New Zealand / Travel

Christchurch and the Banks Peninsula

From Kaikoura, our next big stop was Christchurch. On the way we stopped for one night in the small spa town of Hanmer Springs, where we spent an afternoon soaking in the thermal pools and Toby lost his sunglasses. However, we weren’t there for very long so I don’t think it warrants a post on its own. We drove down to Christchurch and had a spare afternoon in the city before Clare and Tim’s plane landed later in the day. We settled into the little house we rented for the few days and headed into Christchurch city centre.

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Christchurch’s stories of tragedy and destruction are famous world over, and it feels very much like a wounded city struggling to recover. It’s a city definitely in a stage of transition, but that transition is very slow. They city’s skyline is dotted with cranes and there are several building sites on every street. Despite this, Christchurch is actually quite nice, and I can imagine it was an attractive city before the earthquakes. The streets are green with plenty of trees, and the large riverside botanical gardens brings floral beauty to the city centre.

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After visiting the botanical gardens, we walked to the destroyed cathedral and read messages of support and memorial. We also walked through the RE:Start shopping district, the colourful array of shops and cafés made out of shipping containers. It was a cool place to wander around, and had a cheerful atmosphere not obviously present in the rest of the city. It’s designed to be temporary, but we hope it stays because a splash of quirky vibrancy is just what Christchurch needs.

Later that day Clare and Tim arrived after a very long journey from England. We enjoyed a cosy dinner of risotto and relaxed in the house for the evening. The next day we drove out to the very pretty coastal town of Akaroa, on the Banks Peninsula.

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Akaroa is really beautiful. It feels like a posh English seaside town, with the streets lines with boutiques gift shops, quaint cafés and bars, and of course, fish ‘n’ chip shops. We strolled around the town, stopping to look inside the historic (for New Zealand) library and church. We sat in the seafront and had a picnic lunch, and then ventured out into the bush for an afternoon walk. The walk took us up into the hills behind Akaroa, and from the top had lovely views of the bay and town. It was very warm (several of us were definitely over-dressed) and the sky was a lovely deep blue. We walked through farm land and back down the hill into the town. We had worked up an appetite by this point and agreed that fish ‘n’ chips were in order. With full bellies we got back in the car and headed back to Christchurch.

We were only in the Christchurch area for a couple of days, but I feel like we packed a lot in. The next day we started our South Island Kiwi road trip, heading over to the west coast via Arthur’s Pass. I’ll save that for next time.

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