Unique Places in Christchurch

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Most Viewed Off The Beaten Path in Christchurch

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    The RNZAF Museum

    by TheWanderingCamel Updated Oct 16, 2006

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    New Zealand's Air Force may have been reduced to maritime patrol and transport duties in support of the navy and army in these days of defence cut spending but this section of the nation's armed forces has a long and proud history of aviation that is shown off to great advantage in two Air Force Museums - one in Auckland on the North Island, the other in Christchurch in the south. The Christchurch branch is located on the outskirts of the city at Wigram Airfield, which itself holds a place in the country's aviation history - WWI pilots began training here in 1916. The collection is housed in a purpose built exhibition space and in airfield hangars.

    28 restored planes are on exhibition here - some, such as the 1913 Bleriot (the New Zealand Air Force's first plane) and Sopwith Pup, are replicas, but most are the real thing and the collection includes such classics as a Spitfire, a Mustang and a Vampire - one of the world's first jet fighters. Related displays include dioramas, cockpit simulators, lots of Air Force artifacts and a great collection of paintings. Tours of the restoration projects give an insight into the huge amount of work, not to mention dedication and enthusiasm, needed to build and maintain a collection such as this. Access to these sections of the museum is provided by weekday guided tours of the hangars where the work is carried out.

    Address: 45 Harvard Avenue, off Main South Road, Sockburn, Christchurch
    The museum is only 15 minutes drive from the city centre. It can easily be reached by bus (Nos 5, 51 and 81/82 from the Bus Exchange)
    Open daily (except Christmas Day) 10-5.
    $15 adults, $5 children. Family passes $25
    The museum has a shop and a cafe.

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    • Museum Visits

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    Wartime heroines

    by TheWanderingCamel Updated May 26, 2006

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    Just a short walk from Christchurch's beautiful Botanic Gardens, standing on Riccarton Avenue in front of the hospital, there's another small garden of old fashioned roses and herbal plants. The little red brick building standing in the middle of this garden is a Memorial Chapel, unique in its dedication to the nurses who died in the service of their country in wartime. The spur to its commission was the tragic loss of ten nurses from New Zealand in the torpedoing of a troop ship in the Mediterranean during WWI. Before the war was over, New Zealand's nursing profession had lost many more of its members as a result of the influenza pandemic that swept the world in 1917/8. Within a few years of these events, a decision was made to build a chapel for the hospital and dedicate it to the nurses who had died in these terrible events. Since its initial dedication, the chapel has come to a memorial to all women who have died in wartime anywhere.

    It's a beautiful little church. Built in the tradition of the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 20th century, it features lovely woodwork and very fine stained glass - most of it the work of women artists. That tradition is carried on in new work that is commissioned for the chapel even now - new windows and the lovely aisle carpet. The west vestry contains a museum.

    It only takes a few minutes to walk from the Botanical Gardens, Canterbury Museum or the Arts Centre to the chapel, and not much longer from the centre of the city.
    The chapel is open every day from 1-4. As a church, admission is free but donations are always very welcome.

    Related to:
    • Museum Visits
    • Religious Travel
    • Women's Travel

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    Christchurch's other cathedral

    by TheWanderingCamel Updated Oct 16, 2006

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    Not many visitors make the pilgrimage to Christchurch's magnificent Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament (usually referred to as Christchurch Basilica) on Barbadoes Street. Whilst the Anglican cathedral in the centre of the city is thronged with visitors at all times, the chances are you may well have this place all to yourself.... and that's a shame because it really is a splendid building, both inside and out.

    From very humble beginnings with a simple wooden chapel built for the arrival of the first Marist priests in 1860, followed by a large church on the same site, and finally the great cathedral we see today - begun in 1901 and completed in 1905 - just one year after the Anglican cathedral was finally declared finished. The two cathedrals could not have a more different appearance however. Christchurch was built in Victorian Gothic Revival style and is very English-looking. The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament would not look out of place sitting on an Italian piazza. Neo-Classical in style, the cathedral's cool and spacious interior is wonderfully elegant and deceptively simple with lovely arches and double-storied colonnades. It is regarded as one of the finest examples of church architecture in all Australasia.

    As well as the fine original decoration and beautiful mosaic floor, recent additions include works by some of New Zealand's finest modern artists and their stained glass, tapestries and a new set of Stations of the Cross among other things have added much to the fabric of the church.

    The Cathedral is on Barbadoes Street between Ferry Road and Moorhouse Avenue. It's a good 15 minute's walk from the city centre. Alternatively, the free shuttle bus goes within 1 block - get off at either of the stops on Madras Street.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Religious Travel

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    High Street Kids for Peace Tiles

    by ATXtraveler Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Just off the Cathedral Square in Christchurch, is High Street, which diagonally heads away from the square in a Southeasterly direction. On this street you will find a small arcade with some beautifully hand crafted tiles, which are part of a greater Kids for Peace mural. Its only a few steps away from the square, but is often overlooked in your rush to see the other sites on the South Island. I would highly recommend taking 10 minutes away from your time in the square and come look at the great work by kids.

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    Christchurch Gondola

    by kris-t Written Mar 1, 2006

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    Christchurch Gondola, base station 10 Bridle Path Road (or take Best Attractions Express Shuttle from Cathedral Square, $5 adult, $3 child, or Leopard No. 28 Lyttleton Bus from Bus Exchange).
    Daily 10AM-late.

    $18 adult, $8 child (summer), $17 adult, $8 child (winter).
    Ride in the enclosed gondola car up to the summit of the Port Hills then view the Heritage Time Tunnel, take an outdoor nature walk, or dine at the restaurant.
    Three-course meal $60 including ride

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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.

    Related to:
    • Eco-Tourism

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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.

    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
    • Historical Travel

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    Cycling and jogging at the Bottle Lake Reserve

    by Kakapo2 Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    It is not always easy to go jogging and cycling in non-danger zones in New Zealand. Big parts of the country are either fenced (long live farming... ;-) or the terrain is difficult. Or, of course, you do not live in the vicinity of a park in the city.

    The Bottle Lake Reserve (or: Forest Park) is a huge area on the northern shores of Christchurch and perfect for people who do not want to get hit by a car, fall over rocks as it could happen on the mountainbike tracks in the Port Hills, or are just not fit enough or willing to run or cycle up- and downhill extremely. It is good for cycling, jogging, walking and even horse riding.

    The forest park is - apart from some mini hills on the BMX tracks - perfectly flat, and on hot days it is nice to work out in the cool shadow of the trees. The tracks still require some effort as they are not smooth or sealed. They are on rather rough gravel forest roads, nice forest ground and sometimes on the sand from the dunes that separate the Bottle Lake Reserve from the beaches where you can rest and have your lunch break. So a perfect area to be active and relax at the same time.

    Although there are no cars crossing you still have to be cautious on the BMX tracks as some people seem to think they are alone in this world. They do not look neither left nor right and do not give way but race over crossing tracks at high speed, which could end in serious crashs.

    The tracks lead into adjadent Spencer Park in the north of Bottle Lake Reserve where you also find toilets, picknick and BBQ areas, and even a horse park.

    Although there are map boards in the forest it is recommended to get a map at the information centre, as the boards might not be where you would exactly need them... ;-)

    Email: BottleLakeForestParkRanger@ccc.govt.nz
    (this does not fit in the "other info" link...)

    Related to:
    • Horse Riding
    • Cycling
    • Hiking and Walking

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    McLeans Forest great for MTB, jogging and walking

    by Kakapo2 Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    The Waimakariri River Regional Park near Christchurch International Airport opened for the public at the end of September 2006. The first stage covers about 11.000 hectares and is mainly aimed at recreational activities. The main features are a 10.5 km specially designed fast mountainbiking track, separate walking and jogging tracks and a big picknick area including toilets. If you do not race you should do the walking track within 2 to 2.5 hours.

    The great thing about the mountainbike track in the peaceful pine forest setting is that it is one-way, so no oncoming traffic. With its banked curves and very winding line it is technically more challenging than the track in the Bottle Lake Reserve, but as there are only some artificial hills in the flat area it is not a big physical challenge, so you can do the lap several times if you want to have a real work-out. You really have to focus on the track, otherwise you could easily lose the ideal line and crash into a tree or land beside the track.

    So if you want to watch the big variety of birds singing from every tree, you better get off your bike or go the walk ;-) There are fantails, silvereyes, gold and green finches everywhere.

    Since April 2007 you can hire a bike next to the carpark, right now just on the weekends but this will be extended.

    Do not praise the Christchurch City Council for the great park - it has been created by Environment Canterbury (ECan).

    Check with the rangers if the tracks are open after heavy rainfall as so close to the Waimakariri they could well be flooded.

    If everything is fine the biggest danger could be flying golf balls from the courses near the forest - as indicated on one sign along the track ;-)

    The brochure and map of the park can be downloaded from the ECan website.

    Related to:
    • Hiking and Walking
    • Cycling

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    Windy point

    by TheWanderingCamel Updated Apr 15, 2008

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    Right at the northern tip of Lyttleton Harbour, the high cliffs and open spaces of Godley Head offer wonderful views across to the Port Hills and the quaintly named hamlet of Taylors Mistake. (Who was Taylor and what did he get wrong? It seems he was a sea captain who mistook the little cove for the vastly bigger Lyttleton Harbour - quite some mistake!). Beyond the high hills you can see the long spit that shelters the Avon esturay from the Pacific. New Brighton's Rockinghorse Road (another cute name) runs right down the spine of the spit.

    Godley Head itself is popular with walkers and there are several well-marked trails within the reserve. On a fine day, it makes a great picnic spot but it is very exposed and can be very wild and windy. Right out at the end you'll find relics of New Zealand's wartime defence system - a coastal defence battery, now an important heritage site. Two of the five gun emplacements are open to visitors. Bring a torch if you want to explore the blasting tunnels.

    To get there by car, either take the Evans Pass Road out of Sumner or Summit Road from Lyttleton. It's about 10km from Lyttleton to the far end of the Head, the views are great all the way

    Public transport is only available as far as Sumner and Lyttelton - a fair hike whichever you choose..

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    • Historical Travel
    • Hiking and Walking

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    Coffee on a Toilet Seat - CLOSED DOWN

    by Kakapo2 Updated Jul 25, 2009

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    Update 25 July 2009

    What a pity - the Bathroom Café has closed down. Despite its inner city location I have never seen a lot of people there - perhaps because they thought, like me at the start, that this was no café but a plumbing shop :-( Now there is a sterile bar/café. I wonder how long it will be there...



    Ok, ok... This should rather be a restaurant tip as I will recommend you to have a drink at the Picasso Bathroom Café. But as you will sit on a toilet seat for coffee or exotic drinks, and use toilet paper from a toilet roll holder instead of a napkin, and it is rather new and not many people know about it, I rather consider it as an Off the Beaten Path tip.

    Yes, you read correctly. Toilet seat. The whole place is furnished with toilet units with those fancy colourful seats, including flush boxes. Please, do only use them for sitting on them with the lid closed ;-)

    The idea behind it is that in our busy world of mobile phones and internet, many of us think they always have to be available, and multi-task, and the toilet is the last bastion to find peace and personal space and time. Ya, the owner, thinks you should come to his place to escape the demands of the day, relax and enjoy your favourite beverages.

    The added "Picasso" in the name just comes from Ya's love for Picasso - and because toilet seats in a café have a surreal feeling as well.

    I must say, the toilet seats are not the ultimate seats to lean back but as long as you sit upright and do not want to cuddle with the one next to you, they are perfectly fine.

    I also enjoyed my drinks. But I must admit, I did not risk too much and kept to a safe choice of papaya milk which was very nicely presented. If you are no coward try a taro milk tea, a lychee honeydoo or even a Picasso Snow - which is shaved ice with green or red beans, and if you need more, add coconut jelly. From South Korea I know that this is totally normal ;-)

    They also serve rather normal meals, for example Eggs Benedict, Bacon & Eggs on toast, sushi, Teriyaki chicken on rice, fried chicken wings etc.

    The café is at the corner of Manchester and Hereford Streets in the city.

    I only discovered it six weeks after the opening. I had walked past it many times without noticing because I had thought it was a shop for bathroom accessories LOL

    Open Mon - Sat 10.30am - late, Sun 12pm - late.

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    Marvellous and Unique St. Michael’s and All Angels

    by Kakapo2 Updated Dec 11, 2007

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    Finally I have made it into this Parish Church in the city centre. Although only some steps from the City Mall, on Oxford Terrace, across Lichfield Street, it is a bit off the radar. Many, many times I had walked and driven past, and now I wonder how I could have waited several years with my visit. It is an incredibly beautiful and unique church. I even think it is one of Christchurch’s most spectacular landmarks – and the least known.

    Already the outside of this perfectly preserved example of a colonial Victorian church is very special, as the belfry stands apart. But regarding the simple white wooden construction, you would not expect this spectacular interior. I admit, for a moment I was speechless. I stepped inside the church via the parish office, and the nice lady turned some more lights on for me, and gave me some brochures, and soon after the organist arrived for his routine, and played his instrument. As I was the only visitor I regarded it as my private concert. Lucky me. What a wonderful time!

    The first impression I got was that of a massive Knights Hall in a medieval European castle. With its dark wooden ceiling and the timber beams it has a warm atmosphere, which is complemented by the wonderful stained glass windows which you do not recognise from the outside as such.

    Forget the Cathedral: St. Michael and All Angels is the Mother Church of Canterbury. Established in 1851, it was the first church built by the European settlers in Christchurch. Like other churches in the area, the first building obviously was not very sound. The one you see is the third on the site. It was designed by W.F. Crisp and consecrated in 1872. It is one of the finest wooden churches in NZ, and one of the world's largest Gothic timber churches.

    Open Mo – Fr 10am – 4.30pm, Weekends 2pm – 4.30pm. Winter Mo – Thu 9am – 4.30pm, Fr 1pm – 4.30pm.
    Sunday Mass 8am, 10am, 7pm (winter 5pm)

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    • Historical Travel
    • Religious Travel

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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.

    Related to:
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    • Jungle and Rain Forest
    • Architecture

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    The Magnificent Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament

    by Kakapo2 Updated Sep 2, 2008

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    Every time I walk or drive past the wonderful Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Barbadoes Street I get the feeling it is a kind of forgotten place, and it seems as if it was not blessed with its location, as beautiful and peaceful as it is. Although it is still within walking distance from the very city centre, and on the way to AMI Stadium, and just a stonethrow away from Pak'n'Save, it is off the beaten path, with no other gems of architecture or history nearby mentioned in travel guides. Every time I pass I see it completely deserted - which even contributes more to its marvellous beauty. It looks absolutely fascinating when the evening sun paints a warm shine on the cool white fassade, the two main towers on the street side dominating the sky, with no other buildings disturbing the perfect picture.

    The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament is a Roman Catholic church. The foundation stone was laid in 1901, and it was opened in 1905. The style is Roman Renaissance, that is why it is often referred to as "The Basilica". The dome is placed above the sanctuary. The architect was Francis Petrie, a NZ born man with English ancestors.

    The interiour has wonderful arcades , colonnades and arches, and although it is massive it still looks gracious. It undoubtedly is a wonderful piece of architecture which has impressed small people and great poets like George Bernard Shaw alike.

    Mass Times
    Mon-Fr 7.30am
    Tue-Fr 12.10pm
    Sat 8.00am
    Sun 7.30am, 12.10pm, 7pm
    Public Holidays 8.00am

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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.

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Christchurch Off The Beaten Path

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