Christchurch is the gateway to the South Island of New Zealand.
Many international visitors will either in arrive or depart from this largest, centrally located, South Island city.
Christchurch is still home to a hefty colonial influence, displaying its ex-Englishness around many an atypical corner, and defying the country on the whole's step away from influences imported centuries ago from half way around the globe. Home to such colonial remnants as an Anglican Church, punts (an English version of the Venice canal boat), trams and exceedingly English buildings, its long been eyed by the rest of New Zealand as an oddly conservative entity, resistant to social change. After all, it’s even named after an English town.
Visitors may spend their time marveling at the beauty of this city, exploring the natural beauty of rugged Hagley Park, discovering the garden city’s Botanical Gardens or even taking a helicopter flight over it all.
For all its traditional ethos, though, Christchurch does offer the odd glimpse of indigenous kiwi culture. Nga Hau E Wha Marae, for example, is the largest urban Marae in New Zealand, and offers a fantastic Maori cultural experience. The carved sides of the meetinghouse are fantastic in their own right, and visitors take the chance to get involved in workshops, performances and a traditional ceremonial welcome. An astonishingly enticing experience.
It would be criminal to miss Akaroa harbor, where you can happily spend a day cruising around searching for dolphins and penguins.
In nearby Lyttleton harbor you can take in the scene from a waterside café, a great chill out day.
If you just can’t resist that towering overview of it all, Christchurch Gondola will whisk you up into the hills to stare down over the city, and far out to sea.
Increasingly, despite its traditional conservatism, Christchurch is catching up with the rest of the country when it comes to contemporary culture, too; you’ll no longer find yourself sitting at home quietly on the cold winter evenings. It won’t be the best party you’ve ever been too, either, but for a taste of the New Zealand of old, together with that priceless Maori experience, Christchurch is difficult to ignore.