The South Island’s largest city, Christchurch is an entertaining mixture of refined lifestyle and cultural excitement. The tranquil Avon river meanders through the city, historic buildings house a lively arts community and restored trams make it easy for visitors to get around. The first four ships arrived from England to settle Christchurch in 1850, and their legacy lives on in the city’s grand heritage buildings and stately parks. On 22 February 2011, an earthquake struck Christchurch causing widespread damage to buildings and infrastructure in the city. As a result, the city centre is undergoing rebuilding at this time. Accommodation and tours on the outskirts of the city, with the exception of the township of Lyttleton, which was the epicentre of the earthquake, are operating as normal.
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Top things to do in Christchurch
Akaroa & Banks Peninsula
The pretty village of Akaroa is located on the stunning Banks Peninsula, 83km from Christchurch, and is the site of New Zealand's only French settlement. The village still feels distinctly French, with many descendents of the original settlers still residing here. Wander past historic buildings, visit the cheese factory, or perhaps join a cruise departing from its sheltered harbour.
Lord of the Rings tour
This tour visits Mount Sunday on Mount Potts Station, which was used for the setting of Edoras in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Travelling across the rugged land in a 4x4 vehicle, your guide will explain how the set was constructed for the movies and will include a short walk to the summit of Edoras for panoramic views of the rivers, lakes and mountains that make up this pristine area.
The TranzAlpine has been voted one of the most scenic rail journeys in the world, and operates between Christchurch and Greymouth on the west coast. This 4.5-hour journey can be taken in either direction or as a return journey in the same day. The scenery changes throughout the trip, as you pass the farmlands of the Canterbury Plains, travel alongside glacier-fed rivers and cross deep gorges. The track traverses the imposing Southern Alps, providing breathtaking views across soaring alpine landscapes, and descends through thick beech forests. From Greymouth, the west coast can be explored with good access to the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers. This train is a great addition to any itinerary, showcasing the diverse scenery of New Zealand.
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