Article Christchurch & Akaroa
The drive from Lake Tekapo to Christchurch took us about 3 hours with our campervan. After about half an hour we arrived at a little town called Fairlie, where we can highly recommend having a snack or lunch stop at the Fairlie Bakehouse. A friend of ours recommended their pastries & coffee and we were not disappointed at all. The pies are not the cheapest, but definitely worth it.
There are many different options and campsites in and around Christchurch, but we chose to stay at the Amber Kiwi Holiday Park & Motel. The Holiday Park offers great powered sites, close to the city center and even with a public bus stop right in front of it. The facilities were very clean and the staff extremely friendly. We ended up extending our stay twice during our time in Christchurch. Even though the area around the Holiday Park reminds more of a commercial and industrial district, the Holiday Park is very quiet and calm with nice flower beds and lawns around the concrete sites. If you decide to take the car to get into the city centre, it takes you about 10-15 minutes to reach the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, where you can park your car for free for up to 3 hours. You will find many more restricted or paid parking spaces around the city centre.
The Christchurch Botanic Gardens are free to visit and we recommend you check out the visitor centre before you start your walk through the park. The Botanic Garden is huge and separated in to different districts of foreign and native flora and fauna. The visitor centre will provide you with seasonal highlights, information and a map to navigate through the maze-like areas of the park. As well as walking through the park yourself, you can book tours, rent a Kayak or book a Punting on the Avon experience, which leads you through the city and parts of the botanic gardens via the Avon River. Even if you aren’t interested in the aquatic option, it is great to walk along the river via the many small parks and the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial. The memorial is dedicated to the victims and survivors of the great earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 that dramatically changed Christchurch and the lives of its citizens. The memorial honours the 185 people who lost their lives and the many more injured who suffered when houses and buildings collapsed and radically changed the city in an instant. We can highly recommend a visit to Quake City before you start your trip around the town center. The impact of the 2010/2011 earthquakes are omnipresent in Christchurch and a walk through Quake City opens your eyes and your understanding of what the city is going through. You will learn about the Gap Filler Projects all around the city, which turned the abandoned spaces from demolished buildings into community activities and art projects. Make sure you check out the latest Gap Filler Projects and locations on the following website.
Many of the historical buildings around Christchurch that were damaged or demolished during the earthquakes are still under construction. Clearly the restoration of historical buildings takes more planning and money than for other buildings. Probably the most famous building that was significantly damaged during the earthquakes is the Christchurch Cathedral, which is still in a very bad condition, even 8 years after the event. Just a few minutes walk from there, you will reach the Christchurch Transitional Cathedral, better known as the Cardboard Cathedral. The transitional church was designed by the well known “disaster architect” Shigeru Ban and contains 86 cardboard tubes integrated into the A-shaped roof. Besides the previously mentioned sightseeing highlights of the city, we recommend a stroll around the different streets of the city. Have a sightseeing round trip through the city center in one of the Historical Tram Rides. Around almost every corner, you will find street art, gap fillers or other ways people come over with the destroyed and damaged elements of the city.
If you want to escape city life, we recommend a drive southeast towards the little town called Lyttelton. The town offers a great view of a large bay and seems much calmer that the hectic city just a few minutes away. You can either choose to take the tunnel directly from Christchurch to Lyttelton in about 20 minutes or take the scenic route around the coast. Since we were heading further to Akaroa, with many more scenic views, we chose to take the tunnel. Right in front of the tunnel, you can find the Christchurch Gondola that takes you up to Mt Cavendish and the Port Hills. From here, you can find many different walks with beautiful views in all directions.
Akaroa is a small town on Banks Peninsula and a 1h 20 min drive away from Christchurch City in a south-easterly direction. The peninsula was originally formed by two volcanic cones where one crater formed the bay of Lyttleton and the other crater the bay of Akaroa Harbour. The township of Akaroa is the only French settlement in New Zealand. The French Captain Langlois made a dubious deal with the local Maori in 1838 to purchase the land around Akaroa Harbour. When he came back 2 years later with a group of French and German families to colonies the area, the Treaty of Waitangi was already signed, including all the land of New Zealand. The French colonists decided to stay and you can still find the french influence in street names, local products, restaurants, arts and almost everywhere around Akaroa. We stayed at the Akaroa TOP 10 Holiday Park, which is located on a hill right above the Akaroa township and offers a great view around the bay. The facilities are thoroughly cleaned twice a day and most of the campsites come with a great view. You can walk down a trail from the campground and reach the beachside in about 10 minutes. We were lucky enough to stay in Akaroa during the Akaroa FrenchFest that only takes place every second year. The festival celebrates the unique mixed heritage of Akaroa that was influenced by the french settlements and the maori culture. It was great to walk around the festival, enjoy the local food and drinks and have a look at the various entertainment programmes. You can easily walk through Akaroa and leave the car at the campground to explore all the little shops and areas at your own pace. At the i-site you will find some more information about local tourist attractions, such as The Giant’s House with its beautiful mosaic and sculpture art exhibitions or the famous Hector Dolphins that you can either see from a boat or even book to swim with during summer time. Make sure to check out the different hikes and walks around the Banks Peninsula. The rural tracks around the Hinewai Reserve are especially worth exploring and offer great views from above and scenic walks through seemingly untouched nature.