As flagged in this earlier post, summer holiday travels always present an exciting challenge for car-free households, such as myself. I have just spent the last week travelling from Oakura Bay (Northland) to Castle Hill (Canterbury) and back again and wanted to share some specific experiences (good and bad) I have encountered along the way, as well as some general thoughts on travelling in New Zealand.

First stop Christchurch and what a pleasant surprise. There seems to have been a noticeable lift in the city’s energy levels since I was last there 6 months ago. Cashel Street’s pop-up shipping container mall seems so successful it looks certain to be retained post re-build. Lonely Planet recently named Christchurch as one of the top 10 cities in the world to visit in 2013.

1. Cashel Street

My only word of advice for Christchurch would be to quietly drop the expensive stadium and convention centre from their re-build plans and replace them with more everyday “people oriented” activities. I suspect the city will derive more long-term value from more residential, commercial, retail activities, and/or recreational activities than grandiose and largely empty visitor facilities. But otherwise, I would like to issue a big “bravo” to Christchurch and all the people working hard to get the city back on its feet.

From Christchurch it was a quick car ride up to Castle Hill, which is a little hamlet located about 1.5 hours drive away in the Arthur’s Pass region of the Southern Alps. My visit to Castle Hill was prompted by my friends Tim and Nina, who decided to get married. The photo below shows the limestone towers of Castle Hill, which provided a stunning backdrop to the wedding ceremony itself.

2. Castle Hill

Castle Hill’s karst limestone escarpments (while the area currently sits at an altitude of over 1,000m it was previously on the sea floor) create a natural maze through which one can easily spend several hours meandering and climbing.

Castle Hill’s only disappointment was the lack of pedestrian linkages between the Village itself and Castle Hill Reserve. As it stands, one must drive 3 minutes from the Village to access the Reserve, rather than walking across the adjacent river/farmland. Selwyn District Council and DoC would do well to work with the local farmer – in conjunction with the local community – to develop a pedestrian connection between the two. After all, for travelers such as myself short little car trips are not so easy.

After four days in Castle Hill I began my pilgrimage back to Oakura Bay in Northland. The trip involved a car ride, a flight, two bus trips, and then another car ride. But what a stunning time of the year to travel – the soft evening sunlight showcased the full range of New Zealand’s natural colours, from the parched yellows of Canterbury’s mountains to Northland’s verdant coasts.

The photo below shows a friend swimming in the so-called “Mermaid Pool” at Oakura Bay.

3. Mermaid Pool

And with that my summer holiday travels are almost complete. I have to say that I have found travelling in New Zealand over the last week or so to be an absolute delight. The country is so well-suited to recreational travel – ever-changing and spectacular vistas emerge around almost every bend in the road. In the words of Fred Dagg, “we don’t know how lucky we are”.

Thankfully travelling around New Zealand also seems relatively easy and cheap. Competition between companies such as NakedBus and Intercity; Air New Zealand and Jetstar; and a variety of rental car companies seems to have kept prices in check while maintaining service levels. For example, the trip from Oakura Bay to Castle Hill and back cost me only $200, despite being in a relatively busy time of the year.

I’d like to finish this post by thanking all of the people who made 2012 such an exciting year for this blog. That’s not only all the other bloggers, who put in a lot of effort in their spare time, but also the numerous readers and commenters who kicked in with valuable additional insight and help round-off some of our rough edges. Despite the occasional disagreement I hope you have all enjoyed yourself; I know that all us bloggers certainly have.

Best wishes to you all and please travel safely.

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  1. You’re a tad confused about the source of the stadium and convention centre, I think. They’re being driven by central government as much as by Christchurch, if not more. The location of the stadium was particularly unpopular with the locals, but Gerry insisted and we know how little Gerry likes to be contradicted.

    1. I do understand that the stadium and convention centre are being driven by central government – although not without some local support I suspect.

  2. I agree with Stu, the ReStart Mall in Cashel Street is great concept and I hope it is not demolished in the central city rebuild. Retaining it and incorporating in the central city rebuild would add character to Christchurch CBD especailly if the trams will be allowed to travel through it as planned, since the tracks have already been laid. I believe the trams are planned to restart in Jun 13, as the Council as approved the repair of the tram network apparently Jerry B is not happy about.

    When I was in Christchurch for a short visit on 26 Dec 12, there is growing concern by the locals I talk too, that the central city may end up with glass and steel buildings (being a cheap rebuild option) which is what Jerry B wants, instead of a range of unique architecturally design buildings that would make Christchurch.

    I also like the Gap Filler outdoor music and entertainment venue located on the former Crown Plaza site corner of Kilmore St and Durham St. This is an interesting concept of using wooden pallets. See –

    With regards to the convention centre, there seems to be a split over the whether it should happen or not.

    Here is the latest photographic update from today Christchurch Press –

  3. Where is the stadium proposed to be located? Surely not in the CBD, or any other ex-swamp (liquefaction) area; hopefully we learn from experience, don’t we?

    Christchurch does need a big stadium for All Blacks tests, the Crusaders and Canterbury provincial games, but there must be plenty of places it can go that are gravelly and less affected by earthquakes, e.g., in the north-west or south-west.

    1. It’s pretty arguable that they need a large stadium, actually. From memory (RNZ interviews with CCC councillors and the like), the old stadium was almost never full at only 35k-ish seats. Even home finals for the Crusaders were played to empty seats, and there’s never going to be another RWC finals-level match played in Christchurch which would be the only other possible justification for more than about 30k seats, if that.

    1. Return Whangarei-Auckland bus ticket = $60
      Return Auckland-Christchurch airfare = $140

      Not sure if it was clear from the post but I got picked up by friends in Christchurch and driven to Castle Hill and back.

  4. Is CC to get an inetrnational cricket ground? Cricket World Cup is only 3 years away. A huge stadium for only 1 AB’s test a year sounds a bit excessive.

  5. I just googled for the new Christchurch stadium and it appears the current plan is to build it in the CBD, on the east side, and the comments say the site is on an active fault line. Looks like Gerry & Co are incapable of learning from experience.

    Bob, the stadium (in the artist’s impression) looks to be a rounded-corner rectangle, so not sure if it’s suitable for cricket as well.

    1. Yes I think the plan is for the stadium to go downtown. I think this is a mistake because stadiums are rarely used and would contribute less to the life of the city than many other things.

      1. I agree Stu. As long as the stadium site has good access, including good high-capacity public transport access (as Lancaster Park could have had (and the insurers say it can be repaired).

        1. Not sure I can agree. High-quality PT access is important, yes, but close proximity to entertainment areas makes a huge difference to the matchday experience. Being able to walk to eating/drinking etc areas before and after the game greatly enhances the experience, as seen globally and in NZ. Compare Wellington stadium’s close proximity to pre- and post-match fun to Eden Park’s relative isolation.

          1. I guess Stu’s point though is that stadiums and convention centres take up a huge amount of space to host perhaps one or two events a week.

          2. I think we’re probably on the same page here – stadiums should be close to downtown but not too close.

            I’m probably in the minority on this but I tend to think the location of Eden Park is fine – it has good rail and bus connections, plus is only a 30 minute walk to the top of town. The main thing letting it down is the (until recently) lack of restaurants and bars in Kingsland – although this is changing quickly. So I think as the city develops and the city centre expands, especially around Newton, then Eden Park will increasingly be seen to be close to the city centre.

            My only riposte to your comment would be to simply caution against focusing too much on what you refer to as the “matchday experience.” To be perfectly blunt, I don’t really care two figs about the experience of your average sports punter – at least compared to other types of visitors. Actually I would probably care about them less because sports crowds tend to spend less per person and generate more hassle for others, in my experience.

            So I would turn it around and think first about the “city experience” of which “matchday experiences” are but a very small part of the equation. I know they tend to dominate more in smaller cities than in larger ones, but even so I think the vast (and silent) majority of people don’t really care much about sports events.

          3. From the Christchurch rebuild blueprint the stadium is shown as covered. This would probably rule it out for cricket and thereby reducing the potential sports usage.

  6. One AB test a year will fill it. Not sure how many are needed for Canterbury and Crusaders games but wouldn’t need much more than 15K would not think.

    1. Bob, for some regular-season games maybe, but for big games and post-season games (as a team that usually makes the playoffs) the Crusaders would probably want 20-25K capacity, if not all the time then through expandability by temporary seats.

      1. Glen, if the Crusaders can draw those sort of crowds every week good luck to them. But they do need to be careful not to over build. Already NZ rugby has Eden Park and Otago Stadium- that never get filled and were built by the taxpayer. I’d prefer to see more resources go to facilities that can be used every day of the week- swimming pools or cricket grounds for example things NZ is woefully short of.

        1. Glen, I agree: a stadium is good close, but not too close to (or in) the CBD.

          A stadium can develop a precinct of its own, without taking over a precinct of the CBD that would still have high development without a stadium – a point I think Matt was alluding to. The “caketin” isn’t right in the heart of Wellington, it’s in an area that was undeveloped, and which may have been a stretch to develop otherwise.

          Stu is right also: Kingsland is developing into a vibrant precinct of it’s own, adjacent to Eden Park (and public transport).

          Bob, with the right stadium, I think Christchurch can expect to host at least two test matches a year, and as a one-eyed Cantabrian (by birth, not residence), I have to boast that the Crusaders and Canterbury can expect to host semi-finals and finals and Ranfurly Shield clashes most years, and have drawn >40,000 crowds in the not-so-distant past (and drew >52,000 in 1985 vs Auckland). The comments I hear are that if they held the games in the afternoon (when it’s warmer) instead of at night (when it can be freezing) they could get those big crowds back again. Remember; they were talking about expanding Lancaster Park to 55,000 for the RWC – before the second big earthquake hit.

          If the Crusaders and Canterbury are allowed to have afternoon games (as South African teams seem to be allowed), then a bigger stadium (or at least one that has the ability to be expanded) would be needed, and it doesn’t need to be covered, and can be “multi-modal” with expandable/retractable seating to convert a larger oval for cricket into a smaller rectangle for rugby – and it doesn’t need to be (and shouldn’t be, in my opinion) in the CBD.

          Anyway, admin are probably getting concerned that we’re getting off-topic a bit (although the siting of stadiums is a big transport and urban design issue), so I won’t go on about it any more here.

    1. yes it is at Oakura Bay. Just walk about the rocks at the southern end of the beach for about 30 minutes.

      It’s a very pretty walk but I would take some sneakers because the rocks are very sharp. Also, the walk is best done at low tide – both because access it easier and also because at high tide waves spill over the rocks and into the pool.

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