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ZB Travel – Christchurch Aug 31

It’s the third anniversary of the 7mag quake on Wednesday. How is the city shaping up as a visitor destination, ahead of the summer season?

Well, as much as most of the central city resembles a demolition and construction site, there is a much greater semblance of normality in the city, than was the case a year ago. Spring is in full bloom across Christchurch, which is the season that I think the city looks its promiscuously beautiful best. The blossoms, the daffodils, the tulips really sex up the city. And although theres a good five years of work to be done, substantive and tangible development is underway.


What about the hotel sector? Are most back in business?

The Millennium and Rydges are still awaiting repair. But the Heritage and Novotel are back open, as is Hotel 115 and the Ibis. Plus the Rendezvous. And the Hotel Grand Chancellor has confirmed this week that it wants to rebuild on its City Mall site. So the hotel sector is definitely rebounding. In addition to the big hotels, there are hundreds of smaller accommodation options, and a great central city choice is The Classic Villa, Worcester Boulevard.

What about the old favourites, the classic tourist attractions in Christchurch. What is open? What is still closed? 

Most of the staples are back. The Gondola is operating. You can punt on the Avon. The Botanic Gardens and Canterbury Museum are very popular, as is the Antarctic Centre. You can see the restoration work underway at the Arts Centre, you can walk around Cathedral Square, which has lots of art installations. And New Regent Street is fully restored, repainted and well worth checking it. Mrs Higgins Cookies is a big drawer.


The Tram is not running, the Art Gallery remains closed for major repairs, as are the Provincial Buildings. The rebuilt City Mall will be some years away, but work has begun on the Oxford Terrace Strip, which will reopen about this time next year.

cardboard cathedral

The Cardboard Cathedral has just opened. Is it drawing interest?

The city centre is speckled with all manner of pop-up projects like the ReStart Mall, the Pallet Pavilion and Street Art. But the Cardboard Cathedral is the grand-daddy of all transitional projects. It has just opened. When it was conceived, it was going to be a temporary venue, but it now has a lifespan of 50 years.  The tubular cardboard interior and stain-glassed frontage is attractive enough, the accoutsics are good,  but I think it’s a pipedream to suggest that this structure is a prime candidate for “iconic status”.The vast bulk of its exterior resembles a cheap and nasty, oversized A-framed holiday park cabin.  

stray dog bar 

What would you rate as some of the best hospo spots in the central city?

St. Asaph Street Kitchen & Stray Dog Bar is a cracker. It’s operated by Dave Jamieson , of Le Café fame in the Arts Centre. Harlequin Public House has just opened, operated by the highly acclaimed chef, Jonny Schwass. The fantastically named Tequila Mocking Bird is a gorgeous new Latin Restaurant & bar in Victoria St,which is a being dramatically redeveloped. Café Valentino , renowned for its Mediterranean cuisine and posters of touring entertainers, has reopened in St. Asaph Street. And Lonestar Café, the mothership, has just reopened on its original site in Manchester St, in time for its 25th anniversary. Alice in Videoland has opened a boutique cinema, in that grand old Art Deco High Street Post Office building. So pockets of the central city are alive and kicking. 


I hear that the Rebuild Tour, being run by Red Bus is popular? 

Highly recommended. For $29, the 90 minute guided sightseeing tour, will give you an insiders view on  the scale of destruction, lots of audio visual footage, what’s happened since, and what is set to happen in the re-creation of Christchurch. 

restart mall

Or, get an inside view of the city’s rebirth, on bike.

Christchurch City Bike tours have been operating morning and afternoon tours for 11 years. They include the Christchurch Rebuild Bike Tour, Original Christchurch Bike Tour, Gourmet Bike Tour and the Farmers’ Market Tour. All of them are leisurely, informative and interactive. For further details and bookings, contact Christchurch Bike Tours Ltd
0212808022 (0800 PEDALS)

As an aside, city leaders are considering dumping the Garden City, as the city’s nickname. 

Critics deride The Garden City tagline as twee, safe and conservative. But it’s been the city’s inter-generational nickname. Not a shallow slogan. So there’s plenty of public pushback to the idea of dumping it.


Here’s some useful links to keep you in the loop about the evolving state of Christchurch, new openings and what’s trending.

For further travel insights, tips and advice, check out the website of New Zealand’s premier travel magazine, For the Love of Travel.

Mike’s travel notes from Newstalk ZB’s Jack Tame Show.

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