Unique Places in Christchurch

  • Angie at the top
    Angie at the top
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  • Path info board
    Path info board
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  • View over Lyttelton
    View over Lyttelton
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Most Viewed Off The Beaten Path in Christchurch

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    Victoria Park: Plants, Picnics, Views and Displays

    by Kakapo2 Written Dec 11, 2007

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    Victoria Park - not to confuse with Victoria Square in the city centre - is a fabulous park at the foot of the Port Hills, opened on 22 June 1897 to the commemoration of the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria.

    It has many great features and is easily to reach by public transport and a really little walk. You take bus #10 (Cashmere) and get off at the final stop at the Sign of the Takahe. A shared car/walkway leads up to the park. If you walk it should not take you longer than 10 minutes to the Visitor Centre.

    This Visitor Centre is a great place. First, you have great views over the city. Second, there are great displays which explain the geological history of the Port Hills and Lyttelton Harbour, the volcanic activity, and all kinds of rock samples show you of which material the hills are made up. Third, you find a lot of free maps of the Port Hills with all walkways (and some maps which cost 50 cents).

    Around the Visitor Centre all plants have name tags, so you can learn a lot about the flora of the area.

    Finally, and this is why most people come to Victoria Park: There are many nice picnic spots, a playground, a lot of lawns where you can lie down and relax - and from nearly every place you can enjoy the fabulous views over the city and the Canterbury Plains to the Southern Alps. And sure, as you are already a bit up the hill towards the Sign of the Kiwi you also get a nice and close impression of the Port Hills.

    Car access is via Dyers Pass Road (just follow Colombo Street to its southern end, and then drive up the hill, the street continues as Dyers Pass Road). At the Sign of the Takahe (big spectacular castle-like granite building to your left) you either carry on, and turn left into the park after about 2 km. Or you turn left at the Sign of the Takahe, and immediately to the right. This would be the shared narrow road for cars and walkers.

    If you carry on walking uphill from Victoria Park you reach the Sign of the Kiwi (on Harry Ell Track) after 20 to 30 minutes.

    View over the city from the Visitor Centre. The Port Hills Visitor Centre in Victoria Park. A great place for information. Learn everything about the volcanoes and rocks.
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    Do not Bother to Walk in Duncan Park

    by Kakapo2 Updated Nov 4, 2007

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    As I do not want to miss absolute must-does or could-does-if-you-have-more-time in Christchurch I finally test-walked Duncan Park, expecting to end up on the Summit Road and enjoy a nice view over the city and Lyttelton Harbour. I even had my hiking boots on and my walking poles at hand ;-)

    My husband and I spent some very funny minutes - because this walk is just a joke! To extend it to 30 minutes we stopped several times for a laugh - as we could not believe that this should be an official walkway.

    The walk starts at the foot of the Port Hills, on the way to Lyttelton, in the Horotane Valley. There is a very nice carpark on the right side of the road, shortly before you would turn left onto the Tunnel road, about 200 metres after the turn to a horse riding facility.

    They have erected poles with the famous Crater Rim walkway sign, the white W on orange. It starts promising, up some steep steps and over farm fences. The grass along the narrow path was very high, so you could not set the poles LOL The nice thing about the area is that they have replanted the slopes with an incredible lot of native plants which attract native birds. The views however are over greenhouses and the industrial zone of Christchurch's south east. Ok, ok - to your left you can spot the Summit Road.

    The grass gets higher and higher - but the track soon leads downhill through more high grass and thistles. The insects have just waited for you to bite into your calves... Finally you reach a playground, with the white W on orange clearly indicating that you are not on the wrong track. The signs then lead around a horse riding paddock, and on the weekend you will surely spot some riders on the horses, and quite a lot of horse-trailers. I found the highlight was a little chat with a fantail chasing insects in the high trees. Finally you end up at the gate to the main road, and walk very nicely tracked 200 metres along the road back to your car. We did not shed a drop of sweat on this most boring walk in the Port Hills we have ever made.

    A chance for studying industrial plants... One of the better views towards the Port Hills.
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    The short Success Story of Mill Island

    by Kakapo2 Updated Nov 2, 2007

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    This small island in the Avon River, between Worcester Street and the Bridge of Remembrance, was the site of a flour mill in the early days of Christchurch, and a place where Maori gathered whitebait.

    The mill was built in 1859 and did a booming trade until 1888. In those days horse carriages, loaded with wheat, formed queues of up to 750 metres. The mill was demolished in 1897. A year later the so-called “Christchurch Beautifying Association” planted the barren island with magnolias, camellias and other shrubs.

    The water wheel you see today is far from being historic, not even a replica of the original wheel. It is as non-original as the English style vegetation of the island. The wheel was built in 1997, to commemorate the centenary of the Chch Beautifying Association.

    On an information plate, located near the wheel, on the river bank to the right of the Bridge of Remembrance, you can see pictures of how the site looked at the times when the mill was operating.

    A little island in the Avon river. The water wheel is rather new.
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    Our City O-Tautahi Exhibition is no Museum

    by Kakapo2 Written Sep 24, 2007

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    The City Exhibition has nothing to do with Christchurch’s history, so it is no museum or anything like that, although the beautiful historic red-brick Queen Anne building would suggest this.

    This space, comprising two galleries, is especially designed to provide an area where issues of importance to the city or aspects of local life can be communicated and shared. Community groups and organisations of Christchurch can show their talents, projects and viewpoints to the public.

    The building which features sculptures depicting Concord and Industry on the façade facing Worcester Boulevard, was once erected as the Christchurch City Council’s Municipal Chambers.

    The venue is for hire.

    Open Mon - Sat 10am – 4pm

    Address: Corner Worcester Boulevard & OxfordTerrace

    Phone: (03) 941 7460
    Fax: (03) 941 7465
    Email: OurCity@ccc.govt.nz

    Detail of the building. View of the City Exhibition building.
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    Napoleon and the Weeping Willows of Christchurch

    by Kakapo2 Written Sep 24, 2007

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    The Weeping Willows along the Avon river commemorate Frenchman François Le Lièvre who first came to Canterbury on the whaling ship “Le Nil” in 1838. After landing in Akaroa he planted weeping willow cuttings taken from Napoleon’s grave on the island of St. Helena. There is strong evidence to suggest that the first weeping willows planted on the banks of the Avon grew from cuttings taken from those trees.

    To remind of this nice reminiscence, François Le Lièvre’s great-great-granddaughter Marie-Emily Le Lièvre (living in Akaroa) and the Christchurch City Council erected a commemorative plate on the bank of the Avon at Victoria Square. It was unveiled on 29 March 2001.

    Memorial plate and weeping willows on the Avon.
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    St. Michael’s Stained Glass Windows

    by Kakapo2 Updated Sep 24, 2007

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    (This text is mainly taken from a very detailed 4 page brochure I got at the church.)

    The fashion for memorial stained glass in churches was revived in the 1840s in England, in association with the Gothic Revival and the Oxford Movement. The purpose is both commemorative and devotional. Many of the windows of St. Michael’s are little masterpieces. They are among the richest and finest stained glass windows in NZ.

    All stained glass was ordered from England and generally made by the most distinguished craftsmen.The early dates of some memorial windows indicate that these may have already been in place in the old church before being incorporated into the new. Then for a period of some 40 years from the time this church was dedicated in 1872, the windows were gradually filled with commemorative glass of varying design, quality and interest. Most windows commemorate the early Canterbury pioneers and parishioners and their families who were settlers from Great Britain.

    The East Window (above the altar) was replaced several times. The present three-panelled window was unveiled in 1910 to mark the 60th anniversary of the First Four Ships. It depicts the crucification of Jesus Christ mourned by Mary Magdalene and St. John, and the Last Supper.

    The North Transept: The centre of the rose window – placed in 1876 - features words of Matthew, the lancets show the corporal works of mercy.

    The North Aisle windows, placed in the 1870s and 1880s, show a series of eleven of the twelve apostles. Most of them hold the weapon of their martyrdom.

    The West Window Lancets were filled in 1873. They depict Christ calling Peter and Andrew, and the parable of the lilies of the field.

    The South Aisle windows have no theme or unifying style. One of them depicts St. Michael and the defeated dragon. The latest one was commissioned in 1913.

    The Rose Window over the West Door depicts the nine orders of angels.

    The wonderful South Transept (1910) depicts God the Holy Spirit.

    The glass windows add to the glorious look. The South Aisles windows.
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    St. Michael's Belfry

    by Kakapo2 Written Sep 24, 2007

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    The fact that the belfry is sitting some metres apart from the church gives St. Michael’s a picturesque look. It was erected in 1861, and designed by Canterbury’s leading architect Benjamin W. Mountfort who later designed the Provincial Chambers and a number of the windows in the church.

    The bell the belfry houses was brought out with the settlers on the First Four Ships (see history of Lyttelton). It was the new settlement’s first timepiece, and was rung every hour of daylight.

    You will find reminders of those early days inside the church. When you step in via the parish office, you will see large wooden commemorative plates of the First Four Ships – Randolph, Charlotte Jane, Sir George Seymore and Cressy.

    In its early days, St. Michael was the place to go, favoured by the inhabitants of some of the city’s grander houses. After 1910, it became famous – others say: infamous - as a centre of Catholic spirituality within the Anglican Church of New Zealand and Polynesia.

    The first church – the one you see now is the third one on this site – was a makeshift schoolroom-cum-church, a very usual combination in those days, and so small that people always risked to hit their heads on beams.

    Directions
    From the Bridge of Remembrance just walk along the Avon on Oxford Terrace (to the south, away from Cathedral Square/City Mall), you have to cross one traffic light and then will already see the landmark white wooden church on your right.

    Address: Oxford Terrace
    Phone (03) 379 5236 (parish office)
    Phone vicarage 351 5039

    The belfry stands some metres away from the church Commemoration plate for the Charlotte Jane.
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    Enjoy the Romantic Edmonds Factory Garden

    by Kakapo2 Updated Sep 8, 2007

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    Those gardens are a hidden treasure. Even I sometimes forget about them, and when we travel down Ferry Road I am always delighted to see them.

    The gardens once were beside the former Edmonds Baking Powder Factory ("Sure to Rise"). Long demolished and replaced by a Mobil service station which has now been demolished and right now (Sep. 2007) replaced by a Raeward Fresh fruit and vegetable store, Edmonds Baking Powder and other products can still be found everywhere. The Factory Gardens have survived. Together with the factory they still feature the Edmonds Cookbook which is New Zealand's all-time bestseller.

    After the demolition of the factory in the early 1990's the City Council aquired a big part of the gardens, and a rose garden and an oval garden have been added. They were officially reopened in 1992. The community and The Friends of the Edmonds Factory gardens sponsor the maintainance of this gem in a not very flash suburb. The gardens are so romantic that they are often used for wedding photographs. When I visited last time a couple were sitting on a bench, and he was playing love songs for her on his guitar.

    You are reminded of the Edmonds history in many places. First with the Edmonds sign ("Sure to Rise" in the shape of a sun with sunrays) over the main entrance on Ferry Road, beside the road to the carpark at the backside of the gardens, and in the wrought iron gates, a wooden seat in this shape, and in one garden is a glass display cabinet with old cook book covers and Edmonds designs.

    The gardens are near the corner of Ferry and Aldwins Roads, on 365 Ferry Road, to the left of the Raeward Fresh fruit and vegetable store.

    Thomas John Edmonds also donated the distinctive clock tower, telephone cabinet and street lights further along the river near Madras Street.

    More info about the legacy of T.J. Edmonds:
    here*

    This sign is also on baking powder packs. The entrance to one of the romantic gardens. Cook book covers and product packs on display. Colourful trees, a lily pond with a fountain. The wrought iron gates of the gardens.
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    St. Johns, a little Gem on Latimer Square

    by Kakapo2 Written Jul 2, 2007

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    If you were a transvestite you would certainly pass at St. Johns Anglican Church, or at least spot it from time to time, as Latimer Square is (in)famous for this branch of sex-searching night-owls.

    During daytime you would not find hints of this special use and have more of an eye for this little gem of St. Johns which has a romantic touch due to the high surrounding trees and looks particularly appealing in winter when the trees have no leaves.

    The interesting architectural feature about this church (from 1865) is that although it is clearly neo-gothic style like Christchurch Cathedral, the spire looks more like the tower of a European knight's castle than a typical skywards-reaching pointed church tower

    I could not find out who built this church (as the church website is strictly parish-orientated and the historic websites only show old pictures but no explanations) - but I will keep on reseraching and try to find the information. Probably they just did not have the money to build a proper roof, as in those days Christchurch was a small and poor community, or it once burnt down and could not be replaced. Although the style is similar to the Cathedral and other buildings of this era, it is not on the list of buildings of the then famous architect Benjamin Montfort.

    But for whatever reason it looks as it looks and whoever built it, it is a beautiful church and even unique with its tower.


    Directions:

    St. Johns is just a 10 minute walk from the city centre, located at the corner of Hereford and Madras Streets. From Cathedral Square head south on Colombo Street (towards Bus Exchange) and take the first left (Hereford St). After a couple of blocks you will see Latine Square on your left and the church on the right.

    If you want to attend a service: There are two on Sundays, at 7am and 8pm. The 10am service has been moved to St. Margaret's School Chapel in Winchester St, north of Hagley Park.

    Rather a castle tower than a typical church tower. The big trees give the church a romantic flair.
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    Feed Ducks, Walk or Picnic at The Groynes

    by Kakapo2 Written Mar 1, 2007

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    Christchurch having such an abundance of beautiful parks and gardens, The Groynes are not mentioned in travel guides. But still it is a nice place to spend some hours, and many locals do on the weekends.

    This reserve at the northern end of the city limits offers a lot of fun and activities, or just to relax, have a BBQ or picnic. There also is a kiosk with fabulous creamy vanilla ice-cream... ;-)

    There are many walking tracks within the Groynes Reserve. The main track is the Waimairi Walkway (5km return), which is great for walking and jogging. If you walk a little further you reach the Clearwater Resort which is part of Christchurch's PGA Golf Course. As this offers no shelter don't forget your hat to not get sunburnt - and look out for not getting hit by flying golf balls ;-)

    On the lakes and waterways you can hire various types of watercrafts to get around or just feed ducks which steal the bread from your hand if you do not it give to them fast enough.

    A suspension bridge crosses the river to a lake used by the Christchurch Model Yacht Club. There are plenty of trout fishing opportunities - don't forget to get a fishing licence first!

    The area was developed for sheep and cattle farming in the 1880’s which involved land being cleared. Lucky us there are a lot of trees and shrubs growing in the meantime.

    The name The Groynes derives from large concrete blocks, made from concrete filled woolsacks, jutting into the Otukaikino Creek. The Otukaikino, once the south branch of the Waimakariri River, was separated from the main branch during the course of major works in the 1930's.

    Directions:

    Located at the northern end of Christchurch on SH1, off Johns Road, on the left side.

    The ducks are very greedy at The Groynes.
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    The Edmonds Band Rotunda

    by Kakapo2 Written Feb 25, 2007

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    This lovely building at the corner of Manchester Street and Cambridge Terrace is not really off the beaten path but I would not consider it a must-see attraction either. It is just beautiful, although deteriorating a little, with rust marks on the white stone on the side of the Avon River, and home to a restaurant named Retour.

    The latter seems to operate but as it is only open for dinner (from 6pm) it is a little out of my focus, and when I wanted to study the menu during day time for a probable visit for dinner (several times BTW) I did not find any info outside. My slogan is: If they do not care about potential customers they do not deserve any ;-)

    This little tower-like white stone building - although octagonally-shaped it looks round - is sitting on the Cambridge Terrace side of the Avon River, and if you sit on one of the many benches under the old chestnut trees of Oxford Terrace on the other side of the river the view is even romantic. If you come at the right time of the day (morning) it is reflected in the water. The building which has a green rounded copper roof and tall columns is very pretty and reminds a bit of a Roman temple, with two staircases wrapping up to the entrance on the outside. No wonder, the style is Italian Renaissance.

    The stretch of mini-park in which the Rotunda sits is Poplar Cresent. A not very tidy storage area of the restaurant, not very well hidden behind bars, is not a great view between Manchester Street and the Rotunda.

    The Rotunda, opened on 29 November 1929, was donated to the City by Thomas John Edmonds (1853-1932) to the 50th birthday of his successful business, the Edmonds Baking Powder Factory ("Sure to Rise"). In every supermarket you will still find Edmonds baking powder and other products, and in 365 Ferry Road you can still find the beautiful Edmonds Factory Gardens which are really worth a visit if you have spare time. The gardens and the factory feature the Edmonds Cookbook which is NZ's all-time bestseller. Read more about those gardens in an extra tip.

    The Rotunda, seen from Oxford Terrace. Poplar Crescent, Rotunda and the Avon River. Morning reflection in the water.
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    Mona Vale: Roses, Ferns and Historic Buildings

    by Kakapo2 Updated Feb 21, 2007

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    Mona Vale is a beautiful historic homestead with a romantic garden with roses, big trees, superb ferns and other historic buildings. In the indoor fernery you can check all the ferns, turn around the leaves, look at the undersides and find out why the silver fern is called silver fern... ;-)

    It is located on 63, Fendalton Road, west of North Hagley Park. From Mona Vale you can look into the gardens and houses of some veeeeery rich people on the other side of the River Avon... ;-)

    The land once belonged to the Deans family whose name you might already have read in the chapter about Deans Bush and Riccarton House. It was sold in 1905, and the then-owner named the property after her mother's birthplace in Tasmania, Mona Vale. The Fendalton Road Gatehouse, the Bath House and Fernery were added. Later on a lily pond was installed, and many exotic plants like rhododendrons, azaleas and trees were planted, and, of course, the rose garden.

    The beautiful homestead restaurant is open daily for morning/afternoon teas and lunch, dinner only by arrangement. It also caters for special events and weddings. Even punting on the Avon is offered.

    Last time when I was there a lot of ducklings were waddling on the leaves of the lily pond. Absolutely cute! But there were also quite some tour buses with noisy Asian tourists who nearly stepped onto the tails of the ducklings, and the restaurant closed for a wedding in the garden. So not really off the beaten track on that day :-( But apart from the tour buses and wedding guests there were nearly no other people around, and you cannot imagine in which speed the tour people raced through the park, so soon I had it for myself again.

    Water lily - nearly like painted by Monet. Ducklings at the lily pond. The Mona Vale Homestead. Wedding preparations between restaurant and Avon.
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    Victoria Street and Beautiful Victoria Clock Tower

    by Kakapo2 Written Feb 9, 2007

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    Although the Victoria Clock Tower sits in the city centre it is a little off the beathen path, as is Victoria Street with its many, many cafés, restaurants and shops. I think there are some of Christchurch's nicest shops in this street, well perhaps not tourist shops, but for furniture and interior decoration, and art works.

    If you go to the Casino which is also some steps from busy Colombo Street you are right there. And if once you are in Victoria Street do not miss to take a look at the wonderfully restored Victoria Clock Tower.

    This tower which is classified Cat. B by the NZ Historic Places Trust has a very interesting history. The upper part of the tower was designed to be a feature of the Durham St frontage of the Provincial Council buildings. But when it arrived from England in 1861, it was found to be too heavy for the building. So instead it was erected on the north stone tower of the Provincial Council buildings. The clock was however there for only a short time before it was removed. It sat idle for some time before being re-erected on a stone base at the corner of High St and Manchester St to mark the 60th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s reign.

    Increasing traffic in this area meant that in 1930 it was relocated again, complete with its stone base, to its present site in Victoria St. Some restoration was carried out in 1978 but in 2000 another substantial overhaul was overdue. Those restauration works lasted until 2004 when the tower was unveiled again to the public.

    The beautifully restored clock tower at night.
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    Birdwatching at Avon/Heathcote Estuary - The Spit

    by Kakapo2 Written Jan 26, 2007

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    The Estuary is a kind of lagoon, created by the waters of the Heathcote and Avon Rivers which flow together behind the long sandspit of South New Brighton and then through a narrow outlet at the very end of the spit into the sea. Between the river mouths lie the Bromley oxidation ponds, and north of those, along the Avon, the Bexley Wetlands.

    The whole area is a bird paradise which was part of the sea until 2000 years ago. The wetlands behind the Spit were once much bigger. They were drained to make way for Christchurch City.

    The Estuary, part of the East Asian Flyway and always threatened by wastewater discharges, is still big enough to attract an incredible lot of waders and wetlands birds.

    Along Dyers Road (Lyttelton - New Brighton) you will first spot the spectacular pukekos with their striking red beaks and massive legs - loved by everybody but crop farmers who shoot them for being pests, a lot of Canada Geese, Paradise Shellducks (males with black, females with white heads), Shoveler Ducks, grey teals and black swans. On the coastal road to Sumner - in the Mt. Pleasant and Redcliffs area - are always a lot of shags (cormorants), white-faced herons and oystercatchers but also Caspian Terns and Pied Stilts.

    If you drive down to the end of Rockinghorse Road in South New Brighton you can park your car and walk along the Estuary, and be amazed by the abundance of birds like skuas (who steal other birds' fish), and the Bar-Tailed Godwits which often share a sand island with Pied Oystercatchers. The bird rangers are most proud of the yearly visit of the godwits which can travel 13,000 kms in less than 12 days.

    The people of Christchurch and Maori for whom the Spit is sacred land have a special relationship with the godwits. The bells of the Cathedral ring to welcome spring with the arrival of the first godwits, and in autumn a little ceremony is held to farewell the godwits. Those migrating birds are ready to leave when their plumage changes from grey-brown to brick-red. Do not forget your binoculars.

    A shag in the Estuary, drying his plumage. Godwits and oystercatchers, seen from the Spit. A godwit wading in the waters of the Estuary.
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    Deans Bush: Native bush in the middle of the city

    by Kakapo2 Written Dec 29, 2006

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    Deans Bush is a great place for picknicks or coffee at Riccarton House which is situated near the entrance of the reserve. But the spectacular thing about Deans Bush is that it is a fragment of original native bush in the middle of the city. The kahikatea forest has been protected by exotic trees that had been planted around and is about 600 years old. There is a nice loop walk on wooden boards and you can see and especially hear native birds.

    Deans Bush is on Kahu Road in Riccarton, west of Hagley Park.

    Riccarton House itself is a very spectacular historic building and worth a visit. The River Avon is running right in front of the building where you can feed ducks and sparrows, or just sit on one of the many benches and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.

    Next to Riccarton House you find Deans Cottage which is named after one of the European pioneer families.

    There are guided tours at Riccarton House every day at 2pm except Saturday, they take up to 90 minutes. Costs: Adults $10, children $5, family $25 (2 adults plus 2 or more children).

    The park towards the road is dominated by huge old trees, mostly English oaks.

    Riccarton House, detail. Riccarton House, place of history, food and coffee Riccarton Park is dominated by old English trees.
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