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Treat yourself to a host of experiences in Christchurch, the South Island’s largest city and a perfect base for exploring a region packed with adventures. Regularly appearing on 'top places in the world to visit' lists, Christchurch has changed a lot since the earthquakes of late 2010 and early 2011. It offers a wealth of things to do – and a one-of-a-kind glimpse at a city rebuilding.
The largest city in the South Island has long been heralded as one of New Zealand’s most beautiful, known for parks and gardens, Gothic revival stone buildings and the tranquil Ōtākaro Avon River in the central city. In late 2010 and early 2011, however, the city was subjected to earthquakes that damaged many of the famous heritage buildings and atmospheric shopping precincts. But Christchurch has come a long way in rebuilding the central city, with new laneways full of high-end boutiques and fabulous eateries. The Crossing is a magnet for fashionistas and provides easy access to retail icon Ballantynes. The Terrace and the SALT District in particular are home to a smorgasbord of venues for dining and socialising. In the surrounding landscape, you can experience mountain biking, swimming with dolphins at French-flavoured Akaroa and skiing near Methven.
Christchurch The ‘Garden City’ is New Zealand’s second-largest centre.
Akaroa New Zealand’s only French settlement is an enticing getaway of white picket fences, cottage gardens and French bakeries in a stunning natural setting. Akaroa Harbour is home to the world’s smallest dolphin, the Hector’s Dolphin, and visitors can take a boat trip to swim with them.
Arthur’s Pass Mountain village high on the doorstep of Arthur’s Pass National Park.
Ashburton Relaxed rural service centre.
Hanmer Springs & Hurunui The alpine spa resort of Hanmer Springs is home to a landscaped thermal pool complex in a beautiful alpine setting. It offers a range of therapeutic treatments for a complete spa experience. Other activities include hiking, mountain biking and 4WD adventures.
Methven Outdoor adventures abound in the landscape around this wintertime ski resort.
Oxford Village in the foothills known for its café and cooking school.
South Canterbury Predominantly a rural area, South Canterbury is home to big skies and stunning patchwork plains (best seen from the air) that roll towards the Southern Alps, from which majestic braided rivers flow towards an ever-changing coastline.
Waipara Valley The centre of Canterbury wine-growing, located in a sheltered microclimate.
Glide down the Ōtākaro Avon River on an Edwardian punt. Swim with the Hector’s dolphins at Akaroa. Hike in Arthur’s Pass National Park, an alpine wilderness area. Take a penguin colony safari to Pohatu Bay. Go jet boating in a rugged river gorge. Ski or snowboard during the winter months. Experience the thrill of white-water rafting. Try skydiving with the mountains as a scenic backdrop. Indulge in gourmet local food products in Geraldine. Browse craft studios and art galleries dotted around the region. Enjoy a luxurious soak in the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa.
Rent a car and head out of town to the wide expanse of the Canterbury plains, where smaller centres are worth exploring. West Melton, on the western edge of Christchurch, has vineyards and wineries open for lunch and wine-tasting. Tai Tapu, on the road to Akaroa, is another popular wine-growing area.
For a destination guide of the best things to see, do, eat, drink and shop in Christchurch, check out cityscape.co.nz, or pick up a copy of Cityscape magazine at businesses and malls around town.