For us New Zealand was always the ‘wow’ because it was on the opposite side of the world from the UK, a long flight, expensive, the dream of visiting would have only been possible if we were close to the country and luckily for us we were. We left for Christchurch, New Zealand from Sydney, Australia, and made our way on a Jet Star flight late at night. Australia is far from most of the world but New Zealand is even further another 3 hours 40 minutes and we landed in Christchurch after midnight.
We made it to the opposite side of the world, well for us British anyway, we were met with all the airport security checks, dog sniffers and checking for food in our bags similar to Australia but if anything a little stricter. Once we made it through we had to take a taxi as we were staying in an Airbnb close to the airport and there were no buses and the shuttle cost a similar price the taxi quoted. It was expensive for such a short trip but that was expected. If you don’t have a car then it would of been just as easy to take the shuttle bus to the city centre rather than staying in an Airbnb nearby.
Welcome to Christchurch, New Zealand
We stayed in a private room for two nights close to the airport as we landed late, the host was a friendly guy he even invited us for dinner he cooked one night which was nice and we spent the evening chatting to him and his Polish housemate. For us New Zealand or at least Christchurch seemed like we were back in the UK, the similarities were even closer here. The first two nights we just tried to catch up with sleep and rested in the private room with a little exploring around the area.
Prior to arriving, I joined a travel guides company called Arrivedo as a writer I had to reach out to hotels and create guides for them. Christchurch was the beginning of this, and after our first two nights, we made our way to All-Stars Inn on the Bealey which would be my first time staying complimentary in exchange for creating the neighbourhood guide. It took two buses and a 15-minute walk to get there, if you don’t have a car, getting around New Zealand is not fun.
All-Stars Inn on the Bealey
This was actually a hostel/hotel so half hostel with dormitory rooms and half private rooms, we had a private room with a shared bathroom. This would actually be our first time staying in a place like this, the room was very clean and the whole place was very new, with a wood-like finish which was a nice touch. There was also a kitchen on site which was handy to cooking up a tasty meal but for us, it was a big learning curve making our way around a hostel kitchen with 30 people all trying to cook pasta, or curries etc.
I had to interview the manager to pick his brains about his local recommendations in the area I then used these recommendations to contact the restaurants and local places to get a chance to experience them for free to help aid my writing.
Shout out to Bacon Brothers for hosting us with some delicious burgers for the Arrivedo guide.
They can be found in the Little High Eatery in Christchurch Centre, offering amazing burgers.
The Downside of New Zealand
We had a big issue with New Zealand and that was time zone, it sucked for teaching English to Chinese students, so Sassi had a pretty hard time with her schedule. 6pm- 9pm in China is 11pm- 2am in New Zealand… Ouch, this meant a lot of late nights which started when we were staying at the All Stars Inn. Plus data in New Zealand is expensive $50NZ (£25) for 10GB, we needed a backup due to wifi issues, a lot of people using the hotel’s wifi. 2 Degrees offered the best coverage and price for what we needed.
Christchurch City Centre
We explored Christchurch by using the bus system and walking, if you buy a ticket you can transfer within two hours, so it wasn’t too costly but the bus schedule and routes were a bit bad. The city is still in the process of rebuilding after the tragic earthquakes of 2011 that took many lives and destroyed so much in the city. It is slowly coming back to life in a new modernised way with shopping centres and big shiny new offices.
What did we do in Christchurch:
Explore the Street Art
Regarded as a street art capital, you can discover the beautiful and creative art all over the city, on the side of buildings, walls, telephone boxes, it is part of the city and in a good way. Many cities have graffiti and tags, but this street art is showcased incredible talent with colourful murals depicting anything from weird looking creatures to tributes to people. There is a great street art map here.
A creative urban regeneration project that was set up to fill in the gaps created by the earthquake, the people at gap filler have placed interesting activities around the city. We really enjoy playing space invaders on a huge human-sized joystick with the screen on the side of a building. There are many other activities around the city, such as book sharing in fridges, mini golf and many more.
Willowbank Wildlife Reserve
Another complimentary visit we received which allowed us to visit many animals that have been brought to the country, mostly by the settlers. We were able to see two birds that were native and only found in New Zealand the alpine parrot, which seemed to be a sneaky bird that wanted to cause a little mischief. Also, we just about saw the native and famous bird the Kiwi, people from New Zealanders refer to each other as Kiwis. This small flightless bird could only be seen in a dark enclosure so it proved quite difficult to see but we just about saw one running around. Otherwise, the wildlife reserve was mainly lots of animals you can see around the world. It was too dark to get a photo of the Kiwi though.
New Brighton Beach
We are back in the UK… well not really it was New Brighton, New Zealand, it also had a pier but this was in a state of repair due to the earthquake. It was a nice beach instead of pebbles like in the UK this Brighton was sandy, a nice change, I do prefer sand over pebbles. Wonderful place to walk around and get the fresh breeze from the ocean.
A historic walk along the bridle path that was once used by the settlers to carry their belongings from the port of Lyttleton to Christchurch. Now it is mainly used for a nice hike to the top of the Mt Cavendish to explore the wonderful views. We enjoyed the walk but this was Sassi’s first proper hill climb since we left the UK and her knee did not give up for most of the journey, Hurrah!
One long bus ride takes you all the way to the end of the line which is Sumner Beach, this was a surfers beach, with stronger waves. It was a nice quiet area with lovely views of the mountains, we walked up to get a view of the sunset over the city but the clouds were too dark and pretty much blocked any chance of viewing it.
Day Trips outside of Christchurch
For 3 days we rented a car and stayed in an Airbnb outside of the city, this enabled us to venture out to further places, as public transport was not great especially for seeing things further afield. We stayed near to Christchurch due to the need for good internet for teaching, most of the places we thought about staying in had poor internet speed and 4G wouldn’t be the safest option to rely on.
Where did we go:
Our first day with the car we drove to a beautiful area on the Banks Peninsula called Akaroa. This was about an hours drive from Christchurch, but the drive there was stunning, with a variety of different landscapes to marvel in. The Canterbury Plains, just a vast area of flat land with the mountains in the background. The drive took us up and down winding roads we just wanted to keep stopping to take photos of the marvellous views. The highlight is the view looking down over the bay area in Akaroa, simply beautiful.
Akaroa is actually a French-influenced town which shows in its architecture. There are tours to go see penguins and dolphins around Akaroa but these were very expensive for our budget. We decided to drive around the Banks Peninsula and headed over to Le Bons Bay, which was on the opposite side to Akaroa, this gave us a peaceful place to wander around and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Arthurs Pass and Castle Hill
Our second day with the car we took the journey over the Arthurs Pass, this was around 2 hours with a few stops along the way. The first stop was Castle Hill, which was spectacular set in the mountainous region it was filled with many rock formations dotted in this one area. We were able to climb up to the top and enjoy awesome views of the surrounding areas. It was like the rocks were just placed here together, it offered a nice place to sit for a while, the only downside was the rain as it was on and off during the drive luckily it stopped while we were at the top.
Onwards to Arthurs Pass, we drove across the Viaduct and stopped at a viewing platform to see a nice view but it rained heavily so we did not see much. We drove back and stopped at the viewing platform for the Viaduct which gave a nice view of it but also we were able to see the Kea which is the alpine parrot, two of them were playing around with each other. They looked fun and seemed to like posing for photos. On the journey back through Arthurs Pass, we stopped to go walk to a waterfall. Devil Punchbowl Waterfall, this was a long walk up a mountain, but there were steps provided to reach a view platform for the waterfall, it was long, wet and slippery but we made it and enjoyed some amazing views. Arthurs Pass was a lovely place to visit and we saw a lot in one day, the mountains are beautiful something we both love, just a shame about the heavy rain.
Fur Seal Colony
In one of my interviews with a hotel, I was informed that a trip to Kaikoura is a must as you can visit a real fur seal colony, along with seeing whales and sometimes dolphins. It was our last day with the car, the journey should have been around 2 and half hours but due to roadworks everywhere along the main coastal route it meant it took around 4 hours, it was horrible.
Google maps really did not help at all, but once we made through the endless roadworks we arrived at the location for the colony to find it was a roadwork site… We were disappointed but carried on the journey as we needed to turn around luckily it was a weekend and no one was working, we spotted about 5 seals on a rock and decided to just park in the roadworks car park area. As soon as we stopped and properly looked out at the rocks we suddenly spotted more and more seals. We climbed down and walked along the rocks closer to the ocean. Wow… there were so many fur seals everywhere and it was just us and them. Towards the edge of the coast, many seals were lazing on the rocks jumping into the cool waters. It was awesome to see them all in their natural habitat, the little ones were so cute. This made the journey worth it and the fact it was just us was even better.
After seeing the fur seal colony which was north of Kaikoura we headed to the town and headed to the whale watching points, we didn’t see any whales I think a boat trip is needed to actually spot any, but we came across more seals. These seals were funny they were sat right next to the busy car park lazing around in funny positions, everyone had a laugh at these three just casually cooling off in the shade. We walked up to a viewpoint to get some last photos before heading back to Christchurch. The journey back was a little faster less traffic and less waiting at roadwork traffic lights.
Another Arrivedo Hotel
Back in Christchurch I signed up another hotel called Tower Junction Motor Lodge, we stayed for two nights and the nice lady offered us a one bedroom apartment which was perfect for our needs. This would be a little rest spot before heading to Auckland. You can read the Arrivedo guide here.
Shout out to Madam Kwong’s for hosting us and the delicious Chinese food they gave us.
Madam Kwong’s in Christchurch offered up many tasty Chinese treats, we tried many dumplings which were exceedingly good along with the sweet custard tarts. If you find yourself in Christchurch and craving some Chinese food this is a great place to visit.
Our flight got cancelled
We got soaked during the last day, heavy rains all day we had to check out and spent the day out which meant waiting for our flight in wet clothes. Upon arrival we were met with an already delayed flight to Auckland with Jet Star, each time I checked the board it would be delayed even more until that dreaded announcement sorry the flight has been cancelled.
This was our first cancelled flight ever, and we had no idea if it was joke or I misheard it. Anyway, we had to rush down to the desk with everyone else to hear what was going to happen next. We had to wait a long time, and in the end, we finally got to the front and we were given a flight in the morning and a 4-star hotel for the night plus transport and food. The hotel was pretty nice, we weren’t too bothered we got an extra stay right in the centre of the Christchurch. apparently, this happens a lot to Jet Star flights whenever we mentioned our flight was cancelled people would say ‘Oh right must be Jet Star’. The next morning we took an uber and got on our plane with no issues, but we noticed that the earlier flight was 4 hours delayed which was the original flight they offered us but we decided to have a later one so we could get some sleep.
Check out the Arrivedo Guide I wrote for All-Stars Inn on the Bealey and Tower Junction Motor Lodge.