It's often hard to believe that Christchurch is New Zealand's second largest city, somehow the pace is always relaxed. There's plenty to see around central Christchurch. The Arts Centre which now occupies the old university is a mecca for arts and crafts from candle making to fudge making, wool spinning, painting, bone carving, tapestry, pottery and a whole host of other skills. The Arts Centre is especially good in the weekends when there is also a market in the courtyard.
Much of the Garden City can be seen by foot. Hagley Park is the location of the Botanic gardens and provides a fantastic urban retreat. This massive 500 acre park in the heart of Christchurch also boasts no less than 49 playing fields as well as tennis courts and a golf course.
The Botanic gardens were founded in 1863 when an English oak was planted in honour of the Royal wedding of Prince Albert Edward of England and Princess Alexandra of Denmark. Today the park is made up by an array of exotic and indigenous plants, many of the trees are in excess of 120 years old. It's easy to lose yourself as you meander through this tranquil inner city sanctum. Giant sycamore's and oak trees stand guard towering over the expanse of Hagley Park.
There are some great attractions surrounding Christchurch and a rental car is the absolute best way to explore them.Banks Peninsula is the remnants of two ancient volcanoes that last breathed fire over 500 million years ago. The two deep harbours of Akaroa and Lyttleton are joined by a myriad of steep cliff faced headlands and tranquil bays. There are plenty of kodak moments so make sure you allow lots of time to have a good look around.
Akaroa is New Zealand's little France. A French whaler purchased the land in 1838, but by the time he returned to settle, New Zealand had become a British colony. It's a quaint little village nestled in a sheltered harbour, they serve excellent ice creams from the local shop, great on a hot day! Akaroa is also famous for it's resident pod of Hector dolphins. Hector dolphins are the smallest and one of rarest dolphins in the world. Aside from the dolphins, Akaroa is also home to fur seals and numerous sea birds. Dolphin swimming and nature / scenic cruises depart daily.A drive over the Port Hills to Lyttleton provides some awesome panorama's of the surrounding coastline, the sprawling metropolis of Christchurch, and the imposing backdrop of the distant Southern Alps.
Christchurch Cathedral is one of New Zealand's best known man made landmarks. The wide open square presides over is a hive of activity in the summer months particularly when the street markets are in full fly. One of Christchurch's most famous residents is also often seen in the afternoon, The Wizard of Christchurch frequently speaks in the square where you will also often find the town crier.
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If you're look for something to do in Christchurch, check out the Sunday Markets - always a must on a 1 degree fine Sunday morning in the middle of winter.
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