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A New Zealand Travel Guide

Canterbury New Zealand

"Christchurch . . . a garden city more English than England"



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CANTERBURY EARTHQUAKE: Christchurch has suffered a catastrophic series of earthquakes since Sep 2010.  A large part of the CBD has been destroyed - it is now being demolished building by building -  and many of the iconic Christchurch buildings, including the cathedral and the Catholic Basilica are in ruins.  They may never be rebuilt. 

Settled in an orderly way by a cross-section of the English class system, Christchurch was built as a snippet of The Old Country transported 12,000km to the other ends of the earth.  As ex-patriots are inclined, it became Super-English. In many ways it is more English than England is these days.

As a contrast, drive out to Akaroa, the nearest thing in NZ to a French settlement. Pretty drive of about 2hrs. Akaroa contains so many precious old buildings that the whole village has been declared an historic place by the NZ Historic Places Trust.

Unfortunately, with devastating earthquakes in Sept 2010 and February 2011 many  of the central city's buildings have been destroyed.

Christchurch Cathedral, the one in the square, of traditional gothic design, is a landmark. But the other cathedral, less well known, the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, was architecturally more interesting. It was regarded as one of the finest examples of Italian Revivalist in Australasia. At the time of writing however, both buildings were in ruins.  Whether or when they will be rebuilt is an unknown. The Christchurch Cathedral has been scheduled for demolition but that has caused an uproar in the city.  Who knows what the outcome will be.

The Canterbury Museum is a splendid example of the architecture of their time. The museum is one of the best endowed in NZ. The ornithological (bird) section is one of the best in the Southern Hemisphere. There's also the Hall of Antarctic Discovery, given that Christchurch has always had, and still has, a close connection with the Great White Continent.  It is usually the last civilised place explorers see as they head south.

But if you want to get a good look at things Antarctic the International Antarctic Visitor Centre near the airport brings the Southern Continent to the public through sound and light shows, interactive exhibits and audio-visuals. Experience the awesome beauty and grandeur of Antarctica in an entertaining and informative way.

If you're in to arts and crafts, the Arts Centre in Worcester St, near the museum is a must. It's in the old neo-Gothic buildings of the original University of Canterbury which are themselves worth the visit alone.

Go boating on the lazy but pretty Avon River or explore the Botanic Gardens, a splendid example of a public garden in a city that prides itself on such botanic exploits. If you're into losing money the fast way, there's always the Christchurch Casino. Or waft aloft in a hot air balloon on a cool, calm, Canterbury morning.

The Christchurch Gondola has reopened after a $2 million refit as a result of earthquake damage. Soar suspended above the suburbs as the birds fly beneath your cabin. The Christchurch Gondola whisks you nearly a kilometre to the top of the Port Hills.

The Christchurch trams are now back running after an enforced lay-off because of damage to the tracks in the centre of the city.

Akaroa

Cruise Akaroa Harbour with the option of swimming with wild dolphins, providing a close encounter with Hector's, the world's smallest dolphin. Or take a wildlife cruises on Lyttelton harbour viewing Hector's Dolphins, penguins & seals.

North Canterbury

Hanmer Springs has that sort of mountain spa feel about it. In part of course because at 380m above sea level it is quite "alpine" and also because it is set in a wooded valley.  It's big attraction is the thermal reserve which has a range of outdoor thermal pools including sulphur pools. There is something sensationally hedonistic lolling in an outdoor thermal pool when the snow is thick upon the winter ground.

Hanmer is a popular base for those going exploring in the gorgeously beautiful Lewis Pass National Reserve.

Further north is a slew of vineyards and wineries.  The north Canterbury area is fast building a top rep for the quality of its wines. Chardonnay and pinot noir are the most widely planted with Riesling at number three.

Oamaru

In Oamaru you can catch a remarkably well-preserved glimpse of what this country was like a century or so ago. Gold-rich merchants built a fine little town, and when the gold ran out, so did the merchants, leaving behind a fine little legacy of fine little buildings.

The "Historic Precinct" is a collection of century-old buildings in good repair and gradually being refurbished and given new life for another hundred years. Cafes, bars, and craft workshops have taken the place of the grain, hides and wool that used to pass through here.

Each night swarms of penguins at the Blue Penguin Colony come ashore right in the heart of the town and a local group now watches gently over them.

Atop a hill 6km past Oamaru on the l. is the Thomas Brydone Memorial. and nearby the buildings in which the first ever cargo of frozen meat for shipment to Britain was prepared. That shipment over a century ago was the foundation of NZ's greatest export income earner - the meat industry. The use of freezer technology was an innovation that changes the future and the face of this land The buildings are open to the public.

Moeraki

Just past Hampden, on the beach are the famous Moeraki Boulders -- a collection of spherical rock curiosities that look like a head of bowls in a giants' game.

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Just About Everything You Ever Needed  To Know To Get The Most From Your NZ Holiday

The (Almost) Complete Guide To NZ is the kind of information you need to make the best of your holiday in New Zealand - recommendations on where to stay, where to eat, what to see. 

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Transport, rest areas, photo opportunities, historical background, special places that few others know about  Ohhhh . . .  heaps and heaps of stuff.

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10 March 2012