Blogs from our hotels with ideas and inspiration on seasonal travel, travel hints and more.
Written by Sangeeta Kocharekar
Content provided by Bryan Wilkinson, Concierge at The George
Published in The Upsider on 19 September
Heritage neighbourhoods, sprawling city parks and, just a short drive away, some of New Zealand’s most stunning mountain and sea scenery – Christchurch is a must-visit in the South Island. Often overshadowed by snow and adventure-filled Queenstown, the ‘Garden City’ offers visitors a more cultural and slower-paced side to the island.
“What surprises visitors most about Christchurch is the way its new architecture and historic landmarks are wrapped in vibrant street art,” says Bryan James Wilkinson, concierge at award-winning boutique hotel The George in Christchurch.
“Wherever you go, in the city, there will be striking new images to capture your imagination and inspire.”
Hit by two major earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, the city has quietly rebuilt itself and is now at-the-ready to welcome visitors again.
If you’re heading to New Zealand soon and haven’t considered adding Christchurch to the itinerary, ahead, Wilkinson shares not only why you should, but also how best to soak up its culture when you do.
Though the city has plenty to do year-round, spring, in particular, is a good time to visit, Wilkinson says.
“Spring has fresh, clear mornings so you can start your day with a leisurely stroll,” he says. “Or cycle along the edge of tree-lined Harper Avenue. Floating on clouds of cherry blossoms is a truly ethereal experience – they’re surrounding you on both sides.
Embarking on a boat trip down Avon River, complete with an Edwardian-attired punter and baby ducklings alongside you is another must-do spring-time activity.
If you’re exploring the rest of the South Island, chances are you’ll have a rental car. You won’t be needing it in Christchurch. The best way to see the city is by foot or public transport, says Wilkinson.
“The tram is a fun way to take in the must-see sights of Christchurch, and has good-humoured commentary as well,” he says. “The Terrace and the new river promenade is a lovely walk, and you can also make a plan for which bars you will return that evening.”
Wilkinson also recommends doing a self-guided walking tour of the city’s street art. Pop into the Arts Centre, Christchurch Art Gallery and the Centre of Contemporary Art (CoCA) before heading south to Evolution Square, an event space in the heart of SALT (St Asaph-Lichfield-Tuam Streets) districts.
“The area is gritty and edgy with great dining options from breakfast at C1 Espresso to lunch at Little High Eatery and dinner at the Monday Room,” Wilksinon says.
For an authentic Maori cultural experience, don’t go past living Maori village Ko Tane at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. Take in a performance or book into a four-course dinner, which will see you feeding deer between courses.
For a spot of luxury shopping, boutique shopping and dining atrium The Tannery is a good bet. “Finish at Penny Black for tea with all the trimmings – fine china, table linen, tiered cake stands and elegant silverware,” says Wilkinson.
A restaurant locals love, but most visitors never stumble upon is Pomeroy’s Pub, says Wilkinson. “It’s a mid-19th Century English-style pub worth a journey in itself,” he says.
“But the real prize is tucked next to it in the small but delightful Little Pom’s, a cosy neighbourhood café designed with the community in mind.”
Expect a buzzy atmosphere, an open view kitchen and a passion for the crafting of food. “There’s a real aim to harness the natural values. You know it’s good when you see people happily sitting at outside tables whatever the weather.”
And if you’re after something a little more upscale, head to Pescatore. Tucked into The George, the restaurant is the city’s only two-hatted.
“What makes it so special is the amazing ten-course degustation menu with sublime matching wines,” says Wilkinson.
“The name Pescatore is Maltese for ‘fisherman’, but they don’t only serve the seafood the New Zealand coast does so well. Chef de Cuisine Andy Tranter and his brigade also present a beautiful Canterbury duck and beef sirloin, elderberries, bone marrow and vanilla butter.”
Easily one of the city’s most unique bars is OGB, a speakeasy-style bar in a heritage building.
“The Old Government Building built in 1913 with its imposing Renaissance palazzo style has a powerful presence in Cathedral Square,” says Wilkinson. “The OGB bar looks the part with bartenders wearing suspenders, caps and bowler hats.”
Live music entertains guests most evenings, and, in the warmer months, al fresco dining can be enjoyed. Tucked within OGB, a speakeasy within a speakeasy, is The Parlour.
“You access it through a secret bookcase and sheer curtains. It’s a ladies-only space where ‘ladies can go to talk about gentleman’ on chairs lined with maroon velvet.”
“Boasting snow-covered mountains that look like magic, rustic eateries and a palpable atmosphere of adventure, New Zealand’s South Island is one of the best places in the world to enjoy the cooler winter months,” says Bryan Wilkinson, concierge at 5-star luxury hotel The George in Christchurch New Zealand.
Just when we thought a red wine by the fireplace couldn’t get any better – spicy cinnamon, star anise and hints of vanilla take this tasty drop to the next level.
You trawled through the finest boutiques in London and spent a pretty packet on that glorious winter coat – now’s it’s time to show her off.
THE LUMIERE CINEMA
Whether you choose the Bernhardt or the Bardot, this boutique cinema boasts cheese boards, cocktails and unsurpassed elegance.
From creating to consuming and then bragging – whipping up a homemade soup is oh so satisfying.
Moody, deserted and powerful - New Zealand’s beaches sometimes look their most beautiful during the cooler months.
THE SOUTHERN LIGHTS
The longer, darker nights of winter can be the perfect time to view this wondrous natural phenomenon.
HAGLEY PARK FROSTS
Crunchy frost instantly transforms this beloved local park into an absolute winter wonderland.
Snuggly homegrown Merino sweaters keep us toasty all day long.
THE CURATORS HOUSE AT THE BOTANIC GARDENS
Beautiful Spanish fare not to be missed. Be sure to ask for table 11 by the fire.
SLOW COOKED MEALS
Picture this, slow-cooked Canterbury lamb falling off the bone - made that much better by the fact that it cooked perfectly, all on its own.
HAMNER SPRINGS IN THE SNOW
Hot spa, falling snow – enough said.
RECOVERING LOST ITEMS
Finding $20 or that long-lost lipstick in your forgotten winter duds is the seasonal gift that keeps on giving.
BOX SETS & BINGE-WATCHING
Guilt-free indoor entertainment.
An unexpected refund is just the ticket to brighten a wintery day.
Card or board - take your pick. We’re just here for the strategy, comradery and the banter.
SNOW COVERED SCENERY
Other-worldly, ethereal, magic. There’s a reason New Zealand’s been the backdrop of some of the world’s most visually stunning movies.
Home to some 90 wineries producing world-renowned Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling, winter is the perfect time to sample these incredible local drops.
Incorporate all that winter goodness into your 5+ a day.
Travelling from Antarctica to Tonga and along the east coast of New Zealand, migrating Humpback Whales can be found in our waters between July and August.
LOW GARDEN ADMIN
Cooler weather means needy lawns, weeds and garden maintenance is at a minimum.
Piping hot with brown sugar, cream and a nip of Scotch if you dare.
MARGARET MAHY PLAYGROUND
One epic adventure to get the blood pumping, no matter what your age.
GLOVES, HATS AND SCARVES
Fashionable items add extra personality to any outfit… And protect us from the elements.
Scaly winter skin be gone with a luxurious spa treatment.