New Zealand


New Zealand destinations

about Get ready for mammoth national parks, dynamic Māori culture, and world-class surfing and skiing. New Zealand can be mellow or action-packed, but it's always epic.

Walk on the Wild Side

There are just 4.8 million New Zealanders, scattered across 268,021 sq km: bigger than the UK with one-fourteenth of the population. Filling in the gaps are the sublime forests, mountains, lakes, beaches and fiords that have made NZ one of the best hiking (locals call it 'tramping') destinations on the planet. Tackle one of the epic 'Great Walks' – you might've heard of the Heaphy and Milford Tracks – or spend a few hours wandering along a beach, paddling a canoe or mountain biking through some easily accessible wilderness.

Māori Culture

New Zealand's all-conquering All Blacks would never have become back-to-back rugby world champions without their unstoppable Māori players. But this is just one example of how Māori culture impresses itself on contemporary Kiwi life: across NZ you can hear Māori language, watch Māori TV, join in a hāngi (Māori feast) or catch a cultural performance with song, dance and a blood-curdling haka (war dance). Māori design continues to find expression in tā moko, Māori tattooing (often applied to the face) and the delicate artistry of bone, shell and pounamu (greenstone) sculpture.

The Real 'Big Easy'

New Zealand isn't a place where you encounter many on-the-road frustrations: buses and trains generally run on time; main roads are in good nick; ATMs proliferate; pickpockets, scam merchants and bedbug-ridden hostels are few and far between; and the food is unlikely to send you running for the nearest public toilets (usually clean and stocked with the requisite paper). And there are no snakes, and only one poisonous spider – the endangered katipo. This decent nation is a place where you can relax and enjoy (rather than endure) your travels.

Food, Wine & Beer

British-influenced classics like fish and chips aren’t going anywhere, but NZ gastronomy has come a long way, baby. Chefs in Auckland, Wellington and Napier borrow influences from as far afield as South Pacific islands and Western Europe for creative takes on locally sourced lamb and seafood like abalone, oysters and scallops. Meanwhile, the vegetarian and vegan food scenes grow evermore prominent and inventive. Wash it all down with coffee culture, an edgy craft-beer scene and legendary cool-climate wines (like sublime sauvignon blanc and pinot noir).

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Paris may be the city of love, but Auckland is the city of many lovers, according to its Māori name, Tāmaki Makaurau. Those lovers so desired this place that they fought over it for centuries. It’s hard to imagine a more geographically blessed city. Its two harbours frame a narrow isthmus punctuated by volcanic cones and surrounded by fertile farmland. From any of its numerous vantage points you’ll be surprised how close the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean come to kissing and forming a new island.

Whether it’s the ruggedly beautiful west-coast surf beaches, or the glistening Hauraki Gulf with its myriad islands, the water's never far away. And within an hour’s drive from the city's high-rise heart, there are dense tracts of rainforest, thermal springs, wineries and wildlife reserves. No wonder Auckland is regularly rated one of the world's top cities for quality of life and liveability.

Sights

Britomart

Stretching for only a small grid of blocks above the train station, Britomart is a compact enclave of historic buildings and new developments that has been transformed into one of the city's best eating, drinking and shopping precincts. Most of Auckland's top fashion designers have recently decamped to the Britomart area from further uptown in High St.

Viaduct Harbour & Wynyard Quarter

Once a busy commercial port, the Viaduct Harbour was given a major makeover for the 1999/2000 and 2003 America’s Cup yachting events. It’s now a fancy dining and boozing precinct, and guaranteed to have at least a slight buzz any night of the week. Historical plaques, public sculpture and the chance to gawk at millionaires’ yachts make it a diverting place for a stroll.

Connected to the Viaduct by a bascule bridge, Wynyard Quarter opened in advance of another sporting tournament, 2011's Rugby World Cup. With its public plazas, waterfront eateries, events centre, fish market and children's playground, it has quickly become Auckland's favourite new place to promenade. At the Silo Park area, down the western end, free outdoor Friday night movies and weekend markets have become summertime institutions. Most of Wynyard's better restaurants are set back from the water, on Jellicoe St.

Parnell & Newmarket

Parnell is one of Auckland’s oldest areas, and amid the cafes, restaurants and fancy retailers are several heritage buildings. Neighbouring Newmarket is a busy shopping precinct known for its boutiques.

Tamaki Drive

This scenic, pohutukawa-lined road heads east from the city, hugging the waterfront. In summer it’s a jogging/cycling/rollerblading blur.

A succession of child-friendly, peaceful swimming beaches starts at Ohaku Bay. Around the headland is Mission Bay, a popular beach with an electric-lit, art-deco fountain, historic mission house, restaurants and bars. Safe swimming beaches Kohimarama and St Heliers follow. Further east along Cliff Rd, the Achilles Point Lookout offers panoramic views and Māori carvings. At its base is Ladies Bay, popular with nudists.

Buses 767 and 769 from behind Britomart station follow this route, while buses 745 to 757 go as far as Mission Bay.

Devonport

With well-preserved Victorian and Edwardian buildings and loads of cafes, Devonport is an extremely pleasant place to visit and only a short ferry trip from the city. There are also two volcanic cones to climb and easy access to the first of the North Shore’s beaches.

For a self-guided tour of historic buildings, pick up the Old Devonport Walk pamphlet from the Visit Devonport information centre. Bikes can be hired from the ferry terminal.

Ferries to Devonport (adult/child return $12/6.50, 12 minutes) depart from the Ferry Building at least every 30 minutes from 6.15am to 11.30pm (until 1am Fridays and Saturdays), and from 7.15am to 10pm on Sundays and public holidays. Some Waiheke Island and Rangitoto ferries also stop here.

Mt Victoria and North Head were Māori pā and they remain fortresses of sorts, with the navy maintaining a presence. Both have gun embankments and North Head is riddled with tunnels, dug at the end of the 19th century in response to the Russian threat, and extended during WWI and WWII. The gates are locked at night, but that’s never stopped teenagers from jumping the fence for scary subterranean explorations.

Between the two, Cambria Reserve stands on the remains of a third volcanic cone that was largely quarried away.

One Tree Hill

Looking at One Tree Hill, your first thought will probably be ‘Where’s the bloody tree?’. Good question. Up until 2000 a Monterey pine stood at the top of the hill. This was a replacement for a sacred totara that was chopped down by British settlers in 1852. Māori activists first attacked the foreign usurper in 1994, finishing the job in 2000.

After much consultation with local Māori and tree experts, a grove of six pohutukawa and three totara trees was planted on the summit in mid-2016. In an arboreal version of the X-Factor, the weaker performing trees will be eliminated, with only one tree left standing by 2026.

Auckland’s most beloved landmark achieved international recognition in 1987 when U2 released the song ‘One Tree Hill’ on their acclaimed The Joshua Tree album. It was only released as a single in NZ, where it went to number one for six weeks.

Auckland Volcanic Field

Some cities think they’re tough just by living in the shadow of a volcano. Auckland’s built on 50 of them and, no, they’re not all extinct. The last one to erupt was Rangitoto about 600 years ago and no one can predict when the next eruption will occur. Auckland’s quite literally a hot spot – with a reservoir of magma 100km below, waiting to bubble to the surface. But relax: this has only happened 19 times in the last 20,000 years.

Some of Auckland’s volcanoes are cones, some are filled with water and some have been completely quarried away. Moves are afoot to register the field as a World Heritage site and protect what remains. Most of the surviving cones show evidence of terracing from when they formed a formidable series of Māori pā (fortified villages). The most interesting to explore are Mt Eden, One Tree Hill, North Head and Rangitoto, but Mt Victoria, Mt Wellington (Maungarei), Mt Albert (Owairaka), Mt Roskill (Puketāpapa), Lake Pupuke, Mt Mangere and Mt Hobson (Remuera) are all also worth a visit.

North Shore Beaches

Fine swimming beaches stretch from North Head to Long Bay. The gulf islands shelter them from strong surf, making them safe for supervised children. Aim for high tide unless you fancy a lengthy walk to waist-deep water. Cheltenham Beach is a short walk from Devonport. Takapuna Beach, closest to the Harbour Bridge, is Auckland’s answer to Bondi and the most built up. Nearby St Leonards Beach, popular with gay men, requires clambering over rocks at high tide.

Māori NZ: Auckland

Evidence of Māori occupation is literally carved into Auckland’s volcanic cones. The dominant iwi (tribe) of the isthmus was Ngāti Whatua, but these days there are Māori from almost all of NZ’s iwi living here.

For an initial taste of Māori culture, start at Auckland Museum, where there’s a wonderful Māori collection and a culture show. For a more personalised experience, take a tour with TIME Unlimited, Potiki Adventures or Ngāti Whatua’s Tāmaki Hikoi, or visit the marae (meeting house) and recreated village at Te Hana.

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Activities

Nothing gets you closer to the heart and soul of Auckland than sailing on the Hauraki Gulf. If you can’t afford a yacht cruise, catch a ferry instead.

Trading on the country’s action-packed reputation, Auckland has sprouted its own set of thrill-inducing activities. Look around for backpacker reductions or special offers before booking anything.

Walking

Visitor centres and public libraries stock the city council’s Auckland City’s Walkways pamphlet, which has a good selection of urban walks, including information on the Coast to Coast Walkway.

Sleeping

Auckland's city centre has plenty of luxury hotels, with several international chains. Any backpackers who leave with a bad impression have invariably stayed in crummy, noisy digs in the city centre. Not all of the cheap city accommodation is bad, but you'll find much better hostels in inner suburbs such as Ponsonby, Parnell, Freemans Bay and Mt Eden. Devonport has beautiful Edwardian B&Bs within a relaxing ferry ride of the city.

Eating

Because of its size and ethnic diversity, Auckland tops the country when it comes to dining options and quality. Lively eateries have sprung up to cater to the many Asian students, and offer inexpensive Japanese, Chinese and Korean staples. If you’re on a budget, you’ll fall in love with the city’s food halls.

Drinking & Nightlife

Auckland’s nightlife is quiet during the week – for some vital signs, head to Ponsonby Rd, Britomart or the Viaduct. Karangahape Rd (K Rd) wakes up late on Friday and Saturday; don't even bother staggering this way before 11pm.

Entertainment

For listings, check the New Zealand Herald's Time Out magazine on Thursday and again in its Saturday edition. Tickets for most major events can be bought from Ticketek, with an outlet at SkyCity Theatre, and Ticketmaster at Spark Arena and the Aotea Centre. iTicket handles a lot of smaller gig and dance party tickets.

Shopping

Followers of fashion should head to the Britomart precinct, Newmarket's Teed and Nuffield Sts, and Ponsonby Rd. For vintage clothing and secondhand boutiques, try Karangahape Rd (K Rd) or Ponsonby Rd.

Travel with Children

All of the east-coast beaches (St Heliers, Kohimarama, Mission Bay, Okahu Bay, Cheltenham, Narrow Neck, Takapuna, Milford, Long Bay) are safe for supervised kids, while sights such as Rainbow’s End, Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium, Auckland Museum and Auckland Zoo are all firm favourites. Parnell Baths has a children’s pool, but on wintry days, head to the thermal pools at Parakai or Waiwera.

For a spot of kid-oriented theatre, and a great family restaurant and children's playground, check out what's scheduled at Whoa! Studios, an easy train journey west of the city in Henderson.

Baby-changing facilities are widespread, often in shopping malls and integrated within public toilets. City buses, trains and ferries offer convenient access for prams, and pavements are generally in good condition.

LGBT Travellers

The Queen City (as it's known for completely coincidental reasons) has by far New Zealand's biggest gay population, with the bright lights attracting gays and lesbians from all over the country. However, the even brighter lights of Sydney eventually steal many of the 30- to 40-somethings, leaving a gap in the demographic. There are very few gay venues and they only really kick off on the weekends. For the latest, see the monthly magazine Express (available from gay venues), or online at www.gayexpress.co.nz.

The big event on the calendar is the Auckland Pride Festival. Also worth watching out for are the regular parties held by Urge Events (www.facebook.com/urgebar); the only reliably fun and sexy nights out for the over 30s, they book out quickly.

Venues change with alarming regularity, but these ones were the stayers at the time of writing:

Family Trashy, brash and extremely young, Family gets crammed on weekends, with drag hosts and dancing into the wee hours, both at the back of the ground-level bar and in the club downstairs.

Eagle A cosy place for a quiet drink early in the evening, getting more raucous as the night progresses. Get in quick to put your picks on the video jukebox or prepare for an entire evening of Kylie and Taylor.

Centurian Gay men’s sauna.

What to do in Auckland

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Queenstown is as much a verb as a noun, a place of doing that likes to spruik itself as the 'adventure capital of the world'. It's famously the birthplace of bungee jumping, and the list of adventures you can throw yourself into here is encyclopedic – from alpine heli skiing to zip-lining. It's rare that a visitor leaves without having tried something that ups their heart rate, but to pigeonhole Queenstown as just a playground is to overlook its cosmopolitan dining and arts scene, its fine vineyards, and the diverse range of bars that can make evenings as fun-filled as the days.

Leap, lunge or luge here, but also find time to simply sit at the lakeside and watch the ever-dynamic play of light on the Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu, creating one of the most beautiful and dramatic natural scenes in NZ.

Expect big crowds, especially in summer and winter, but also big experiences.

Sights

Exploring the Gibbston Valley

Queenstown's adrenaline junkies might be happiest dangling off a giant rubber band, but as they’re plunging towards the Kawarau River, they might not realise they're in the heart of Gibbston, one of Central Otago's main wine subregions, accounting for around 20% of plantings.

Strung along Gibbston Hwy (SH6) is an interesting and beautiful selection of vineyards. Almost opposite the Kawarau Bridge, a precipitous 2km gravel road leads to Chard Farm, the most picturesque of the wineries. A further 1km along SH6 is Gibbston Valley, the area's oldest commercial winery. As well as tastings, it has a restaurant, cheesery, tours of NZ's largest wine cave and bike hire. It also operates its own bus from Queenstown – you could always take the bus and then hire a bike to get between cellar doors.

Another 3km along SH6, Peregrine has an impressive, award-winning cellar door – a bunker-like building with a roof reminiscent of a falcon's wing in flight. As well as tastings, you can take a stroll through the adjoining barrel room.

The Gibbston River Trail, part of the Queenstown Trail, is a walking and cycling track that follows the Kawarau River for 11km from the Kawarau Bridge, passing all of the wineries. From Peregrine, walkers (but not cyclists) can swing onto the Peregrine Loop (one hour, 2.7km), which crosses over old mining works on 11 timber and two steel bridges, one of which passes through the branches of a willow tree. A 30-minute loop track from Waitiri Creek Wines heads to Big Beach on the Kawarau River, with views of Nevis Bluff.

While you're in the area, be sure to call into the rustic Gibbston Tavern, just off the highway past Peregrine. It stocks Gibbston wines, fires up good pizzas and has a small art gallery.

If you're keen to explore the valley's wineries without needing to contemplate a drive afterwards, consider staying among the vines in Kinross Cottages, where the heritage-looking cottages are a front for modern, luxurious studio rooms. It has its own cellar door, representing five Central Otago vineyards, plus a general store with good meals.

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Activities

Head to Shotover St to get a handle on the baffling array of activities on offer in Queenstown. This street, particularly the two blocks between Stanley and Brecon Sts, is wall-to-wall with adventure-tour operators selling their products, interspersed with travel agencies and 'information centres' hawking the very same products. Adding to the confusion is the fact that some stores change their name from summer to winter, while some tour operators list street addresses that are primarily their pick-up points rather than distinct shop fronts for the business.

Sleeping

Lakefront accommodation isn't difficult to come by in Queenstown, but midpriced rooms are few and far between. Queenstown's hostels are competitive, however, often with an intriguing selection of extras – free GoPro hire, in-house saunas etc. Hostels such as the YHA Queenstown Lakefront, Hippo Lodge and Butterfli Lodge have views the equal of any of the town's hotels.

Prices fluctuate widely at most places, so check hotel websites to see about discounts.

Eating

Dining runs the full gamut in Queenstown's city centre, from refined to rough and ready, silver service to takeaways from the side of a public toilet. There's a multitude of international cuisine on offer, and a good selection of restaurants riffing on modern interpretations of NZ food. For most of the year, it’s wise to make a reservation.

Drinking & Nightlife

Unsurprisingly for a city that plays hard by day, there are plenty of nightlife options in Queenstown, and they are as varied as the adventures. There are character-filled pubs, smooth-as-velvet wine bars, a new jazz lounge, a pair of frigid ice bars and a couple of high-quality craft-beer bars. Most places advertise themselves as opening until late, which generally means around 4am.

Entertainment

Pick up a copy of The Source (www.sourcemag.nz), a free monthly publication with articles and details of goings-on around Queenstown.

Shopping

Queenstown is a good place to shop for outdoor and adventure gear, as well as the usual lines of NZ souvenirs and gifts.

Travel with Children

While Queenstown is brimming with activities, some of them have age restrictions that may exclude the youngest in your group. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t have any trouble keeping the littlies busy.

All-age attractions include the Kiwi Birdlife Park and lake cruises on the TSS Earnslaw. The small ones in your group will love watching the duck dives from the Underwater Observatory. There's a good beachside playground near the entrance to the Queenstown Gardens on Marine Pde. Also in the gardens, Queenstown Ice Arena is great for a rainy day, and a round of Frisbee golf will easily fill in a couple of hours. The Skyline Gondola offers a slow-moving activity with a dizzying view. Small children can also ride the luge with an adult, but need to be at least 110cm in height to go it alone on the scenic or intermediate track. Children over 10 years of age (and taller than 135cm) can hurtle down the advanced track alone.

For a high that will make sugar rushes seem passé, a surprising number of activities cater to little daredevils. Children need only weigh more than 20kg to take a tandem ride with Queenstown Paraflights, while those over 12 years and 60kg can skim along alone. Family Adventures runs gentle rafting trips suitable for three-year-olds. The shark-shaped Hydro Attack will thrill kids – there's a minimum age of six and your child must be able to travel without you as there's only room for one passenger. Under-fives can ride on the Shotover Jet for free, provided they're over 1m in height, and six-year-olds can tackle the zip-lines with Ziptrek Ecotours. If your 10-year-old is fearless enough (and weighs more than 35kg), he or she can bungy or swing at any of the AJ Hackett Bungy jumps, except the Nevis Bungy (minimum age 13, minimum weight 45kg). Children as young as eight can tackle the Kawarau Zipride, though eight- and nine-year-olds must ride tandem with an adult. Canyoning Queenstown has a dedicated 'Via Ferrata Family' climbing route, suitable for children aged 10 and over.

Outside Sports hires out bikes suitable for children aged seven and above, with child seats and tag-alongs also available. Vertigo Bikes also hires out kids' mountain bikes. ChargeAbout has e-bikes suitable for 10-year-olds, with toddler trailers for hire if you have a younger crew.

For more ideas and information, including details of local babysitters, visit the i-SITE or www.kidzgo.co.nz.

LGBT Travellers

The gay tourism industry in NZ isn’t as high profile as it is in some other developed nations, but LGBT communities are prominent in Auckland and Wellington, with myriad support organisations across both islands. New Zealand has progressive laws protecting human rights: same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples were legalised in 2013, while the legal minimum age for sex between consenting persons is 16. Generally speaking, Kiwis are fairly relaxed and accepting about gender fluidity, but that’s not to say that homophobia doesn’t exist. Rural communities tend to be more conservative; here public displays of affection should probably be avoided.

What to do in Queenstown

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On a sunny, windless day, Wellington is up there with the best of them. For starters it’s lovely to look at, sitting on a hook-shaped harbour ringed with ranges that wear a cloak of snow in winter. Victorian timber architecture laces the bushy hillsides above the harbour, which resonate with native birdsong.

As cities go, it's really rather small but the compact nature of the downtown area gives it a bigger-city buzz and, being the capital, it's endowed with museums, theatres, galleries and arts organisations completely disproportionate to its size. Wellingtonians are rightly proud of their kickin' caffeine and craft-beer scene, and there's no shortage of beard-wearing, skateboard-lugging, artsy types doing interesting things in old warehouses across town.

Sadly, windless days are not the norm for Wellington. In New Zealand the city is infamous for two things: its frequent tremors and its umbrella-shredding, hairstyle-destroying gales that barrel through regularly.

Sights

Worth a Trip: Days Bay & Matiu-Somes Island

Wellingtonians have been taking day trips across the harbour to Days Bay since the 1880s. At the bay there's a beach, a park and a cafe, and a boatshed with kayaks and bikes for hire. A 10-minute walk from Days Bay leads to Eastbourne, a beachy township with cafes, a cute pub, a summer swimming pool and a playground.

The sweet little East by West Ferry plies the 20- to 30-minute route 16 times a day on weekdays and eight times on weekends; some sailings stop in Petone and Seatoun as well.

Three or four of the daily ferries also stop at Matiu/Somes Island in the middle of the harbour, a DOC-managed reserve that is home to weta, tuatara, kakariki and little blue penguins, among other critters. The island is rich in history, having once been a prisoner-of-war camp and quarantine station. Take a picnic lunch, or even stay overnight in the basic campsite (adult/child $13/6.50) or at one of the two DOC cottages (sole-occupancy $200).

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Activities

Wellington's harbour offers plenty of opportunities to get active: kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing, windsurfing… (Wellington is windy: might as well make the most of it!). Back on dry land there's rock climbing, cycling and high-wire walking to keep you entertained. Pick up the Wellington City Cycle Map for bike-trail info.

Sleeping

Accommodation in Wellington is more expensive than in regional areas, but there are plenty of options close to the city centre. Free parking spots are a rarity – ask in advance about options. Wellington’s budget accommodation largely takes the form of multistorey hostel megaliths. Motels dot the city fringes. Self-contained apartments are popular, and often offer bargain weekend rates. Book well in advance in summer and during major events.

Eating

Wellington offers a bewildering array of eating options: contemporary cafes, upmarket restaurants and oodles of noodle houses. Stiff competition keeps standards high.

Drinking & Nightlife

Wellingtonians love a late night. The inner city is riddled with bars, with high concentrations around raucous Courtenay Pl, bohemian Cuba St and along the waterfront. A creative live-music scene keeps things thrumming, along with great NZ wines and even better craft beer. See www.craftbeercapital.com for beery propaganda. For gig listings see www.undertheradar.co.nz and www.eventfinder.co.nz.

Entertainment

Wellington has a lively theatre scene and is the home of large national companies such as the Royal NZ Ballet and the NZ Symphony Orchestra. Most shows can be booked via Ticketek (www.ticketek.co.nz), Ticketmaster (www.ticketmaster.co.nz) and TicketDirect (www.ticketdirect.co.nz).

Shopping

Wellington supports a host of independent shops including scores of design stores and clothing boutiques. Despite cheap imports and online shopping, there's still plenty that's Kiwi-made here. Retailers fly their home-grown flags with pride.

Travel with Children

Let's cut to the chase: Welly's biggest hit for kids is Te Papa, with the whole caboodle looking like it's curated by a team of five-year-old geniuses. It has interactive activities galore, more creepy, weird and wonderful things than you can shake a squid at, and heaps of special events for all ages. See the dedicated Kids & Families page on the website for proof of Te Papa's prowess in this department.

Conveniently located either side of Te Papa are Frank Kitts Park and Waitangi Park, both with playgrounds and in close proximity to roller skates, ice creams, and life-saving espresso for the grown-ups.

A ride up the cable car and a lap around the Wellington Botanic Gardens will get the wee ones pumped up. When darkness descends head to Space Place to gaze at galaxies far, far away. On a more terrestrial plane, kids can check out some crazy New Zealand critters at the Wellington Zoo or Zealandia.

LGBT Travellers

Wellington is a very broad-minded, accepting and LGBT-friendly town, with a couple of gay and lesbian venues on Cuba St (S&M's and Ivy). Online resources include the following:

www.gaytourismnewzealand.com
www.rainbowwellington.org.nz
www.wellington.lesbian.net.nz

What to do in Wellington

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Welcome to a vibrant city in transition, coping creatively with the aftermath of NZ’s second-worst natural disaster. Traditionally the most English of NZ cities, Christchurch's heritage heart was all but hollowed out following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes that left 186 people dead. Today Christchurch is in the midst of an epic rebuild that has completely reconstructed the city centre, where over 80% of buildings needed to be demolished after the quake. Scaffolding and road cones will be part of Christchurch's landscape for a while yet, but don't be deterred; exciting new buildings are opening at an astonishing pace, and most sights are open for business.

Curious travellers will revel in this chaotic, crazy and colourful mix, full of surprises and inspiring in ways you can't even imagine. And despite all the hard work and heartache, the locals will be only too pleased to see you.

Sights

Gap Filler

Starting from the ground up after the earthquakes, the Gap Filler folks fill the city's empty spaces with creativity and colour. Projects range from temporary art installations, performance spaces and gardens, to a minigolf course scattered through empty building sites, to the world’s first giant outdoor arcade game. Gaps open up and get filled, so check out the Gap Map on the website (www.gapfiller.org.nz), or simply wander the streets and see what you can find.

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Activities

Other than tours and the odd spot of walking, cycling and boating along the Avon, most of Christchurch's activities take place outside of the city centre.

Walking

The i-SITE provides information on walking tours as well as self-guided options, including the rewarding Avon River Walk, which takes in major city sights, and several excellent trails around the Port Hills.

For long-range city views, take the walkway from the Sign of the Takahe on Dyers Pass Rd. The various ‘Sign of the…’ places in this area were originally roadhouses built during the Depression as rest stops. This walk leads up to the Sign of the Kiwi, through Victoria Park and then along the view-filled Summit Rd to Scotts Reserve.

You can walk to Lyttelton on the Bridle Path (1½ hours), which starts at Heathcote Valley (take bus 28). The Godley Head Walkway (two hours return) begins at Taylors Mistake, crossing and recrossing Summit Rd, and offers beautiful views on a clear day.

Cycling

Being mostly flat and boasting more than 300km of cycle trails, Christchurch is a brilliant place to explore on two wheels. For evidence, look no further than the free Christchurch City Cycle Map, available around town or downloadable from www.ccc.govt.nz/cycling.

There's some great off-road riding around the Port Hills, while towards Banks Peninsula you'll find the best section of the Little River Trail, one of NZ's Great Rides.

Swimming & Surfing

Despite having separate names for different sections, it's one solid stretch of sandy beach that spreads north from the estuary of the Avon and Heathcote Rivers. Closest to the city centre is New Brighton, with a distinctive pier reaching 300m out to sea. On either side, South New Brighton and North Beach are quieter options. Waimairi, a little further north, is our personal pick.

The superstar is Sumner, 12km from the city centre on the south side of the estuary. Its beachy vibe, eateries and art-house cinema make it a satisfying spot for a day trip.

Further east around the headland, isolated Taylors Mistake has the cleanest water of any Christchurch beach and some good surf breaks. Beginners should stick to Sumner or New Brighton.

Sleeping

There is a wide variety of accommodation available in Christchurch, from luxury hotels to a plethora of backpacker beds. As the rebuild progresses, more and more beds are becoming available in the city centre and its inner fringes.

Eating

While many cafes and restaurants still occupy the suburban premises they moved to after the earthquakes – particularly around Addington, Riccarton, Merivale and Sumner – many new places are springing up in the midst of the CBD rebuild. Expect plenty of high-quality, exciting surprises.

Drinking & Nightlife

There's no shortage of places to whet your whistle in Christchurch. As in other major NZ cities, Christchurch's bars also dish up some seriously good food, often late into the night.

Entertainment

For live music and club listings, see www.undertheradar.co.nz and www.christchurchmusic.org.nz.

Shopping

The rebuilt City Mall is at the heart of the city's retail renaissance.

Travel with Children

There’s no shortage of kid-friendly sights and activities in Christchurch. If family fun is a priority, consider planning your travels around NZ’s biggest children’s festival, KidsFest. It’s held every July and is chock-full of shows, workshops and parties. The annual World Buskers Festival is also bound to be a hit with young 'uns.

The impressive Margaret Mahy Family Playground is a must for anyone with small people in tow. For picnics and open-air frolicking, visit the Botanic Gardens; there’s a playground beside the cafe, and little kids will love riding on the Caterpillar train. Extend your nature-based experience with a wildlife encounter at Orana Wildlife Park or the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, or get them burning off excess energy in a rowing boat or kayak from the Antigua Boat Sheds. Fun can be stealthily combined with education at the International Antarctic Centre, the Discovery Centre at Canterbury Museum and Quake City.

If the weather’s good, hit the beaches at Sumner or New Brighton.

LGBT Travellers

Despite having a healthy sized LGBT population there are very few gay-focused venues in Christchurch. Cruz (www.cruz.co.nz) on Victoria St is a main player and opens from Wednesdays through Sundays.

For the latest events, information and contacts, visit www.gaynz.com.

What to do in Christchurch

Best attractions, Tours & Excursions for you, check it out!

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