Christchurch, South Island – The English City in New Zealand
Friends told us that Christchurch, South Island, is very English. We soon realized it when we witnessed the elegant gothic architecture in the city. We had 3 nights in Christchurch during our New Zealand trip. An overnight stay to board the famous TranzAlpine train and two final ones end our tour in the South Island.
Christchurch is also known as ‘New Zealand’s Garden City’, the trees and gardens, along with the Avon River create a relaxing and laid back atmosphere.
We started at Cathedral Square which is also the hub of the city. You can’t be in Christchurch without being here! There is something about this place. It’s nice just sitting around here on a lazy afternoon. Do pop by the I-Site at The Square if you have few days here. This way, you can plan your adventures and time smartly and wisely.
Our first stop is Christchurch Cathedral, a very important landmark of Christchurch – that’s probably the first thing you will notice too. This awesome towering church is truly the heart of this city. Take a tour and admire the beautiful stained glass window panels and fine artistic architecture so delicately preserved.
There are a lot to see and do in Christchurch. If you are into a shopping spree, you won’t be disappointed here. We a nice boat ride and enjoyed a leisurely punt on the Avon River through the Botanic Gardens. This is our first punting experience. Something different.
Whether you are a garden lover or not, you must not miss the Botanic Gardens. This is one of New Zealand’s best. With the fine collection of exotic and indigenous plants, the gardens are a restorative place to visit. I always love flowers so I started going ‘oo-oo’ and ‘aahh’ as I strolled along the flower gardens, especially the rhododendrons and rose gardens. I have never seen such glorious blooms.
Well, even Alex enjoyed himself. He admires the fine collection of herbs and maple trees.
Next comes the cultural precinct of Christchurch – The Arts Centre. This is a must-must-must in your New Zealand trip! And if you can, plan your stay in Christchurch on a weekend for this purpose! The Arts Centre comes alive on the weekends with artists, craftspeople, musicians, street performers and food vendors.
There is something for everyone. It’s even a great place to interest kids! It is also a fantastic place to pick up a New Zealand gift.
If you can’t make your way here on the weekends, don’t be disheartened. There are still more than 40 art galleries, craft studios, specialty shops, cafes, restaurants and bars occupying these historic buildings. The quality of the products is overall quite high.
Do you have a sweet tooth? Whether yes or no, there’s one shop you should visit which is often crowded with visitors and locals visiting Christchurch. That is none other than the Fudge Cottage Colonial Sweet Shop.
The delicious gourmet fudges are made fresh in Christchurch Arts Centre. Enjoy a free tasting on site! The nicely packed fudges make great New Zealand gifts for you friends and families too.
We had a nice afternoon lunch at Le Café, great place, sumptuous new Zealand food. You can’t miss this place.
It is usually packed with locals and visitors basking in the morning sun with a yummy sandwich or a nice cuppa. There is no shortage of eateries when it comes to dining in Christchurch. Check out the bunch of options at Oxford Terrace, known as ‘The Strip’.
We had dinner at an award winning French restaurant, Le Bon Bolli, located near to Hagley Park. Try their special garlic bread but be prepared to sleep alone!
Our Visit to Akaroa New Zealand
One of our days in our New Zealand trip was reserved for a day trip to Akaroa, a romantic French-inspired village within 2 hours’ drive from Christchurch. The hilly roads may be winding leading to Akaroa but you will be fascinated with its scenic beauty.
If you do not have a car hire in New Zealand or like to travel stress-free, simply book with either The Akaroa Shuttle or the French Connection.
Though Akaroa is a small town, it is popular with couples and holiday makers. There are few nice cafes along the main street and the Fish N’ Chips shop is one popular eating stop for the locals. You can count on the freshness of the fish in this shop! We took a stroll through the charming harbourside village and browse in some of the shops on Rue Lavaud.
This is after our 3-hour swimming with the dolphins trip. It’s Alex’s list of ‘must-dos’ in our New Zealand trip! The dolphins on the waters of Akaroa are no ordinary dolphins. These are the world’s smallest, rarest and friendliest dolphins only on Akaroa Harbour!
The cruise was quite an experience. And we weren’t the only ones with a small child on board. We were excited to get to the Hector dolphins!
Cruising in Akaroa waters can be a little rough if the weather is less than perfect. The most exciting moment for all of us in the cruise was when the “star” of the day appeared – the Hector dolphins! There were quite a few of them and the swimmers (including Alex) were all busy chasing after them.
Those of us who were not swimming had our fun of spotting those rare mammals! If you don’t feel like a wild adventure, pick one of the 2 hour scenic ones from the few tour operators here. Experience the wild side of New Zealand cruise.
Even if you decide not to do any of these, sitting around or relaxing by the Akaroa harbour is a lovely way to enjoy the serenity of this French-inspired town. This can be a romantic part or your New Zealand trip 🙂 I must say that this quaint town may be small in size but big in character! If we come back here again, this town definitely deserves a night’s stay.
Nelson, South Island
New Zealand sunniest playground
A travel to New Zealand South Island is not complete if you have not visited Nelson, the sunniest playground in South Island. It is no wonder that organic farming here is a popular activity in New Zealand, South Island. Nelson is a small town and one of the nice places to visit is Nelson beach.
The beach is long, flat and quiet that morning. It was one of those rare occasions that the weekend market was on that Sunday morning we were there.
This nice lady from the famous Boat Shed restaurant told me about the nice finds in the market. If you, like me, love and enjoy markets, do make time for this local experience.
The usual Nelson market opens every Saturday at the Montgomery Square from 8am – 1pm. Nelson is also the home to many artistic talents and you can find alot of local artists, designers and craftsmen displaying their masterpieces in the market. You can also find lots of hand-made products and locally tailored garments by local designers.
This would be another great place to find your New Zealand gift to take home and you can proudly say that they are made in New Zealand!
You can also find fresh gourmet produce in the usual Saturday market too. This is definitely not a ‘junk’ market. It is one of the quality flea markets I’ve seen in the South Island.
Don’t miss a visit to the Nelson Cathedral after the market fare. It’s hard to miss this distinctive monument situated on top of Church Hill at Trafalgar Street.
The architecture of this cathedral is really something – it stands so majestically! When you stand in front of the cathedral, you know you are on Holy Ground.
We had breakfast at Lambretta’s. We could tell it is a popular cafe on a Saturday morning by the sheer crowd and the long wait for our food. But well, it was worth the wait. My pancakes were delicious and Alex licked up his big breakfast! Lambretta serves great coffee too!
Are you craving for some yummy New Zealand ice-cream? Don’t miss Penguino. It’s freshly made in Nelson – everyday! This ice-cream cafe is situated at 85 Montgomery Square. You will be entice by their wide range of flavors from gelato to sundaes and bambinos for kiddos.
Being a chocoholic, I was fairly disappointed that I didn’t get to savour the delectable treats from the famous Rosy Glow. It is closed for business on a Sunday. I have heard so much from the locals about the mouthwatering treats it offers.
It is located on 20 Harley Street behind the police station. Ask the locals for some directions and you will find your way!
There is one restaurant you must not missed when you are in Nelson. Every local seems to know about this place – it’s none other than the famous Boatshed Restaurant near Nelson jetty. We managed to get a table (with a sea view!) because we were early for dinner – don’t count on getting a seat without reservations on a weekend!
The Boatshed is situated on the edge of Nelson waters itself. There is no better place to have a good meal and be near the ocean. This place serves seafood at its freshest! We enjoyed our meal here – can ask for more. Lovely ambience, friendly service, cosy and the food – the best in this region!
Our travel to New Zealand South Island’s sunniest playground may be brief but it didn’t take us long to fall in love with this little town. Nelson definitely deserves a longer stay if time permits. It is a quaint place to just basked in the warm sunshine.
For those who love the outdoors and enjoy roughing it out, don’t miss Abel Tasman National park and Golden Bay. We continued our journey to Christchurch and made a stop-over in Kaikoura for a night as we continue our travel to New Zealand.
It’s time to mention about our New Zealand holidays in the South Island – the place that many people have been raving about whenever New Zealand is mentioned. I always think many people are biased about their opinions when they make comparison between the North and the South.
The moment we went on set sail on The Lynx to Picton (the entrance to the South), we understand why.
The New Zealand accommodation we stayed in the South Island are:
Joya Studio, Nelson
Hapuku Lodge, Kaikoura
Stonehurst Accommodation, Christchurch
Glenfern Villas, Franz Josef
The Westhaven, Fox Glacier
The Heritage, Queenstown
Shotover Lodge, Queenstown
Garden Court Suites and Apartments, Queenstown
Oakridge Spa and Pool Resort, Wanaka
The Hermitage Hotel, Mount Cook
Fino-Casementi Scenic Circle Hotel, Christchurch
Here are the regions we visited during our 16 days New Zealand travel in the South:
Franz Josef and Fox Glacier
Te Anau/Milford Sound
We wish the list was longer but… like most travellers, there’s always a budget and time constraint and we just have to make choices and focus on certain key regions.
Picton sits at the stunning Marlborough Sounds. The ferry ride is more than just a cross over. It is a pleasant experience. The experience is enjoyable and the views – indescribable. To me, this surpasses any waterfront cruises.
The Lynx is a popular ferry. We noticed many families and groups. You can simply enjoy the winds (very strong) at the deck or sit back in the restaurant for a sumptuous meal. Or else, have some fun on the game machines!
This is a great way to enjoy a true New Zealand cruise.
Upon arrival, we picked our new car in Picton and headed off for the Queen Charlotte Drive. This is a popular scenic route if you are travelling to Nelson via a rental car in new zealand. Just be warned that the road is long, narrow and winding but it’s worth the drive. Highly recommended! You will be rewarded by the spectacular views of Marlborough Sounds. Just keep your eyes on the road while you enjoy too!
Do allow some time for stops to enjoy the beauty of the South during your New Zealand holidays. It gives the driver a rest too. Also keep in mind that the drive may be longer than planned or suggested in the New Zealand road map.
This is Clayton and me with Marlborough sounds in the background.
The stop along Queen Charlotte Drive is a must during your New Zealand holidays in the south island!