Christchurch, New Zealand
Located on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island, Christchurch is one of New Zealand’s major cities, being the largest on the South Island with a population of roughly 390,000, and the second most populous city in the country after Auckland. Christchurch is situated in New Zealand’s Canterbury region, lying at the base of Pegasus Bay, with the Avon River running through its centre. It is well known for its cool oceanic climate, verdant city landscaping, as well as its position as the commercial, and cultural hub for New Zealand’s South Island. Christchurch‘s position at the base of the nearby Southern Alps also means it has some of the cleanest municipal water in the world, not to mention the stunning mountain backdrop that characterises much of the south island. Traditionally the city has been known for its agricultural exports, though over the 20th century it has expanded as an industrial centre, due to its efficient transport infrastructure and abundant hydroelectric power. Travellers to Christchurch will find it is an excellent point from which many a sightseeing tour of the South Island commences, providing excellent amenities, and a beautiful city landscape.
Originally a Maori settlement from the time of around 1250 AD onwards, the region was used predominantly by the Maori people for hunting the now extinct Moa, a megafauna variety of flightless bird which could grow to a size of 3.6m, and weigh in at roughly 230kg. The first European entry into the region came around the year 1840, with colonists chartered by the Canterbury association subsequently arriving on 5 ships between the years 1850-1851. The settlers opted to plan the city around a Cathedral and college, and decided to model it after Christ Church college in Oxford, England, from which the city gets its name. Christchurch is planned in a distinctive style, following the layout of a central city square, with four surrounding city squares, and a parkland area surrounding them, other cities with a similar style include, Philadelphia, Savannah, and Adelaide. In more recent years, a series of earthquakes devastated the city between 2010-2012, destroying roughly 1500 buildings, and even damaging the city‘s historic cathedral, thankfully the city has mostly recovered since, though scars of the ordeal still remain.
Travelling to Christchurch
Christchurch features a number of attractions, both natural and manmade, and with its central position, is an ideal location from which to begin a tour of the greater south island. For those on a tour of Christchurch, the city itself is characterised by its distinctive design, with its abundance of parks, gardens, and recreational areas earning it the nickname of the ‘Garden City‘. With this in mind, a good place to begin is the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. The Botanic Gardens cover an area of roughly 21 hectares, with individual sections devoted to different varieties of flora, it is also an excellent location for those interested in bird watching. Aside from the gardens, the city also features a planetarium, and a number of museums, including the Canterbury Museum, and the Christchurch Art Gallery, which features a bold modern design, and houses exhibitions from across New Zealand as well as internationally. For those interested in a scenic experience of Christchurch, punting along the Avon River is a great way to see the city‘s verdant spaces, while for an entirely new angle you can take the gondola over the city, which features spectacular views of the city from above, as well as the surrounding rivers and mountains.
Further afield you may want to venture out to Hanmer Springs, which is perfect for those interested interested in water sports, offering rafting, canoeing, jet boating, and even bungie jumping. For a more relaxed pace, a day trip out to Arthur’s Pass National Park is a great way to explore the stunning landscape of the South Island, not only that, but you can also see some of New Zealand’s unique wildlife, such as the Kea, the world’s only alpine parrot. Another day trip for nature lovers is Banks peninsula, here you can spot New Zealand’s endemic white-flippered penguins, and if you’re lucky, you could even spot some of the local Hector’s dolphins, one of the smallest dolphins in the world.
The South Island
New Zealand’s south island is indisputably one of the most beautiful landscapes on the planet, renown for its national parks, mountains, rolling grasslands, and crystal clear lakes, being famously featured in films such as the Lord of the Rings. Christchurch city‘s position as the hub of the south island makes it an ideal location from which to delve deeper into the south islands numerous other attractions. Amongst these, some of the most notable are:
– Queenstown: Nestled in the heart of the mountains, it is ideal for skiing and sightseeing, with the crystal clear Lake Wakatipu by the town centre, at certain times of the year you may even see the Aurora Australis here.
– Milford Sound: A great fiord that is one of the world’s natural wonders, Milford Sound is situated on the west coast of New Zealand within Fiordland National Park, and is ideal for both a walking tour or cruise.
– Mount Cook: Known as Aoraki in the maori tongue, Mount Cook is New Zealand’s tallest mountain. Famed for its beauty, and located far away from the city lights, Mount Cook is perfect for stargazing or hiking.
– Dunedin: The south islands second largest city, Dunedin features beautiful Edwardian, and Gothic architecture, being rich in both its natural and built heritage.
– Lake Tekapo: Located in the centre of the south island, Lake Tekapo is famous for its stargazing and lush fields of vibrant purple lupin.
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