Christchurch is the doorway to the Canterbury Plains which spread westwards towards the mountains. The Southern Alps provide a fantastic backdrop to the garden city of Christchurch which is a vibrant city with exciting festivals, innovative theatre, art galleries, great shopping and award winning attractions.
It is the South Island’s largest city and is renowned for its elegant grey stone 19th century buildings, its lush gardens and tree lined avenues. Christchurch was planned as a Church of England settlement and its founders intended that it should reflect English society. The town’s flat site allowed for a grid of organised streets bounded by wide tree lined avenues and the distinctive stamp of English architecture has survived in its beautiful buildings, statues, parks and squares.
This is New Zealand’s ‘Garden City’. One hectare in every three is devoted to public parks and reserves which grace the city. Among the most elegant flora are those in the 180 hectare Hagley Park, pride of the local Cantabrians. The 130 year old paradise is the perfect place for a walk or can be enjoyed from a row boat or perhaps a gentle punt down the meandering Avon River which runs through the city center.
Christchurch is also a strong cultural centre. Within easy walking distance from the city centre, or accessible by tram, you’ll find the Arts centre, the Canterbury Museum and the Robert McDougall Art Gallery on the edge of Hagley Park. Other popular Christchurch attractions include the International Antarctic centre, Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, Christchurch Wildlife Cruises, Christchurch Casino and the Christchurch Gondola. Not far from Christchurch, situated on Banks Peninsula is the village of Akaroa. Here you can stroll past quaint old buildings on streets with French names which serve as a reminder of the attempt at colonialisation by France in 1840.
The trip passes sites of early Maori and European settlements, visits shipwrecks and looks at evidence of the volcano that formed the harbour. A free shuttle from Cathedral Square connects with the daily cruises. The historic French Village of Akaroa is an 80 minute drive from Christchurch. Join Akaroa Harbour Cruises on board the “Canterbury Cat” cruising Akaroa Harbour, home to the Hector’s Dolphin, the White Flippered Little Blue Penguin and other sea birds. Highlights of the daily cruises include visits to a salmon farm, Cathedral Cave and the sites of Akaroa’s early Maori, French and British settlement. Swimming with dolphins available from November to April. Nowhere else in New Zealand can you get this close to one of the world’s most magnificent mammals – the Giant Sperm Whale. Whale Watch Kaikoura will take you on its specially designed boat to meet this awesome creature in its natural environment with Dusky dolphins, Fur seals, sea birds and, in season, other species of migratory whales that frequent the Kaikoura coastline. Tours operate all year from the Whaleway Station Road.
Hanmer Springs Thermal Resort is the natural place to unwind. Enjoy the many mineral pools that range in temperature from 95° – 110°F (36° – 42°C). Children have their own area and there is a family activity pool featuring water toys and waterslides. Methven in Central Canterbury is New Zealand’s finest ballooning location. Situated south west from Christchurch en route to Queenstown, Aoraki Balloon Safaris will take you on a magical sky experience with pristine views of Mt Cook, the Southern Alps and a 300km panorama of the Canterbury Plains. The flight concludes with a champagne-style breakfast.