New Zealand’s South Island city of Christchurch made world news nearly five years ago. Now out of devastation has risen a place making global headlines for all the right reasons.
The Canterbury city is now New Zealand’s newest destination story and has become one of the most unique urban redevelopments in the world attracting attention for creativity and innovation.
The constantly-evolving urban landscape is a work in progress but Christchurch is described as having reached its reconstruction peak. Currently 19 cranes are operating in the city building three new retail developments with a huge, riverside convention centre also on the schedule.
Alongside glistening new buildings like the recently opened transport centre and stylishly refurbished Isaac Theatre Royal, are refreshing open spaces and gap fillers showing the edgy attitude of many future-focused locals.
Exceptional projects like the Transitional “cardboard” Cathedral, creative street art, quirky installations, clever retail spaces and a raft of quality cafes and restaurants are creating a potent vibe in this once conservative minded city.
New look Christchurch
While the inner city is abuzz with construction, many areas are untouched by change and offer tranquil pursuits like punting on the Avon River through the Botanical Gardens, one of Christchurch’s 740 parks.
Significant heritage restoration projects are also a reminder of the city’s place in New Zealand history. As well as the Theatre Royal, already completed are New Regent Street with 40 shops built in the Spanish Mission Revival style of the 1930s; the rejuvenated Canterbury Museum, Victoria St Precinct – a destination for night life, the 100-year-old Government Building Heritage Hotel and The Tannery – a boutique shopping emporium beside Heathcote River in Woolaston.
Ultra-modern, stylish buildings like the Ilex Visitors Centre & Café with sophisticated designs promoting sustainability and the latest technology, are a highlight of the new look city.
Work is currently underway on restoring Christchurch Arts Centre.
The now famous Re:START container mall which sprang up in 2011 to re-start the city’s retail sector after the earthquake has been re-jigged to make way for a new permanent building. The 20 businesses operating out of old shipping containers expect the shift will re-kindle interest in the city centre.
Photo by David Swanson
Places to stay
Hotel redevelopment has been a major focus of the rebuild and the city now has 23 new places to stay with a total of 2000 rooms or 5400 beds. New hotels to open this year have included Rydges Latimer, Breakfree Cashel and 5-star Hotel Montreal and, scheduled to open in November is Casimente, a 60 apartment complex.
On the schedule for 2016 are Ramada Suites and Crowne Plaza adding 200 more rooms to the Christchurch total. The Establishment, a five star, boutique apartment block with 84 beds is due to open late 2016.
Places to eat
In the past nine months, 54 bars and restaurants have opened boosting the total number of cafes and restaurants to 760 – more than before the earthquake.
The region also now boasts New Zealand Cuisine Restaurant of the Year, ‘Roots’ which is just over the hill from Christchurch city in Lyttelton. The restaurant also won an Innovation Award for the ethos behind their dining experience. Chef Giulio Sturla will only serve food he has grown, foraged or sourced locally from artisan producers and sustainable farms.
Stranges Lane is another popular new dining destination in Christchurch where a selection of restaurants share an open courtyard in a heritage laneway development.
One of the best ways to experience the changing face of Christchurch CBD and absorb the creative buzz is on a walking or cycle tour. Christchurch Bike and Walking Tours offer a two-hour guided tour – the flat nature of the city streets making the excursion easily achievable for visitors of varying ages and abilities.
More adventurous cyclists will be interested in the new MTB ultimate adventure park on Cashmere Hills to the east of the city. Currently under development the park will offer 180 - 200km trails with a lift for bikes, and eventually zip lines and 3-star cabin accommodation.
Content and photos supplied by Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism