NOT MANY MORE CHRISTCHURCH UPDATES ON THIS PAGE - SORRY!
THIS INFORMATION IS ONLY CURRENT AS MARCH 2013.
AFTER THE BIG EARTHQUAKES
More than two and half years since the first big quake and one and more than two years since the quake that devastated Christchurch...
After the 7.1 magnitude earthquake that rocked the city and its surroundings on 4 September 2010 and the damaging Boxing Day 4.9 earthquake on 26 December 2010 I had been able to tell you that Christchurch was not closed down for business and you just had to take care when driving and avoiding certain streets.
After the 22 February 2011 earthquake (6.3 magnitude) everything has changed, and since then we have had two more major earthquakes, a 6.4 on 13 June 2011 and a 6.0, following a 5.8, on 23 December 2011. Aftershocks are going on - but have become very rare and less powerful in the meantime (August 2012).
Only the western suburbs are operating as normal. The CBD is cordoned off due to the huge damage that has only spared a few of the wonderful heritage buildings.
You can walk around the permanently shrinking cordon (where the demolition of a total of 1200 buildings is still going on), and you can walk around the so-called Red Zone - which is a real eye-opener.
At the fringe of the Red Zone you can visit the fabulous new pop-up container mall (Re:Start Mall) in Cashel Street. (See separate tip.)
Beside the very city centre, the eastern suburbs - some of which are off the beaten tourist path anyway, like Aranui, Burwood, Brooklands or Bexley - are the most affected areas. They suffered, as was the case with the CBD and the suburbs along the Avon, massive liquefaction, meaning their houses were built on unstable ground which liquefied during the earthquake, with the consequence that the groundwater level was raised and the soft soil turned into mud that poured to the surface, shifting the houses from their foundations. Streets cracked, big holes opened, footpaths were raised significantly or dropped. In many areas the ground is one metre lower now, and in case of significant rainfall flooding is inevitable.
The more touristy seaside suburbs of New Brighton, built on sand, and Sumner which had got away lightly in the Boxing Day quake were struck very badly in February, June and December 2011.
But now you can have a great time in Sumner. Many cafés - my favourite is the dot.com - and restaurants are open, also the Hollywood cinema. There is only one café on the seaside, at the very end of Scarborough Beach. A great place on a sunny day.
What does this all mean to you as a tourist?
For accommodation, please check out my separate accommodation tips.
There are also some attractions operating - and still there, like the beautiful Botanic Gardens and Hagley Park.
Hagley Park (with a huge inflatable dome) has become a hub for cultural and fun events.
The International Antarctic Centre is open, as are the wildlife parks The Willowbank (with its fantastic Kiwi Night House for the best kiwi - bird! - viewing in New Zealand, and a Maori cultural show) and Orana Park. Punting on the Avon is open, since a few days (17 August) even at both locations (Antigua Boatsheds and Worcester Boulevard) and you can go to the Airforce Museum (free entry).
Parts of Canterbury Museum reopened in June 2012. It had been open for quite a while until it closed in April 2012 due to "safety concerns".
The city's new - temporary - visitor centre is next door at the entrance of the Botanic Garden.
An earthquake exhibition named QUAKE CITY (run by Canterbury Museum) has opened in the Re:Start container mall.
Re-opening of the Gondola on Monday, 25 March 2013!!!
On Worcester Bvd (along the cordoned-off Arts Centre) you will find a café and an arts and crafts market.
Nightlife and shopping has shifted to the suburbs. Check out the places in Riccarton, Addington, Sydenham, Papanui and Merivale.
The best news for me personally is that the famous Copenhagen Bakery has reopened one year after the February quake. They are now far away from the city centre, on 409 Harewood Road in the suburb of Bishopdale.
The famous TranzAlpine train is operating, offering daily return trips to the West Coast (Greymouth). You can rent a car (most rental companies are open) and explore Banks Peninsula/Akaroa or go on a day trip to Arthur's Pass or Hanmer Springs.
The Gondola has only started operating again on 25 March 2013 - but many walking/hiking tracks in the Port Hills are closed due to the risk of rockfall, as is a big part of the Summit Road. But you can drive on Dyers Pass Road to Lyttelton Harbour, and on the western part of the Summit Road between the Sign of the Kiwi and Gebbies Pass. So you can get to the Sign of the Bellbird from where you have the best view of Lyttelton Harbour.
In Lyttelton which was the epicentre of the February quake quite a number of shops have re-opened, and also the dairy, Coffee Culture and a new Fish'n'Chips restaurant. The bakery operates from a container building, as does a new pub named Port Hole. This is really quirky.
ALL heritage buildings have been badly damaged. The Timeball Station collapsed on 13 June 2011. Most buildings have already been demolished and disappeared, including the three churches in Winchester Street.
But back to Christchurch. Most heritage buildings, built in its trademark Gothic Revival style, have been hugely damaged, be it the Anglican Cathedral, the Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, the Provincial Chambers, or the Arts Centre. You might be surprised how many high-rise buildings are still standing - but none of them has been as close to our hearts as these heritage buildings that have made Christchurch what it was. Most of the 185 people killed in the earthquakes died in collapsed 1960's and 1970's buildings that did not meet the building codes - which is what we have learnt in the ongoing hearings investigating their failure.
Getting around has become difficult since the earthquake, as all streets through the CBD are closed. The Four Avenues - a quadrangle around the CBD - are used as a kind of ring road to get around. They are Fitzgerald Ave in the east, Bealey Ave in the north, Deans Ave in the west and Moorhouse/Brougham Streets in the south.
This causes huge traffic jams in the main commuting hours in the morning and late afternoon. If you are not familiar with the city, try to avoid driving during these hours. And now there are roadworks about everywhere - good for the future but a pain while the works are causing disruption.
When driving, take extreme care, as huge bumps in the roads, caused by liquefaction, can appear without warning. Some surfaces are bent like wax, other streets have huge cracks in all directions or big pot holes. Now after the winter rain even more deep potholes have appeared, and there a no warning signs! Best you do not drive through any suspicious puddle as a huge hole could hide in it and damage your car.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT - new Central Station
Also bus service had become veeeery time-consuming, not just because of traffic jams but because we lost the central Bus Exchange (in the Red Zone), and two major hubs that were linked by a shuttle service had been created. So often you needed three buses to get somewhere, and you can imagine to what huge travel times this led.
Since 25 October 2011 things are going better. There is a new Central Station. It is located on a large lot where buidlings have been demolished, between Lichfield and Tuam Streets, and the north/south routes of Durham St/Oxford Tce and Colombo Street. Also the routes are serviced more frequently.
You find the location of Central Station here
For routes and timetables click here
The beaches have been cleared in the meantime, and people are swimming and surfing (well, not a real lot right now in winter ;-). I would not really get into the water, and surely not into the water of waterways, knowing that due to broken sewerage pipes wastewater runs straight into the rivers and into the sea. I cannot think why there should suddenly be no harmful bacteria like E.Coli in the water.
In the meantime the chlorination of water has stopped. You can drink water from the tap safely, and it does not taste like a mouthful of swimming pool water anymore.
Aftershocks had flared up after the event on 23 December 2011, and there still is a 10% chance of a huge earthquake up to magnitude 7.0. Let's hope this worst-case scenario will not eventuate. We have to keep in mind that the earthquake pattern Christchurch has encountered is not "normal". Three major earthquakes within nine months in the same place is an unexplored field. But for the moment the aftershocks occurring are not very frequent and most not powerful at all.
More earthquake-related tourist info here:
You find the latest news about what's going on in Christchurch in this blog:
Mt Hutt is a majestic place. The drive from Methven to Mt Hutt is truly amazing. The road is surrounded with beautiful snowy mountains. When you arrive at Mt Hutt, you can rent/hire clothing to protect you from the coldness and you can hire/rent equipment such as snowboard and skis, however you can also rent equipments and clothes in Methven as the price to hire in Mt Hutt is a little bit more expensive.
If you want to learn from a professional guru how to snowboard and/or ski, it will cost you. although it is worth every penny, as I took a private lesson from the guru.
If you do not know where Mt Hutt is from Methven, ask someone, the people of Methven are very friendly and will redirect you to where Methven is or go to Methven Mt Hutt Village Visitor Information in 160 Main street Methven and ask for directions.
Mt Hutt, from Methven will take you 30-40 Minutes driving, from Ashburton it will take you around 1 hour and 15 minutes, from Christchurch it will take you approximately 2 hours driving.
For more information on Mt Hutt, please go to:
Christchurch has changed, and so have the city tours.
The red London double-decker buses permanently catch my eye when I walk or drive in the city and its outskirts.
Operator of these tours is Hassle Free Tours which have previously offered Lord of the Rings tours to the Rangitata Valley, and jet boat tours out of Springsfield.
On the city tours you do not only see the nice things that are left in Christchurch but also how the city's face has changed. You will view some of the areas affected by the earthquakes, see how Christchurch is preserving some of its iconic heritage buildings and hear about the vision to rebuild and restore the inner city.
The open-top bus takes you one hour around central Christchurch, and the closed-top double decker buses visit places of interest in greater Christchurch, in particular the seaside suburb of Sumner (past its collapsed cliffs) and the Sign of the Takahe.
The combined 3 hour tour costs NZ$ 69, the 1 hour tour NZ$ 29.
Departure is in Montreal Street, opposite the Art Gallery, next to the intersection with Worcester Bvd (between the Cathedral and Canterbury Museum/Botanic Garden).
Red Zone Bus Tours
Since July 2012 bus tours through the cordoned-off city centre are available. The duration of the tours is 30 to 40 minutes.
The cost is NZ$ 15 per person, and under 15-year olds must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
Departure point is Rolleston Avenue, outside Canterbury Museum.
Best you enquire at the i-site beside the museum about the departure times. At the moment (late August 2012) there are four tours daily but with the tourist season coming into swing this might change soon.
This is the most northern of the three passes across the Southern Alps and probably the least used by tourists. It follows State Highway to Greymouth or joins SH 6 to Westport via route 65. It travels north-west until Hamner Springs and then turns west following the Waiau River and then the Hope River.
State Highway 73 goes from Christchurch over Arthur's Pass to Kumara Junction where it meets State Highway 6 along the West Coast. It follows the Waimakariri River for a stage then continues west as the river comes from the north-west. Passing Castle Hill and Lake Pearson it again joins the Waimakariri Valley before crossing it to reach Arthur's Pass.
Earthquake tours are a sensitive issue. But I do not think every earthquake tour is disaster tourism that automatically has to upset residents.
I have made the experience that many people are willing to talk to you about their earthquake experiences if you just say hello and do not run around with your camera to take some shots.
But if every visitor did this it would become too much. Therefore I recommend to restrain yourself and avoid driving into hard-hit residential areas to take photos. You can study the effects of the earthquakes in public places where you do not disturb and upset anymore. Some locals think it is "their" earthquake and only they have the right to have a close look at everything that has been lost. I - as an affected local - do not share this view at all. Having toured the city with friends and other visitors I have seen how much the tours have contributed to people understanding the effects of the earthquakes. They do not want to intrude the residents' privacy, they are just interested in what has happened to Christchurch and why the effects of the earthquakes have been so dramatic. I call it interest, study, learning and compassion. You can tell people a lot, they can read a lot and see a lot on TV and on the internet. But only when they see it with their own eyes they really understand.
I cover the three major effects of the earthquakes on my private tours:
1. Lost heritage: the damaged and lost historical buildings, particularly the striking neo-gothic architecture that has defined Christchurch
2. Liquefaction: the devastating consequences of building a city on sand
3. Rockfall: collapsed cliffs and dangerous hillsides
This chapter is about lost heritage.
Some good examples can be best seen on a walking tour from the new central bus station (combined with a tour to great sites that have not been lost) between Tuam and Lichfield Streets.
Walk west (on Lichfield Street) to Oxford Terrace, turn right into Cashel Street, have a look at the new Re:Start container mall. (You can also walk straight through Ballantyne's department store, this saves some metres and minutes...)
Walk back out to Oxford Terrace, cross the Avon and walk north along the Avon (Cambridge Terrace, later Durham Street).
From the Avon bridge on Worcester Boulevard you can view the damaged Christ Church Cathedral (through the fence). You only see the collapsed rose window, the spire is gone in the meantime.
Carry on north. Soon you will see the badly damaged Provincial Chambers (Provincial Government Buildings).
Turn left into Armagh Street, then right into Montreal Street, along Cranmer Square. At the corner with Kilmore Street you see the badly damaged Cranmer Courts. (At the next corner north - Peterborough Street - you would see the only slightly damaged "The Peterborough". It still looks great but we are told it, too, has to be demolished...)
Then head back down south, either straight through Cranmer Square, or at the end of Kilmore or Peterborough Street down Rolleston Avenue, along Hagley Park.
If you choose the Hagley Park option, you will walk past Christ's College, then reach Canterbury Museum. (Museum visit, do not miss the Paua House!) ---------- If you have walked down through Cranmer Square you will get to the Art Gallery which was the Civil Defence headquarters for many months after the earthquakes (closed - only the shop is open). Turn right onto Worcester Bvd, along the fence that surrounds the badly damaged Arts Centre. -------------
Next to the museum is the main gate to the Botanic Gardens. If you have time now, visit the gardens and exit them again on Rolleston Ave.
Opposite the gardens is the badly damaged Arts Centre, the buildings of the former University of Canterbury, then a haven for coffee sippers, diners, shoppers... It will not be accessible for many, many years.
Carry on on Rolleston Ave until you reach the Antigua Boatshed (undamaged). You can do Punting on the Avon and/or get the best coffee in Christchurch at the Boat Shed Café.
Carry on along the Avon, then turn right into Cambridge Terrace. On Oxford Terrace you will spot a white wooden church with a separate spire. This is St. Michael and All Angels, Canterbury's oldest Anglican church, mostly undamaged, "only" the organ fell and had to be relocated. It is a wonderful church with a magnificent dark wooden interior. (See separate tips.)
Now you are nearly back at the point where you started.
Another magnificent building that was lost is the Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament on Barbadoes Street (between Moorhouse Ave and St. Asaph Street). It is being deconstructed, meaning taken down stone by stone, not with a wrecking ball. The dome has long gone, only the nave remaining at the moment.
Other wonderful buildings have completely gone, not a stone or a trace left. To view these empty sites only makes sense for locals who know what has been there before. But really, there has been so much lost and demolished and gone forever that you struggle to remember what has been on all these empty sites before.
Despite the devastating earthquake on 22 February 2011, the weekend market scene in and around Christchurch is thriving.
There are four permanent markets, and a few more are popping up spontaneously. Here I give you an overview of the four best known weekend markets.
Update 21 April 2012
The Arts Centre and Cathedral Square Markets have shifted to Oxford Terrace
The food and market stalls at the Arts Centre have surely been the most visited market stalls on the tourist path, and we also used to get food there on Saturdays and Sundays every now and then, indulging in the international delicacies under the mighty trees of the quadrangles. This will not be possible for a very long time as the Arts Centre has been badly damaged in the earthquake and remains cordoned off.
However, some of the market and food stalls relocated to Ferrymead Heritage Park soon after but by far not all of them. The good thing about it was that admission was free at the Ferrymead Heritage Park on weekends and you had the bonus to look at the beautifully restored buildings in this cute Edwardian village.
Now - late April 2012 - everything has changed again. More than 20 market stalls of the Arts Centre and those of Cathedral Square have now found a new home on the Strip at Oxford Terrace where most buildings have been demolished. This is next to the new Re:Start container mall in the city centre.
Market hours: Friday, Saturday and Sunday 10am - 4pm (exact time to be confirmed).
Address: Ferrymead Park Drive (off Bridle Path Road)
How to get there: http://www.ferrymead.org.nz/
Christchurch Farmers Market at Riccarton House
This is the traditional Christchurch Farmers Market, taking place every Saturday - not to be mixed up with the Rotary Market at Riccarton Park which again takes place at the Riccarton Racecourse on Sundays. That's a totally different location.
The location of the Farmers Market is at historic Riccarton House in Riccarton or Dean's Bush. This is near Riccarton Mall from where it is a short walk only, really easy to reach from the many motels on Riccarton Road, west of Hagley Park.
This Farmers Market means pure indulgence. Apart from produce you find fine cheeses, beautiful European bread and pastry, as well as cakes, chocolate, meat, smallgoods, and some coffee stalls. It is a great place to have breakfast, devour the equivalent of thousands of calories ;-) ... and dream of the beauty of European baking ;-)))
Do not forget to have a look at Dean's cottage which stands beside spectacular Riccarton House. It is the first settlers' house, a two room cottage made of Kauri. And you could take a walk in the adjoining bush under huge kahikatea trees, the only remnants of an ancient forest inside the city. It is surrounded by a predator-proof fence, so you might spot some nice birds. Kiwi have been released and do roam around there at night.
Market hours: Saturday, 9am to 12noon.
On Sundays (11am to 3pm) an Artisan Market takes place at Riccarton House.
Address: 16 Kahu Road, Riccarton
More info: http://www.christchurchfarmersmarket.co.nz/
Lyttelton Farmers Market
This is a relatively small but quite lovely market taking place on the playground of Lyttelton Main School every Saturday. You can buy fresh produce, bread, cakes, chocolate, meat, sausages, cheese, fish fresh from the boat, eggs, beer and wine, and you also get freshly brewed coffee.
On the adjoining sports field you find a flea market where you can find cheap books, clothes, chinaware, glassware, toys, etc.
Market hours: Saturday, 10am - 1pm.
Address: Oxford Street
More info: http://www.lyttelton.net.nz/lfm/
Riccarton Rotary Sunday Market
This is a giant market taking place on Sundays at the Riccarton Racecourse. It is in the outskirts of the city, and best to reach of you drive towards the West Coast on Yaldhurst Road (one of the many ways to the airport), and then turn left at the signpost. (As said above, do not mix up Riccarton Bush and Riccarton Park!)
It is New Zealand's largest outdoor market.
There are more than 300 vendors selling their goods, ranging from fresh produce to second hand goods, furniture, clothing, art, plants, and - most important for us - food and beverages. You find Fritz's Wieners as well as stalls selling whitebait patties, Asian fare, Egyptian bread, French chocolate croissants, and a lot of people brewing fresh coffee and frothing milk.
You might have to walk a bit as up to 10,000 people flock to this market every Sunday. However, the carpark is huge, as Riccarton Park is home to New Zealand's biggest galopping events.
Market hours: Sunday, 9am - 2pm.
Address: Racecourse Road, Riccarton.
More info: http://www.riccartonmarket.co.nz/
Update 09 June 2011:
In the meantime some food and craft stalls can be found along Worcester Boulevard (along the cordoned-off Arts Centre).
The Cathedral Square Market has returned - but, of course, not to Cathedral Square which is at the centre of the no-go zone (Red Zone). It can be found every Friday and Saturday at the carpark of the YMCA (corner Rolleston Ave & Cashel Street). Scheduled until 3 December 2011.
Market hours: 9am to 3pm.
More info: http://bethere.co.nz/community/2011/2541-the-cathedral-square-market
Set in the Northern outskirts of Christchurch, just 15 minutes from the city centre and 5 minutes from the airport, The Willowbank Wildlife Reserve does not feel like a wildlife park. And it is definetely no zoo although there are some animals from other continents behind bars. You walk on dirt and gravel paths along ponds and little rivers in a natural bush surroundings with native trees and shrubs.
You are within wildlife and farm animals, you can feed and pet the wallabies and ducks or whoever crosses your way, and you can chat with the birds. There is even an Australian parrot asking how you are and if you want a biscuit. If you are patient and take your time, the keas will fly near you and try to open your backpack. They would also play with shining coins.
And, of course, there is the fabulous kiwi night house. It is NZ's largest and most accessible kiwi viewing area. They are not displayed behind glass, they wander around behind a very low fence right under your nose, only a breath away. As soon as your eyes get used to the dark you will discover more and more kiwis.
Another special encounter would be the Kiwi Breeding Tour. More info on this in my tip about the best time to visit the Kiwi.
Nearby are some tuatara, NZ's living fossil. They have not evolved a lot - and imagine: Their relatives, the dinosaurs, are extinct since at least 60 million years!
The Willowbank probably has the widest range of NZ wildlife so close to you. This includes the cheeky wekas you will meet a lot on the West Coast, rare parakeets, a tame pukeko. and its rare relative, the takahe. The Willowbank also prides itself on its conservation and rehabilitation of many rare and endangered species.
Hours: 9.30am - 7pm (last entry 6pm); in winter 9.30am - 5pm (Kiwi night house opens at 10.30am)
NZ$ 25 (adult), NZ$ 10 (child 5 to 14 years)
Family Day Pass NZ$ 65
Kiwi Breeding tour add NZ$ 25/10
Lemur Encounter add NZ$ 20/10
Annual Pass 49/19
Guided tours at 11.30am and 4.30pm on request only, additional cost applies. Night tours after 5.30pm on demand.
(All prices as April 2012)
In the evenings the Maori show group Ko Tane gives an insight into Maori culture, life, customs and dance. Nice but also a bit on the expensive side as it now has to be booked in conjunction with a traditional meal cooked in the earth oven (hangi).
Show times: Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 5.15pm.
Cost: NZ$ 105 (adult), NZ$ 69 (child); with guided Kiwi tour (starting at 4.30pm) N$ 135/80; family passes NZ$ 280/353.
(All prices as April 2012)
Most people had not even heard the word liquefaction until it happened in all three major earthquakes that struck Christchurch.
It happens when the ground shakes so violently that sand and water separate and the ground becomes unstable. The soil loses strength and stiffness due to the shaking, causing it to behave like a liquid.
So much pressure is created underground that the silt and water shoot to the surface like small erupting volcanoes, covering the surface in heavy, gluey sludge, and flooding roads and properties.
Inside the city the suburbs of Dallington and Avonside have suffered horrendous liquefaction. They are built along the Avon, and many of the properties will be bulldozed and not be rebuilt on in the forseeable future because it would be too expensive to stabilise the ground.
On this impressive YouTube video you can see what happens:
Liquefaction - YouTube
Here you find more interesting info about "our" earthquakes.
On Wikipedia you can read more on the phenonemon of soil liquefaction
An area where you can observe liquefaction as well as the so called lateral spreading is Porrit Park and the adjacent site of the Avon Rowing Club.
Lateral spreading occurs when there is nothing that holds the ground back from moving in an earthquake. A river is such an area as in most cases the banks are not stabilised, so the banks move closer to each other, with the consequents that the adjoining ground suffers major cracks.
The river bank between the rowing club and the canoe club has turned into a landscape of metre-deep ditches which will leave you speechless. ----- Update 28 Jan 2012: In the meantime the ditch-like cracks you see on the photo above have been filled with silt, so you do not get the full picture anymore, but there are still the huge cracks and gaps along and across the sealed footpaths between the rowing and canoe club, and also on the road.
Porrit Park is resp. was the site of top-notch hockey grounds. You will now see the artificial lawn covered in grey sand, and the ground ondulated.
You can also see the dams they have built along the Avon in order to avoid flooding of the streets and properties. As the Avon is tidal and now a bit narrower and filled with sediment, it tends to break the banks when it rains.
When you drive on Avonside Drive please be careful, the road is in very bad condition. You can drive into the carpark by driving veeeery carefully - and not always on the correct side of the access road.
If you have a GPS, the address is Kerrs Road/Hockey Lane.
I describe directions from the corner of Bealey Ave and Fitzgerald Ave:
- Drive down south on Fitzgerald Ave (about 500 metres)
- Turn left into Avonside Drive, this becomes Woodham Road
- Depending on which streets are closed, you can turn left into Gloucester Street then along the Avon on the not very smooth Avonside Drive, then left into Hockey Lane
- Or: Turn left into Kerrs Road, then straight through into Hockey Lane
- If for whatever reason Kerrs Road is closed after 100 or 200 metres, turn right into Wainoni Road, then - when you spot a park on the left - turn left before this park into Avonside Drive, then the second to the right, at the Rowing Club.
You can look at the most impressive and shocking examples of rockfall on a drive to Sumner. The cliff collapses in Redcliffs and Sumner have wrecked many houses.
You can take the bus (number 3 from Central Station, destination Sumner) if you do not have your own transportation.
The worst affected suburbs are the eastern suburbs built on and along the Port Hills which are the crater rim of some ancient volcanoes (and those cannot erupt again, as many people fear, as they are well and truly extinct; but they have surely created the faultlines that have now caused the earthquakes).
Once you have passed the suburb of Ferrymead, first take extreme care while driving because the road is in bad condition, due to the lateral spreading along the estuary which gave way. When you have passed the causeway, look to your right in Redcliffs. Best you park along the road to take a look at the collapsed cliffs.
Further down the road, when approaching Sumner, you will notice a long row of containers along the road. They are there for your safety – to keep falling rocks from falling onto the road. As soon as you reach Sumner’s beach you can park on the left side of the road (if there is space). If not, just keep on driving and park somewhere in Sumner and walk back on the beach. High on the collapsed cliffs you see houses dangling on the edge – teaching you where you should not build your house…
At the end of the beach you see Shag Rock sitting in the water, more a pile of rocks than one impressive rock. It is a sorry reminder of a landmark rock that once was three or four times the size as you see it now.
Also in the suburb itself some massive rockfall and cliff collapse has occurred but nothing as dramatic and on such a big scale as on the cliff faces north of the township.
Houses have also been badly damaged in other suburbs, namely Heathcote and Rapaki. A friend’s mansion in Heathcote has been wrecked by Rocky the famous rock; this story has made it into the news because the rock was sold on TradeMe (the NZ version of Ebay) for more than NZ$ 50,000.
In Lyttelton quite a number of houses have been evacuated due to the risk of further rockfalls. Works to stabilise the rocks have been abandoned because it is so expensive, and many walking tracks in the Port Hills have been closed for safety concerns. However, some residents do not leave their houses despite the City Council’s order to vacate the properties. They say they take the risk as aftershocks have become rather rare and are not very strong, and as their houses have not been hit in the big quakes by falling rocks they are not willing to abandon their properties.
Christchurch's Central Business District (CBD) has been cordoned off - as the so called Red Zone - since the devastating earthquake on 22 February 2011. And most of it still is.
The first redesigned area is City Mall (Cashel Street), just about 200 metres from the severely damaged Christ Church Cathedral. It was one of the few pedestrian shopping areas in the central city, just off the Bridge of Remembrance.
Many of the historic buildings have collapsed and had to be demolished. The result was a huge empty space. This has now been filled with a temporary shopping precint, the project Re:Start. There are 27 shops, including two cafés, fitted into colourful shipping containers. The front walls have been cut out and replaced by floor to ceiling glass panes, making the shops very light and airy.
Despite not having been located in Cashel Street before the earthquakes, you will find a true icon of Christchurch shopping in one of the container shops: It is Johnson's Grocers, once a tourist attraction in northern Colombo Street. The 100 year-old grocery fell apart in the year of its 100th anniversary. But owner Colin Johnson who has sold delicatessen from around the world since 1957 has not given up and set up shop in the new precint which is made up of two U-shaped container arrangements. Until he can rebuild at the old site in Colombo Street Colin Johnson will sell his goodies from the temporary premises. I recommend - particularly now before Christmas - German gingerbread and domino stones ;-)))
Due to the success of the Re:Start project the organisers are thinking of adding more shops. Some food stalls have set up shop already. Every second person visiting seems to have the city's best gyros ;-)
An even bigger delight for the people of Christchurch is that Ballantyne's retail store has reopened beside the shipping container shops. This is truly a Christchurch icon. I watched many people step into the building smiling from cheek to cheek, a bit like small children cautiously stepping into the room with the Christmas gifts. Great that they are back.
Do not miss to peek through the windows of the Tap Room at the corner of Oxford Terrace and Cashel Mall. You find the interior as it was left on 22 February, glasses on the tables, as if people had just left for a minute.
More photos in a travelogue.
Important for travellers:
Free Wifi in the Re:Start container mall.
Willowbank Wildlife Reserve is within easy driving distance of central Christchurch. It's a bit like entering into a story where you travel through Wild NZ, Heritage NZ, and Natural NZ.
The visitor is introduced to a variety of species, such as the Fallow Deer, Ostrich, Capuchin Monkey and Saimangs in Wild NZ to a range of farm animals in Heritage NZ and the more interesting (to my mind) Kea, Tuatara, Otago Skink, and North Island Brown Kiwi in Natural NZ.
Adults pay $25pp, seniors $20pp and children $10pp. Kids under 5 enter for free. They also cater for family passes. Buses ferry patrons from the city center to Willowbank and back.
Night time tours are popular, with Kiwi viewing in New Zealand's largest nocturnal house (which is also open during the day). I found this enclosure very dark and would not have seen much without the aid of our guide's torch.
If you fall into the Avon River in the middle of the city you will not die from the bad water quality but it is surely not recommended to swim there.
Instead, there are so many beautiful beaches in the Christchurch area, some better than others, but most of them not crowded at all, and if you walk some steps you will surely find even lonesome spots without any people around. In fact the 25 kilometre stretch from South New Brighton to the mouth of the Waimakariri River is an uninterrupted white sandy beach, with landmarks like the New Brighton Pier, Spencer Park, the Bottle Lake Reserve and some interesting wetlands.
The most well-known city beaches are in Sumner but on hot days in Sumner they are rather crowded, a lot of dogs running around, and many people leave their rubbish behind, and at the end of the day you get into a traffic jam. The water quality is as good as on the northern beaches. The big plus in Sumner are the many nice cafés, restaurants and shops close-by.
Passing Sumner and making your way up to Scarborough and then downhill again you reach the area's best beach referring to the water quality, Taylor's Mistake. It is not a big beach but in very nice surroundings at the foot of the Port Hills. Apart from ice-cream from Mr. Whippy's van there is not a lot you can buy there.
The same applies to the beaches between South New Brighton and the Waimak, apart from the area of the New Brighton Pier. For sunbathing and swimming it is much nicer to move further south or north, cross the sand dunes and find a lonesome spot.
You will find more possibilities for swimming at the small beaches of Lyttelton Harbour.
There is a great website with a map of the beaches around Christchurch and Lyttelton Harbour and their water quality:
My flight out wasn't until 8pm so I signed up for an afternoon tour of 4 wineries and lunch. The tour was run by Vin de Pays and I signed up at the Adventure Centre on Cathedral Square. We were taken around in a small mini-van and the tour was only myself, another couple and a very knowledgeable tour guide. The lunch at the first winery was unbelieveable. We had a huge selection of cheeses, meats, breads and fruit that was brought to our table along with a variety of wines for tasting. The last winery we visited also included afternoon tea.
The wine region we visited was the Waipara Valley
The Peacock fountain was named after John Peacock who left 500 pounds in his will in 1907 for the purposes of beautifying and improving the Avon river and Christchurch reserves. So they spent the money on a god ugly fountain built in England.
It was restored and erected in Christchurch botanical gardens in 1996, but why the painted it those awful colours I really dont know (truthfully I thought it was a Maori fountain).
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