In a past piece on New Zealand in 10 days, we touched on Christchurch as a nice city to fly into. It’s the largest city on the south island, and the airport is a good hub for international flights, which means a lot of tourists will ultimately pass through it as they begin their New Zealand vacations. But a lot of them only do that: pass through. This is understandable, as there are other cities to see and most of all country areas that put any city attraction to shame. Christchurch is worth your time, however, if you have a day or two to spare on either end of your trip.
The first priority in exploring Christchurch should probably be the city’s Botanic Gardens. The city itself has actually been called “The Garden City” for quite some time, and it’s this area that earned the nickname. Known as a tranquil inner-city sanctuary, the gardens actually qualify as the biggest city park in the country. And in a nation so well known for natural beauty, that ought to tell you something! Not too much more needs to be said. There are large green areas, beautiful plants, flowers, and trees, and plenty of walking paths to cover. It’s a fun place to simply wander around for a while, and it’ll give you a nice new perspective on Christchurch.
For further exploration of the city there are a couple of museums you might consider. This is a pretty typical activity for city tourism, of course, but when you think about it you don’t often hear museum recommendations associated with New Zealand. Christchurch is the place to see a few – particularly the Air Force Museum of New Zealand and the Canterbury Museum. The former is an excellent collection of old planes and historical homages to the Royal Air Force; the latter covers everything from Maori culture to exhibitions dealing with Antarctic expeditions. Both museums make for good visits, particularly if you’re traveling with the family or if you’re in town on a rainy day.
Christchurch also has some more direct forms of entertainment (as opposed to sightseeing) to enjoy also. It may surprise some, for instance, to learn that this peaceful, picturesque, and unassuming city actually has its own casino. Real-world casinos throughout the country must have the proper licensing to operate legally, but the Christchurch Casino is a fully established (and regulated) venue, and a full entertainment center for tourists to enjoy. There are games to play, certainly, but restaurants, bars, and special attractions (like dinner shows and magic exhibitions) are also part of the complex. This is a great place to spend an evening in Christchurch.
Alternatively, if you just want the nightlife without the gaming (or even if you want to stop in somewhere for an afternoon brew), Christchurch has some excellent bars to keep on your list. The Last Word is a famous place, serving whiskey and mixed drinks on Regent Street. And Mama Hooch is a trendy, modern establishment to take a look at. But we’d direct you to Dux Central as perhaps the most unique bar in the city. Actually, it’s a two-story complex that has four bars, complete with comfort food and outdoor seating.
Otherwise, exploring Christchurch is like getting to know any other city. You can walk around popular areas, duck into shops and cafés, and find out about any local events that might be going on. But the above activities can keep you busy if you wind up in town for a few days during a vacation to New Zealand. You’ll be happy to have spent time there.