Do you know where ChristChurch is? It is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand that is home to 389,700 residents. A vibrant culture mixed with Māori and early British settlers. It is the most populated city in New Zealand.
Earthquake and ChristChurch
Since New Zealand sits on the ‘Ring of Fire, there are frequent earthquakes in the region. The 2011 earthquake in Christchurch killed 185 people and destroyed thousands of homes and buildings, including the famous ChristChurch Cathedral. When I was in ChristChurch, I felt the tremors in the middle of the night. It was frightening!
Art and culture in ChristChurch Canterbury
Spend the weekend in ChristChurch. Challenge your taste while experiencing the Canterbury region’s artistic, cultural and inspiring local-style passion.
Art & galleries Christchurch
Te Puna o Waiwhetu’s Christchurch Art Gallery houses the most extensive NZ public art collections. Free daily tours are available and accompanied by knowledgeable guides.
Explore the art galleries: CoCA art gallery that showcases contemporary art; Timaru’s Aigantighe Art Gallery is a must-visit for art aficionados;
Embrace the unusual at the Little River Gallery, featuring emerging local artists and talents.
Visit the Langlois-Eteveneaux Cottage & Akaroa Museum, one of the oldest houses and home to a French colonist. The museum displays the unique history of Akaroa.
Go to the market of Canterbury’s extraordinary art and crafts. Some excellent places worth visiting are Riccarton Market, which has the biggest outdoor market. The 300 vendors stall sell just about everything. The Bush Farmers Market has the rarest souvenir to buy from your stay.
Music & entertainment
Attend one of the vibrant performing art scenes in Canterbury. Watch a show presented by New Zealand’s Court Theatre held every year during the summer musicals.
For an evening of contemporary music, Blue Smoke is for you. It has a fantastic line-up of local, national and international acts.
The Māori hosts the famous Kāwhia Kai festival featuring the best local dishes and the history of Māori each year. The colorful party atmosphere is felt all over the city. Schedule your trip the first week of February to join in on the infectious fun and festivities.
Public and Historic Places
Attend a church service at the Onuku Church; a Maori Church opened in 1878.
Visit the Cemeteries – Both the Anglican and Roman Catholic & Dissenters have families’ graves of the early settlers. The Old French Cemetery is the first consecrated burial ground in Canterbury.
Where to stay
For cheap stay, the Breakfree on Cashel will not put a dent in your budget. Looking for a more contemporary atmosphere, the Novotel ChristChurch Cathedral will spoil you with their friendly staff and comfy beds.
Get Romantic in Akaroa
Named as one of the most romantic places, Akaroa should be on your list of destinations for a weekend trip. You will be surprised by the vibrant French-influenced town, pleasantly situated in the bay area on New Zealand South Island. The Banks Peninsula created by the eruption of three volcanoes. And the craters formed the Harbors of Akaroa and Lyttelton, which are surrounded by smaller bays.
Things to do and see in Akaroa
From the city, take a drive to Akaroa and enjoy the beauty and wonders of magnificent scenery along the way. Get started with a map and this packed full itinerary.
Walk around town observing people and the greenery.
Take a short stroll to Fire & Ice to purchase hand-made jewelry and local souvenirs; taste the local dishes at L’escargot Rouge – Deli to Go, a fusion of French and British culture.
Grab some coffee in one of the waterfront cafes, and admire the view from the water’s edge.
Take an excursion
For exciting solo water experience, rent a kayak from one of the kiosks. Looking for a guided scenic tour, hire the Akaroa Shuttle service.
Try the wildlife kayaking on the bay at the Akaroa Adventure.
Enjoy a nature cruise
Akaroa Harbor full of marine life makes it an ideal place for nature cruises. See all the fantastic natural scenery, from dolphins to penguins and an abundance of seabirds during a two-hour cruise on the harbor.
Take a swim with the dolphins
Hector’s Dolphin is the world’s tiniest and friendliest dolphins that makes Akaroa Harbor home annually, from September to May. Join a small boat of just ten people to see the most extraordinary creatures and snorkel with the dolphins.
Hotels in Akaroa
Many options are available. For the conscious budget travel, Akaroa Waterfront Motels and Akaroa Backpackers are great places to stay. This high-end hotel, The Akaroa on the Beach provides a fantastic waterfront view.
After my trip, my heart was torn. My most memorable experience was the tour of the Māori sacred grounds. I learned about their culture, music, and dances.
Māori refers to themselves as Tangata whenua, meaning people of the land. A spiritual connection to the earth, the Māori started from growing plants to be known as warriors.
They are the second largest population in New Zealand. With a history dated back from 1250 to 1300, they can trace their ancestors back to Eastern Polynesia. From those early settlers, they developed a distinctive language, unique arts, and crafts.
The unique facial tattoo (Ta Moko), a tradition among the Māori, is sacred and serves as their identity. The Māori tattooing signifies not only tribal status but also, life’s accomplishments. They still speak Te Reo Māori, their native tongue.
Similar to most minority groups, the Māori faces many challenges. They are only 15% of the population but have the lowest life expectancy than other ethnic groups in New Zealand. Māori have the highest crime rates, health issues, and educational disadvantage.
I had the enormous opportunity to know more about this fantastic ethnic group and a better understanding of their plights from their rich traditions, seen in their dance, hangi, tribal arts and crafts.
Many of these ethnic groups, same as the Māori, around the world are finding different methods to generate revenues to support their communities and to promote cultural awareness. The most sustainable approach is cultural tourism. Support these groups during your travels.
After all these fascinating adventures, New Zealand is a place I will not go back. I had the worst experience with the airport security in ChristChurch.
My bag flagged for additional screenings turned into a three-hour interrogation. The only step missing was the hands-on cavity search. The woman who screened my luggage did not believe that I was alone on vacation. She tried to deny me entry, making several false claims.
Finally, she called another airport security personnel who realized they did not have a reason to deny me entry. I was given clearance to enter the country.
Going back is a no, no. That is my opinion.
But earthquakes and my experience should not diminish the fascinating history and beauty of ChristChurch New Zealand. To be aware of the Māori history should be a reason alone to visit New Zealand.
A handful of people should not overshadow this beautiful experience.
So, you have no reason to make ChristChurch your next travel destination! Have you been to ChristChurch New Zealand? Tell me about your trip and your favorite things to do in the comments section.
If you only have a stopover in New Zealand, find out how you can spend your short time in ChristChurch while waiting for your next flight.