For the Love of Travel
For the Love of Travel

Summer Frolics in Christchurch

Planning a summer swing with the Garden City? Mike Yardley sets the scene on great summer frolics in Christchurch.

Are you planning a summer swing through Christchurch? There’s an extraordinary array of day trip and side trip possibilities across Canterbury that make Christchurch such a fantastic base camp for wider exploration. But let’s start with some summer essentials in the city. Definitely wrap your lips around the delights of Rollickin’ Gelato, whether it be in New Regent Street or Cashel St. They switch out three flavours every two weeks, so there’s always something new. No matter how times you visit Riverside Market, there’s always new gourmet delights and treats to discover. 

Rollickin Gelato. Credit Rollickin

It’s a great season to savour the essential soul of the city, which is the river and its gardens, whether it be a languid stroll through Hagley Park, the Botanic Gardens, Victoria Square, Mona Vale, Riccarton House or striking out on a great Port Hills hike. If you’re travelling with kids, Margaret Mahy Playground, Orana Wildlife Park, Willowbank, the International Antarctic Centre and the saltwater hot pools at New Brighton are sure-bet family pleasers.

Botanic Gardens. Credit ChristchurchNZ

If you want to see what The Terrace is all about, park yourself up at an outdoor table on Craft Embassy’s balcony. You’ll look down from your sheltered spot onto The Terrace’s most popular spots, it’s a great perch to people watch with a craft pint. Settle in for a session – their rotating taps are sure to make any beer aficionado swoon, with over 30 beers on tap.

Botanic cocktail time. Credit ChristchurchNZ

Another personal favourite is Botanic, the garden bar and restaurant is like a swanky gin place and lofty eatery. Botanic’s unique space bring groups together – a warm balcony overlooking the Avon, a long, clean interior with pockets of bench seating, and a rear rooftop garden bar sheltered by a modern glasshouse. I love their Lavish Lunch offer, which runs every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Enjoy a seasonal platter, hearty main course and decadent dessert, complemented by a 2 hour drinks package including prosecco, bellinis, mimosas and non-alcoholic bubbles. They do superb cocktails at Botanic.

The Terrace. Credit ChristchurchNZ

Speaking of cocktails, Terrace dwellers can also find killer mixes at Kong, with complimentary pretzels for sustenance. Soak up the rays and jazzy vibes at Fat Eddie’s. Wherever you end up, each establishment on The Terrace offers prime views of the sun setting across the Avon. Head down New Regent Street and pop upstairs into The Institution for a charming concoction and slide into quaint booths made from pews that once belonged to an old Akaroa church. If whisky is your poison, choose from over 320 varieties just across the way at The Last Word and enjoy a dram in the courtyard before calling it a night.

The Last Word New Regent St Credit ChristchurchNZ

Mr. Brightside caps the refurbished Public Trust building on Oxford Terrace. It’s my favourite rooftop joint, adding another dimension to Christchurch’s bustling heart. And you can’t go wrong with O.G.B. Directly behind the Cathedral, its a beacon of live music, speak-easy style drinks, and high-class service. Their large patio features heaters and blankets for chillier nights, but if there is live music or a warm breeze, be sure to get there early – those seats fill up fast!

OGB. Credit ChristchurchNZ

Live music? Listen in to local bands, unplugged musicians and DJs with strong drum and bass beats at bars scattered all over town. The Dark Room and Space Academy, sitting opposite one another on St Asaph Street, are well-known for their busy schedule of gigs. The spotlight is on solo acoustic artists at O.G.B, Vesuvio and Boo Radley’s. If you need to let off some steam venture back to The Terrace for live jazz at Fat Eddie’s.

Tram and Canterbury Museum. Credit ChristchurchNZ

Christchurch has welcomed the opening of a stirring new art museum, Ravenscar House. This purpose built gallery and home was donated to Christchurch by Jim and Susan Wakefield to showcase the Ravenscar Trust Collection of decorative art. It boasts a stirring collection of New Zealand art, from some of our biggest names like Colin McCahon, Frances Hodgkins and Charles Goldie. There’s a collection of antiquities, particularly from Ancient Rome and several works by acclaimed New Zealand sculptor Paul Dibble. It’s open daily, directly across from Canterbury Museum on Rolleston Ave.The Court Theatre always turns on a great summer production.

Ravenscar House Credit Canterbury Museum

Just underway all the way through to mid-January,  Little Shop of Horrors is the full-blooded, feel-good hit of the summer! In this dazzling revival, the beloved story of hapless florist Seymour and his blood-thirsty singing plant is brought to life in full technicolour, including musical hits “Somewhere That’s Green”, “Feed Me” and “Suddenly Seymour”.  One of the most successful musicals of all time, Little Shop of Horrors is visually and vocally stunning, delightfully hilarious and outrageously fun. Just remember… Don’t feed the plants!

Botanic Gardens. Credit CCC

Beyond the city, at the base of Mount Hutt, summer in Methven has never been so inviting, with the grand opening in November of the head-turning, Ōpuke Thermal Pools & Spa. Several years in the making, Ōpuke sources its water from the Rangitata River, fed by the glacial melt from the Southern Alps and the pools are sustainably heated by solar thermal collectors. There’s the family hot pools with a kids aqua play zone. Very much designed for the child at heart, the Aqua Play Zone includes a “crazy river” & “leap of faith” plunge pool. You can also take refuge and explore the star lit caves.

Opuke Thermal Pools. Credit Opuke

Pampering for adults? A fully-equipped spa facility will offer a range of treatments and therapies. But best of all, the adult exclusive area will deliver a premium bathing experience, including a combination of larger communal hot pools, secluded private pools, a pool bar and exclusive private cabanas. The Adult exclusive pools are called tranquility pools and  enjoy premier alpine views, water jet massages, bubble therapy, sauna therapies, cold plunge pool and a luxury relaxation area. Pair this with the pool-side canapē & beverage service and you’ll be soaking away your stress instantly.

Waipara wine trail. Credit ChristchurchNZ

Head to wine country in Waipara where there’s so many tempting options like Greystones. This Waipara winery is highly decorated, routinely scooping awards. It’s an industry darling and 100% organic. For example, 12 months ago, their 2017 Vineyard Ferment Pinot Noir is being heralded as one of this year’s Top 100 Wine Discoveries by world-leading wine authority Robert Parker. Vineyard Ferment is about as close as you will get to nature-making wine. The grapes are de-stemmed and put into open vats and the environment’s natural yeasts turn the fruit into wine. Not only is every vintage different, but every vat could vary because it’s affected by the environment while it sat in the vineyard. Nothing is added at all during fermentation. It’s a completely different wine but hugely popular with buyers around the world.

Wine time in Waipara. Credit ChristhcurchNZ

The Waipara Valley is super-boutique, primarily powered by Ma and Pa enterprises. Waipara’s credentials as a pinot noir producer are soaring, and there’s a great stretch of boutique wineries on the south bank of the Waipara river strung along Georges Road, which a lot of visitors aren’t aware of. It’s not well signposted.  One of the best spots is Terrace Edge, which featured on Country Calender recently. If you like a full-bodied Shiraz or Syrah, you’ve got to try their roasted slope Terrace Edge Syrah. This block vines grow on a virtually vertical slope, clinging on for dear life, as they bake under forty degree heat in the summer. Their syrah is magnificent.

Georges Road Wines. Credit Georges Road Wines

And another great stop is Georges Road Wines. Kirk Bray’s Pinot Noir, Syrah and Pinot Gris are elegant, delicate, delicious and a reflection of the unique terroir. They’ve got a fabulous function centre adjoining the cellar door, along with a frills-galore wine pod, complete with gas-fired hot tub, if you fancy a night or two of restful indulgence among the vines, gazing at the Three Deans Mountain Range.

Avon River punting. Credit ChristchurchNZ

Enjoy a splash of summer in Christchurch, your purpose-built base camp for regional exploration. From urban food safaris, knock-out street art to heart-stealing towns, thermal pools and wine adventures. When was the last time you really explored Christchurch? For more inspiration, head to  www.christchurchnz.com