“Just for a few days right?”. That was the response I got when telling people I was going to Christchurch. Countless articles talk about the buzz of Auckland or the thrill of Queenstown, but the South Island’s largest city always seems to be unfairly forgotten. I’d describe Christchurch like Justin Bieber – you’re not supposed to like it, but you secretly love it.
Now sit back and get SkyScanner at the ready…
1. From sea to summit
What can you do in 2 hours? The laundry, have a BBQ, mow the lawn. Exhilarating stuff for some. Here in Christchurch however, you can be riding the waves on Sumner beach at 10am, and skiing down Mt Hutt before lunchtime. There really aren’t many places in the world that allow that level of indecisiveness.
The surf spots around Christchurch really do cater for all needs, from beginners at Scarborough to advanced at Taylor’s Mistake (not named after a surfing accident you’ll be pleased to know). Expect heavies, honkers and any other surfing terminology that sounds cool. Still need convincing? If you’re lucky, you can even surf with dolphins.
Fancy shredding some powder after the morning swell? Barely 100km away you’ll find Mt Hutt, a ski resort with one of the longest vertical drops of the South Island. Twice voted the best ski field in NZ, this spot makes an ideal place for an afternoon of carving up the snow before signing off the day with a cold one. Alternatively, you could always spend those 2 hours watching Forest Gump. Gnarly.
2. Festivals galore
I love an excuse to eat too much, drink too much or simply be merry. Fortunately for me, Christchurch’s festival calendar provides that perfect excuse. The World Buskers Festival, South Island Wine and Food Festival, The Great Kiwi Beer Festival – the list goes on, as does my appetite.
3. Europe in your back garden
Close your eyes and try to imagine a place with Canadian landscapes, European charm, and a volcano the size of Mt Krakatoa. Well let me welcome you to Akaroa.
Formed by two giant volcanic eruptions about eight million years ago, the Banks Peninsula is absurdly beautiful. Take the drive along Summit Road (it follows the edge of one of the original craters) for breathtaking views and picnic spots that make you wish you’d packed breakfast lunch and dinner! You soon descend into the historic town of Akaroa, a quaint harbour lined with French flags, delicatessens and coffee shops.
But it’s not all snails and frogs legs, much of the wildlife is best seen on board one of Akaroa’s boat tours rather than your plate. A trip with EcoSEAker is an absolute must. Set sail for a chance to see the world’s smallest and rarest Dolphin (Hector’s Dolphin), White-flippered Penguins, Fur Seals and the occasional whale! Did I mention all of this was just one hour from Christchurch?
4. Wine, Wein, Vino
A wine snob, we all know one (me). They discuss soil types as a method of seduction, or compliment our age like its a fine wine. It’s sickening. Fortunately however, the wineries in the Waipara region leave pretentiousness at the door and focus on what’s important, the experience. Start with a tasting at Waipara Hills Winery and if you didn’t need a platter when you arrived, you will do by the time you are finished!
5. I don’t know, yet.
A new shopping mall opened the weekend I arrived. A new jazz bar opened the following week and a new cocktail bar the following one again. That’s what makes Christchurch so cool – the unknown. Every day it looks a little different, but every day it improves a little more. If you want to visit somewhere that even the Lonely Planet can’t keep up with, you know where to go.