They are a resilient bunch, the Cantabrians. In late 2010 and early 2011, the city suffered two major earthquakes that killed almost 200 people and left what was one of New Zealand’s most picturesque cities in ruins.
But the spirited locals didn’t lie down and give up or move: they adapted to a ‘pop-up’ way of life, by creating bars, restaurants, shops, cinemas and even stadiums in unique temporary ways.
Helping breathe life into the CBD is the Re:START shopping precinct in Cashel Mall, home to boutiques, homewares stores and cafés in containers. Shop at Trelise Cooper, Toi Toi and Workshop, and grab a coffee from Crafted. (Cashel Mall, Christchurch).
In our favourite twist on the drive-in, local organisation Gap Filler recently created a cycle-powered cinema on a vacant site. It’s been one of many pop-up projects and while that’s gone for now, the team have created the Summer Pallet Pavilion, a live music and events venue that features a bar from Thursday to Saturday 6-10.30pm. Cnr Durham & Kilmore Sts, Christchurch).
Time Out’s favourite temporary drinking den in town is Smash Palace, where a bus has been converted into a back bar, complete with bar fridges and beer taps. Food is available from Rosies, a transformed caravan that serves the best burgers in town. Cnr Victoria St & Bealey Ave, Christchurch. +64 21 353 759).
Next door at Saggio di Vino, a relocated and reopened fine dining restaurant, expect fine local fare and very good South Island wines. Order the smoked Aoraki salmon and a glass of the 2009 Mountford Village Pinot Noir from nearby Waipara. 179 Victoria St, Christchurch. (+64 3 379 4006).
Another recent addition is the Cassells and Sons Bar and Pizzeria on Madras Street that serves Cassells’ own beers (order our favourite, the Alchemist) along with regional produce, including whitebait when it’s in season. 208 Madras St, Christchurch. (+64 3 379 4223).
To get a unique perspective on this rapidly changing city and to find out more of Christchurch’s intriguing history, take the one-hour Hasslefree Discover Christchurch Tour in a vintage London double-decker bus. (+64 3 385 5775).
The region is home to several top wineries, an hour’s drive north in Waipara. Make sure you stop at Mud House (780 Glasnevin Rd, Amberly, +64 3-311 8220) and Pegasus Bay (Stockgrove Rd, Amberley, +64 3 314 6869), taking home some chardonnay and pinot noir.
While many of the city’s hotels were damaged as a result of the quakes boutique property the George survived with barely a scratch. The breakfast at 50 Bistro is a must, while the Evolution Menu, with matching wines, is the order at Pescatore upstairs, if it’s not booked out. (50 Park Tce, Christchurch. +64 3 371 0256).
Air New Zealand flies daily to Christchurch. For more, visit christchurchnz.com.