Jesse Mulligan explores beautiful Christchurch.
It’s time to put Canterbury back into your thinking when you’re planning a luxury escape.
Though the diggers are still digging and the cones are still coning, Christchurch is operating at full speed, with plenty for foodies, nature lovers and anyone curious to know how a beautiful city gets wrecked and becomes beautiful again. Here’s how my wife and I spent a long weekend there.
The Christchurch Farmers’ Market is a brilliant place to get breakfast. The most picturesque market in New Zealand, it features local produce as well as delicious food that is good to eat on the spot. On this blue-skied spring morning it was the hottest millennial hangout in the city, with students and young professionals happily scoffing dumplings and Spanish tortillas on the bank of the Avon River. Parking is tight, so bike or walk if you can then, afterwards, wander through the grounds of Riccarton House, Canterbury’s oldest homestead, and check out Pūtaringamotu, a grove of 600-year-old kahikatea just behind the market.
We had another walk in mind, travelling south to pick up a coffee from XCHC, a post-quake shared artists’ space and cafe, then heading out to the appealingly named Taylors Mistake, a beach with access to a stunning but undemanding walk around the cliffs of Godley Head. Again I was surprised by how many people in their teens and 20s were out enjoying the fresh air — not just the usual hiking suspects. This walk is part of the circular Christchurch 360 Trail, a fantastic initiative by scientist Colin Meurk that lets you take in all the city’s natural wonders on foot.
Back in the CBD we ate well at Town Tonic, where vegan food takes precedence and meat is treated as a condiment — the fried cauliflower, a sort of a vegetarian KFC, is a must-order dish. There’s a notable respect for plant food in this city — more so even than Wellington or Auckland. Soon, musician Flip Grater will open a vegan butchery but for now I had to try her dairy-free cheeses the same way her other customers do; by waiting outside a factory in an industrial district for her weekly 1pm delivery.
There were plenty of cafes and restaurants I didn’t get to try, and I would have liked to explore more of Canterbury’s natural attractions — the wetlands, the hills and the braided rivers. But we’ll do it next time. Christchurch is undeniably open for business, combining the energy of a young city with the history and mana of an old one.
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