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Top 5 Things to Do in Christchurch, New Zealand

Top 5 Things to Do in Christchurch, New Zealand

My Top 5 things to do in Christchurch, New Zealand

Christchurch, New Zealand has had it’s share of troubles in the past few years and I visited here in 2011 and 2014. In 2011 we were not able to access the city due to the damage. In 2014 we were able to access the city centre and we found that the residents of Christchurch were Most welcoming. Although certain parts of the city were restricted during our visit, we still had a busy three days here. You should find a lot more than 5 things to do in Christchurch and we would have loved to extend our three days visit.

Even after these huge events there are still plenty of things to do in Christchurch, and these are my Top 5 Things to do in Christchurch, in no particular preference…

Take a Tram Ride

The ticket shop for the Christchurch tram was located only a few minutes around the corner from where we stayed, at the Novotel Christchurch. The Tram actually drives through the shopping mall where the tickets are sold, which is an ingenious feat of engineering when you see it.  Much of the tram infrastructure was damaged in the earthquakes but this line from New Regents Street to the Botanical Gardens.

Christchurch Tram

There is excellent commentary on board and you certainly learn a lot about Christchurch and it’s history.  The ticket is hop on, hop off and is great value for the day – this should certainly be one of your 5 things to do in Christchurch.



See the Botanical Gardens

At the end of the Tram trip we arrived at the botanical gardens. The gardens are located on the River Avon and welcome over 1 million visitors per year. There are many walking trails and you could easily spend a few hours here. One of the highlights is the Native New Zealand gardens with stunning ferns and native plants. Also, don’t forget to take a trip to the Visitors Centre which was opened in April 2014 and encompasses a cafe with delicious food and botanically themed gift shop which has lots of very nice gifts to bring home. The visitors centre is also a hub for the operational side of the Gardens, with a working nursery, potting shed, herbarium and reference library. If you enjoy plants, nature or just seeing something different then the Christchurch Botanical Gardens should be one of your 5 things to do in Christchurch.

Go Punting on the Avon

Of all the items on my ‘5 things to do in Christchurch’ list, this was one of the most relaxing. We noticed a few signs along the river for Punting. Now, I never punted in my life, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It turned out to be a relaxing and a memorable experience. On a chilly July afternoon (it’s New Zealand’s winter), the temperature was about 8C. We arrived at the offices for ‘Punting on the Avon’ and we were welcomed by a gent in 1920s style clothing. Having paid a small fee, which I felt was great value, we were welcomed on-board and we were supplied with a nice warm blanket and 2 hot water bottles, which was a really nice touch.

Punting on the Avon, Christchurch, New Zealand

The punting trip was about an hour from the time we arrived and we got to see the River Avon at a very relaxed pace, while listening to some local history along the way. This was one of the highlights of the trip to Christchurch, as well as being the most relaxing.

Visit the ReStart Mall

One of the terrible outcomes of the earthquakes were that many of the buildings in Christchurch were damaged or demolished. These included shopping malls which were unsafe or unusable. Therefore retail outlets used an ingenious method for getting back info business. Using huge steel shipping containers, shops and outlets have been able to re-open with great effect.

Restart Mall, Christchurch, New Zealand

Not only is the ReStart mall a colourful and enjoyable place to shop but the stores which are there give great value. We did some of the best shopping in the ReStart mall. You can find great value in shoes, clothes, and souvenirs. The shops here are also different ; not the usual stock you see elsehwere. Also, check out the Hummingbird Café for great coffee and food. The breakfast is very good!

Eat at Cafe Valentino

After the walking, shopping, exploring and punting you will be hungry. If you are looking for good food in Christchurch, you have to eat at Cafe Valentino. Great food, extensive menu and great staff. The mussels were on special on one of the evenings and on the other it was a chicken dish.

Christchurch in conclusion

Christchurch, New Zealand is one of the places which, before I went, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Furthermore, I wasn’t sure I would enjoy it due to the sad events of the earthquakes. To me it was just the place we were flying into. But, having been there, having seen the city, having met the friendliest of people… I look forward to returning.

It is a great place to visit and I wish I had more time to spend there and with the great people of Christchurch!


POI Map for Christchurch, New Zealand

The map below shows the above 5 locations which may help with your trip to Christchurch.

Re-start Mall

Re-start Mall

Botanical Gardens, Christchurch

Botanical Gardens, Christchurch

Punting on the Avon

Punting on the Avon

Cafe Valentinos Restaurant

Cafe Valentinos Restaurant

Christchurch Tram

Christchurch Tram

Copthorne Hotel Commodore Christchurch Airport – Hotel Review

Copthorne Hotel Commodore Christchurch Airport – Hotel Review

Copthorne Hotel Commodore Christchurch Airport, New Zealand – Hotel Review

Copthorne Hotels in New Zealand are a part of the Copthorne and Millennium group of hotels.

Having flown in from Singapore via Sydney (a long flight), travel from Christchurch International Airport is via a free shuttle bus provided by the Commodore Hotel. This had been confirmed via Twitter and following a quick phone call on our arrival, the hotel shuttle bus arrived and we were at the hotel in under 5 minutes.

On arrival at the hotel, the Duty manager, Jaimie, sorted out our reservation very efficiently and walked us to our room. Jaimie had a chat with us and on arrival at the room showed us the facilities in the very well appointed room. I have stayed in many hotels and even in 5 star hotels I have rarely seen such a level of professional and friendly service on check-in. I was blown away by the welcome and the level of comfort at the Copthorne Hotel. Airport hotels are normally just a place to rest your head after a long flight, but this hotel is actually comfortable and a delight to stay in. Although not actually on the airport grounds, it is a very quick drive to the airport and I would recommend this hotel if you were catching a flight.

The room was excellent, with a very comfortable bed, and I was surprised at how large, bright, clean and airy it was. Air conditioning was very good with tea coffee facilities and a very nice and there was a very large bathroom.

The breakfasts are served in Pattersons Restaurant in the hotel, very well presented with a lot to choose from. There is also a hot tub and covered pool (which we did not try on this occasion as it was winter … but it looked nice). There is also a nice garden area with a fire where you can enjoy a drink in the open air if you so wish.

The complex is very secure and safe with key cards required after a certain time to access the main accommodation building and then again at your floor.

We actually stayed twice at this hotel, once on arriving into Christchurch from Singapore and again the night before leaving en-route to Cork via Bangkok/London.

Christchurch Copthorne Airport Hotel

The Copthorne Hotel Commodore Christchurch Airport is a great hotel within 5 minutes of Christchurch International Airport. It is ideally situated for you to start or end any trip to New Zealand.


  • Comfort 95%
  • Food 90%
  • Service 98%
  • Would Return? 100%

Hotel Location

Te Anau to Queenstown – What to Do, Where to Stay, What to see…

Te Anau to Queenstown – What to Do, Where to Stay, What to see…

Having stayed 2 says in the comfort of the Te Anau lodge we were next headed to Queenstown.

This won’t be a huge post as we only spent one night in Queenstown. It’s an amazing drive so leave some time for stopping to admire the view. The small town of Kingston is an ideal stopping point – set on the banks of Lake Wakatipu ; it makes for a great excuse to stretch the legs and take some photos. There is a train there but when we were there the train was not in operation.

Where to Stay in Queenstown

We stayed at the Distinction Nugget Point Boutique Hotel & Spa about 10 minutes drive outside of Queenstown (Booked on iPhone app which is a handy app to download). The hotel wasn’t overly full as it was heading towards low season, but it was very nice, with antique furnishings. The Spa is very good and has a large pool. The highlight was the view from the room, an amazing vista overlooking a canyon. At night you can see the milky way extend between the peaks of the two hills, and due to the lack of light pollution this view around 2 or 3am is worth getting up for. There are plenty of hotels and hostels in the town which might be more to your liking if you are after some nightlife or if you are with a group as it takes about 10 minutes to get in from Nugget Point.

What to See in Queenstown

Queenstown has a lot to offer, as it is a very scenic place on the banks of Lake Wakatipu. The quay side or lake side is very picturesque and worth taking some time to walk around. There are also many cafes around there so you can enjoy a snack also.

Queenstown, Lakefront

Queenstown, The Lakefront

When you arrive in Queenstown, one of the first things you will see is the cable cars heading up to the Skyline complex. If you are approaching from Arthurs Point direction the Skyline complex actually looks like a UFO in the dark as there are no surrounding lights and looks quite cool just perched in isolation on the peak of the hill.

Accessed by scenic gondola or cable car the Skyline Queenstown is the “Must See” attraction during any visit to Queenstown. You will get stunning views of the spectacular lakes, Coronet Peak, and The Remarkables mountain range. You can also eat while taking in the view at the Skyline Restaurant, recently voted the restaurant with the best view by Trip Advisor. More Casual dining is available in the Skyline Cafe.

While you are up there if you want you can take in the Skyline Luge which has you hurtling down the winding downhill Luge track. If you are feeling more adventurous you can try a tandem parapente flight. If you are feeling less adventurous you can simply shop in the Skyline Souvenir Gift Shop. Don’t forget to bring your camera if you are visiting the Queenstown Skyline Observation deck as the views are not to be missed.

View from the Viewing point in Queenstown, New Zealand

View from the Viewing point in Queenstown, New Zealand

Other areas around Queenstown

Before leaving Queenstown, you have to visit Arrowtown. Arrowtown is a lovely little town, almost like a frontier town from the old west. Not to be missed, stunning in Autumn.

Queenstown is a very nice town, ideal for extreme sports if you are into that. Probably worth spending more than one day here but its a place I would certainly go back to.

Finally, one hour out side Queenstown on the way to Fox Glacier you will find Puzzling World which is an amazing series of visual tricks of the mind which will leave you confused. If you want something to puzzle your world then visit Puzzling World in Wanaka.

Te Anau and Milford Sound, New Zealand – What to do and Where to Stay

Te Anau and Milford Sound, New Zealand – What to do and Where to Stay

Continuing on the review of all things good in the south island of New Zealand I have outlined some of the best things to do an see in and around Te Anau and Milford Sound.

The Drive from Dunedin to Milford Sound has a few areas of interest. Firstly, if you are looking for a spot along Highway 1 to stop and stretch the legs and grab a bite to eat, Gore, is the place. Strange name but it’s a nice town with plenty of cafés to help you on your way. Get back on the road along highway 94 and you will have stunning scenery all the way to Te Anau (watch out for the sharp right turn just after Lumsden which continues highway 94). One nice stopping point is a place called The Key which is about 35km (25 mins) after Mossburn. This area has stunning views of Mount Hamilton. Te Anau is then only 20 minutes from this point.

Mount Hamilton Panorama from The Key - Near Te Anau, New Zealand

Mount Hamilton Panorama from The Key - Near Te Anau, New Zealand

Te Anau is a lovely little town, with a great character. There are plenty of accommodation options in Te Anau but by far the best place to stay in Te Anau is Te Anau Lodge located on 52 Howden St, Te Anau, this former nuns home is now a fantastic accommodation option. We called George, the owner, from Dunedin , having found it on TripAdvisor and arranged our accommodation – very friendly and helpful.

Te Anau Lodge, Te Anau, New Zealand - The Best Accommodation in Te Anau New Zealand

Te Anau Lodge - Excellent Accommodation in Te Anau

On arrival at Te Anau Lodge we were given a tour of the house and it’s facilities. The view alone was worth staying here for. It is a stunning property, very clean and very well managed. Hard to believe it’s not your home when you stay here. Rooms are bright and airy with great facilities. The staff are so helpful and nice. Breakfasts include a buffet area with cereals and fruit plus a hot option is also available cooked to order by George himself. We stayed here two nights and leaving this sublime spot was very difficult. The Te Anau lodge was one of the highlights of our trip. (Only for the TripAdvisor iPhone app we may never have found it!)

While in Te Anau we did some trips. Glow Worm caves are located on the lake and trips can be arranged at the lakefront marina. The glow worm caves are stunning if you have never seen them before.

Further afield is Milford Sound. It’s a bit of a drive but the scenery along the way is stunning – lucky if you get there at all with all the scenic points and at one point you drive through a mountain tunnel. Leave early in the morning around 8am to avoid the coach busses coming from Queenstown (also speeds at some points drop to 25kph so you have to take it handy).
You will also get morning mists if lucky. A “MUST SEE” are the Reflective Lakes which mirror the mountains in the water. An amazing effect. (see some of the images at the foot of this blog post)

On arriving at Milford Sound you have many options including cruises on the sound, or scenic flights. We decided to take a cruise which lasts around 90minutes. You get to see waterfalls, the vast cliffs which surround the sound plus if lucky seals and dolphins.

The Te Anau and Milford Sound area are very scenic and 2 days would be a minimum stay in this area in order to see everything.

Next Stop… Queenstown.

Reflective Lakes on the Way to Milford Sound

Reflective Lakes on the Way to Milford Sound

Massive Waterfall in Milford Sound - to the right of the falls you can see one of the cruise ships.

Massive Waterfall in Milford Sound - to the right of the falls you can see one of the cruise ships.

Wellington to Lake Taupo. Where to Stay, What to Do, Where to Go, Where to Eat

Wellington to Lake Taupo. Where to Stay, What to Do, Where to Go, Where to Eat

Going to New Zealand? This rough and brief travel guide will show you What to Do, Where to Go, Where to Eat and What to See traveling between Wellington and Lake Taupo in New Zealand.  Continuing on from Wellington on our way to Lake Taupo we were traveling along the N1 on the North Island of New Zealand visiting small towns such as Foxton, Bulls, Taihape on the way to Lake Taupo where we had already booked accommodation.

Driving in New Zealand - Amazing Scenery on the N1 New Zealand Roads

The first town we reached was Foxton. This is off the main road, but the guide book said it was a lovely town so we decided to take a look. Foxton is like a step back in time, not in a bad way or behind the times, rather Foxton has manged to keep the old town look and feel in a nice way.

Foxton New Zealand

Windmill and Tram in Foxton, New Zealand

The main feature is the Windmill which was brought over from Holland, bit by bit and build by people who had never built a windmill before – by reviewing the plans for the structure. There are horse drawn tram rides, an electric trolleybus, old style streets – I was told there are plans to make Foxton a hub of activity with kayaking, walks and other things to do. We enjoyed about 2 hours here before getting back on the road, taking a nice coffee and snack in the cafe near the Windmill.

From here we traveled back on the N1 again and on passing through a town called Bulls we just had to stop and take some photos. The shops are all BULL Oriented, e.g. the local realtor / estate agent has “live-a-bull” as his tag line, the town hall centre has “soci-a-bull”, and so on to Taihape where we had decided to take lunch.

The town of Bulls, New Zealand

Fun signs in the town of Bulls, New Zealand

Taihape is another very nice town, almost like small town America, worth taking an hour or so to enjoy, plenty of nice cafes to take a snack in.

The town of Taihape, New Zealand

The town of Taihape, New Zealand

On the last leg to Lake Taupo, back onto the N1 we go via the desert road, part of which is a military area, with an amazing landscape.

As soon as you see Lake Taupo for the first time you will have a few opportunities to stop into the left and enjoy many of the viewing areas, with incredible vistas of the lake. I’m sure there have been an accident or two with drivers looking at the nice view and not the road. Its still another good hours drive to Lake Taupo – so far its been about 6 hours since leaving Wellington.

Lake Taupo Viewing Point, New-Zealand

Lake Taupo, Viewing Point with Snow-Storm moving in

After about 45 minutes we enter into Taupo and arrive at the Millennium Hotel which sits on the waterfront with amazing views of the lake. The Millennium Hotel also has a really nice outdoor heated pool, no problems using it in winter as it is quite warm. The restaurant there is very nice and we enjoyed a buffet there on arrival – only $39NZ per person which was very reasonable.

New-Zealand Lake Taupo with Mountain Snow

Lake Taupo with the Mountains covered in Snow.

We later found out that the desert road was blocked by snow and we made it to Lake Taupo with 4 or 5  hours to spare before the snow trapped people on the desert road.

Lake Taupo – To Be Continued … ( Lake Trip to Maori Carvings & Craters of the Moon… )