Located in the Canterbury region, Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island. Christchurch was one of my favourite cities when I first visited New Zealand a decade ago. I was looking forward to rediscover this vibrant and lively city during my recent visit.
Christchurch was hit by a series of earthquakes between 2010 to 2012, causing massive damage to the city. As a result, more than 1500 buildings in the city had been demolished or partly demolished. The damage caused by the earthquakes is still very much evident all over the city.
The city’s iconic Christchurch Cathedral was also severely damaged and lost its spire. It was really heartbreaking to see this once grand church lying in ruins. While waiting for a decision if the damaged cathedral will be repaired, demolished or replaced with a modern building, a Transitional ‘Cardboard’ Cathedral made from cardboard tubes, timber, steel and concrete was built. Not only does it serve as a church for its congregation, the building has become a popular tourist attraction. The cathedral is also a symbol of moving on and part of Christchurch’s rebuild.
Another prominent symbol of progress and rebuilding of the city is Re:START Container Mall. Built entirely from colourful shipping containers, this temporary mall is popular with locals and tourists.
There are over 30 stores ranging from gift stores to fashion boutiques, food caravans to cosy cafes and services such as banks and post office housed in this outdoor retail space.
Known as the Garden City, Christchurch is famous for its many beautiful parks and award winning gardens. One such garden is the sprawling Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Hours can be spent in this well maintained garden admiring the wide variety of roses in The Central Rose Garden, learning about the native ferns in The Fernery or go punting along the Avon River.
Christchurch also houses the Air Force Museum of New Zealand. The museum sits on the site of the former Air Force Base at Wigram. The museum is manned by museum professionals as well as volunteers who are mainly retired air force personnel.
Visitors to the museum will be able to learn the history of New Zealand’s military aviation through documents, photographs and aircrafts. We managed to join one of the 3 free guided tours into the base and Reserve Collection hangar. The tour offers a glimpse of life in an air force base. Visitors to the museum can also try their hands on the “Mosquito Mission” flight simulator which features a mission based on the Allied bombing of German battleships in the Norwegian fiords.
Walking through the city felt like walking through a huge construction site as Christchurch is undergoing massive reconstruction to rebuild the city. In spite of this, I am glad that I returned to visit this beautiful city and it remains as one of my favourite cities in New Zealand.