I Heart My City: Kate’s Christchurch

The Re:START village project helped revitalize the city after a devastating earthquake. (Photograph by Steel Wool, Flickr)

When travel blogger Kate Voyage isn’t scouring the globe for adventure (and sharing her findings on her personal website and on Twitter @30Traveler), this Kiwi turns her attention to the home front. “Christchurch has all the big city conveniences,” she says, “but with fewer traffic jams.” She also celebrates her city’s status as a gateway to all New Zealand’s South Island has to offer. After suffering devastating earthquakes over the past few years, Christchurch is finally on the rebound and it’s easy to see why. Here are a few of Kate’s favorite things about her home town. Add your two cents by leaving a comment.

Christchurch is My City

When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is the Christchurch Farmers’ Market (Saturdays from 9am-1pm). It’s a local favorite and you’ll find lots of small local food producers all in one place.

February is the best time to visit my city because the weather is consistently warm (though it’s never excessively hot here ) and New Zealand school children have gone back to school. Although December and January are technically part of the summer here, the weather can still be spotty. We can get four seasons in one day, so bring a jacket!

The view from Port Hills.  (Photograph by Ian Munnings, Flickr)

The view from Port Hills. (Photograph by Ian Munnings, Flickr)

You can see my city best from the Sign of the Kiwi at the top of the Port Hills. Take a drive up the long steep road, then do the walk at the top. In one direction you’ll see the city, and in the other you’ll be able to see the iconic deep blue water and golden hills of Banks Peninsula.

Locals know to skip Starbucks and check out local coffee scene instead. If you’re desperate for a Starbucks, there is one in Christchurch. However, visitors are often surprised by how good the coffee is in New Zealand. Try New Zealand’s signature coffee – the flat white.

The Riccarton Rotary Sunday Market is the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs. However, my best tip is to skip the souvenir market and spend your money filling your tummy at the Saturday food market instead.

In the past, notable people like Ernest Rutherford have called my city home. Kate Winslet and Peter Jackson briefly called Christchurch home too, while filming Heavenly Creatures.

My city’s best museum is the Christchurch Art Gallery. However like many buildings in the CBD, it’s still closed more than two years after the first big quake. The building and artwork are both glorious. It’s scheduled to re-open in mid 2013.
 
If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city it’s that it’s almost entirely flat, except for the Port Hills, which makes it perfect for cycling. Rent a bike, or if two wheels aren’t your thing, rent a car or use the bus since taxis can be quite expensive.

The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is in the Port Hills.  With its magical view of the city and the harbor, the area is great for walking and mountain biking.

You can tell if someone is from my city if they are wearing red and black, which are the colors of our famous rugby team, the Canterbury Crusaders.

Cheer for the Canterbury Crusaders along with the rest of the city. (Photograph by Geof Wilson, Flickr)

Cheer for the Canterbury Crusaders along with the rest of the city. (Photograph by Geof Wilson, Flickr)

My city really knows how to celebrate rugby games! When Canterbury wins, fans often fly Canterbury flags out of their car windows and toot their horns to celebrate.

For a fancy meal out I would go to Rotherhams of Riccarton, an award winning restaurant that serves classic European and New Zealand cuisine.

Just outside my city, you can visit beautiful Akaroa Harbour, which was first settled by the French in the 19th century. The Akaroa township still has French street names, boutique shops, and good eateries. A popular tourist activity is to take a harbor cruise and go dolphin watching. This makes for an excellent day trip from Christchurch. If you only have half a day to spare, then I recommend hopping over the Port Hills to Lyttelton. Lyttelton lost many of its iconic buildings in the February 2011 earthquake, so it has unfortunately lost some of it’s character. Be sure not to miss the market on Saturdays though.

My city was known for being like a old English city, but its image will change forever because of the recent earthquakes. Most of the beautiful, stone English buildings are gone and are being replaced by low rise, modern buildings with a new style.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends read Eventfinda Christchurch. 

My city’s biggest sports event is the Coast to Coast, a race held each year in February. Hundreds of competitors train for months to compete in this iconic multi-sport race, which involves running, kayaking, and cycling. The race course traverses the South Island of New Zealand from Kumara Beach on the Tasman Sea to Sumner Beach on the Pacific Ocean. Competitors can choose to do the 243 km race over the course of one or two days.

In the spring you should visit the fields of beautiful daffodil flowers in North Hagley Park, in the heart of Christchurch.

Go mountain biking at Bottle Lake Forest Park just outside the city.  (Photograph by Trailsource.com, Flickr)

Go mountain biking at Bottle Lake Forest Park just outside the city. (Photograph by Trailsource.com, Flickr)

In the summer you should visit Sumner and Taylors Mistake beach. Taylors Mistake is popular with surfers and boogie-borders, and is famous for it’s baches (pronounced “batches”) which are small and simple holiday beach homes.

In the fall you should go leaf-peeping in and around Hagley Park and Christchurch’s tree-lined streets.

In the winter you should go skiing at Mount Hutt or Porters, only an hour and a half drive from Christchurch.

If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss  Orana Wildlife Park, the International Antarctic Centre, or the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve for the wee ones.

The best book about my city is Earthquake: Christchurch, New Zealand, 22 Feb 2011 by The Press. The Press is Christchurch’s main newspaper and the book gives an excellent account of the events of that fateful day, including survivor testimony and high-quality photographs.

 

I Heart My City: Kate’s Christchurch

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