If you’re heading to New Zealand’s South Island, you can’t pass up a visit to Christchurch – the island’s largest city. As you stroll along the streets you won’t be able to miss the evident English influence in the city’s iconic buildings. You’ll also notice large swathes of modern development – a solemn reminder of past tragedies that have decimated the city’s architecture in the not so distant past.
Two major earthquakes struck Christchurch in 2010 and 2011 respectively. These natural disasters levelled many blocks of buildings – especially in the city’s centre. The last quake in particular, a monstrous 6.3 on the Richter scale, caused widespread damage throughout the city. Instead of giving up, however, the locals came together to rebuild their beloved city better than ever before.
You’re unlikely to find a city with such tenacity and personality anywhere else in New Zealand. We list some of the top attractions to see when visiting.
Wander through Hagley Park and the botanic gardens
If you hear anyone refer to Christchurch as the ‘garden city’, you’ll soon realise why. Hagley Park takes up a wide sweep of land almost the width of the city centre itself, and offers plenty of winding paths for you to explore. If you’re interested in dialling up the nature overload, meander over to the heart of the park and visit the Christchurch Botanic Gardens.
The gardens are encircled on three sides by crystal clear waters, which New Zealand has become famous for. Inside, you’ll be treated to a multitude of carefully curated native and exotic flora displays. Make sure to also check out the garden’s lovingly restored peacock fountain, which is a sight to behold all on its own.
Before leaving the park, you might also consider paying your respects at the memorial wall nestled along the park’s riverbank. This marble tribute holds all 185 names of the city’s earthquake victims.
Check out Quake City
You’ll be hard-pressed to find an interactive museum quite like this. Quake City is dedicated to sharing the story of the Christchurch earthquakes, and the impact these disasters had on the city and its people. Far from being grim or morbid, the thoughtful exhibits instead showcase the courage and heroism of those who survived and came to the aid of others.
Part of the ‘city’ involves a series a shipping container shanty town-styled storefronts – the same containers that the locals used as temporary housing immediately following the quake. Other exhibits allow you to listen to powerful, personal accounts of those who lived through the disaster.
The most solemn aspect of the museum is looking upon the destroyed Christchurch Cathedral and railway station clock – an immortalised reminder of Mother Nature’s fury.
Take a ride on the Christchurch Gondola
Take the 862-metre long cable car ride to the summit of Mt Cavendish for the perfect way to cap off your Christchurch visit. You’ll be rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the city, and on a clear day, you’ll be about to spy Canterbury, the Alps and even the Pacific Ocean out on the horizon.
There is no other city in New Zealand like Christchurch. Come for a visit to understand firsthand the spirit and strength of character this city and its people possess.
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