Christchurch Car Hire
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- Christchurch is one of the largest cities in New Zealand and it is the largest city located on the country's South Island.
- Some of Christchurch's tourist attractions include several wildlife parks and reserves, art galleries and museums.
- Christchurch geographically unique because it is one of the world's eight pairs of cities that have a near-exact antipodal city (a city on the exact opposite side of the earth). A Coruña, Spain is Christchurch's antipode.
- Christchurch is dry and temperate; winters are often cold and summers are mild. The average January high temperature in Christchurch 22.5˚C, while the July average is 11˚C.
- Christchurch was named by the founder of the settlement, John Robert Godley after his old university college of Christ Church in Oxford.
- HagleyPark is the 3rd biggest city park in the world only behind Central Park in New York and Hyde Park in London
- Christchurch has been the departure point Antarctica for 100 years
- Christchurch has the oldest bridge in NZ. It's in Victoria Square – you cross it to see the flower clock.
- Car rental in Christchurch is either available from the airport or from downtown locations.
- Originally known as the “The Garden City” the devastating earthquakes of 2010/11 left much of the city centre destroyed.
Guide to Christchurch
Following the 2010-2011 earthquakes, Christchurch has re-emerged as a lively, ever-changing city and it is better than ever. If you haven’t visited for a few years you won’t recognise the new cityscape. While there is a lot of open space from demolished buildings, there’s a lot of rebuilding and a feeling that the city is on the move. The town is now filled with funky bars, markets, new restaurants, shops, and art exhibits. Whilst there is enough to see and do in Christchurch to keep even the most avid of tourists busy, the biggest draw is that it is the perfect base to explore the natural beauty of the South Island.
Traditionally the most English of New Zealand cities to some extent it still follows this model – the boys at Christ’s College still wear striped blazers, and punts glide along the winding River Avon. However, in recent years, the city’s traditional conservatism developed a youthful and more multicultural edge. Over 80% of the buildings in the city centre had to be demolished after the earthquakes so whilst building sites and scaffolding will be around for a while to come you are sure of a warm welcome in this vibrant friendly city.
What to do in Christchurch
Perhaps the number one tourist attraction in Christchurch is the Botanical Gardens. Beautiful at any time of year this 30-acre riverside paradise particularly impressive in spring when the rhododendrons, azaleas and daffodil woodland are in full bloom. With themed gardens to explore, velvety soft lawns to sprawl out on and a play area for the little ones there is something for everyone here. If you’d prefer a more structured approach to your day, then guided walks depart at 1.30pm from the gate near the Canterbury Museum from October to May. One of the best things about the Botanical Gardens is they are free!
Museaums, Māori artefacts and artwork
The Canterbury Museum is a great place to learn all about the South Island’s largest city, as well as the surrounding region. It’s also the perfect indoor activity if the weather turns against you, with everything from dinosaur bones to modern interactive displays there is something for all ages here. What really makes this stand out from other museums you may have visited though is the incredible collection of Māori artefacts and artwork. There are free guided tours on the hour from the main lobby and again it’s free to enter although donations are welcomed.
Willowbank Wildlife Reserve has over 95 species of animals, from exotic birds to animals native to New Zealand (including kiwis!). You can feed wild eels and lemurs, get up close to local livestock breeds, and there are even pony rides for small children. The Willowbank experience tells the story of the country’s natural heritage. Using pioneering and innovative display techniques, with an emphasis on creating a natural environment and an up-close and personal interactive experience. Their mission is to remain a leader in the conservation of many of New Zealand’s native and endangered species whilst providing education and entertainment to everyone that visits.
City of an Earth Quake
If you want to learn more about the earthquakes that impacted the city in such a huge way then head to Quake City. It tells the story of heroism, hope and loss from the Canterbury earthquakes. It explains the science and the phenomenon of liquefaction – when the shaking liquefied the ground and it bubbled up burying streets and sinking buildings. The museum has photography, video footage and various artefacts, including the remnants of Christchurch Cathedral's celebrated rose window and other similarly moving debris. There are exhibits aimed at engaging both adults and children and there are some profoundly moving videos from survivors of the quake.
Although the Christchurch Art Gallery was damaged during the quakes it has come out the other side brighter and better than ever before. With an eclectic mix of local and international exhibits this gallery houses everything from traditional art works to contemporary light exhibits and sculptures. Highlights include works capturing the country's bold landscapes include works by New Zealand artists Rita Angus and Colin McCahon.
Hailing back to its British roots you can take an open top double decker bus tour of the city. See the highlights of the city centre and then venture outside the city centre to see views from the Port Hills, stroll the Mona Vale Gardens and stop at a beach in Sumner. The three-hour sightseeing tour also covers Christchurch’s top landmarks, including Hagley Park, the Bridge of Remembrance and New Regent Street.
Eating out in Christchurch
Along with the rest of Christchurch their culinary scene is experiencing a rebirth since the earthquake, so much so that it is almost impossible to keep up with all the new restaurants, bars and cafés opening. Whether you fancy vegetarian, Indian, fine-dining European-fusion or authentic wood-fire pizza, Christchurch has you covered.
King of Snake is an award-winning restaurant set down an unassuming alleyway, the dining room and cocktail bar epitomise nonchalance and contemporary coolness. Christchurch is quite the cultural melting pot when it comes to gastronomy, and there are few more exotic places to eat than here, enjoy the crispy pressed half duck with caramelized mandarin sauce whilst sampling one of their many delicious cocktails. It’s not often a restaurant lives up to rave reviews but this one definitely does.
The Lotus Heart really sums up the diversity of the restaurant scene in Christchurch. With its totally vegetarian menu. The staff here are dedicated to offering up locally and organically sourced fair in a spiritual oasis of an environment. If you’re vegetarian, vegan, gluten free or on a raw food diet then this restaurant has to be a on your must-do list. The Lotus-Heart is owned and run by students of Sri Chinmoy, their aim is creating a small corner of the world that is filled with the spirituality and philosophies of their meditation teacher.
For something a little different book a table at 5th Street, their sharing plates have influences from all around the world. The pomegranate-glazed lamb shoulder partners perfectly with vegetables enlivened by hummus, garlic and feta or maybe try the honey and chipotle fired chicken paired with some local ales. If you’d rather just have a light bite while sampling their serious cocktail menu then you won’t be disappointed with their caramelised merino lamb ribs, spiced tomato relish, whipped feta and zaatar.
Twenty Seven Steps is a firm favourite with restaurant aficionados. Situated upstairs on picturesque New Regent Street. They serve hearty, flavoursome meals made from locally sourced and seasonal ingredients. The menu is divided into three sections: beginning, middle and end. With some of the finest produce from across New Zealand being sourced by the chefs here keep an eye on the blackboard for ever changing specials. Wash it all down with a wine which is mostly local (and delicious) and their cocktails are some of the best in the city.
If you are celebrating a special occasion the Inati should be your number one choice. If you can book the chefs table here and have him explain to you exactly what each dish in his ‘Trust us’ menu contains. Take your time and savour every second of this fine dining experience, Simon Levy was head chef at Gordon Ramsay's The Warrington and has worked at top London institutions including Claridge’s and The Ivy. Nothing about your experience here will disappoint.
For a more family (and budget) friendly experience The Birdwood will delight even the fussiest of palates. They serve contemporary Italian food, including excellent sourdough woodfired pizza and fresh, handmade pasta. Everything is hand-made to strict Italian standards and there’s a first-rate selection of craft beer and wine too. Make sure you order the zucchini and try the ravioli if you can. The Birdwood team are a family and they honestly believe that this is the magical ingredient that makes their menu come alive.
For a taste of Japan that will make you forget you are in New Zealand for a moment then Tomi fits the bill perfectly. They have a menu to suit every group size and appetite and have something to offer whatever the occasion. Most famous for their sashimi, which is sourced from the local fish market, you’ll also want to try their sake tasting menu. Other standouts on the menu include their sushi, tender slow-cooked pork belly and homemade ice cream in classic Japanese flavours like black sesame and green tea.
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