition for their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay varieties. Other grapes grown in the region include Riesling, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Further South you can visit Giesen's—wineries that put Canterbury on the winemaking map back in the 1980s. Most of Christchurch's restaurants include a good selection of New Zealand and local wines.
Despite its conservative and sleepy reputation, Christchurch has plenty to keep its guests entertained. Indeed, the city boasts some of New Zealand's most respected theater, classical and pop music as well as some of the country's most successful sports teams. And, you will find the city's compactness works in your favor, as you check out the many bars, cafes and attractions.
Christchurch and Canterbury Visitors Centre is worth a visit for further details of entertainment venues. The local daily newspaper, The Press, publishes entertainment listings throughout the week and the City Council also publishes City Scene, a monthly "what's on" guide.
Like its big brothers Auckland and Wellington, Christchurch has its own cafe scene, and many of the city's residents feel as happy with a cappuccino as they would with a Canterbury Draught. The stylish Vivace is often home to city people enjoying a break.
When most major touring artists come to the South Island, Christchurch is frequently their only stopover. The CBS Canterbury Arena, New Zealand's largest entertainment venue, often plays host to pop concerts as well as sporting events.
The boutique Christchurch Casino, the largest in New Zealand, is one of the main draws for tourists visiting the city and provides ample opportunities for you and your money to part company. If you still have some left over, the area known as "The Strip" around Oxford Terrace is the hub of the city's nightlife. Outside of the CBD, the Wunderbar in Lyttleton is a popular alternative, with live bands and DJs performing into the small hours.
The Court Theatre is at the forefront of stage drama in the city, renowned for its productions of classic as well as contemporary New Zealand plays. Other smaller theater groups are scattered around the city, such as the Elmwood Players and the Malthouse Theatre Company.
Sports fans are treated to regular sporting events, and the Canterbury Crusaders are the hottest ticket in town. Come winter, legions of fans bedecked in black and red flock to AMI Stadium to cheer on the Crusaders in some of rugby's toughest competitions.
Christchurch (Otautahi) is a paradox. Spreading outwards from the brown shoulders of the Port Hills, with the sea to one side and the Southern Alps in the distance, it is a typically colonial city of wisteria-decked verandahs and wide streets. Its many old stone buildings, tree-filled parks and meandering streams give Christchurch the air of an English town—just as the city's founders had intended. Indeed, the London-based Canterbury Association envisioned Christchurch as an English utopia in the South Pacific. They planned an orderly, tiered society (the first settlers had to brandish a reference from an English vicar attesting to their "sobriety and respectability"), with an aristocracy and the Church of England as its head, and an underclass of artisans and minions to serve them. They named their fledgling city after an Oxford college (Christ Church) and laid it out like an English city, complete with a Cathedral, University and a boys' school, Christ's College, modeled on Eton.
This orderly existence was a far cry from the ravages of the Maori civil war in the early 19th Century. Maori people (chiefly the Ngai-tahu tribe) had occupied the Canterbury area for several centuries prior to the European arrival. However, by the time European settlement began in the 1840s, around 500 Maori remained in Canterbury. Their numbers had been decimated first by the tribal wars and then by raiding parties from the North Island. Most notably the army of Te Rauparahan, who ransacked Kaiapohia Pa (village), north of present-day Christchurch, and Onawe Pa, in Akaroa Harbour, Banks Peninsula in 1832.
In Maori legend, Banks Peninsula is a pile of mountains heaped by Maui, upon a marauding giant. But when Captain James Cook sighted this curiously-shaped landform from the Endeavour on February 17, 1770, he famously mistook it for an island, which he named after the ship's botanist, Joseph Banks. Sealers and whalers frequented the deep harbors of the peninsula during the following 70 years, but it was not until 1839 that the first settlers began hacking a living out of its rough hill country. A French colony was established at Akaroa in 1840. But the British, sensing the impending loss of the South Island to French interests, sent a frigate into Akaroa Harbour to hoist the Union Jack over Banks Peninsula. When French settlers aboard the Compte-de-Paris arrived at Akaroa on August 19, 1840, they discovered that the British had pre-empted them by seven days. The British, however, granted them the right to stay in Akaroa where they flourished, creating a community which still retains its French flavor.
By 1848, preparations were underway for the arrival of the first four ships of the Canterbury Association at Lyttelton Harbour. Land in Canterbury had been purchased from local Maori, a site for Christchurch, with quarter-acre sections available at £25 each. This land was surveyed and a Bridal Path over the Port Hills was constructed.
Though the lofty ideals of the Association, and its talented, rather despotic leader, John Robert Godley, foresaw an Anglican promised land peopled by an English elite, they were pragmatic about the need for practical, self-reliant people in the new colony. Presbyterians had already been farming at Riccarton Bush for six years, Scottish shepherds were at work in the hills and many of the settlers arriving from Australia had cast off the class system, and in some cases, their chains!
The first of the four ships, the Charlotte Jane, sailed into Lyttelton Harbour on December 16, 1850, followed a few days later by the Sir George Seymour, the Randolph and the Cressy. The scattered buildings, muddy tracks and lone jetty—where Pilgrim's Rock now stands—presented a less than romantic impression to the settlers. Further, having crossed the Bridal Path and descended to Ferrymead, where a ferry crossed the Heathcote River, the first settlers found little in the way of civilization at Christchurch.
But in less than a year, Charlotte Godley was able to write of "tidy and weather-tight" houses, and "gardens and cultivation all the way along" Riccarton Road. Christchurch was becoming a town. Long streets intersected with the Avon River which was widened and straightened to enhance its beauty. The first Anglican church, where St Michael's and All Angels stands today, was opened in July 1851, and New Zealand's first railway, the Christchurch-Ferrymead line, began operations in 1863.
Settlers flooded into Canterbury and the economy boomed. The Estuary and the Heathcote and Avon rivers provided navigable waterways into the city. Between 1850 and 1867, 240 vessels plied the river trade. In 1860 alone, goods worth £700,000 entered the Estuary. Fueled by products, especially wool, from the vast farmlands of Canterbury, Christchurch grew into a prosperous commercial city. Municipal architects such as BW Mountfort and FW Petre set about designing a city built to last. Stout stone buildings—the Provincial Council Chambers, the former Canterbury University and the Canterbury Museum—constructed of stone hewn from Hallswell Quarry, began to replace the wooden structures of the early town. Hagley Park and the Botanic Gardens were also formed. Along the Avon, the Antigua Boatsheds were one of several commercial enterprises catering for the city's leisure time. The Christchurch Tramway Company began operations in 1893, providing public transport to the suburbs, including Sumner.
Throughout the 20th Century, Christchurch grew and thrived. The city's founders may have dreamed of a conservative community, but in recent decades Christchurch has matured into a relaxed, cosmopolitan city.
One symbol of Englishness that will endure is the Avon. Originally christened The Shakespeare but re-named after the Scottish Avon, the river flows through the city, Christchurch's English heart.