The Christchurch & Canterbury i-SITE Visitor Centre is temporarily located in the foyer of the Chateau on the Park Hotel on the corner of Deans Avenue and Kilmarnock Street, Riccarton -- a 15-to 20- minute walk through Hagley Park from the inner city (tel. 03/379-9629; fax 03/377-2424; www.christchurchnz.com). It's open daily from 8:30am to 5pm (closed Dec 25). Keep an eye on their website for possible location changes. Useful websites are www.bethere.org.nz or www.whatsonchristchurch.co.nz.
Cathedral Square (also known as the Square) is the center point around which the main roads are laid out in a grid system, surrounded by four main avenues - Bealey, Moorehouse, Deans, and Fitzgerald. The winding Avon River meanders 24km (15 miles) from the west of Christchurch, through the city and out to sea. The Port Hills, south of the city, are an ever-present landmark from which you can always get your bearings. Colombo Street is the main street running north-south to the Port Hills. Note, however, that since the earthquakes some central city roads will remain closed during repairs. Cordons are changing all the time, so be prepared for some re-routing.
Christchurch -- A Shaken City
On September 4, 2010, at 4:35am, Christchurch residents were shaken awake by a violent 7.1 earthquake. The quake caused extensive physical damage but no lives were lost. That all changed 5 months later, when the city was struck by an even more devastating 6.3 quake at 12:51pm on February 22, 2011. The central city, the port town of Lyttelton, Sumner village, and several eastern residential suburbs suffered massive destruction and 182 people died. The city business district was in complete lockdown for many months, but despite ongoing aftershocks, significant progress has been made to get the city back on its feet. Infrastructure, hotels, restaurants, nightlife, and shops took a severe hit, but there are still plenty of options for visitors on the west side of the city; and many key attractions for the region lie well outside the city in Akaroa, Hanmer, Kaikoura, and South Canterbury, which are unaffected by the earthquakes.
There were over 6,000 businesses and 54,000 employees in the inner city prior to the quakes. Nearly 75% of those have now opened elsewhere. Around 1,000 inner city commercial buildings and 300 more in the suburbs, many of them architectural icons, will have been demolished by the time this book reaches the shelves. The city cordons are reducing all the time, as those demolitions are completed, and while pockets of the business district will remain off-limits, others will be open. Cashell Mall will open first and will act as a gateway to the rest of the city centre. Re-locatable, expo-style structures will be placed in the mall for retailers and hospitality businesses, which are not able to open in their former premises. This will be in the area bounded by Oxford Terrace and Hereford, Colombo, and Lichfield streets. But Christchurch is constantly changing since the quakes and by the time you read this, more of the city will probably be open. If you are planning a visit here, it is vitally important that you check on the current status of the city and its infrastructure. A good source of information is Christchurch i-SITE Visitor Centre, at Christchurch Airport Domestic Terminal (tel. 03/353-7744; www.christchurchnz.com). At press time, their central-city premises were in temporary buildings on the Botanic Gardens' lawn on Rolleston Avenue; their new permanent location will be next to the Canterbury Museum, at the entrance to the Botanic Gardens. Their website is the best first stop.
The shopping centers of Lyttelton over the Port Hills and the city commercial suburb of Sydenham will be the first to be rebuilt. About 60 of the city's 150 suburban centers, which range from large malls to small shopping blocks, were damaged in the February quake. In the meantime, much of the social and commercial business of the city is now conducted in the largely unaffected suburbs of Riccarton (west of Hagley Park), Merivale, and Papanui (north of central city), and Ferrymead in the east, near Sumner. At time of writing, there were still 26 major city attractions and activities operating, plus eight hotels, 10 lodges and apartment blocks, 105 motels, 17 holiday parks, 15 backpacker lodges, and 70 B&Bs in full operation, providing a total of 7,100 guest beds. There are another 11,500 guest beds available in the greater Canterbury region, so you don't need to worry about not having a place to stay. Earthquake damage is very localized and most of the region is unaffected, so there is no need to cancel your holiday. Just keep checking www.christchurchnz.com for constant updates. This particularly applies to public transport systems. Limited bus services resumed within weeks of the quakes and these will be extended by 2012.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.