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.
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:
Deans Cottage is located within the surrounds of Riccarton Bush not far from the Riccarton Mall. The cottage was built in 1844 by the first permanent Canterbury settlers William and Robert Deans. They farmed successfully on the Plains before meeting tragic early deaths.
Deans Cottage is the oldest remaining building on the Canterbury Plains.
While you are here you can take a walk around the beautiful Riccarton Bush which is the only remaining representation of what the whole of Christchurch was like before the arrival of the first four ships in 1850. The family name is synonymous with Christchurch with a piece of Hagley park called Bob Deans fields (famous All Black) and his relative (Robbie) is the current Crusaders coach.
Riccarton Bush is Canterbury's sole remnant of the original kahikatea floodplain forest. The 600-year-old kahikatea trees you can see here are the latest generation of a forest that was established on this site 3000 or so years ago. They have survived through two cultural periods, Maori then European, that saw widespread fires sweep the Plains and native vegetation give way to pastoralism and cropping.
A walk around here will let you see many native NZ trees including pokaka, mahoe, cabbage tree, lacebark, Coprosma robusta, mapou, kohuhu, hinau, lancewood and kowhai. The Riccarton Bush Nursery at 21 Kauri Street sometimes has seedlings which you can purchase & start your own native forest..........
Drifting along in a punt on the Avon River has to be one of the very nicest things you can do in Christchurch. Whether you choose to pick up your punt by the Worcester Boulevard Bridge (buy your ticket first at the Visitor's Centre on Cathedral Square) or stroll down to the historic Antigua Boatsheds, you can be sure of a wonderfully relaxing half-hour on the river, being poled along by a boater-bedecked boatman - the perfect antidote to sight-seeing-sore feet. Along the way you'll take in city sights from an entirely different angle, and the tranquillity of the willow-draped river banks is sheer delight.
Did you know there are two ways to punt? Oxford end or Cambridge. Christchurch boatmen opt for the Cambridge end, ie the back of the punt. Taking this photo involved some serious contortions as I was sitting facing forward, right at the boatman's feet!
The Avon River winds its way right through the centre of Christchurch, providing city workers and visitors alike with one of the prettiest townscapes to be found anywhere. Bounded by Cambridge and Oxford Terraces and crossed by several gracious bridges, with attractive gardens, sloping lawned banks and shady willows, the riverside is a favourite place for a stroll or a quiet break from the day's routine.
Taking the Worcester Street Bridge as a starting place, a walk upstream will bring you to the Bridge of Rembrance and on to the picturesque Antigua Street Boatsheds before the river winds its way on through the Botanic Gardens and on in to Hagley Park. Heading downstream from the same point, you'll see several of the grand buildings dating back to Christchurch's solid Victorian-era beginnings such as the fine Gothic Revival Canterbury Provincial Building. Victoria Square's gardens run right down to the river - here the river flows under the Victoria Bridge - the first cast iron bridge to be built in New Zealand. Keep on walking and you'll come to the elegant Edmonds Band Rotunda.
It really is a pretty scene and, when a punt drifts into your view, you can really understand why Christchurch is so often referred to as the 'most English' of New Zealansd's cities.
The city of Christchurch was founded to be a pillar of the Church of England in the South Seas, so it is no wonder that the cathedral - named Christchurch in its dedication - not only takes pride of place in the city but is also both very beautiful and a much-loved landmark. Built in high Victorian Gothic Revival style, planning for the building of the cathedral began within a few short years of the first settlers' arrival, when there were only a few hundred people even living here. The foundation stone was laid in 1864 and it was only to be another 17 years before the cathedral was opened (though not complete) for worship. Another 23 years were to pass before the final stages of building were completed, and the cathedral we see today stood as aproud testament to the vision and endeavour of those early settlers.
Built of local materials - timber from the Banks Peninsula and stone from various quarries in the surrounding Canterbury district - and enhanced by the craftsmanship of local artisans and artists, it is a lovely building, well worth taking time to really discover. Free guided tours start from the inner door of the Visitors' Centre every day - Monday -Friday at 11am and 2pm , Saturday 11am and Sunday 11.30am.
Those with plenty of puff and strong thigh muscles can pay a small fee and climb the tower for what I'm sure is a marvellous view over the city and surrounding district. For those who prefer to keep their feet well on the ground, there's a pleasant cafe around the side that is open all day - yet another place to relax and take some time out or refresh oneself before taking in more sights. Of course there's the obligatory shop.
The statue of Antarctic explorer, Robert Falcon Scott, that stands by the Worcester Street Bridge in Christchurch, takes on a new dimension when you know that it was actually sculpted by his wife, Lady Kathleen Scott, who was a well-known sculptor in her own right.
Scott knew Christchurch well as he used the city as his base for two polar expeditions - the first in 1901and then again in 1910 - his final expedition from which he did not return. Kathleen Scott had sailed to New Zealand with Scott when he embarked on that final journey and their last days together were spent walking in the hills behind Sumner. This adds a poignancy to what might otherwise seem to be just another memorial to a dead hero.
News of Scott's death reached Christchurch on 11 February, 1913 and within a week a memorial fund was set up. Lady Scott (Scott had been knighted posthumously) was commissioned to create a bronze statue of her husband, but by the time work on the full size statue was to begin, bronze was no longer available for such a use - the armament factories of WWI were consuming all the available metal - so the statue was carved in Carrara marble and was unveiled in February 1917.
Dressing her husband in his polar kit, Lady Scott requested that the staue be placed facing north, his back to the pole and looking homeward. The names of the four companions who died with him - Wilson, Oates, Bowers and Edgar - are to be found on the plinth.
Although Captain James Cook was not the first European to sight New Zealand (that honour belongs to Dutchman, Abel Tasman in 1642) he was the first to circumnavigate the islands, in 1769, and to map them. His was a voyage of discovery, not acquisition, however and although Cook raised the British flag it was to be another 70 years before the British claimed sovereignty.
Cook was to visit New Zealand 3 times altogether, returning in 1773-4 and again in 1777.
The statue in Christchurch was largely funded by the gift of a private citizen and a competition was held to choose the sculptor. William Trethaway, a local sculptor won. He took 3 years to complete the work and it was unveiled in 1932. At that time, the statue stood in Armagh Street but it was later moved to its present location in the midle of Victoria Square.
Cook is generally recognised as the greatest explorer the world has ever known. It has been said of him "By his competence he has changed the face of the world" - what an epitaph!
The very hub of Christchurch is the great square that surrounds the city's Cathedral and it's only fitting that this is where the city's founding father and pioneers are honoured.
John Robert Godley is held to be "the founder of Canterbury" as it was he who was asked by the New Zealand Company (an English institution dedicated to the development of colonial interests in New Zealand) to lead the colonial settlement that they wished to see established here on the tenets and teaching of the Church of England. Although he was only to stay in New Zealand for two years, his role in the establishment of the region was honoured by the commissioning of a fine memorial from one of the foremost sculptors of the day. Although his tenure as leader was short, because of the strength of his belief in the rights of the colonists to be independent and self-governing, he worked hard to ensure fair leases from the Company for the settlers with the result that the colony prospered and for that he was, and is still, held in high regard.
Cast in bronze from Russian cannons captured in the Crimean War, the statue of Godley that stands in the middle of Cathedral Square was the first such memorial to be erected in Christchurch - he was placed on his plinth as early as 1867, just 17 years after the arrival of those first setlers. He gazes at - and is reflected in - the glass doors of the cathedral - itself a symbol of the high Anglican ideals that guided the fledgling colony.
It was to be more than 100 years before a memorial was erected to the colonists that followed Godley. In 1973, the Four Ships Court was laid out outside the old Post Office building . Four lime trees were planted to represent the four ships and plaques were laid, depicting the ships - the Randolph, the Cressy, the Sir George Seymour and the Charlotte Jane - and listing the names of the passengers who sailed on them to a new life on the other side of the world
Although called Cathedral Square, Christchurch's central public space is actually a cross - an appropriately symbolic form for a city that was founded on high Anglican principles.
In the same way, each of Square's sculptures and memorials has a story to tell.
Some, like the staue of John Godley and and plaques of the Four Ships Court, are straightforwardly representational. Others are more symbolic.
Maori burials have been found here in Cathedral Square and, close to the Cathedral entrance, a beautiful, simple sculpture of a Maori honours that past. The sculpture faces the huge modern sculpture - Chalice (about which opinions are somewhat divided!) - which celebrates the 150th anniversary of the founding of Christchurch and marks the millenium.
Around the side of the Cathedral, the Citizen's War Memorial takes a more conventional form, dictated in part by the time in which it was created (the 1930s) and the requirements of the Cathedral on whose land it was erected. A cross (executed in stone) - so much a part of Christian symbology - was an essential requirement. The bronze figures around the base, allegorical representations of the virtues of valour, justice, peace and sacrifice, are joined by the figures of youth and victory.
Market Square, with Victoria Street running right through it, was once the commercial heart of Christchurch. The creation of Cathedral Square a few blocks to the south saw the business centre move and the area around Victoria Street become a backwater within the city. The building of a new Town Hall on a site immediatedly across the river here gave the impetus to creating a new city park. Victoria Street was closed to traffic along with the bridge that crossed the river at this point (only trams cross here now), the area was landscaped and the new park emerged to become one of the prettiest open spaces in the city.
With its fountains and flowers, trees and river bank, it's a very pleasant spot. History has a place here too - there are monuments to Queen Victoria (of course) and James Cook, an intriguing "poupou" commemorating the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, and a section of the old tram bridge ( renamed the Hamish Hay Bridge) has been cut away to show the tram tracks and the bridge's engineering.
Christchurch's historic trams provide tourists and locals alike with a link to the days of yesteryear. As in many cities around the world, trams were once a major part of Christchurch's public transport system only to be discontinued in the 1950s. Thirty years later the idea of a city tramway was mooted as a tourist attraction in line with the restoration and promotion of the city's many historic Victorian buildings. The new 2.5km circle route that was eventually decided upon links all the major points of interest in the city centre. The tramway was finally opened in 1995 and immediately became a popular part of the city scene.
All the trams in use are authenticaly restored period pieces from Christchurch, Dunedin and Melbourne. The tram crews announce all the main attractions along the route and and are full of stories and anecdotes about the city's history.
NZ$12.50 buys a 2-day pass which allows unlimited hops on and off any tram.
Set in the Northern outskirts of Christchurch, just 15 minutes from the city centre and 5 minutes from the airport, The Willowbank Wildlife Reserve does not feel like a wildlife park. And it is definetely no zoo although there are some animals from other continents behind bars. You walk on dirt and gravel paths along ponds and little rivers in a natural bush surroundings with native trees and shrubs.
You are within wildlife and farm animals, you can feed and pet the wallabies and ducks or whoever crosses your way, and you can chat with the birds. There is even an Australian parrot asking how you are and if you want a biscuit. If you are patient and take your time, the keas will fly near you and try to open your backpack. They would also play with shining coins.
And, of course, there is the fabulous kiwi night house. It is NZ's largest and most accessible kiwi viewing area. They are not displayed behind glass, they wander around behind a very low fence right under your nose, only a breath away. As soon as your eyes get used to the dark you will discover more and more kiwis.
Another special encounter would be the Kiwi Breeding Tour. More info on this in my tip about the best time to visit the Kiwi.
Nearby are some tuatara, NZ's living fossil. They have not evolved a lot - and imagine: Their relatives, the dinosaurs, are extinct since at least 60 million years!
The Willowbank probably has the widest range of NZ wildlife so close to you. This includes the cheeky wekas you will meet a lot on the West Coast, rare parakeets, a tame pukeko. and its rare relative, the takahe. The Willowbank also prides itself on its conservation and rehabilitation of many rare and endangered species.
Hours: 9.30am - 7pm (last entry 6pm); in winter 9.30am - 5pm (Kiwi night house opens at 10.30am)
NZ$ 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)
After the dimly lit galleries of the Canterbury Museum, a walk through the beautiful grounds of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens is just the ticket. Christchurch is renowned for its gardens and the Botanic Gardens are truly magnificent. It only took the pioneer settlers here 13 years to begin to plan these gardens and the oak tree they planted to commemorate the marriage of the Prince of Wales to Princess Alexandra in 1863 was also to become considered as the inauguration of this plan.
Since that small beginning the gardens have spread to an area of 30 hectares of what is undoubtedly the finest collection of native and exotic plants in all New Zealand. Heritage roses, magnificent herbaceous borders, massed plantings of annuals, a splendid rock garden, areas devoted to cultivated and naturalized New Zealand plants, a beautiful water garden - all are to be found here along with wonderful conservatories housing more tender plants - ferns, tropical species, cactii and alpines.
There are lovely walks, fountains, open vistas and quiet corners to enjoy here, as well as a cafe and a shop selling garden-themed gifts and books. The childrens' playground is popular with family groups.
Entry is free
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