Photo sailgp via photosport

Charting a Course to Christchurch: SailGP Proves City is a Must-Visit

Ask any local of Christchurch, and they’ll tell you the city has transformed over the past decade. It’s had a makeover to rival a Kardashian, yet it wasn’t exactly voluntary – thanks to a horrific earthquake in 2011. But when the universe dishes out a case of the tremors,  you might as well make a masterpiece out of the rubble. And while this figurative work of art is incomplete, it’s time to acknowledge the city as a top-tier destination for travel-hungry Aussies heading across the ditch.

Over the weekend, the city hosted the SailGP, marking a symbolic milestone and a long overdue coming-out party. This high-octane spectacle on the waters of Whakaraupō, Lyttelton Harbour, was the perfect way to commemorate its rebirth and show the world that Christchurch is back and better than ever. I had the luxury of not only attending the sporting event but was able to explore the reinvigorated city’s best offerings. For me, the city hits on three critical elements of any good trip away: picturesque scenery, adventure and a unique cultural experience. Move over, Auckland; Christchurch is giving you a run for your money as New Zealand’s capital of cool.

Waka on avon

Waka Tour | Image: Waka on Avon

Top Visits

Let’s begin with the obvious: the scenery. Being a Sydneysider, I’m accustomed to breathtaking beaches and endless ocean views. However, the landscapes around Christchurch left me in awe, and the best way to experience it in all its glory is via a boujee helicopter ride. The snow-capped mountains, undulating hills, and glistening waterways resembled something straight out of a postcard (remember those?). At the heart of the city lies the iconic Avon river, encapsulating the natural essence of Christchurch. One of the most insightful ways to discover the river’s historical significance is through a Waka tour, where visitors can paddle downstream on a traditional Maori boat. As I glided along the water, I learned fascinating facts from our guides, such as how the local council replanted natural flora (removed by early settlers) back to its banks after the earthquake. This initiative has caused natural wildlife to return to the area, resulting in a magically unique experience for those who embark onto its waters.

Akaroa New Zealands

Akaroa | Image: Holland America Line

One of the highlights of my trip was visiting Akaroa, a charming French-inspired town about an hour and a half’s drive from Christchurch. It’s situated on a stunning natural harbour and offers some of the most turquoise water I’ve ever seen (which I’m told is due to glacial erosion, whatever that is…). I spent a lazy afternoon strolling through the town’s narrow streets, popping into boutique shops and sampling some local delicacies. A hidden dining gem worth visiting is Ma Maison, which offers locally sourced ingredients combined with the best waterfront views overlooking Daly’s wharf and the Akoroa Harbour. If you’re feeling more adventurous after a feed, you can go kayaking or take a Black Cat Cruise to spot the local wildlife, including super cute Hector’s dolphins and blue penguins.

Ziplines christchurch adventure park

Ziplining | Image: Christchurch Adventure Park

But if you’re really looking for an adrenaline rush, I highly recommend ziplining through the stunning Canterbury countryside. Christchurch Adventure Park offers an experience like no other – you’ll be soaring through the air at speeds of up to 80km/h, taking in the breathtaking views of the Southern Alps and the patchwork of green fields from 150 metres above the ground. It’s a great way to get your heart racing and see the region from a different perspective. I just wish I had packed a nappy (kidding, sort of).

David wall alamy

Hagley Park Botanic Gardens | Image: David Wall/Alamy

One of the most surprising joys of my travels was taking a morning run through Hagley Park. At first, I thought it would be a simple track to stretch my legs, but I discovered so much more. The park includes a golf course that runs through the entire area, where families feed ducks while an elderly hacker tees off just a few meters away. As someone who enjoys the game, I found the experience fascinating yet mildly dangerous. I can only imagine if Sydney’s Centennial Park had an entire 18-hole golf course running through it! Once you finish marvelling at the locals’ best swings, make sure to venture to the parks’ serene Botanical Gardens, which provide a tranquil escape amid the bustling city.

Cardboard cathedral dominic schaefer

Cardboard Cathedral | Image: Dominic Schaefer

And then there’s the architecture. Now, as someone from a city that’s barely 250 years old, I’m easily impressed by anything older than my great-grandma. Christchurch, however, takes it to a whole new level. The Gothic Revival-style buildings, like the Christchurch Cathedral and the Arts Centre, are simply breathtaking – even if the former is still under repair. But what’s really impressive is how the city has taken the destruction from the 2011 earthquake and turned it into something beautiful. The “cardboard cathedral” (yes, you read that right) is a prime example – it’s made entirely out of cardboard tubes and is one of the most innovative buildings I’ve witnessed in person.

Twenty seven steps luxury escapes

Twenty Seven Steps | Image: Luxury Escapes

And let’s not forget about the food. Everything was simply delicious, from the fresh local seafood to the grass-fed beef. One eatery that should not be missed is Twenty Seven Steps, and believe me; the climb is worth it. Tucked away in the historic district of New Regent Street, this chic European bistro has earned a reputation as one of New Zealand’s finest. The friendly staff serves up exceptional cuisine, offering a wide variety of mouth-watering dishes, including locally-sourced produce, such as succulent Canterbury beef, tender lamb, Te Tapu venison, and premium Akaroa salmon. Also, make sure you pop in early for a cocktail at Downstairs, their sister bar beneath the eatery.

All in all, I have to say that Christchurch exceeded my expectations in every way. It’s a city full of surprises and hidden gems, and I feel lucky to have experienced its 2.0 upgrade. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful retreat or an adventure-packed weekend, Christchurch has something for everyone – and it will only improve. So pack your bags and head over – you won’t regret it.

Visit Christchurch

Christchurch New Zealand

New Regent Street | Image: Getty

Sam Mangioni
Journalist - Entertainment, Culture & Lifestyle

Sam Mangioni

Sam Mangioni is an experienced content producer and the current Entertainment, Culture & Lifestyle Journalist for Man of Many. With an extensive background in digital content production and news, Sam specialises in delivering timely, accurate and witty assessments of current events. Prior to working for Man of Many, Sam spent three years at Southern Cross Austereo where he served as a Content Producer and News Reporter for the flagship Triple M Breakfast Program. The Sydney-based reporter completed a Bachelor of Commerce from Macquarie University Majoring in Marketing in 2014. Sam's work has also featured in Fight News Australia.