Surrounded by the Cashmere Hills, Christchurch is the South Island’s largest city and the gateway to the Canterbury region. With its tree-lined Avon River, gracious parks and gardens, and heritage buildings, Christchurch is considered the most English of New Zealand’s cities. Cathedral Square is the focal point of the city centre, dominated by the elegant 63metre high spire of Christchurch Cathedral. You can climb the cathedral’s gothic spire for superb views over the city, though on both occasions we were near the cathedral, during the late afternoon, the tower was closed.

Sightseeing in Christchurch is made easy by the historic trams that make a circuit around city’s best known sights, or you can have a gentle punt on the River Avon, running through the centre of the city. The city’s compact centre surrounds Cathedral Square making it easy to explore on foot.  There is the giant countdown clock to the start of the Rugby World Cup taking place in New Zealand later this year, or you can play a game of giant outdoor chess!

We took a brief trip to the historic port town of Lyttelton, with its steep streets, craft outlets and harbour view cafés, before visiting the charming French settlement of Akaroa, on the tip of the Banks Peninsula.

The Banks Peninsula landform is the result of violent eruptions of volcanoes, millions of years ago.  As the oceans rose and the entrance sill eroded away, it filled with sea water to become the beautiful harbour it is today. The sparkling waters are home to a variety of sea life, including the world’s smallest and rarest dolphins, the Hector’s dolphin.

On our first evening in Christchurch we met up with some friends, Andrew and Corrinne, who were fantastic local guides, keen to tell us all the best places to hang out.  We had a delicious dinner at the Dux de Lux restaurant together.