Christchurch is the biggest “city” on the South Island of New Zealand. I didn’t get there until 10 months into my living in New Zealand, when my family came to visit over the holidays. They landed in Auckland and for that first day, I booked us on flights using Virgin Blue down to Christchurch. Back in 2007 when they first started flying in New Zealand, there were two flights a day in and out of AKL, WLG and CHC so I booked us on the later flight from AKL to CHC, which was delayed by hours, but there was nothing I could have done. Back in 2007, they only had like 2 planes that just shutted back and forth between these cities, so if one plane was delayed, the rest of the day was shot. And since we took a later flight, we were about 4 hours delayed. For barely a 90 minute flight, this sucked. But at least it killed my families first day in NZ and got over their jetlag by the 2nd day. I got a shutted to our hotel (we stayed at the Crowne Plaza for a good price, I figured we should stay at a proper hotel for their first night, because it was going to be all down hill from there) and then another shutted picked us up the following day to get the car from Explore More, so we hardly saw any of the city. And the parts that I saw, I was so turned around in! The city is so flat and at that point, I was so not used to that at all, as Auckland has lots of hills. After picking up the car, we went to the Antarctic Centre by the airport to see the animals before heading out of town on the long drive to Queenstown.
Bus from Christchurch Centre to Antarctic Centre
I made it back to Christchurch the following Easter weekend and this time, smartly flew Air New Zealand, where they have flights like every hour. So no delay there. I got another shuttle into town and this time stayed at Stonehurst where they had really nice private rooms. Not very cheap, but had everything I wanted (tv! yay!). Plus I was staying 2 nights. That night, I walked around Cathedral Square and met up with Testpatern who also entered NZ on a Working Holiday. It was a pretty square, but like Auckland it self, I couldn’t figure out why people like the town so much. It seemed pretty boring. And unlike Auckland, so freakin’ flat! I was so turned around. Luckily, the next day, I went on a rafting trip all day and transportation was provided, so I didn’t have to think about where I was going. Also like Auckland, Christchurch seems like a good town to be a base as there is stuff around it that is of interest, but within town, meh?
Cathedral Square, Christchurch, New Zealand
The rafting trip was awesome! They throw you on the river as soon as possible and do all the prep and safety demos while already on the water, which I loved. No time was wasted. The rafting wasn’t too rough (not like the North Island) and base jumping included, which is as far as I’ll get to jumping off things. It was a great day, plus all meals and for an extra $10, transport, which is like 2 hours each way from Christchurch, is availble, which I took, cheaper then renting a car!
The following day, I hired a car from my favorite rental place, Explore More and went to Kaikoura to swim with the dolphins for a day. I then returned to Christchurch, but instead of staying in the city, I stayed in the suburb of Sumner, as recommended to me. I stayed at Marine Backpackers in a private room and unfortunatly, the only one they had for me was windowless, which I hate, but I hardly spent any time there, so it was okay. I went out an explored the town immediately and it was super cute! It totally reminded me beach towns in south Orange county, which of course, reminded me of home. So cute! I spent the next day in Akaroa (post coming soon), hitting up the Riccarton Mall on my way out to visit a friend who was living on a farm about an hour outside of Christchurch. The next day, I headed back into Christchurch to fly back to Auckland.
Could totally be Orange County but it's Sumner, New Zealand
Sumner, New Zealand
An empty "Orange County" aka Sumner, New Zealand
As always, I ended up back in Christchurch later in 2008, after I took the Tranzalpine from Graymouth to Christchurch. Since I had been in New Zealand for so long, off and on, at this point, I didn’t bother to book any form of transportation from the train station back into town to stay at Stonehurst again. I figured I could just deal with it when I arrived. I knew from previous expriences that there were “off-license” transport drivers offering rides from the airport and train station into town for $5. I tried to arrange one with a shady driver before my luggage was unloaded off the train, but my bag was lagging it and by the time I came out of the station again, the driver was gone and I had to figure something else out. Oddly, there were a lot of people on the train that day and it took some walking around to various drivers and companies to find an empty seat in a van. Luckily, since I was proactive and by myself (yay for single parties!) I got one of the last seats on a Canterbury Shuttle. I was the last person to be dropped off, but I didn’t care. The ride still only cost me $5 and I gossed with the driver about some of the complaints that some fellow Americans were whing’ing about regarding the train ride. So lame! And as always, the following day, I immediatly picked up my rental car from Roadtrip Rentals and left town. I was back to drop the car off 2 weeks later and had a day to kill in town and didn’t do much. Lots of places for shopping near Cathedral Square to wonder and lots of internet places in the square where after 2 weeks of no internet, I spent most of my time. Since I had a super easy flight the next morning and I read okay things about the Christchurch airport, I took the last bus from the city centre to the airport for about NZ$2.30 and spent the night there. I wasn’t the only one. The arrivals hall was filled with fellow backpackers and the employees of the airport just stepped over us as this is probably a nightly thing. I was fine for the most part, but stay away from the front door and bring your sleeping bag! And the next day, I was finally away from my least favorite New Zealand city.
Moral: I don’t know what the appeal of this town is to live in. Throught the North Island, the rumor is that Christchurch is a raciest city and while there I heard my share of remarks. Maybe it’s the same as Auckland, but on the flip side of that, I only know people that live in Christchurch by choice and not because they got jobs there (the only reason I stayed in Auckland). The town is flat, but has some good beaches and suburbs. There are some huge universities near by so there are lots of kids around. Maybe sports? It is a very sporty town. It was a nice place to pass through, but I always got the hell out the moment I could. Compared to the rest of the county, I don’t know why anyone would pick this place to spend a lot of time.