November 10, 2018

7 years on: the best things to do in Christchurch!

Christchurch is whole lot more than the gateway to the South Island, but after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, tourists could be forgiven for breezing through the city and on to somewhere else. I try to go every year to 18 months, but it’s been two years since I last popped down and I’ve just been back, seven years on, thanks to Hilton Hotels and their Hilton Discover campaign designed to show the best of cities within cooee of a Hilton hotel.

The city is looking amazing and I discovered a bunch of cool things to do in Christchurch for first timers or old timers – like me!

But first, where to stay in Christchurch.

The elegant old lady that is Chateau on the Park, a Doubletree by Hilton hotel is now managed as Doubletree and since joining the Hilton family has had a beautiful soft refurbishment in the 192 rooms, with the restaurant up next. And for those of you who know Doubletree you’ll know that you get a huge warm cookie on arrival!

Doubletree cookie Christchurch

Cookie time!

First impressions are of a majestic building complete with turrets, a moat and dark wood accents with lots of car parking space. Step into the lobby and a glass fire roars beside comfy couches and floor to ceiling windows look onto the moat surrounded by flowers and a fountain with the restaurant behind it, and beyond that are five acres of gorgeous gardens hidden on the property. This is a great hotel for business meetings as they have conference spaces and a separate bar from the dining room.

There is a heated outdoor pool and they have their own winery, all located across Hagley Park, about 3kms from the city centre and about three blocks from the famous Riccarton Farmer’s Market – which is a fab spot to go for breakfast on a Saturday.

Chateau on the Park hotel

The pond flows around the hotel and blends into the gardens

6 great things to do Christchurch

Take a cycle tour with Chill Urban Tours from their centrally located office on Durham Street with a handy little courtyard out the back to have a “refresher” practice peddle in before hitting the road. And when I say road, Christchurch has very cleverly added cycle lanes to the footpaths in most of the areas we rode, plus trails through Hagley Park, so there was virtually no road cycling at all on our tour.

Cycle tour Christchurch

On my bike!

A cycle tour is such a great way to have a good look around this city that is still opening new doors on a weekly basis. We did a private tour with owner Stu Waddell and talked through the tow-hour itinerary we wanted (because we’d done a bit of strolling already through some of the CBD) so designed our tour to take us past sculptures in Hagley Park (which is so huge you’d never get round it on foot) and around the gardens by the hospital, a stop at the historic Art Gallery building, past the Terrace with its new restaurants and bars, down Cashell St to see how the new shops are coming along and a whip through the fun kids Margaret Mahy Playground

Margaret Mahy Family Playground is the place to go if you want to kill a couple of hours with the kids. New Zealanders know Margaret Mahy as one our most favourite children’s authors and this new park is the largest of its kind in New Zealand, spread over 2.5 hectares, and has been designed with input from local school children who were asked what would make an awesome park. There is a story arc which takes elements of Margaret Mahy’s books and interprets them into slides, climbing activities, swings, trampolines and flying foxes. And the best part? It’s free!

Margaret Mahy playground

This slide looks fun – although can burn the bum in summer!

Take a tram ride on one of the historic trams where a $25 (per adult) ticket allows you to hop on and off all day and with a conductor/driver you’ll learn about the city and hear some fascinating stories about the earthquake recovery as you tootle past new buildings and look at a few old ones still to be demolished and/or rebuilt. The tram also stops at the Christchurch Cathedral which is about the saddest thing to see and even more so because it is the central hub of the city waiting patiently for a decision on its future. Meanwhile the birds have moved in and it’s just crumbling away behind the fence.

Christchurch tram

The tram coming around the Terrace

Shopping in Christchurch. After years without the shopping heart of the city, new city blocks have been designed with laneways to ensure not only is there more shop frontage for smaller stores and boutique businesses, but to provide shelter from the weather depending on any direction of wind or rain. I loved strolling down Cashell Street (avoiding being run over by e-scooter riders) and ogling into the massive windows of the many new stores. There’s a lot of glass in the new buildings in Christchurch and that’s always good for window shopping!

If you use the tram as a hop-on hop-off you’ll pop down New Regent Street for the eclectic shops, Cashell Street for chain stores and the laneways in between for you to discover some hidden gems.

Shopping on Cashell Street

Cashell Street shops are brand new and open for business and the last building is nearly complete.

Walk to the Christchurch Farmer’s Market on a Saturday morning from Chateau on the Park, a Doubletree by Hilton. It’s about three blocks away and is a great spot to come to for breakfast, especially if you love porridge! Check out the girls at the Posh Porridge tent, but make sure you come hungry because there’s lots of food to sample and pick up some fresh produce, smoked meats, home made pies for dinner, or just chow down on pastries and empanadas over a coffee and live music.

Riccarton Farmers Market riverbank

Grab a coffee and sit on the riverbank at the Farmer’s Market

Posh porridge Christchurch farmers market

A bowl of posh porridge with all the trimmings!

Ziplining at Christchurch Adventure Park. I absolutely loved this! Allow about two hours to zip through the four lines with two guides making sure you are properly harnessed in and comfy before releasing you down the longest zip line in NZ and another one which is the longest zip line in NZ – and stunning views of the city.

Christchurch Adventure Park view

The view from the top of the first zip line

You’ll sign up (and provide your height and weight- gulp) then head off to the chair lift to be taken on a stunning, gentle scenic ride up the hillside with beautiful views along the way. At the top you’ll start with a short line to get your eye in. But I was all set for racing! They are set up so two people can zip line side by side and race each other, or not. However while the others were keen to look around and admire the views out to the sea and over the city, I was all shaping my body like a missile and making sure I won!

You can also mountain bike here and they have a cafe and lockers to leave your handbags while you go out clad in your hardhats and harnesses.

Eating out in Christchurch

Loads of new restaurants have opened since the earthquakes and the people of Christchurch have been so good at supporting each one. Old ones have reopened too and some old favourites managed to stay open throughout the years and have made it through.

The Terrace and river Christchurch

The Terrace has these beautiful concrete steps to the Avon River for soaking in the sun in front of a row of restaurants

Amazonita is located on Oxford Terrace (the Terrace, formerly known as the Strip) and themed, you guessed it, like the Amazon rain forest. Step inside and the hanging green plants (a mix of real and faux) create the first wow, and the peacocks, humming birds and other bird life and foliage on the menu is a great touch. There is booth seating and if you want one you’d need to book for 5-plus people – and probably at lunch time to make sure you get it! This place is that popular. There is a bar on the right when you walk in and outside seating in the front too.

The menu has small plates and larger mains if you’re not a fan of the sharing concept. (Lots of men aren’t, I have learned!) Expect pasta, steak, lamb and some yummy sides that are happily for sharing.

It’s great to see the Terrace open and busy with new restaurants and outdoor drinking areas, then across the road is the Avon river landscaped with beautiful concrete terraced steps for just sitting down and taking a moment, eating lunch, sending selfies…

Amazonita menu christchurch

I loved the menus at Amazonita – and that’s before I even opened it!

Twenty Seven Steps is upstairs (25 steps if you exclude the 2 strides on the landing!) on New Regent Street in the former Coffee Pot, one of the city’s first restaurants, and bookings are required if you want ensure you get a table. They do two sittings per night, 6.30 and 8pm and made into the Cuisine Top 100 NZ restaurants in 2017.

We started with complimentary warm pumpkin and feta bread with lashings of butter as we perused the menu. I had a beautiful and light turbot fish for my main, but it was the dessert that would bring me back: passionfruit rice pudding in a glass. It was a special for the night, so don’t get your hopes up!

The restaurant is busy, bustling and the location is great. I can totally recommend it.

Twenty Seven Steps fish

Turbot at Twenty Seven Steps

Garden Court Brasserie at Chateau on the Park, a Doubletree by Hilton. And I’m not just saying that because I was staying in house which meant I didn’t need to Uber home but just totter down the hall and into my comfy bed. No. They had me at entree tasting platter. Well, first we met in the Den Bar for drinks in a booth before heading to the restaurant.

The breakfast buffet bar will soon be designed as it takes up a lot of eye space when you come in for dinner, and dinner is popular here. Locals and in house guests alike come here and after the aforementioned entree tasting platter (which not a lot of people know the chef will do) gave me the chance to work through some delicious morsels like seared scallops, buttermilk crispy chicken strips, quinoa/feta/spinach arancini balls and calamari.  But it was steak with peppercorn sauce I was in the mood for and there were four cuts to choose from. I went for the smallest: 200g beef fillet which was served with gratin potatoes, veggies and that sauce in its own jug. A really great restaurant with lots of choose from – and hotel parking out the front.

Shared entree platter at Doubletree hotel christchurch

Find the dumplings, scallops, risotto balls and chicken tenders!

Garden brasserie restaurant Christchurch

My steak and peppercorn sauce!

About Megan Singleton

Megan

Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio every week and a few newspapers and mags from time to time. I set off on this travel writing journey 18 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for monthly newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!

"7 years on: the best things to do in Christchurch!" - What do you think?

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  1. Carol Wallace on

    We foster newborns and two of my previous longer term foster children are in chch and ashburton in beautiful families. My heart goes with these kiddies and the latest one to leave us we have a special mummy/baby bond. Though we still have video contact i know i know a visit down to chch before xmas would be beyound words.We are having this special miss premmie for a month in feb as her parents head overseas for a wedding and miss has medical problems that she is better off in nz.make two families and a special wee bubs very happy 😁 and send me down to chch xx

    Reply
  2. Daile on

    Had our wedding reception at Chateau on the Park, what seems like a 100 years ago! It was beautiful then and I’m sure it still is. Would love to have a weekend back in Christchurch.

    Reply
  3. Judi Hills on

    I love Christchurch. My son lives there now. I haven’t seen him for nearly a year so this prize wud be awesome. I cud see him and have some luxury at the same time. Thank you.

    Reply
  4. Sandra Hall on

    Going to Christchurch for some fun and adventure, a bit of shopping and culture. I’d especially like to see the cardboard Cathedral and how things are being redeveloped in the inner city.
    Looking forward to it!
    Many Thanks Sandi.

    Reply
  5. Moira Allen on

    The Chateau On The Park holds beautiful memories for me . First the many years I stayed there as Cabin Crew for Air New Zealand . Second I met my husband while flying and we both had romantic fun nights there . Sadly my husband has passed away .. it would be so lovely to go back there .. to re live those memories I hold close to my heart…♥️

    Reply
  6. Wilma on

    I went to chch two years ago and am looking forward to visiting again ,I would love the chance to stay enjoy a shòw and look at the new library built there .its truly an awesome city and I’m glad great new hotel helps this city become the colorful great place it was.

    Reply
  7. Marie on

    My husband took me to the Chateau about 35yrs ago . It was for my birthday he told me he was taking me out for a burger. Then said when we arrived that we were just going in for a drink first. He then said come with me and took me into the restaurant he had booked a table. Gave me a parcel which was a beautiful nighty set. We ate and stayed the night which he had booked. I never forgot it especially in the morning as I went out in the same lovely dress I went out in.

    Reply
  8. Christine Mc andrew on

    I have my sister Mary over from England I live in Oamaru, would be fabulous to visit Christchurch to show her around the beautiful city n stay at this lovely place x

    Reply
  9. Denzel Tustin on

    Would love to take my 15 year old Granddaughter down as a treat for doping so well at school, dancing, netball and volleyball.
    She is a beautiful, kind, caring and loveable girl and I am.So proud of her :). Thanks.

    Reply
  10. Coral McLean on

    Last time I was in Chch was two years ago but I loved the shopping & cafes and told my hubby we need to go back for a weekend and check out the restaurants & sights.❤️👗👛👠☕️🍷

    Reply
  11. Pauline Kiernan on

    I would love to win this for my husband Bryan and I, we haven’t had a good look around the centre of Christchurch since the big shake , thank you for the chance to do that 🙂

    Reply
  12. Rachelle on

    Just lovely to be able to stay in a beautiful place overlooking a great city that’s been through heaps and Is picking itself up 😊 with lots to do and see Yes please 😊

    Reply
  13. Catherine Godkin on

    Would love to take my daughter. Last time we were in Christchurch was when she was a preschooler and I took her to see the sights and experience snow. It was the one weekend it didn’t snow! She’s now 19 and still hasn’t seen the snow.

    Reply
  14. Melanie Whitworth on

    How wonderful this would be as I’ve haven’t stayed in a lovely Hotel in many years. It’s my daughters Birthday 🎁 this Monday and I would love to SURPRISE her and Celebrate it in style this time. We can just relax and have some pampering. Thank you for this amazing opportunity 😍

    Reply
  15. Tam Schurmann on

    Lovely informative post and Chateau on the Park sounds beautiful. We have an elderly friend in Christchurch who has recently had a heart attack and so it would be wonderful to be able to visit him after his ordeal. Thanks for the opportunity!

    Reply
  16. Trudy Longson on

    My wonderful friend Pam is going to bring her husband to Chch. She married an English guy in London after her 2,girls had grown up.. They landed in Auckland a week ago & are slowly weaving their way South & plan a stay in Chch where she bought the girls up. Oh to be able to gift her this prize & she would be amazed at THe Garden City. So many attractions

    Reply
  17. Sheryl Stacey on

    Would just love to spend time in Christchurch and experience as much as I can with my daughter who has never been there. By the way love your travel blog and handy hints.😀

    Reply
  18. Mike Reeve on

    Christchurch is home, though sometimes we don’t see that we don’t have to go far away to enjoy top notch venues and activities we may take for granted 🙂

    Reply
  19. Janette Kilham on

    Have only been to Christchurch once in the 44 years I have lived here – would take my husband and enjoy
    the opportunity to see the city post quake. Here’s hoping 🤞

    Reply
  20. Ellen Rogers on

    I have recently been here for a 70th birthday party and enjoyed the ambience so much. Some of our friends stayed the night and said it was fab, so would love the opportunity to do the same.

    Reply
  21. Gill Brown on

    All the blog suggestions look fabulous . I worked in Christchurch immediately after both earthquakes and it would be great to visit the central city as it comes alive again and to see the post earthquake changes.

    Reply
  22. Annette Coughlan on

    I would love the opportunity to visit Christchurch and visit my sick brother. Have some quality time with him and be able to take him to a few special places
    Have booked Chateau on the Park for visitors – but have never stayed there myself – would love that experience.

    Reply
  23. Elaine on

    I haven’t been able to visit Christchurch since the earthquake, and would really like to see what changes have occurred since I was last there.

    Reply
  24. Arnya Goodall on

    💜 to take my hubby on a well deserved break – think farmers market and a cycle tour would be top of our list
    Also good a good friend that lives there who I haven’t seen for 5-6 years be awesome to meet up at Margaret Mahy park and have some fun with her little ones 👏

    Reply
  25. Diane Eccles on

    Love all your blogs. I would love to visit Christchurch for my birthday and see all the changes that have been made to this beautiful city. Thanks for your updates.

    Reply
  26. Marilyn May on

    Would love to visit Christchurch. I have not been back since I was a child.. I would love to see the changes and enjoy the food. Also it would be great to explore the area again and have a tram ride. Last time I had a tram ride was as a child going to Wellington Zoo. The Antarctica display and the Animal Park would be a must go to for me.

    Reply
  27. Maureen on

    Our son is heading to Canterbury Uni next year .. we need somewhere to stay when we go visit so would be great to check out the new look Chateau on The Park to see if it ticks the boxes.

    Reply
  28. Raewyn Irwin on

    I have decided I would like to go to Christchurch to celebrate my 70th birthday in March as we havent been there for 20 years! This would fit the bill. Keep seeing wonderful things about the city. Thank you

    Reply
  29. Carol Hastings on

    Chateau on the Park sounds lovely – and that steak! (Though you had me at ‘warm cookie’). I have a friend living in Christchurch who experienced the earthquake and I would love to have her join me for two nights of luxury and a couple of days visiting the markets and restaurants.

    Reply

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