City Library - Place to Read Papers and Magazines
Favorite thing: New locations
After the earthquakes many of Christchurch's libraries - including the Central library - were closed and had to move. Locations have changed various times, so it is best to check for the latest locations on this website:
Currently (September 2012) the main library is located in Peterborough Street.
At all libraries you have free WiFi.
I have never been a big user of libraries. I loved buying books LOL However, here in NZ I have started to go to libraries, first to our little library in Lyttelton, and then this fantastic place in the city centre. You do not have to be a member, and you do not have to be a resident to use it on site.
We often go there just to read some magazines when we have an hour between appointments. They have such an incredible choice, with all NZ magazines and newspapers, of course, and also many German magazines, from Spiegel to Focus and so on. I am sure, people of other nationalities will also praise the choice.
If you are interested in Christchurch’s history, or just want to browse some travel guides you can do this in the library as well. Or you can do online research. There are many helpful people around who are happy to assist you. Computers are available for email, word processing and searching the catalogue. Wireless internet access is possible throughout the building.
If you want to borrow a book, magazine, CD or DVD, you have to be a member. For that you have to be a resident. But everything you can do on site is free for everybody.
The library is housed in an award-winning Warren & Mahoney building. The Aotearoa New Zealand Centre on Level 2 specialises in information about Christchurch and Canterbury. This is the place to go if you want to research family history.
Open Mon – Fri 9am – 9pm, Sat and Sun 10am – 4pm
Corner Gloucester Street/Oxford Terrace
Phone: (03) 941 7923
The best Time to See Kiwis at the Willowbank
Favorite thing: So many people who come to New Zealand want to see a kiwi. On my NZ page I have listed the places where you can see kiwis - but of course, it is never 100% sure. You also have to be lucky, even in the wildlife parks, as the birds have their own ideas about their public appearances.
But I can tell you when the chance is best in the night house at the Willowbank in Christchurch.
You should be there in the morning when the wildlife park opens at 9.30am. It will take you about one hour (at least) to walk through the park and have a look at all the birds and other animals until you reach the kiwi centre.
At 10.30am the carers wake up the nine kiwis in the night house. They place food in the four enclosures, and put little rocks in front of the entrances of the burrows, so the kiwis cannot walk back. The first thing kiwis do after waking up is looking for food, drinking and digging in the ground with their long beaks.
This first round of activity lasts quite a while. So if you are there at the right time you will see kiwis for sure. Later on, some take a rest, and two birds that have not been living there for a very long time even hide under a tree trunk. Under normal circumstances you will not see those at all.
All the others roam around. Be quiet and listen to their sounds, either they blow their nostrils after digging in the dirt, or they wade into the water, or you just hear their steps, as kiwis have incredibly strong and heavy feet, or you hear the rustle of leaves when those night-active birds touch branches on their search for food.
A good spot to see them is to your right (coming from the entrance) right behind the fence. There is a kind of creek with eels, and there the kiwis often wade around and drink.
Racing to the night house before 10.30am makes no sense, as they will still be sleeping and the facility will not be open before.
Kiwi Breeding Tour
An addition to your visit in the spring and summer months would be a Kiwi Breeding Tour as the Willowbank participates in the "Operation Nest Egg" which means that eggs are taken from nests in the wild and incubated at the Willowbank.
After hatching and being fed for a few weeks, the chicks are then transferred to a predator-free island, and when they are old and strong enough to defend themselves they are taken back to the forests where the eggs had once been taken. This procedure raises the chance of survival dramatically.
As eggs are laid seasonally the tours are also only possible during the breeding season from August/September to February/March.
There is an extra cost of NZ$ 25 for this tour, on top of the NZ$ 25 admission. As interesting as the tour is, I think it is quite a bit overpriced.
(Prices as April 2012)Related to:
Favorite thing: -
Earthquake update June 2011
Surely not a lot of events taking place at the moment but entertainment is not dead in Christchurch - however, hugely compromised. Best you visit the www.christchurchnz.co.nz website, as well as the City Council's website: www.bethere.co.nz.
Update February 2012
Summer events are in full swing again. Check out www.summertimes.co.nz (linked below).
In summer the city offers an incredible lot of free events and festivals. I have posted some of those highlights which enrich the city's cultural life and gives the people a lot of fun in extra tips, most on the page Local Customs.
Now they have created a new website which lists all the events with links and great information, so you can always check what is on while you are in Christchurch.
This was the list for Summer 2008 (and the major events are still the same, now 2012, plus many more):
17 Jan - 27 Jan ... World Buskers Festival
20 January .......... Sounday
24 Jan - 10 Feb ... Lawyers Summer Theatre
27 January .......... Kite Day
2 February .......... Teddy Bear Picnic in the Park
5 February .......... Classical Sparks
14 Feb - 2 Mar .... Open Air Summer Shakespeare Festival
22 Feb - 1 Mar .... Festival of Flowers
1 Mar - 2 Mar ...... Chinese Lantern Festival
9 March ............... Cheap as Chips
26 Mar - 6 Apr ..... NZ International Jazz & Blues Festival
On most Sundays 6 Jan - 16 Mar Lazy Sunday
On most Sundays 13 Jan - 9 Mar Sunday Bandstand
And over the hills in Lyttelton:
24 February Summer Street Party
On the website you will find also a lot of smaller events which can be quite nice, as well as concerts.
You can download the Garden City SummerTimes brochure which has a full list of events and details from the SummerTimes website or collect one from the local council service centres and libraries.Related to:
- Theater Travel
Produce and fruit fresh from the orchard
Favorite thing: Every now and then people ask where they can get or pick fresh fruit. There are quite a lot of places in and around Christchurch for this., also places for fresh vegetables. THE vegetable and strawberry area is Marshlands Road. There are about a dozen permanent shop where you also get fruit and vegetables from other places, also imported goods - but nearly always fresh produce from behind the shops.
You can pick your own strawberries and raspberries in the outskirts of Christchurch.
You can pick your own raspberries at Willowbank Raspberries in 15 Hussey Road (off Gardiners Road, not very far from the airport). This is very close to the Willowbank which in my opinion is New Zealand's best wildlife park and should be visited anyway ;-)
More raspberries at Pataka Berries in 768 Marshlands Road which is on the eastern ringroad around Christchurch. Take care when driving, the roads in this area have suffered earthquake damage.
Just look for sign PYO (pick your own).
You can buy fruit fresh from the orchard at a temporary stall on Banks Peninsula, mostly just from after Christmas. They have cherries, apricots, peaches and nectarines. It is called Cheskin Orchard and is in Cooptown, just past the township of Little River on the way to Akaroa, about 20 to 30 min from Christchurch city centre.
You can fresh tomatoes just about everywhere along the road, they are also sold at honesty tables in front of residential properties.Related to:
- Food and Dining
Safety in Christchurch after the earthquakes
Favorite thing: -
As you might know, our earthquake history is an ongoing issue. The latest big ones struck on 23 December 2011 and had the magnitudes 5.8 and 6.0.
Of course, travellers have safety concerns, so this is what I want to let you know after the latest events:
We think that Christchurch is the safest city in New Zealand after all these earthquakes because all the unsafe buildings have collapsed or been demolished in the meantime while in other places you do not know what happens when a big earthquake strikes. The very city centre where high-rise buildings are being demolished is still cordoned off, and as you are not allowed to enter there is no risk for you.
The roads along the collapsed cliffs are secured by concrete-filled double-storey container walls, so rocks cannot roll onto the roads. They have withstood the quakes very well.
The worst-hit suburbs are in the east and are not really touristy but residential, and some of them will be completely abandoned because the ground is unstable (sandy) and prone to liquefaction which again has flooded these suburbs with water and silt.
There will surely be aftershocks going on, most are not severe at all but people who have never encountered them might be scared.
If you are in the car in such an event you will not even feel them. If you are in a building small aftershocks feel like a little hiccup. If it does not stop after two or three seconds and becomes stronger it indicates a larger earthquake and you should consider getting into safety under a desk, a doorframe or run outside - if you do not run into a car or things that could fall down on you.
Nobody knows if or when another big-gish quake hits. But aftershocks of magnitude 4 or 5 can happen anytime when you are here. They will scare you but nothing will happen.
Take little measures to keep yourself safe. I, for example, place my glasses in a hard case overnight so they do not get damaged if they fall down. I keep my bedside lamp on the floor so it cannot hit me on the head when it falls. I do not hang up pictures on a wall from where they could fall on me. Keep fragile items on the floor or in a drawer. When we are at home we usually hold on to the large TV so it does not fall ;-)) We do not leave the laptop on a shaky table when we intend to leave for longer periods but store it in a bag on the floor or under the sofa. The closer to the ground you place breakable items such as glasses the lower they fall ;-)) Such little things.
If you wander around do as warning signs tell you. Do not walk on closed tracks, do not drive into closed roads, do not break cordons. Drive cautiously as there are potholes and bumps on the roads. You cannot do much more. (I do not park in parking buildings in case I want to get away fast and easily, and rather walk some steps further to the shops.)
There is no reason for panic. But safety first always pays off.
After the earthquakes: New Visitor Centre (i-site)
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It has been quite difficult to find visitor information outside the airport since the February earthquake (22 Feb 2011).
But now, after eight months in temporary premises, Christchurch’s main Visitor Centre (i-site) has a specially-designed portable home in a central location. It has opened yesterday (14 November 2011) next to Canterbury Museum on Rolleston Avenue and the entrance to the Botanic Gardens.
Prior to the February quake the i-site was based in the Old Post Office building in Cathedral Square but, as you might know, this in the centre of the cordoned-off CBD. For the past few months it has been operating out of temporary premises at the Chateau on the Park.
You get more than just the usual visitor information at the i-site. It also offers ticketing for many Christchurch events, beside booking services for tourism activities, accommodation and transport for the Canterbury region and the whole of New Zealand.
From the Visitor Centre it is only a short walk to the Antigua Boatsheds where Punting on the Avon starts, and to the Events Village at North Hagley Park which is going to be home to some great events over the summer, including the World Buskers Festival in January.
Another new source of the latest information about what's going on in Christchurch, including restaurant tips, can be found in a new blog (since late December 2011). The name is http://popupcity.co.nz/Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Family Travel
Service for Disabled People
Favorite thing: -
I have not made any experience with the service for the disabled but I think it is already a good thing to have it at all, as not all people are able to happily run up and down the hills like you and me.
There are several contact addresses the City Council have listed. So if you need information about the accessibility of attractions or whatever do not hesitate to check it out in advance.
Christchurch City Council
(Hereford Street, opposite the Art Gallery)
Phone (03) 371 1774
Disability Information Service
314 Worcester Street
Phone (03) 366 6189
Apart from this, most carparks have designated spaces, and most public toilets have disabled access. New buildings and reconstructions have to provide access by law.
To gain a parking concession you have to provide proof of your disability and contact CCS Disability Action. So do not forget your papers at home. It is not sufficient to get your wheelchair to the office.
Freephone within NZ (0800) 227 2255
The contact details of the Christchurch branch are:
27 Kilmarnock Street, Riccarton
Phone (03) 348 8974
Email: email@example.comRelated to:
The Garden City
Favorite thing: Christchurch prides itself as the Garden City. And more: In 1996, Christchurch was acknowledged as the outstanding garden city from 620 international entries and in 1997, was judged Overall Winner of Major Cities in the Nations in Bloom International Competition to become “Garden City of the World”.
Although some people use their gardens as dumps or carparks, or car wreck yards, most people really care about the green spaces surrounding their houses. I have listed several properties in my mind which I always look at when I drive past because the owners do such great jobs.
A great plus for gardeners is that most of New Zealand’s native shrubs and trees are evergreen, so the gardens do not even look dead in winter.
From September to March you can even book a garden tour to extraordinarily beautiful private gardens.
This company, for example, offers such tours. As they are not daily and, as mentioned, not during the whole year, please check availability. A 3 hour tour costs NZ$ 40 (as April 2008).
During the Festival of Flowers in February, this company operates official Prize Winning Garden Tours in conjunction with the Canterbury Horticultural Society and the Christchurch Beautifying Association.
Phone (03) 366 9660, toll free within NZ (0508) 669 660
The best (and cost-free) garden you can visit is the fantastic Botanic Garden where you will find flowering plants even in winter, and some exotic trees with red leaves in autumn (whereas the “normal” exotic trees only get yellow leaves because the day and night temperatures do not differ enough to turn them red). In spring parts of Hagley Park display fantastic masses of flowers, especially daffodils.
Another great place is Mona Vale.
Riccarton Bush is the only place in the city with original native kahikatea bush. And there are parks dotted all over the place, Victoria Square being a nice one in the inner city. The pockets of native forest in the Port Hills are also worth a visit.
But back to the “real” gardens.
Christchurch has, as mentioned earlier in the tour tip, the Festival of Flowers in February, and last year (2007) the City Council purchased the right to host the Ellerslie International Flower Show (the first time in March 2009) which has taken place in Auckland and Manukau up to then.
Earthquake update June 2011
The festivals are off the schedule since the February earthquake. But apart from Mona Vale which is closed due to damage of the buildings you can visit the Botanic Gardens, Hagley Park and Riccarton Bush without a problem.Related to:
Where to get Information and Bookings
Favorite thing: -
Earthquake update June 2011
As the CBD is closed down since the February earthquake, best you get all information, brochures, booklets and free accommodation guides at the airport i-site.
Already the airport is a fantastic place to get information, and make bookings for accommodation and activities. They have two fantastic info stands there, at the international and domestic terminal. I am also a regular visitor of the official i-site on Cathedral Square.
Although I live here I often go to the i-sites and check about new attractions, normally by browsing the extensive stands with brochures and flyers. I also make sure that I have the latest touring maps and accommodation guides (AA, Jason's). All those kilos of paper are free, so why not take advantage of it?
As said, already upon arrival at the airport you should not just rush through the halls but get information material or talk with the staff, or book activities.
Other good sites are the fabulous i-site and the two facilities of the Adventure Centre around Cathedral Square, one located at the north-east corner next to Naturally New Zealand, and the other one opposite the Airport Bus stop (94 Worcester Street). They do not charge booking fees.
Cathedral Square (03) 366 0302
Worcester Street (03) 377 7100
On Cathedral Square (#47) you also find Backpackers World Travel where you can get help. Plus, if you plan to spend several months in the country you can check if a departing backpacker sells his car cheaply.
Phone (03) 379 8153
Not to forget your accommodation. The front desk staff at your hotel, motel or backpackers are happy to help you with advice and bookings.Related to:
- Adventure Travel
- Budget Travel
Favorite thing: Visit the Firefighters' Memorial in central Christchurch on the corner of Madras and Kilmore Streets.
Fondest memory: There is a rather unique memorial in the central area of Christchurch, dedicated to all firefighters. We know how hard these men and women work and what an integral part of our communities they are. This tribute was opened in 2002, and the steel girders were gifted by the City of New York, coming from the WTC Twin Towers which fell in the 2001 tragedy. 2002 saw the 7th World Firefighters Games held here in Christchurch, and this memorial coincided with this event.
Sculptor Graham Bennett designed the memorial, and cleverly incorporated a fitting design, including a local touch with the koru designed steel.
It's very very special to have this memorial down here in New Zealand, and you can't help but feel quite emotional while you ponder the significance. These girders were part of the World Trade Centre, and I found myself going over that fact a few times while reflecting.
The site is quite near to the oneway roading system, however I found good parking in Oxford Terrace. Just a short walk along the Avon River led me back to Firefighter's Reserve, which was all very convenient. I do recommend a visit here.
Favorite thing: Feral Pigs run rampant around New Zealand, and are often referred to as "Captain Cookers" or "Tuskers", made famous by the fact that they were introduced by Captain Cook as gifts to the Māori people. They are now considered a major danger to the ecology of the islands, because they are known to kill native animals like the Kiwi.
As a lesson, it is probably best not to bring animals to New Zealand that are not native to the land. As it is such a small island in comparison to other environments, the controls are pretty strict in this sense.
Remembering the First Four Ships
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It has taken me quite a while until I first noticed the plaques at the benches in front of the former post-office (now Visitor Information Centre and Starbucks) on Cathedral Square.
They are black, and the etchings are not very striking. But I think they are a wonderful reminder of Christchurch’s history. They depict the First Four Ships with English settlers that arrived at Lyttelton Harbour in 1850, the Randolph, Charlotte Jane, Cressy and Sir George Seymore. The exact arrival dates are noted, and the names of the passengers (who later founded Christchurch) and their occupations.
It is fascinating to study this record. It makes you imagine how all those people were huddled together on the ships on their rough ride across the seas – and probably cannot imagine how hard the trip was, which lives they had given up in Great Britain, and how hard life in New Zealand would be.
Another place of remembrance of the early settlers is Canterbury’s mother church St. Michael and All Angels at the corner of Oxford Terrace & Lichfield Street. There you find wooden commemorative plates of the First Four Ships.
More detailed info about the ships and settlers on my Lyttelton page.
Photo 2 shows the plates in the context of Cathedral Square.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
What to Expect from the Weather in a normal Year
Favorite thing: I am quite happy with the weather and temperatures in Christchurch – and on the other side of the hills in Lyttelton I enjoy it even more because the winter nights in the sheltered harbour are much warmer, often up to five degrees, and we do not get the winter smog that hovers over the city. This problem , however, should diminish in 2011 (or was it 2013?) when all homes should have clean heating systems.
Located on the East Coast of the South Island, the climate is rather mild, with winter temperatures rarely below zero, and not a lot of rain – the Southern Alps keep it on the West Coast ;-) The rain average is only 648 mm per year – this is less than half the amount that rains down on Wellington. As the East Coast enjoys rather dry air summer feels much nicer than in Auckland, as we do not have this humid air that makes you sweat from all pores on hot days. I especially enjoy hot summer days with light wind. Already about 22 to 25°C feel fabulous, and when I travel to hotter countries I do not really like higher temperatures anymore. In winter we can often walk up the hill in shorts and t-shirts, as the days can be mild, and in the sun it is perfect.
What makes winter sometimes feel much colder than in my much colder home country (Germany) is the lack of thick walls, insulation and central heating running day and night...
What I also like is that we do not have a lot of days with no real weather, as I call it. You know, days with fog, overcast days. We so often have blue skies, and I really enjoy this, having lived in the city of Ulm in Germany at the confluence of three rivers, creating a lot of fog with countinuous days with milky skies. When you have those milky skies here they are normally warm days, with norwesterlies bringing warmth and walls of thick clouds. When you are not used to this and only look out the window, you dress up like in winter – and step out of the door and race back into the house and get dressed for summer LOL
Some weather statistics from the http://www.christchurch.org.nz/About/ website:
Mean Daily Maximum: Jan 22.5 °C, July 11.3 °C
Mean Temperature: 12.1°C
Mean Daily Minimum: Jan 12.2°C, July 1.9°C
Mean Annual Maximum: 32°C
Mean Annual Minimum: -4°C
Mean average bright sunshine: 2,100 hours per annum
Average rain days (1mm or more): 85 per annum
• Average annual rainfall: 648 mm
Average days of screen frost (minimum air temperature less than 0°C): 36 days per annum (which would rather read: night)
Average number of days with gusts reaching 63 km/h or more: 54 per annum
• Average Relative Humidity
January: 3am 83%; 3pm 57%
July: 3am 88%; 3pm 70%
Driving in New Zealand's South Island
Favorite thing: We started our trip to New Zealand's South Island from Christchurch. It is a beautiful city, more like an English country town as described in one of the travel shows here in Sydney.
It has a laid-back attitude, yet sophisticated and still friendly, especially to kids.
We rented a car, which turned out to be a 4 wheel drive new Toyota RAV to the delight of my kids. Our original choice ( not really the cheapest but fairly decent one as suggested by my travel agent) was not available so they gave us the supposedly more expensive one at the same rate I have paid. The trip was looking good already!
Driving at Christchurch was easy, same style as in Australia so no worries there! The lady at the rental car shop was very friendly and gave us a lot of maps to help us. Of course I was the navigator so it helped too,LOL!
Fondest memory: I can remember most fondly the peace and quiet, the lovely tree-lined streets ablaze with the colours of autumn (though we were there at the start of winter-early July) and the general safety we all felt when we were there.
It even looked much safer than Sydney!
The places we went to were clean, neat, organised, people are always smiling and helpful. Over-all a very satisfying trip.
We also drove to Queenstown which is a different story.
The visit to the Antartic Centre was the highlight of our travel there, also the exciting HAGGLUND RIDE!Related to:
- Adventure Travel
- Family Travel
The early History of Christchurch (3)
Favorite thing: -
The increase in the number of people living in the city led to serious public health problems. From 1872-75 there were epidemics of diptheria and whooping cough every year, and in the typhoid epidemic 152 people died in Christchurch in 1875/76. These diseases are all diseases of poverty - poor food and unhealthy living conditions.
Christchurch in 1876 was a polluted city. It had a good supply of artesian water from huge reserves of water deep under the city, but the waste of the city ran into the Avon and Heathcote rivers (well, sometimes it still happens today LOL). Kitchen waste and chamber pots were emptied into channels running along the sides of the streets, and manure from the animals that provided the transport in the city just added to the problem.
A system of drains was needed but the iron pipes had to come from overseas and were expensive. Christchurch had to wait until the 1880s for an underground sewerage system, but it was the first in New Zealand to have one.
In November 1876 the different provincial councils throughout New Zealand were replaced by a system of town boards, boroughs, road and harbour boards.
Canterbury had been one of the more successful provinces. By 1876 the city of Christchurch had a population of over 12,000 in the central city and another 10,000 in the suburbs.
In 1877 the railway station opened. A railway line went north to Amberley. By 1878 it reached Dunedin in the south. In 1880 steam trams began operation from Cathedral Square to the railway station.Related to:
- Historical Travel
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