It took me a day or two to 'get' Christchurch...but the town definitely eventually won me over. This is a place of great diversity - there's the growing urban centre, the mixing of old English heritage and new up-and-coming culture and the ocean and the hills as an adventure playground.
Here's what I got to over 3 days:
Christchurch's art scene
The art scene in Christchurch reminds me of that in Berlin, a city that I love so much. In both places, there are still remnants of a time of tribulation but in amongst all the rubble, are pockets of beauty and hope, in the form of street art.
Whilst there are a number of art galleries that you can visit in Christchurch, there is something about street art that I adore. It could be the way it melts into everyday life, how it can reflect current realities or provide some social commentary without having to abide by any regulations or how it adds a little humanity and personality to what would otherwise just be cold concrete, brick and glass.
Watch This Space run tours every Saturday from 11am to 1pm. If this doesn't suit, their website has a crowdsourced map showing where you can find street art around Christchurch.
Christchurch Botanic Gardens
I love cities and towns but I love their green spaces more. I was staying at YHA Christchurch on Hereford Street which is less than 200 metres from the Gardens, making it the perfect place for an afternoon run. The Gardens are over 150 years old and covers 21 hectares - Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens cover 30 hectares...but Sydney is considerably bigger than Christchurch!
Port Hills Walks
There are so many tracks around Port Hills (20 minutes drive from town) offering panoramic views of Christchurch, the ocean, the Southern Alps and the surrounding rolling green hills. Many of these are mountain bike and even, off-road pram-friendly!
I did the Rapaki Track for sunset, which was very pretty - but I think it might be even better at sunrise. What I loved about doing this walk for sunset though, was returning to my car at twilight, watching the lights in town twinkle on and the sky change colours, highlighting the mountains in the distance.
Though New Zealand isn't exactly known for its beaches, the ones around Christchurch are quite pretty. I visited New Brighton and Sumner very briefly and spent a couple hours around sunset at Corsair Bay.
I loved Corsair Bay and would've loved to spend another sleepy sun-soaked afternoon there. There is also a track that joins Corsair Bay to Cass Bay, which would make for a nice stroll.
DAY TRIP - Hakatere Conservation Park
If you're itching to go for a bit of a drive and stand on top of some mountain (doesn't everyone feel like this once in awhile?), then head to Hakatere Conservation Park, 2 hours from Christchurch.
The hike from Lake Clearwater to Mount Guy (1319m) is a 3 hour one-way trip. After winding around the lake, the climb begins up the hillside, through low shrubbery (some thorny), rocky chutes and patches of scree (nightmare). The trail can be faint in parts but is marked out by orange poles - so just keep an eye out for them. There were some parts of the track, towards the end, that were much steeper than I'd expected and as the wind had picked up significantly, I found myself sometimes resorting to a sort of scramble - whatever gets the job done!
I highly recommend this walk - however, definitely check the weather and aim for a clear day. It was very overcast with pockets of rain when I went, and I missed out of the supposedly incredible panoramic views as well as reflections on the lake. I also went in April which meant there was no snow on the peaks. What this means is although I had a great time, embarking on a solo hike, I ended up with very average photos!
THIS IS WHAT IT CAN LOOK LIKE:
There are two final things I want to write about.
Firstly, as I mentioned above, I stayed at the YHA Christchurch on Hereford Street in a private room and it was everything I needed. I am a big fan of hostels, even though I am about 18 months away from my dirty thirty! I love hostels because they are affordable, often centrally-located and because they bring people together in a way that hotels rarely do. Don't get me wrong - I love a night or two in a plush hotel...but for the most part, I always aim to minimise the amount of money I spend on accommodation so that I can indulge in other things, like great food and wine and unforgettable experiences such as helicopter flights. If you are like me and are heading to Christchurch, I can't recommend the YHA enough. It was very clean and although I had to share bathrooms, the bathrooms were private; no cubicles here! The kitchen is well-maintained with Jamie Oliver kitchenware. The WiFi was fast with a massive daily limit of 2GB per device.
The only negatives? I was in a room over Hereford Street and it was incredibly noisy. There isn't any aircon and during the days when it was in the high-20s, my room was HOT. It can also be tricky to find all-day parking nearby as the street is metered between 9am - 6pm. However, I was usually lucky to find some on Gloucester Street, which is a 5-minute walk from the hostel.
Disclaimer: I was hosted by YHA CHCH but as always, my opinions are honest and true to my experience.
Secondly, COFFEE! Sydney-siders are world-famous to be crazy about their caffeine and I am no different. I am a long black fan and so, there is little room for error. My favourite place for coffee (and breakfast, at that) in Christchurch is C1 Espresso. This hipster café is located in the old High Street Post Office building. There is both indoor and outdoor seating, a bookshelf filled with orange Penguin Classics that is actually a door and a delicious breakfast and evening menus. But the best part (besides the coffee)? The post office's pneumatic tube system is still there and still working...if you order sliders or curly fries, they'll be delivered to your table via the tubes!
There is so much more to explore and do in Christchurch. I know that I barely scratched the surface but what I did do, was enough for me to appreciate New Zealand's third biggest city. I will be back xx