Discovering Christchurch by Double-Decker

Finally, the time has come to spend time in one of New Zealand’s most iconic cities. It’s the South Island’s largest, with everything from surf, vibrant city life, art, food and gardens – and not to mention the fascinating story of the not too distant earthquakes. Yep, today we are going to Christchurch!

The most English activity in the “most english city”

They also say that Christchurch is the most English city outside of England! With that in mind, it only seems appropriate to take an open-top bus tour with Hassle-Free Tours around the city – just like in London! (Except this one has been voted best in world for double-decker city bus tours). Our pick-up is at 10am so we hit the road from Methven as early as possible to arrive on time.

Wet wanderings in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens

We wish we could say we are arriving in Christchurch on a beautiful summer’s day, but summer has f*cked off for the day and left us with hard and heavy rain…

It’s rain jackets on as we park up at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and walk through the huge gardens of blooming flowers, trees with extreme roots, and heaps of ducks. Even in the rain we can’t resist taking a detour to the rose garden and watching ducklings waddling profusely behind their mother.

Being one with nature on the open-top bus Being one with nature on the open-top bus
What remains of the Christchurch Cathedral What remains of the Christchurch Cathedral
The new buildings in Christchurch look pretty flash! The new buildings in Christchurch look pretty flash!
The Earthquake Memorial The Earthquake Memorial

Touring in an open-top bus

The big red open-top double-decker bus is hard to miss parked at the entrance of the Canterbury Museum. It seems like the rain (and the fact it’s pretty early in the morning for holidaymakers) has scared people from the tour, so we have the whole bus to ourselves: upstairs and downstairs!

As wise Wendy from the Mt Hutt Bunkhouse said only yesterday: “If you don’t like the weather in New Zealand, just wait 10 minutes.” That couldn’t be truer, as the rain stops just in time for us to go upstairs. Our guide, Ross, conveniently has a towel to wipe down the seats.

An earthquake city

From the get go, we can hear Ross speaking clearly on the mic as we set off for our tour around Christchurch’s inner city. Although we have walked around the Christchurch on previous visits, we are getting a huge insight into the city. As we stop at the crumbling remains of Christchurch Cathedral with parts of the roof completely collapsed, an entire wall broken away from the building, bricks in a pile on the floor, it is evident that this is still a reviving city. Christchurch experienced some pretty gnarly earthquakes, the most devastating being the 2011 measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale, that has turned much of the inner city into a building site. The cathedral was one of Christchurch’s main attractions and Ross explains to us why it is still in this state six years later.

Seeing the impact of mother nature

A Reviving city

The sight of Christchurch’s cathedral, along with a few other destroyed heritage buildings, and a white chair memorial to the earthquake victims, represents an unfortunate past, but a lot of this tour is focussed on the rebuild – the revival of Christchurch city, which is pretty unique. Unlike many city tours with guides giving the same rehearsed speech that has been said for the past 50 years, Christchurch city provides the opportunity to talk about how a city can start again.

Ross points out where certain inner city precincts will be built, such as the entertainment and services. We also stop at sections of the city that have been beautifully restored, such as New Regent Street. The colourful buildings holding cafes and boutiques lining a street with a vintage-style tramway passing through holds charms of heritage style Christchurch used to have but with a modern twist. Nothing emphasises this more than the huge pieces of street art spray painted across entire walls of buildings, which have become a pretty famous feature of the new Christchurch.

Life in the retro bus lane

Our 50-minute inner city tour ends where it started, and we hop from one delightfully red double-decker bus to a proper beauty! Just like the ones you see in London, this red double-decker has the open section of the back of the bus where you can’t help but literally jump on! It even has “Piccadilly Circus” signed on the back.

Having a peak down Christchurch's prettiest street Having a peak down Christchurch's prettiest street
Inception of doubledecker buses! Inception of doubledecker buses!
Exploring the caves at Sumner Beach Exploring the caves at Sumner Beach

Downpour and city views

Although this bus doesn’t have an open top, we’re pretty thankful for the shelter as it starts to pour down again. Ross offers to stop for a usual walk done in Mona Vale, but we’re not sure our camera gear will thank us for it. We do take Ross up on the offer to get a vantage point over Christchurch on the way to Sumner Beach.  We can just about see the city under the thick haze of clouds! There’s no doubt that it would be pretty awesome on a clear day.

Stunning Sumner Beach

As we get closer to the Port Hills, Ross points out sections of cliff that came down in the earthquake, as well as beautiful sections of coastline. At Sumner, we jump at the chance to check out a cave on the beach. That’s what we love about New Zealand, you’re never too far away from a natural wonder, even in the city of Christchurch!

We get a good 15-20 minutes to go inside the cave, watch the tide slowly creep in from the other side, and see a few birds laughing at us. From there it’s a chilled out ride back to Christchurch city centre.

Snoozing at Jucy

After an awesome introduction to Christchurch, we are heading to our accommodation for the next few days, Jucy Snooze. The hotel and “flashpackers” has just opened up near the Christchurch Airport and we are stoked to check it out for the first time. As expected, their custom designs that made their campervans so popular shines through in the flashpackers with “pod” bunks and a common area made up of hammocks, swings and more USB plugs than you can imagine. It’s pleasantly millennial.

Because we seem to have a bit of a transport obsession, tomorrow we will be spending Christmas Eve taking the TranzAlpine train through the glorious Arthur’s Pass. Join us then!

Laura and Robin

Yep, this is in Christchurch!
Yep, this is in Christchurch! Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Want more?

Of course you do! For more Christchurch adventures, check out these:

Until tomorrow’s post, check us out on the HerePin app to meet other travellers in your area. We also post travel tips for New Zealand on Facebook, as well as our adventure on Instagram. Join the Facebook Group to find people to travel with, ask us questions and buy/sell.

See you tomorrow!

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