Heritage at heart
The capital of South Island, Christchurch is New Zealand's second-largest city. It was number two on the New York Times' list of 52 places to go in 2014, notwithstanding the devastating earthquake that shook the city in 2011.
No place in New Zealand is changing and developing as fast as post-earthquake Christchurch, and visiting this city as it's being rebuilt is both interesting and inspiring. Traditionally the most English of New Zealand cities, Christchurch is now adding a modern layer to its damaged heritage heart.
Christchurch was settled in 1850 at the orders of the Church of England and the fertile lands around it were deliberately put in the hands of the gentry, who made their fortunes in wool. It was meant to be a model of class-structured England in the South Pacific.
Christchurch will host three matches at the World Cup 2015, including the tournament's opening ceremony and opening match between New Zealand and Sri Lanka on February 14.
What to pack: Though February is the height of summer, some days can be quite cold, so do pack a jacket. Then there is the wind that always blows, so hold on to your hats and caps. Sunscreen and a rain jacket or umbrella would be a good idea too. With so much water around you'll certainly find yourself on a boat sometime or the other, so carry motion-sickness pills if needed.
Christchurch airport is 12km from the city centre. Super Shuttle operates 24 hours and goes to various suburbs. Another option is Steve's Airport Shuttle. There is also a City Flyer Bus that runs to and from the Central Bus Station, beside taxis. The Christchurch bus network is efficient and inexpensive. Get timetables from the Central Bus Stations information kiosk or at the .Metro website. For taxis, there's Blue Star and Gold Band.
Where to stay
High-end: The George is a boutique hotel with 53 rooms in various categories, well appointed and with discreet staff. If something more "historic" is up your street, try Orari B&B, housed in a Victorian house with a lovely front garden. They serve a complimentary glass of wine in the evening. Anselm House, also a B&B, occupies a heritage mansion designed by renowned architect Heathcote Helmore, and features a beautiful riverside garden.
Mid-range: For a super-comfy B&B option, look no further than Wish. Their breakfasts are legendary. CentrePoint on Colombo, close to the city centre, is a comfortable motel under Kiwi-Japanese management. The owners are a wealth of information on the best places to eat in the city and entertainment around town. Roma on Riccarton is a short walk from cinemas, bars and restaurants and a shopping mall. The accommodation is in the form of studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments.
Budget: Brightly painted and equipped with a barbeque area, Chester Street Backpackers is a wooden villa popular with budget travellers. The bathrooms are shared. Foley Towers provides well-maintained rooms encircling a quiet inner courtyard and friendly dorms. More of a homestay than a hostel, Canterbury House is just a ten-minute walk from the CBD.
Where to eat
High-end: Very classy, very expensive and serving very tasty food, Pescatore at The George regularly makes it into all kinds of highly esteemed gourmet lists. If you want an elegant meal, this is the place to go. Bodhi Tree is the city's only Burmese restaurant and also one of the city's best eateries. Subtle flavours and fresh ingredients are this restaurant's hallmark.
Mid-range: Run and owned by Dilip Singh from Chandigarh, Indian Sumner has been serving Indian cuisine and Kingfisher beer since 2002. Edisia restaurant and bar has a lovely, funky spin on fine dining. The diner menu includes innovative dishes made from local venison, salmon and quail. Lunch is more informal with steaks and gossamer light pasta. At the Holy Smoke steakhouse (650 Ferry Road, Woolston 8023, New Zealand Phone: +64 3-943 2222), local manuka (NZ tea tree) wood is used to smoke everything from pork ribs to chicken wings to bacon and salmon. The menu also includes slabs of venison, lamb and beef, all teamed with craft Kiwi beers and wines.
Budget: If you have a craving for Indian classics like dal makhani, kadhai chicken, rotis and naans, Himalayas does them just right. Under the Red Verandah is a bohemian café offering a range of tasty organic and gluten-free cooking. For a between-meals bite, head to Serious Sandwich, a compact little eatery that is very, well, serious about its breads and what goes between them.
Where to party
Dux Live is an excellent restaurant, microbrewery and live music venue. At Darkroom, there's live music and great beer, plus mini pizzas and often free entry. This place is always happening, hip and packed. For more live music and club listings visit the Chart website.
Don't leave Christchurch without...
Driving to Kaikoura (181km north of Christchurch) The attraction here is whale-watching. To see these giant custodians of the sea right next to the boat is truly magical.
Visiting Franz Joseph (379km east of Christchurch) and doing a heli-hike to the glacier. This is possible because the glacier is hardly at 800 feet and you don't need to acclimatise before hiking on it.