City Center, Christchurch
Sorry that you find this walking tour split up in two tips. This is from the time when we could fit only 2000 characters into one tip.
If you have limited time I suggest a walk in the city centre which passes great places. You can just have a look or spend hours, though...
Start: Cathedral Square
- Visit the cathedral and the tower for a great view over the city. If you have no time for a visit to the wildlife parks take the chance to "meet" a kiwi (bird) at the Southern Encounter/Aquarium. The entrance is beside the Pathway Souvenir Shop, just some steps from the Visitor Centre and Starbucks Café, in the old Regent's Theatre building (building with the creamy white domed tower).
- Walk around the left side of the cathedral. Turn left into a mall named Cathedral Junction (cafés, shops, tramway). Cross it. Across the next street (Gloucester) starts New Regent Street, Christchurch's most picturesque street, with its pastel blue, green and yellow facades in Spanish Mission Style. Best photos when the tramway passes... ;-) Do not miss to have a look at the tons of teddybears in the Inkwell Giftshop.
- Turn left at the end of New Regent St into Armagh St, cross Colombo St and visit Victoria Square. (If you feel hungry in Armagh Street, pop into the Copenhagen Bakery, they have the best bread - European style - in Christchurch, and super delicious cakes and Award winning pies, and, and, and... And it is not expensive at all. Long but fast dissolving queues during lunch time.)
- From here stroll along the Avon as described in my extra tip and have a look at the Harry-Potter-film-like Provincial Chambers, the Kate Sheppard Memorial etc.
- Turn right into Worcester Blvd., walk along the tramway line. At the next intersection you have the new Art Gallery which is worth a visit.
The Gothic Revival Christ Church Cathedral is the centre of Christchurch's Anglican (Church of England) community and where the big ceremonies are held. It comprises main church, 64.5 metre tower and visitor centre (on the left side of the photo). To date it has had 12 deans with the current man, the Very Rev Peter Buck. There are 3938 pipes in the Cathedrals organ.
The cathedral is one of the South Island's most visited attractions with a reported 300,000 plus visitors per year.
Construction started in 1864, just 14 years after the first settlers arrived (then stomped over the hill), and was completed in 1904. It was consecrated in October 1881 making it 125 years old. The church is now Christchurch's most important landmark. The cathedral is open for prayer during the weekdays and Holy Communion is celebrated daily.
It is certainly worth a look and a climb up the 134 steps to have a view over Christchurch is a must.
Update 26 November 2011
Having lost his stage - Cathedral Square - in the February earthquake, the Wizard had been out of action for many months. But now this Christchurch icon has regained his territory. He's back! Instead of holding his speeches on Cathedral Square, you can find him now in front of Canterbury Museum, at the entrance to the Botanic Garden and the new (temporary) visitor centre (i-site). So not really far from where he once climbed his ladder.
As there have already been discussions in the forum wondering if the Wizard was still alive... Sure he is, but he is not on Cathedral Square every day anymore. As it is an unpaid job to climb on the ladder and hold speeches with a slightly anti-feminist touch, and having reached a certain age and wanting to spend time in his second home in Oamaru, he will not show up in rain and cold weather, and from 2006 he started limiting his season from November to April.
Normally the Wizard arrives at about 1pm (and only on weekdays) in his red VW Beetle which has two front parts with steering wheels, so you would think he could drive it either way. He parks it right beside the cathedral on the Square, so you can see immediately if you can expect him to speak. Already the car is an attraction of its own, and the Wizard is a real icon of Christchurch City although he is sure that feminist groups want to get rid of him.
The Wizard was born in London in 1932 as Ian Brackenbury. In 1963 he went to Australia where in 1969 he was appointed Wizard of the University of New South Wales. He donated his body as a Living Work of Art to the University of Victoria, and later transferred this title to New Zealand. He arrived in Christchurch in 1974 and offered his services as Wizard to the City Council but they declined. Since then the Wizard has spoken on Cathedral Square without the Council's love and affection and survived quite well. He really is an icon of the city, and when there is an official event not organised by the City he is often invited as the symbol of the city. The Wizard has even become Archwizard of Canterbury. Yesterday (2 Sept 2008) I have seen him eating a blue sausage on Cathedral Square at a function to raise awareness about prostate cancer. You see, he is still well and alive.
Read more about him on his website:
Photo 2 shows the Wizard's spectacular VW Beetle.
Part 1 - click here
- At the end of the street on the left is the Arts Centre with its shops, galleries, cafés and restauants. If you are here on a weekend, get your lunch at the international food stalls in the courtyard. Delicious and cheap!
- Across Rolleston Ave is the Canterbury Museum which, apart from its historic items, has a great bird collection (stuffed...) and a lot of fabulous info about earthquakes, water etc. The recreated Paua House from Bluff is a relatively new fabulous exhibit which gives great insight into Kiwiana - things typical for New Zealand.
- Entrance to the Botanic Garden where you should at least see the Rose and NZ Native Gardens, and to the right you can get to Hagley Park. If you turn left down Rolleston Ave you get to the Antigua Boatsheds (Punting on the Avon).
- Walk back on Worcester St, cross the Avon. On the left side you see a very beautiful red brick building. This is the Our City O-Tautahi Exhibition, which is no history museum but a place Christchurch people can hire for events and exhibitions. The building housed once the Provincial Chambers. On the right you have the statue of Captain Scott who started his Antarctica expeditions from the Port of Lyttelton.
- Turn right, walk along The Strip (pubs, restaurants) to Cashel Street. On the right is the Bridge of Remembrance (big memorial gate).
- Turn left, then left again into Colombo St and back to Cathedral Square.
If you go to the Antigua Boatsheds - alternative back to Cathedral Square:
- Cross the bridge at the sheds, turn left and walk along the Avon on Oxford Terrace.
- On the right side of the street you soon see the wonderful white wooden church St. Michael and All Angels. It is really worth a visit - it is a gem, and apart from that, Canterbury's mother church, older than Christ Church Cathedral.
- Carry on along Oxford Terrace.
- To your left you will soon see the Bridge of Remembrance. That is where the Strip with its pubs and restaurants starts. At the next corner (intersection with Worcester Boulevard you see the Our City O Tautahi (the red brick building) and Captain Scott's statue. (To the left of Our City O Tautahi, on the same side of the Avon, is another place for punting on the Avon. There is no office, they sell tickets right on the spot, at a garden seat.)
- Turn right into Worcester Boulevard and walk back to Cathedral Square.
The Avon is a very tricky river. If you are lost and think you could follow it to find your way back you could have a very long walk ahead of you. The Avon meanders through the inner city, and you could walk a mile for covering a distance of a few hundred metres from A to B.
Of course, the Avon is most famous for the punting. The punters are the guys who are called gondolieri in Venice. At the Antigua Boatsheds - located next to the Hospital - you can hire punter and boat. And if you want to be more active you can hire a kayak, canoe, paddle or rowing boat. Seems a little expensive to me with NZ$ 20 per half hour for two for a paddle boat. (Double kayak $ 20 per hour, single kayak $ 10 per hour, rowing boat and Canadian canoe $ 30 per hour; prices as May 2009).
The boat trip or walk on or along the Avon through the Botanic Garden is rather romantic. But there are other nice stretches of the Avon, and I really like to walk from Victoria Square to the Strip (Oxford Terrace). There are many places of interest on those several hundred metres from A to B.
From Victoria Square walk to Armagh St (tramway line), cross it and cross the bridge, then turn left and walk along the river. The first interesting buildings are the picturesque Canterbury Provincial Council Buildings. Cross the next bridge again (Gloucester St) and walk along Oxford Terrace. Next comes the Kate Sheppard (Sufragettes') Memorial which reminds us that NZ was the first country in the world to grant women the right to vote, then a statue of the Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott. On the other side of the Avon is the Canterbury Club, an old-established gentlemen's club; the hitching post and gas lamp standard on the footpath are the last remaining in the city. Finally you reach the Bridge of Remembrance on Cashel Street.
Update 14 May 2009 was for adjusting the current prices for the boat hire.
For punting and contact details see extra tip.
Although the city of Christchurch is quite small and it is very easily doable on for, the river Avon makes the city quite difficult to navigate. The river twists and winds through the city and makes walking around very confusing. But why not be smart and follow the river? You will see a lot of sights along the way and you won't get lost.
Pretty much everywhere along the river Oxford Terrace runs parallel. Relax on it's banks whenever you feel like and see the punting boats, kayaks and canoes come by. Ahhhh this is good life....
For people who are still weak from their long trip to NZ or do not want to read maps (or who do not get the opportunity to know me... LOL) there is a comfortable alternative to get around the city centre: On the southern side of Cathedral Square, at a red kiosk, is the start of guided walks which depart daily at 10am and 1pm (15 minutes earlier from the Visitor Centre) from October to April. From May to September they offer the 1pm tour only, and you should book before 12noon at the Visitor Centre. The tours take approximately two hours.
Although I do not join such guided tours very often, wherever I am, I must admit that the guides normally offer a lot more interesting information than guide books. And even more: If you hear such stories, garnished by little anecdotes, you normally remember the facts and figures more easily and for a longer time than if you only read them in a book. And if you want to know more you can ask millions of questions and normally get an answer.
The Personal Guiding Service is a non-profit organisation. The members are citizens who enjoy meeting people. Cost of a tour is NZ$ 10.
Most days of the week in the centre of Christchurch, there are a number of stalls in Cathedral Square. The stalls sell all sort of items from jewellery to clothing plus there are a couple of food vendors.
Prices vary greatly with the stall owners often the makers of the item (esp. re the jewellery) so willing to talk price and able to tell you about the item you are looking at.
The stalls come and go depending on the number of visitors and the time of year with the busiest period from January to March.
Open daily for viewing with regular services during the week. Completed in 1904, the Cathedral is Christchurch's most prominent landmark and the Square to which it gives its name brings color and life to the heart of downtown. Check out the excellent Visitors Centre in the old Post Office building, and keep an eye out for concerts, protesters, eccentric street preachers or even the world-famous Wizard of New Zealand haranguing the lunchtime crowds. During the day food and craft stalls are available.
This is quite popular, for some unknown reason, and is located near the Cathedral in Christchurch's Square. It was put there, funnily enough, around the year 2000 - even though the new millenium didn't start until 2001 (so some say!!). The Challice appears as a fancy ice cream cone and is inspirational to all.................... It is well viewed from the seats in front of Starbucks (corner of the building to the left of the picture) so you can sip Seattle's finest brew and wonder at the native leaves that form the challice itself.
You can find this post in Victoria park on the corner of Colombo and Armagh Sts. It was carved in 1994 from a native Totara tree by artist Riki Henare Manuel. The poupou is carved out of a Totara log one metre in diameter, and was given by a West Coast farmer. It is 6 metres tall.
The post commemerates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi by the local Iwi of Akaroa. The Poupou celebrates Maori in Canterbury. The poupou represents all inhabitants of the Christchurch region, their ancestry and their resources. The location of the poupou also relates to the old Pa site Puari, their food resources, and the collection and conservation of these resources.
The carving was commissioned by the City Council in conjunction with the Ngai Tahu Maori Trust Board. Although the work took three years to organise the poupou took only twelve months the complete.
Cathedral Square provides a pedestrian sanctuary in the heart of the of the city where flower and fruit sellers offer their wares. Other craftspeople set up stalls on marcet days and there's often some form of entertainment.
On Victoria Square you will find the Town Hall and in front of it the Ferrier founatin. This fountain looks very special in the nighttime when it is beautifully lit. Well worth coming back for a second time!!
This is such a new street. You have the tram that runs through the street. Lots of reasturants and little shops, and of course the beautifully coloured Spanish mission style architecture of the houses.
The Square and the surrounding area are perfect for hanging out, get information brochures at the Visitor Centre (i-site), browse the shops for souvenirs and clothes, contact home in one of the several internet cafés, buy a phone card for cheap calls or a SIM card at the Vodafone shop around the corner in Colombo Street, watch street artists or chess players at the giant chess board near the police pavillion, listen to the Wizard if the weather is fine, browse the craft and food stalls, or have a coffee at Starbuck's where you will meet locals only around lunchtime and other tourists later on.
There is also a kiwi house at the Southern Encounter which you can access from the Visitor Centre. Take your chance to see our iconic bird there if you do not intend to visit the wildlife parks like The Willowbank and Orana Park. Southern Encounter is operated by Orana Park.
Absolutely do not miss to browse the Visitor Centre. You will find kilos of free brochures and maps, and accommodation guides (Jason's and AA) for the whole country as well, and you can book trips.
The Akaroa Shuttle and Airport Bus depart from the Square, and the Tramway has a stop. Most regular buses start or stop at the Bus Exchange around the corner in Colombo Street.
Or just sit in the sun and watch other people. There are many benches and tree surrounds where you can sit.
If you want to be more active climb up the stairs in the Cathedral Tower and have a look over the city to the Port Hills and the foothills of the Southern Alps.
The Square is really the heart of the city although there are nearly no restaurants or pubs in the buildings that surround the Square - which is a little strange. But in all the streets leading away from the Square, and on the Strip and especially in Manchester Street you will find an incredible lot of good eateries.
Just at night take care on and around the Square. As soon as young idiots get drunken they seem to hang out there and assault people. News about this problem are in the papers constantly.