Visit Christchurch, the Garden City

Despite its devastating and destructive history, Christchurch is rising again and proving it is still one of the most beautiful cities in New Zealand.

The aptly named Garden City sits on the east coast of the South Island and is home to more than 360,000 people, making it the largest city in the south.

After suffering two vicious earthquakes, one in September 2010 and a second in February 2011, and several equally detrimental aftershocks, the resilient city is beginning to re-emerge and establish itself as one of the best places in the country to visit.

Named in the Lonely Planet as 'One of the Top 10 Cities to Visit in 2013', Christchurch has an eclectic mixture of activities for the young and old, for the active and for those who just want to relax and take in the sights, smells and atmosphere.

The Christchurch Gardens
As the Garden City, Christchurch has several beautiful and deliciously fragrant gardens and green spaces to visit. First on the list is the extensive Hagley Park. Nestled in the heart of the city, the 165 hectare park is full of lush trees, vast arrays of flowers and shrubbery, and several pathways to walk, run or bike along.

For more outdoor beauty, greenery lovers can check out the nearby nirvana of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. The space, fractured by the Avon River, is full of native and exotic plants, flora and ancient trees.

From rubble to re-birth
While the swarm of earthquakes caused widespread damage to the city, including the destruction of the historic Christchurch Cathedral and killed 185 people, the city is slowly getting re-built and life is returning to normal.

Included in the re-build is the popular City Mall. As many of the store fronts and buildings were irreparably damaged during the earthquakes, the outdoor mall has been temporarily rebuilt using shipping containers. The project known as Re:START, accommodates 27 shops including Kathmandu, Hummingbird Coffee, Trelise Cooper and Kooky Fashion, as well as a mixture of old and new businesses.

Banks Peninsula
For amazing views out of the city, head to the nearby bays and coves of the Banks Peninsula. The peninsula is popular with hikers and campers – mainly for its stunning vistas, plentiful bays and camp grounds. The town of Little River marks the entrance to the peninsula and in true Kiwi style has a hotel and pub, cafes, petrol station, art gallery, craft store and museum. There is plenty to do once there as the spot is known for ample surf breaks, safe beaches and hiking trails.

For animal lovers
To check out some nature of the cuter kind, animal lovers can head to the country's largest wildlife reserve, Orana Wildlife Park. The park has more than 400 animals to see from several countries, including spider monkeys, ring-tailed lemurs, African crested porcupines and a Sumatran tiger. Visitors are able to get up close and feed some of the gentler animals at the reserve.

Those who are keen on learning about the magic that is our relatively close neighbour Antarctica can head to the International Antarctic Centre. The centre is full of information and history about the icy continent, as well as providing visitors with a taste of Antarctic life at the 'indoor storm'. The all-weather room is chilled to a brisk -5 degrees Celsius and allows people to slide down an icy slope and into an ice cave where they will brave a wind chill machine at -18 degrees. The centre is also home to more than 20 Little Blue Penguins.

Whatever your fancy, there is plenty to see and do in the resilient city of Christchurch. There are also great accommodation options throughout the city - Kiwi Holiday Parks are a great place to stay, providing excellent camping and lodging facilities. Stay for a night, or stay for a week - the choice is yours.

Picture credits:
Christchurch Botanic Gardens by Robert Young, CC-BY-2.0
A Wonderful Day by Jocelyn Kinghorn, CC-BY-2.0
Orana Wildlife Park by Kristine Riskær, CC-BY-2.0