23 Jun 2017
Exploring the Garden City - a day in Christchurch
It was a crisp, clear morning with blue skies over Christchurch. To break up the road trip, we decided to have a day of relaxing and seeing the sights around the Garden City. We started with a walk around the Botanic gardens, for which the city is known, and a coffee in the garden café there. After spending some days on the road, it was nice to walk through the park and go slow! We went to the Antigua Boat sheds, where people have been able to hire canoes and paddle boats for over a century. It was lovely to paddle down the Avon River, and see parts of the city and the gardens from a different perspective.
We then visited the Antarctic centre, where you can experience simulated Antarctic environments, learn about the history and geology of Antarctica, and watch the penguins! We also took a ride in one of their amphibious Hagglund ice vehicles, and made acquaintances with the Huskies. For lunch, we returned to the centre city, where a number of quirky cafés and restaurants are popping up post-earthquake. The city centre is still vastly construction and rebuild zones; although the Re:Start mall has a great atmosphere about it. To fit with the construction vibes of the city, the shops here are made up of colourful shipping containers. There are lots of pop-up clothes shops, as well as book stores, cafés and food stores.
While wandering around, we came across some hire bikes, which are free to use for the first half hour. We took a self-guided tour of the city, and were even able to reach some of the parks a little further out of the city. It was sad to see the crumbling Christchurch Cathedral, the empty lots where buildings once stood, and concrete rubble everywhere. However, it was clear to us that the city was on the mend, and there were lots of people out and about to enjoy the beautiful weather. The bikes, which are sponsored by Spark, can be returned to any station around the city, and operate through the use of an app on your smartphone.
We jumped back in our van, and took a quick drive over to Lyttleton; the harbour town on the other side of the Port Hills. From the top of the Port Hills, we were able to grab an awesome view over the city, with the Southern Alps to the West and the sea to the East. The Port Hills are known for excellent mountain biking and day walks, and after sweating it out you can reward yourself with an ice-cream at the Sign of the Kiwi cafe. From here, it is all downhill to Lyttleton, where we were met with seaside smells and a small-town buzz.
If you have a family, young children will love to watch the activity at the port; or you can teach them how to sail using the boats from the yacht club here. There are lots of fun cafés and galleries to pop into, and walks to surrounding beaches are popular attractions, too. We did a Kiwi classic and bought fish and chips; taking the hot bundle to a nearby beach in time for the sunset. We played beach cricket until it got dark, then called it a day.