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Hannah Klein
/ Categories: NZ blog

Christchurch By Camper - A Must See.


Words by Emma Fenton-Wells

Blog #8 of her solo trip in NZ



From Kaikoura, I ventured south, directly towards Christchurch. I’d spent the day stalking seals and was ready for a big sleep before spending the next two days exploring a city I’d never visited before. 



I picked a spot just outside of Christchurch to stay for the two nights. I stayed at Riverlands Holiday Park which was super affordable and had decent facilities (especially as laundry was a must at this point). In the morning, I drove the whole 20 minutes into the city and parked for the day at the casino. Parking was $12 a day and there’s no dramas with height restrictions. The city really is built for campervan exploring.

Starting the day, I hit Quake City, a museum dedicated to the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes that devastated the city. It was really fascinating and gave me a lot of context around Christchurch - a city I’d never visited. By the time I’d wandered around for well over an hour, I was truly starving and went in hunt of a good bagel. 


Photo Credit: Quake City


My friends will comment that there is no distance I wouldn’t travel for a really good bagel. In London, I’d regularly travel an hour to get them from Brick Lane. During Lockdown, I’d even attempted to make them myself (less than successful). Here I was treated to a very good bagel, beneath an array of corporate buildings from City Social. This bagel connoisseur approves. 

Downtown I trekked. Christchurch is a city of change. It’s adapted to the extremities of it’s environment and the people who flock there. I was amazed by the sheer amount of beautiful street art wherever you look, and in fact, the focus on the arts that the city promotes. 



The Christchurch Art Gallery is beautifully curated and had an excellent exhibition on New York street photographer Larence Shustak who moved to the region to teach. One of the quotes in the exhibition perfectly described Canterbury: “... [His wife] Margot felt that her husband settled in Canterbury because he felt there were more eccentrics per capita than anywhere else in the world, and so it was a place he felt right at home.”



One of the prettiest streets in the country is New Regent Street. The tram runs straight through the centre (which is a great way to see the city in itself). Another beautiful spot where you can get lost window shopping and bouncing between cafes. I honestly drank so much good coffee in Christchurch, it’s a miracle I could sleep that night!



Towards the Botanical Gardens, I dropped into The Arts Centre, filled with boutiques and artisanal goods. Specifically, there’s an excellent rare bookshop called Adventure Books, owned by explorer Bill Nye (yes, like the science guy). There I met a wonderful woman called Christine, who, like Bill, had lived down in Antartica for years too. The city is just teaming with interesting people. Just next door is the Department of Conservation, where I collected a bit more information about Castle Hill and Arthur’s Pass. 




The Canterbury Museum down the road is also worth a visit. From the history of the city to Kiwiana to the early Maori who built their homes in the area, it’s worth setting aside a few hours to have a gander. I really enjoyed the Paua House exhibition about Fred and Myrtle’s Shell House which was a huge tourist attraction in Bluff back in the day. They became national icons, including being the spokespeople for Tip Top Bread!




A must go-to in Christchurch is Riverside Markets. Open seven days, it’s full of phenomenal places to eat (seriously, there’s 30 restaurants in there). It’s great if you’re with a few friends and everyone fancies something different. I popped around the corner after a delicious and eclectic feed to grab a scoop from Rollickin' Gelato. So good. 



The next morning, I headed over to the Apollo Christchurch branch where I spent well over an hour asking Tom questions about where to go next. The whole team has a lot of great suggestions as they’ve travelled New Zealand themselves. I got loads of great tips and they made sure I had a heater given the weather was due to turn a touch colder in the coming days. 

The afternoon was spent at the International Antarctic Centre. Christchurch is the gateway to the scientific side of Antarctica (which makes sense given the number of people I met who had worked down there!). The centre is filled with history of the Scott Base and explores the mission New Zealand has as guardians to explore and understand the Arctic. I also got to ride a Hägglund which made my entire day.




If I were starting my trip in Christchurch, I’d definitely consider spending a day or two seeing the city and surrounding areas. There’s a lot to take in and the people are brilliant.



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