Sadly, most of the world had never much thought about Christchurch until after its devastating earthquake in February 2011. Just a little over a year after the widely publicized Haitian earthquake, Christchurch was rocked with a magnitude 6.3 quake that further deteriorated much of the damage already done by the September 2010 quake which hit the Canterbury region. A staggering 185 people died as a result of the February disaster, a true tragedy for the people of New Zealand’s second-largest city. (Christchurch was then pushed to the breaking point with a strong aftershock in June 2011.)
Thanks in part to the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA), and to the incredible resilience of its business owners and everyday citizens, Christchurch has begun the long rebuilding process and currently welcomes tourists with open arms. Since Christchurch has a reputation for spectacular scenery and is known as the gateway to the rest of the South Island of New Zealand, it would be difficult to stay away. With so many wonderful sights and activities, you can fully experience Christchurch post-earthquakes while helping to boost the economy of this recovering city.
A Few Facts Before You Go
As of early August 2012, there are over 250 Christchurch hotels, motels, lodges and bed and breakfasts open to tourists, ensuring that no one will lack for sleeping arrangements. Most of the Christchurch roads are navigable, and power, water and waste services are all fully functional. Public transport is back up and running and the Christchurch International Airport was luckily not affected by the earthquake. In the business district there is a small area known as the “red zone” which is still off-limits and in the process of redevelopment; these areas are set to reopen within the year.
Pop-Up City and Project Re:START
Though the tragedy of the quakes hit the Christchurch residents hard, they have found a way to express their resilience and their belief in the rebuilding of the city through the Pop Up City, located in the neighborhood known as SoMo (short for “South of Moorehouse Ave”), which features a collection of restaurants, cafes, bars and night clubs, art galleries, shopping and markets, as well as community activities for all. It’s just one part of the city’s redevelopment, but it has come to symbolize the bright, up-and-coming future anticipated in Christchurch.
The Re:START shopping mall is a cluster of some 31 boutique stores with of-the-moment fashion labels and an assortment of coffee shops. Perhaps the most infamous draw is the container mall, an outdoor space built from shipping containers, which will stay in place until more permanent buildings can be erected. The area also features free Wi-Fi, making it a sure hit among the tech-savvy younger generation. The “pop-up city culture” has become so popular that a mobile-friendly Christchurch map at www.findchch.com has been created to give locals and tourists alike up-to-date information on hotels, restaurants, parks, etc.
Hagley Park, the Botanical Gardens and the River Avon are good places to start within the city if you’re seeking an outdoorsy fix. For a more robust experience, consider the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, the Travis Wetlands or the Halswell Quarry, as well as other walking or biking trails in the mountains.
Music in Christchurch
Venues like the Dux Live and the Darkroom bring in a variety of musical acts, from jazz to DJs. Dux Live will be hosting in September the Christchurch leg of the Going Global Music Summit 2012, a free showcase of international musicians with seminars and speakers; the day’s aim is to encourage the exchange of ideas, techniques and trends.
Eating Well in Christchurch
Some restaurants relocated into the Christchurch suburbs, like The Bodhi Tree, a Burmese spot whose central location had to be demolished in May 2011, forcing a move to Fendalton. This happily rice-centric dining experience is the only Burmese restaurant in Christchurch.
Another lovely option in Christchurch is the Kinji Japanese Restaurant, with well-priced meals, menu items great for sharing and cuisine that utilizes fresh, local produce whenever possible. The foodie-favorite Cook ‘n’ with Gas is a hearty contrast, with big portions of beef, pork, lamb, duck and an assortment of seafood options like crab, mussels and oysters, plus a nearly 19-page beverage menu with wines, beers, liquors and all manner of coffee.
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