Beautiful Christchurch is the unassuming jewel of New Zealand's South Island. Built around English university towns like Oxford, Christchurch comes replete with a river called the Avon and weekend punting under willow trees. It is a warm and inviting place that is a compact and cosmopolitan contrast to brassy adventure sports capital Queenstown, the other major South Island destination.
With its rolling hills and quiet people, Christchurch personifies the Canterbury region. Nearby Lyttleton with its dramatic hillside views, sea lions and enormous lumber yards is a perfect place for a day trip as is Akaroa, a slightly further-afield coastal town that overlooks the gloomiest grey waves of the South Pacific and Southern Oceans.
Christchurch's thriving arts and crafts scene is displayed in artisan's stores and boutiques as well as a weekly arts and crafts market. Several annual film festivals are centered in Christchurch and the café and restaurant scene here is easily one of the best in New Zealand. The cathedrals and gardens of Christchurch are its trademark and are justifiably well-patronized.
Christ Church Cathedral marks Cathedral Square, which is the main central civic square of the city. The 134 steps that lead to the top of the fabulous Gothic spire are open to the public and guided walks around the square are informative and good value.
Colombo Street is the main retail and commercial thoroughfare in Christchurch. It runs straight through Cathedral Square and runs to either end of the city. Many of Christchurch's fine hotels are on Colombo Street along with countless shops and art galleries.