New Zealand – Six Days into the Cruise, Christchurch
What to do in Christchurch, New Zealand?
I can think of at least one thing, perhaps even two or three things to do while visiting Christchurch, the country’s “Garden City.” The hard part, especially if you are a cruise ship passenger with only 7 hours in port, is deciding how best to allot your precious time in New Zealand’s oldest established city.
If you aren’t into old Edwardian architecture, you don’t feel up to punting (boating) down the Avon River, you don’t want to spend a few hours in the third largest city park in the world, you don’t want to ride the tram, you don’t care for a stroll around world class Botanic Gardens, and you don’t fancy a hot air balloon flight (from the centre of the city) or a gondola ride high to the top of an extinct volcano, then how about a trip to Antarctic, where you can experience (if only for a couple of minutes) the bone-numbing cold and the roaring noise of an Antarctic storm, complete with -18C wind chills? (That’s one of the adventures my husband and I chose.)
Failing that, you can always feed an eel in the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, or feed the giraffes in the Orana Wildlife Park. You can visit endangered live Kiwi at the Aquarium and Kiwi House, or explore two million items at the Canterbury Museum. You can take in the splendor of the gorgeous Canterbury Provincial Council Buildings, or wile away your time sipping a creamy “flat white” coffee from the Yellow Rocket Coffee House, in Cathedral Square.
Perhaps you want to do something a little more active like driving a military tank, or going whale and dolphin watching? Or maybe you’d prefer something a little more sedate like gambling in Christchurch’s handsome casino on Victoria Street, or taking a leisurely stroll back in time through Ferrymead Heritage Park.
Or just decide to spend your day shopping, sunning, and eating in the Christchurch’s town square. This is where our exploration of Christchurch began.
It was six days into our voyage, and as avid port participants, we jumped ship as early as possible.
It was 7:30 in the morning; we had just pulled in to Lyttelton Harbour. We hired a cab driver, David, to take us on a whirlwind introductory tour of Christchurch before dropping us at the visitor centre in the town square. After sipping a “flat white” coffee (our newest food desire) purchased at the intriguing “Yellow Rocket Café,” and pouring through a pile of brochures, we decided on the International Antarctic Centre, a 15 minute ride away. We knew the Antarctic is one destination far far down our list of “we-can-hardly-wait-to-go-there” travel destinations, so this was the best way to visit.
There were numerous ways to get there, but we chose the $5 Airport Bus (the driver supplied us with $2 discount coupons, too).
What fun! A kid of ANY age will love the Antarctic Centre with its climatic zones (real snow, ice and blood-freezing storms, as well as a snowmobile for photo ops), little blue penguins, and a wild hägglund ride.
We did it all, including visiting the centre’s Antarctic Storm booth where tourists are given both parkas and rubber overshoes in order to survive the wind chills in the room.
The arctic hägglund ride was a blast. Strap in and hang on. TIP: When riding, be sure to secure ALL photography equipment, especially any cameras hanging around your neck. Otherwise, you’ll take someone’s teeth out (like your own) during the bumpy ride.
Leaving the Antarctic Centre was easy; tourists can choose from the Penguin Express bus (big penguins on roof), a city shuttle bus, a city bus, or the reliable $5 airport shuttle.
Having enough time to hang out before rushing back to the ship, we visited the Christchurch casino, New Zealand’s first casino, opened in 1994. We got the shuttle bus operator to drop us – she even waited to ensure we were acceptable (to casino management) in our casual shorts and cargo pants (we were, so we stayed).
We weren’t there on a Sunday unfortunately, but if you manage to visit on a Sunday, take in the Riccarton Rotary Market. It’s New Zealand’s largest outdoor market – Bus #83 will get you there.
TIP: Ship internet service is very costly, and horribly slow; pay a visit to Christchurch’s excellent and affordable Internet station, eBLAH BLAH instead.
TIP: Lord of the Rings fans; catch a LOTR “Edoras” tour from Christchurch. This full day trip will intrigue non-LOTR fans, too.
TIP: Kaikoura is 180 km north of Christchurch; the town is New Zealand’s whale watching capital.