Though the aftermath of two back-to-back earthquakes in 2011 took its toll on this coastal town, the tragedies that befell Christchurch have bred fertile ground for a flourishing arts and culture scene unlike anything else in New Zealand. With improvised architecture and a pop-up mentality at the core of the city’s new found ethos, Christchurch is combatting the fallout with creativity and proving that the loss of its landmarks doesn’t mean it’s lost its identity.
Follow our outsiders guide with a Christchurch rental car and you’ll soon discover this city’s new sense of self is even more striking than it was in its historic heyday.
Admire the architecture
Despite losing its most notable buildings to one of New Zealand’s largest natural disasters, Christchurch has made a name for itself as a pioneer in transitional infrastructure, with organisations like Gap Filler leading the charge. An improvised city of sorts, Christchurch’s funky, industrial-chic buildings will have architecture aficionados swooning, with everything from shipping containers and plywood pallets to a Cardboard Cathedral replacing the city’s most historic monument.
See the street art
If you happen to be more interested in visual arts than architecture, the Canterbury Museum plays host to cutting-edge collections throughout the year, with past collections showcasing the work of world-famous painter and political activist, Banksy. Beyond the gallery’s displays, Christchurch’s city streets serve as an exhibition in their own right, with walls and yet-to-be rebuilt buildings creating the perfect canvas for up-and-coming street artists.
Bike through the Botanic Gardens
While numerous new artworks and buildings are cropping up in Christchurch every day, another kind of beauty is always in full bloom at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Just steps from the city centre, this lush 21 hectare parkland from which Christchurch gleaned the nickname “The Garden City” has always been a staple on any Christchurch itinerary – natural disaster or not. Best explored on two feet or two wheels, opt to rent a retro bike from The Vintage Peddler Bike Hire Co and spend an afternoon cruising beneath the overhanging canopies while bright wildflowers sprout from the grass below.
Go into the wild
Those looking for a greater sense of outdoor adventure need only journey a short distance into the surrounding Canterbury region to find adrenaline-fueled activities of all kinds. From deep-sea fishing along the South Island’s rugged shores to tandem skydiving above its soaring peaks, there’s no shortage of ways to see the stunning landscape while satisfying your inner explorer. To steal a glimpse of the region’s dramatic scenery without breaking a sweat, hop on the highway and follow the legendary Summit Road to Lyttelton – a mighty mountain pass that traverses the Port Hills, reaching altitudes that reward travellers with views across Christchurch and beyond.
Shop amongst shipping containers
Though enormous steel shipping containers may not be what first springs to mind when considering a spot of retail indulgence, Christchurch’s make-shift shopping mall Re:START manages to marry the two concepts perfectly. Spend an afternoon perusing a plethora of boutiques, all creatively set up within the steel walls of former cargo containers before tucking into a hot drink from Hummingbird Coffee – the go-to café in Christchurch for a laid-back bean break.
Savour a day at the markets
If a foray into foodie territory is better suited to your tastes, hit the road to one of the Canterbury region’s local markets. Whether you venture north to the Waipara Valley or South to Akaroa, the cornucopia of markets in the area is almost as plentiful as the produce they supply. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled en route, as local farmers and artisan producers are known to set up roadside stalls, beckoning hungry travellers with everything from freshly-laid eggs and just-picked produce to homemade baked goods, chocolates and jams.
Raise a glass to the South Island
While it may be nearly 400 kilometres south of the Marlborough Sounds, Christchurch’s collection of cellar doors, microbreweries and pop-up bars gives the South Island’s most famous wine region a run for its money. Call into a country-side cellar door, where award-winning Rieslings and Pinot Noirs are blowing big-name competitors out of the water. Alternatively, stick to the city limits, where hip watering holes and trendy pop-up bars are hidden around every corner.
What are you waiting for? Choose from one of our rental cars in Christchurch and catch a glimpse of this ever-changing east coast town.