New look Christchurch

New Zealand’s South Island city of Christchurch made world news nearly five years ago. Now out of devastation has risen a place making global headlines for all the right reasons.

Christchurch, New Zealand’s oldest city, is now the country’s newest destination story.

Nearly five years on from the life-changing earthquakes, the Canterbury city has become one of the most unique urban redevelopments in the world, attracting attention for creativity and innovation.

The constantly-evolving urban landscape is a work in progress but Christchurch is described as having reached its reconstruction peak.

"It’s been five years since earthquakes rocked Christchurch but now this resilient South Island city is making headlines for all the right reasons".

Alongside new buildings like the recently-opened transport centre and stylishly-restored Isaac Theatre Royal are refreshed open spaces and gap filler installations that show the edgy attitude of many future- focused locals. Projects like the Transitional ‘cardboard’ Cathedral, creative street art, clever retail spaces and a raft of quality cafes and restaurants are creating a potent vibe in this once conservative-minded city.

New look Christchurch

While the inner city is abuzz with construction, many outlying areas are untouched by change and offer tranquil pursuits like punting on the Avon River through the Botanical Gardens, one of 740 parks in the city.

Significant heritage restoration projects provide a reminder of the city’s place in New Zealand’s history. Completed works include the Theatre Royal, New Regent Street – featuring 40 shops built in the Spanish Mission Revival style of the 1930s ­– the rejuvenated Canterbury Museum, Victoria Street Precinct – a hub of night life and the Old Government Building Heritage Hotel – and The Tannery, a boutique shopping emporium beside Heathcote River in Woolston.

Ultra-modern, stylish buildings like the Ilex Visitors Centre & Café with sophisticated designs promoting sustainability and the latest technology are a highlight of the new look city. The Christchurch Art Gallery – one of the central city’s significant modern buildings – reopened in December. Work is currently underway on restoring Christchurch Arts Centre with various areas reopening as the work in complete.

The now famous Re:START mall, home to over 20 businesses operating out of brightly coloured shipping containers, sprang up in 2011 to re-start the city’s retail sector after the earthquake. The are has now been re-jigged to make way for a the new permanent retail hub . 

Places to stay

Having lost much of its inner city accommodation in 2011, hotel redevelopment has been a major focus of the rebuild. The city now has 302 commercial accommodation properties and 5,530 rooms.  

Recent openings have included Breakfree on Cashel, the Ramada Suites and the five-star Hotel Montreal.

In early 2017 a new 200 room Crowne Plaza will open in the inner city. 

Places to eat

In the past 9 months, 54 bars and restaurants have opened, boosting the total number of food and beverage outlets to 760 – more than before the earthquake.

The region also now boasts Roots, ‘New Zealand Cuisine Restaurant of the Year,’ which is just outside the city in Lyttelton. The restaurant also won an Innovation Award for the ethos behind its dining experience with Chef Giulio Sturla only serving food he has grown, foraged or sourced locally from artisan producers and sustainable farms.

Stranges Lane is another popular new dining destination in Christchurch, with a selection of restaurants sharing an open courtyard in a heritage laneway development

Getting around

One of the best ways to experience the changing face of the Christchurch CBD and absorb the creative buzz is on a tour. Christchurch Bike and Walking Tours offer a two-hour guided excursion – the flat nature of the city streets making it easily achievable for visitors of varying ages and abilities. 

More adventurous cyclists will be interested in the new MTB ultimate adventure park on Cashmere Hills to the east of the city. Currently under development, the park will offer 180 – 200 kilometre trails with a lift for bikes, and eventually zip lines and three-star cabin accommodation.