Christchurch (Māori: Ōtautahi) is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and the country's second-largest urban area. It is one third the way down the South Island's east coast, just north of Banks Peninsula. Christchurch is also known as the Garden City and is alive with colour, atmosphere, world-class attractions and spectacular gardens. The city has a vibrant, cosmopolitan feel that embraces exciting festivals, theatre, modern art galleries and great shopping. With much of the city being flat and only a few metres above sea level, spectacular views can be obtained from almost any high building. At these low elevations the city appears more like a forest, with only a few buildings visible, rather than a major city.
Christchurch has a population of just under 360,000 and with many beautiful parks and gardens glowing with flowers it has a fairytale charm. It is also a city steeped in art and education. It is the home of the University of Canterbury and has an art gallery that matches the rustic and neo-gothic buildings that line the nearby streets. All around the city there are opportunities for physical activity, such as hiking and mountain biking in the Port Hills. For those with a head for heights, there is gondola ride that will take you breath away, and afterwards relaxing while punting on the Avon River will give you the chance to get it back again. The only French settlement in New Zealand is just a few kilometres away at Akoroa, a town that features exquisite dining and beautiful wines. Akaroa is the main settlement on Banks Peninsula, which contains endless rolling hills and small bays at every turn. Whatever the season there is something fun and exciting to do. Whether you are wanting to be outdoors or indoors the city of Christchurch has what you are looking for. Every day will be a new adventure and there will be something wonderful to uncover.
Because it is the biggest city in the South Island there are many opportunities in hospitality to choose from. Christchurch has restaurants, cafes and bars all over the downtown area and scattered throughout the rest of the city. There are country clubs such as Clearwater Resort, which contains a championship golf course, plus numerous other hotels. The AMI Stadium (originally Lancaster Park) hosts many All Black rugby games and Black Caps cricket clashes.
The Christchurch Casino has provided an economic boost for the region in recent years, while many of the clubs and bars in town also offer live music and some have micro breweries. The city has a long history based on farming. Dairying in the surrounding areas is becoming increasingly important and in recent years regional agriculture has diversified, with a thriving wine industry springing up, particularly around Waipara. This has led to an increase in winery cellar doors and restaurants.The high quality local wine in particular has increased the appeal of Canterbury and Christchurch to tourists. Tourism is also a major factor in the local economy. The close proximity of the ski-fields and the other attractions of the Southern Alps, plus first-class hotels, a casino and an airport, all of which are of international class, make Christchurch a must for many tourists. In addition, Christchurch was a few years ago voted the "Best Run City in the World".
Population: 372,600 (June, 2009.) estimate
Christchurch is the second-largest city in New Zealand and the largest in the South Island. The Christchurch urban area is the second-largest in the country by population, after Auckland, with a land area of 141,260 hectares. About 70% of this land is located on scenic Banks Peninsula. Between 2001 and 2006 the city’s population increased by 7.5%. Immigration from overseas has become an important factor in Christchurch’s growth over the past decade. The city’s population is expected to reach 450,000 by the year 2041. Christchurch’s population is predominantly European with proportionately fewer Maori and Pacific Islanders than New Zealand as a whole. Accordingly, 283,986 people in Christchurch City spoke one language only, while 37,947 spoke two, and 7,881 could converse in three or more languages. In 2006 70% of Christchurch residents aged 15 years over had a secondary school, vocational or university qualification compared with 67.2% nationally.
Land Area: 1,426 km2
The City of Christchurch was founded in 1848. The usual Maori name for Christchurch is Ōtautahi ("the place of Tautahi."). John Robert Godley suggested the Anglicised name due to his time at Christ Church, Oxford, in England. Archeological evidence found in a cave at Redcliffs in 1876 has indicated that the Christchurch area was first settled by moa-hunting tribes about 1250. Māori oral history relates that humans occupied the area around the year 1000.
In 1840 the Weller brothers purchased land at Putaringamotu (now modern Riccarton) Their abandoned holdings were taken over by the Deans brothers in 1843, the family becoming prominent Canterbury residents. Christchurch is proud of its heritage from the pioneers who arrived in what are still known as the First Four Ships. These vessels were chartered by the Canterbury Association and arrived on 16 December 1850, bringing the first 792 of the Canterbury Pilgrims to Lyttelton Harbour. These sailing vessels were the Randolph, Charlotte-Jane, Sir George Seymour, and Cressy. The Canterbury Pilgrims had aspirations of building a city around a cathedral and college, on the model of Christ Church in Oxford. The name "Christ Church" was decided prior to the ships' arrival, at the association's first meeting, on 27 March 1848. The Anglican cathedral was completed in 1904 and has since been the focal point of the city. The Lyttelton Road Tunnel linking Lyttelton and Christchurch was opened in 1964 and Christchurch hosted the Commonwealth Games in 1974.
Activities: What to do there?
In the centre of the city is the fantastic Christchurch Cathedral, an outstanding example of Gothic Revival architecture. You can climb up to the spire for a bird's-eye view of the city and see other grey-stone 19th century buildings, tree-lined avenues and extensive leafy parks that give the city an elegant, rather English atmosphere. Visit the beautiful neo-Gothic Arts Centre, where there are wonderful markets and cafes, or take an evening meal in the restaurant of the historic tram that loops the city centre.
Other major attractions include the Christchurch gondola and the International Antarctic Centre, just outside the airport. Expect a high standard of cuisine wherever you go as local restaurants and cafes make the most of the region's delicacies and wines. Before or after lunch, take a leisurely journey down the Avon River in a punt. Christchurch has many events and festivals, including the Festival of Romance, the International Buskers Festival, winter carnival and Showtime Canterbury. Travel to Lyttelton and mountain bike in the Port Hills or go hang- gliding from some of the peaks. Over on the other side of the hills are Brighton and Sumner, great places for beaches and surfing. For something more relaxed try visiting the Canterbury Museum, which preserves and exhibits many historic artifacts and stories of Antarctic exploration. The International Antarctic Centre provides both base facilities and a visitor centre focused on current Antarctic activities. Walk Hagley Park in spring when it explodes into a sea of golden daffodils or catch your first glimpse of the national bird, the kiwi, at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. Some other great things to do include the Air Force Museum, Southern Encounter Aquarium, The Christchurch Art Gallery (a new gallery opened 2003); the Christchurch Arts Centre, formerly Canterbury College and the site of groundbreaking scientist Ernest Rutherford's den; Ferrymead Heritage Park beside the Heathcote River;; the gondola and Nga Hau E Wha Marae.
From various film festivals, of contemporary, classic and foreign language films, to surfing at Taylors Mistake near Sumner there is some thing to do for everyone. The Court Theatre which is based in the Christchurch Arts Centre, has fantastic productions; there are also many recreational theatres such as the Riccarton Players, Elmwood Players, and Canterbury Children's Theatre, producing many quality shows.
Christchurch is known for its many live acts in clubs and bars, plus at the other end of the spectrum it has a professional symphony orchestra and a professional opera company, Southern Opera. There are usually buskers around the town square and Christchurch also hosts the World Buskers Festival in January each year. In recent times, hip hop has effectively landed in Christchurch. In 2000, the first Aotearoa Hip Hop Summit was held here. And in 2003, Christchurch’s own Scribe released his debut album in New Zealand and has five times won platinum in NZ, in addition to achieving two number one singles. If you are looking for something more up market the Christchurch Casino is great for a fun night out. The Westpac Arena is New Zealand's second largest permanent multipurpose arena. It was the venue for the 1999 World Netball championships and has been host to many concerts in recent years, plus there’s the AMI Stadium for all major rugby matches. There’s also a wide range of live music venues– some short-lived, others with decades of history. Classical music concerts are held at the Music Centre in central Christchurch.
Airport: Christchurch International Airport serves as the major airport for the South Island. Situated on the east coast of New Zealand's South Island, Christchurch is conveniently located next to many iconic tourism attractions and consequently the airport receives over 5.9 million passengers a year. It is also the major base for the Italian and United States Antarctic programmes as well as the New Zealand Antarctic programme. Christchurch International Airport is New Zealand's tourism gateway. It is located 12 kilometres to the northwest of the city centre, in the suburb of Harewood, and was opened in 1953. Due to increasing passenger numbers, the airport has begun construction on a domestic terminal upgrade costing over $200 million. The new construction is scheduled for completion in 2011-12.
Roads: The car still remains the dominant form of transport. The central city has very flat terrain and the City Council are establishing a network of cycle lanes on roads. State Highway 1 goes directly around Christchurch and is easy to follow.
Buses: Public transport in Christchurch is mainly by bus services operated by three companies and supported by a harbour ferry. The Christchurch Metro service now includes greater frequency, route extensions, more direct routes, and new services. The shuttle within the inner city is a zero-fare shuttle service which is provided by Environment Canterbury. The hybrid buses, which are battery powered using a small LPG-fuelled gas turbine engine to keep the battery charged, produce less air pollution than normal diesel buses].
Ferries: Diamond Harbour Ferry connects the suburb of Lyttelton to Diamond Harbour, a settlement on the opposite side of the harbour. Ferries first began crossing Lyttelton Harbour in 1888. This is the only ferry now running from Lyttelton but some smaller boats do dolphin tours etc. The port at Lyttelton is now a significant destination for rail freight traffic, particularly for coal from the West Coast transported over the Midland Line.
Trains: From Christchurch the Main North Line railway travels northwards via Kaikoura to Picton and is served by the famous Tranz Coastal passenger train, while the Main South Line heads to Invercargill via Dunedin and was used by the Southerner until its cancellation in 2002. The most famous train to depart Christchurch is the Tranz Alpine, which travels along the Main South Line to Rolleston and then turns onto the Midland Line. It passes through the Southern Alps via the Otira Tunnel and terminates in Greymouth on the West Coast. This trip is regarded by many to be one of the ten great train journeys in the world for the amazing scenery through which it passes. The TranzAlpine service is primarily a tourist service and carries no significant commuter traffic. Commuter trains used to operate in Christchurch but were progressively cancelled in the 1960s and 1970s. The last such service, between Christchurch and Rangiora, ceased in 1976.
Trams: There is a functioning tram service in Christchurch, but as a tourist attraction, its loop being restricted to a circuit of the central city. The trams were originally introduced in 1905 but ceased operating in 1954. They returned to the inner city as a novelty for tourists in 1995. Christchurch Brill Tram No 178 carries mainly tourists on the heritage tramway, providing a unique way to view the heart of Christchurch City. Your tram driver gives an informative commentary and you can leave the tram at any one of the 11 stops, rejoining it later. Tickets last for two consecutive days, so you’ll have plenty of time to explore. For a truly magical night out, you can dine aboard the restaurant tram while it follows the 2.5 km inner-city track. Special occasion tram charters are also available.
Cycling: Christchurch is a great place to cycle, due to much of the area being flat with many parks and gardens. The Metro is adding bike racks to lots more routes so you can take your bike on the bus for free so getting around is easy. If you're taking your bike on the bus, remember you are responsible for loading and unloading your bike.