An array of thermal pools set among lawned gardens. Some of the pools are in natural rock form and range in temperature from warm to extremely hot and sulphuric. The effect is instant relaxation. Also in the complex are several large free form swimming pools catering for all ages from fun themed with flumes for children to graduated depths for stronger swimmers. All pools are heated via natural springs and are useable even in snow. There is a glass fronted cafe serving wonderfully healthy food all reasonably priced. There is a backdrop of mountains and a wild west feel to the small town where you will find a range of cheap (such as hostel) to luxury accommodation. This was my favourite place in New Zealand and an ideal way to recouperate after many days on the road.
This is a friendly, relaxed and comfortable hostel exclusively for women. From the swinging chairs outside in the garden to the multitude of kitchen gadgets (and free coffee, tea and hot chocolate), this is a place to enjoy.
272 Barbadoes Street, Christchurch.
Ph +64 (0)3 3662585
Avalanche Peak can be climbed from the road at Arthurs Pass in just a few hours. There's some scrambling involved but it's not difficult. Report to the rangers station before you leave especially if there's snow. And unlike some of the great walks, such as the Queen Charlotte Track, you're above the tree line so the views are great.
Half way between Greymouth and Christchurch, South Island.
One of the top ten railway journeys in the world, this is an absolutely magical experience. The train goes once a day from Christchurch on the west coast of the South Island to Greymouth on the east and back, traversing some of the most spectacular scenery from the Canterbury Plain near Christchurch to the Southern Alps, stopping at Arthur's Pass high up in the mountains.
An outside observation carriage in the centre of the train enhances the feeling of being closer to the contrasting scenery (fleece and gloves needed!). Allocated seats, checked-in luggage and lovely waffles make this an unmissable experience.
Return journey from Christchurch (early start) or one way from Greymouth (lunchtime departure). I did the latter as I started from Nelson, taking a six-hour bus journey to Greymouth along almost deserted roads and past amazing scenery including part of the Buller River used in The Fellowship of the Ring, and the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and blowholes.
It is a small 'homestay' where the hosts are welcoming and accomodating. Lots of laughs and giggles took place in the lounge with Rose and John. Easy to find and a pleasant easy walk into the town centre.
82 Caledionian Road
Tel:- +64 3 377 4832
Christchurch has a certain line in unusual transportation/dining experiences that has to be unique. Not only can you eat while riding around town on an old tram, but you can also do so in a gondola. Okay, I exaggerate – the Summit Cafe where you dine is at the top of the gondola – but it’s close.
You can of course use the gondola to go up to the ridge of the Port Hills at any time during the day, and the views over the city, or down the other side to Lyttelton Harbour, are superb. And hiring a bike there to speed back down is a thrill, albeit a mild one by NZ standards. But getting up there just before dusk, in time to see the sun set across the plains and the city lights come on, well, it’s romantic enough to bring a tear to an All Black’s eye. And the food is worth staying for too.
Telephone: (63-3) 3840707
Location: Top of the Gondola.
A little bit of Spain, right at the heart of Little Britain. The Botanic Gardens are very Victorian – lots of hospital-corner flower beds filled with roses. Ho hum. But the old museum curator’s house bursts with Hispanic flavours, courtesy of its chef. Tapas, tortillas, spicy chorizo, herbs and veg from the garden at the back, a shot of strong coffee … it’s enough to make you forget where you are.
Address: 7 Rolleston Avenue, Botanic Gardens, Christchurch.
Telephone: (64-3) 3792252
By far the most photogenic street in Christchuch – perhaps in NZ. The beautifully preserved art-deco buildings are painted in a variety of bright, Mediterranean colours and are home to some good cafes, restaurants and fancy shops. So grab a seat outside, get your camera ready and wait for the tram to trundle by.
Location: Between Gloucester and Armagh Streets.
Fantastic arts and crafts market, on Saturday and Sunday every weekend. Located in the warren-like former premises of Canterbury University, which give it an old-fashioned feel, all sorts of artisan products from the sublime to the ridiculous (possum down nipple-warmers) are available for purchase. But better again is the food, with a monster variety of stalls selling hot dishes from all over the world, fresh fruit and veg, and great cheese. Highly recommended.
Address: Worcester Boulevard, Christchurch.
Telephone: (64-3) 3660989
Kitsch … you either love it or hate it. But in New Zealand, where so many bars are basic at best, the sensual overload that is the Wunderbar (in Lyttelton, of all places) is very welcome. It is also very, very kitsch. The funky front lounge is swathed in purple velvet, the pool table with red velvet, the bar is lined with bamboo and the “elusive” toilets – if you can find them – papered with 1950’s adverts. Wunderbar’s location – behind a supermarket – says it all: a corner of weird surrounded by banal.
Address: 19 London Street, Lyttelton.
Telephone: (64-3) 3288818
Part pub, brewery and restaurant, the Dux has its own distinct niche in Christchurch’s social scene.
Situated behind the Arts Centre in tree-lined grounds, it’s the perfect place for an afternoon pint of their own brew while sitting outside in the sun.
Address: Corner Hereford and Montreal Streets.
Telephone: (64-3) 3666919
Lyttelton likes its kitsch, there’s no denying it. Home not only to the over-the-top Wunderbar, but also this strange little gem of a restaurant.
Located in a gaudy red and yellow art deco building, with cheap formica tables and Mex-influenced menu, the Volcano and its Lava Bar buzz with an energy lacking in most city centre eateries. Maybe Lyttelton is where Christchurchians go to get their groove on.
Address: 42 London Street, Lyttelton
Phone: (64-3) 3287077
Christchurch’s outdated styling as Little Britain is nowhere more obvious than in its approach to pubs: that they still cling to a Victorian notion of Britishness is apparent on crossing the threshold of many hostelries.
Check out the stale-beer carpet, or decor seemingly designed with fistfights in mind. Don’t even think about the food.
All of which make The Bohemian, by the banks of the River Avon, all the more enjoyable to discover. The beech and brick decor create a warm atmosphere, the food is delicious (the antipasto plate is superb), and you can even sit on the street outside in the summer.
How very continental.
Address: 256 Oxford Terrace, Christchurch.
Telephone: (64-3) 3662563
Another chain pub/brewery, the Hog is a decent, fairly run-of-the- mill place – lots of hardwood, good bar food, and nice beer. But it’s when Thursday night rolls around that the place really hots up. Latin Night is something special in otherwise reserved Christchurch, when the small Latin American community come out to shake their hips.
A swinging band provide the thumping beat, and salsa dancers bump and grind on the packed dancefloor. Let the cerveza and salsa flow.
Address: 178 Cashel Street, Christchurch.
Telephone: (64-3) 3666674
Nice little seaside town a short drive or bus ride from Christchurch. The beach is probably the best in the area – the fish and chips definitely are. Sun, sand, salt and vinegar.
Getting there: No. 30 bus from the Bus Exchange.
In a country where you can get overwhelmed with entreaties to do dangerous and high adrenaline activities at every turn, sometimes it’s nice to do something utterly quaint and old-fashioned.
Dining on good solid fare while the old Victorian tram makes its stately progress through the streets and parks of Christchurch is about as far from extreme as you can get, and all the better for it.
Home of the mighty Christchurch Crusaders rugby team, and the spiritual heart of the city. The chance to take in a Super 14 match should not be passed up, and the quality of the rugby played is superb. Just don’t expect too much from the atmosphere – the Kiwis may be the Brazilians of rugby, but the resemblance ends there. The knights on horses riding around the pitch before the game are good hokey fun, but after that the supporters only really cheer when their team scores. Then again, that is fairly often...
Tickets: Usually available at the stadium, but can be bought online.
Telephone: (64-3) 3791765
Good Indian food is not actually that hard to find in Christchurch, but this place (part of a chain) is the best, as evidenced by its constantly thronged premises on trendy New Regent Street.
Address: Corner New Regent and Gloucester Streets.
Telephone: (64-3) 3777997
Forget Christchurch’s (in)famous “Strip” of interchangeable and forgettable bar/clubs on Oxford Terrace – head to Sammy’s for a cool and laidback night out.
This place is hidden away down a dead-end street, so it’s one of those Swingers-style places that you need to be in-the-know to find. The music is pretty swinging too, and it’s buzzing at the weekends.
Address: 14 Bedford Row (off Manchester Street).
Telephone: (64-3) 3778618
The Port Hills sit above Christchurch and give you amazing views across the city, the Canterbury Plains to the Southern Alps. Stunning sunsets. You can drive, hike or cycle up... and there is some great mountain biking tracks as well as rock climbing - all 20mins from the centre of the city.
South of the City Centre - you can't miss them.
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