Christchurch, the largest city on the South Island of New Zealand, is still rebuilding what’s been destroyed by the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. Although the scars and wounds of that natural disasters are still obvious, the city is recovering. There’s art and green to be found throughout the city, and great projects like the Re:START Container Mall brighten up the landscape of construction works.
In this blogpost we’ll share with you where a day of geocaching took us and what you should definitely see and do in Christchurch.
How to get around in Christchurch
We explored Christchurch through geocaching our way around the city on foot. We parked our campervan at Hagley Park Oval Car Park, where you can park for free for 3 hours. Rules about where you can and cannot park in New Zealand are pretty clear. When a blue sign says for example “P180”, it means you can park for free for 180 minutes. When the sign says “P20”, it means, well I think you get the picture.
Christchurch, The Garden City
Christchurch is called The Garden City of New Zealand, because of its abundance of open spaces and greenery. The largest green space in the city is Hagley Park. It houses the Hagley Cricket Oval and a golf course, among other sports grounds. Walkways wind along the Avon River and big trees are everywhere. Hagley Park surrounds the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, where we started our day of geocaching throughout Christchurch. Admission is free.
We ended our walk through Christchurch at the Field of Remembrance on Cranmer Square. Named white crosses commemorate the New Zealanders from the Canterbury region who died in World War One. Another three similar fields can be found in Wellington, Auckland, and Dunedin, as part of the World War One Centenary. A sight that makes you fall silent.
Learn about the Canterbury earthquakes
The Canterbury earthquakes changed life in Christchurch not too long ago, in 2010 and 2011. The city is still recovering and rebuilding. Quake City, a small museum, aims to inform and educate New Zealanders and international tourists alike about those Canterbury earthquakes, and earthquakes in general. We paid a $20 entrance fee per person (adults) and were inside for over an hour.
Your visit to Quake City will start with a peculiar video. After that you’ll be sucked into the panic and devastation the locals felt during the earthquakes, through photographs, video footage, and testimonies of survivors. There are artefacts showing the destruction nature can cause, and exhibits explaining the science behind that power. It was a rather emotional, but very interesting visit. Especially affecting are the locals telling about their experience during the earthquake. Definitely a must do when you’re in Christchurch.
See what was destroyed and rebuilt
Our quest of geocaching brought us to Cathedral Square in the centre of Christchurch. Various events, from New Year’s celebrations to festivals and markets, were consistently held in Cathedral Square. Until the area became off limits after the 2011 earthquake. Over 2 years later, in 2013, the Square was finally re-opened and is now again full of life and art. The Christchurch Cathedral, the centrepiece of Cathedral Square is still partly in ruins, missing its tower and surrounded by fences. It’s a hard to miss visual reminder of the destructive power of earthquakes.
Not far from Cathedral Square is Re:Start Mall, a colourful and hip container mall. What a lovely and cosy shopping area! On the other side of Cathedral Square, near Victoria Square, is another post-quake initiative: The Commons. This community space houses tons of different projects for locals, from a Retro Sports Facility to a pizza oven. The Arcades Project is erected there as well. The arcades are designed to be relocatable to juice up empty spaces throughout Christchurch. At Victoria Square they emphasize the area as a walkway. They can be used to support lighting and electricity as well, or covered to create an indoor space.
The Diversity Food Market is another part of The Commons. It’s a gathering of food trucks with street food from around the world. It’s open every Saturday evening and Sunday around noon, except during winter months. Too bad it wasn’t open while we were there. Who doesn’t love food trucks?! Check out their website for more information.
Christchurch and its residents have proved to be very resilient and extremely creative in rebuilding the city and the cosy homely atmosphere. We recommend you to go have a look at Quake City to learn about earthquakes and what they can cause. Then, take a walk through Christchurch to see the beautiful projects that are making Christchurch whole again. Notice the contrast between the old buildings that have survived the natural disaster and the new buildings filling empty spaces.