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Christchurch Cruises

About Christchurch, New Zealand

The largest city on New Zealand’s South Island, Christchurch fans out at the feet of the scenic Southern Alps. Named by English pilgrims from Canterbury after Christ Church College in Oxford, it retains much of its original British flavor, from the Gothic Revival cathedral to the leisurely punting excursion boats on the tranquil Avon River. The city embraces another English tradition: it is home to so many green parks that it has been nicknamed the “Garden City.” Its lush Botanic Gardens, 75 acres established in 1863 along the Avon River, ranks among the most important in the world, hosting plants from six continents, a rock garden and a water garden of lilies and irises.

The Māori were well established here for 500 years before Europeans arrived. Still, the English didn’t settle the land until 1850, when John Robert Godley came to prepare for a planned Church of England community of about 800. Godley and his followers fashioned their new mountain-ringed city after their beloved homeland, from its city plan to its love of afternoon tea. When Antarctic exploration began in the early 20th century, New Zealanders led the way, and invited others to launch their journey from here, one of the world’s southernmost population centers.

Christchurch Lifestyle and Culture

Surrounded by alpine beauty and the fertile Canterbury plains, Christchurch exudes a deep love of the outdoors and embraces its agriculture. The tapestry of emerald hills, soaring mountains and glistening lakes and rivers lures locals and visitors alike to explore by foot, bicycle, jet boat and all-terrain vehicle. And as they do, they’re likely to come upon some of the South Island’s other residents—sheep. It’s said there are more of them than there are humans in this nation, explaining New Zealand’s robust production of wool.

Christchurch’s British flair can be seen in the dark gray stones of its neo-Gothic buildings, including the cathedral, Canterbury Museum and the Arts Center (once Canterbury University). A stroll through Hagley Park might lead you to a cricket match, another import, or the sight of a leisurely punt down the Avon River. One element that is decidedly un-English, however, is the profusion of wineries and vineyards in and around Christchurch, particularly in the Waipara Valley, highly esteemed for its pinot noirs and chardonnays.

Christchurch Sights and Landmarks

The centerpiece of Christchurch is its vast Botanic Gardens. Spread over 74 acres around the gentle currents of the Avon River, the flower beds, indigenous plants and trees and countless blooms, when combined with the adjacent 400-acre Hagley Park, comprise the second largest city park in the world after New York’s Central Park. The Canterbury Museum chronicles the region’s Māori and colonial past and features an excellent exhibit on natural history and the Antarctic explorations that have launched from Kiwi shores. To delve into the cold southern continent more thoroughly, visit the International Antarctic Center, where you can step into a simulation of the harsh environment and see resident penguins.

In true New Zealand fashion, Christchurch provides ample opportunities to enjoy the outdoors while exploring some of the South Island’s preserved beauty. The Orana Wildlife Park, the nation’s largest animal sanctuary, features endangered species from around the world in an environment that minimizes the use of fences. The Willowbank Wildlife Reserve focuses more sharply on New Zealand species, including the curious-looking kiwi. Head to Riccarton Bush to follow nature paths through lush native forests of Kahikatea trees and other flora.

Christchurch Entertainment and Activities

Perhaps the most tranquil way to take in the English spirit of Christchurch is via a punting excursion along the Avon River. Admire beauty of another sort in the city’s various art and culture museums. At the spectacularly designed Christchurch Art Gallery, the largest on the South Island, view more than 5,000 items. Browse over 150 vintage vehicles at the Yaldhurst Museum. Step into a recreated Edwardian township at Ferrymead Heritage Park, perhaps hopping on a horse-and-carriage ride.

Board the Christchurch Tramway, operating beautifully restored trams, for a unique perspective on the city. The hop-on/hop-off tour allows you to explore the city from 17 stops. If you want to make the most of your time in the Botanic Gardens, embark the electric Caterpillar Tram and get whisked quickly among all the blooms. For a bird’s-eye view of the city, board the Christchurch Gondola; this cable car leads you on a scenic journey to the summit of the Port Hills crater rim and the Mt. Cavendish summit, from where you’ll enjoy sweeping vistas of the city and the surrounding Canterbury countryside.

Christchurch Restaurants and Shopping

Sometimes called the breadbasket of the South Island, the county of Canterbury is rich in farmland and other natural resources, and nowhere is this more proudly exhibited than on local menus. In Christchurch, a wide array of eateries offer the freshest ingredients served in the most creative dishes, whether Kiwi cuisine or Asian specialties.

Try delicious New Zealand fare, from local soups and salads to pasta dishes, at Fiddlesticks. Enjoy the more formal dining room or have your meal al fresco. Savor small-plate Spanish-style tapas at Gustav’s, among oak tables and vintage wallpaper. Sample Burmese cuisine at Bodhi Tree, a local favorite where dishes sing with distinctive flavors.

One of the most interesting shopping and dining areas you’re likely to see is the Re:START Mall. The maze of internationally renowned shops, quaint cafés and delicious food trucks was laid out among shipping containers soon after the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. More shops line New Regent Street, a picturesque stretch of pastel facades that is often called New Zealand’s most picturesque street.