Take a journey on Christchurch’s tram network to witness the city’s changing landscape as sparkling new buildings pop up alongside heritage architecture. Numerous developments are under way as part of the rebuild so jump on board to witness this exciting period. Hear about the trams’ history, including the new blue tram, and find out where the city is heading.
Christchurch’s iconic trams trundle along the inner-city streets each day to the tune of knowledgeable conductors. A journey in one of these beautifully-restored heritage trams will transport you back in time and through the city’s changing cityscape. Services ground to a halt after the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 and locals were excited to see the trams up and running again two years later. A full circuit is about 45 minutes and takes in a significant amount of the city. You can hop on and off at any point so we’ve put together some must visit spots.
Consider the past, present and future
Officially stop number two on the tram tour, Cathedral Square is a great spot to disembark and reflect on Christchurch’s past, present and future. Challenge your friends to a game on the giant chess board or, on Friday nights, choose from a variety of delicious food trucks. While the damaged Christchurch Cathedral is a reminder of the earthquakes, the exciting news is that it is to be restored. There are also plans to repair the square’s historic former Post Office building, with potential for it to become a hospitality hub. It’s fair to say the square will look remarkably different in years to come. Nearby is Heritage Christchurch, a hotel housed in the city’s grand Old Government Building, which opened in 1913. For a drink or a bite to eat, duck into O.G.B – a speakeasy-style bar, cafe and restaurant on the premises. It’s a perfect way to get a taste of old Christchurch; you’ll be served by staff in suspenders and newsboy caps.
A riverside dining experience
The Terrace (stop three on the tram tour) is Christchurch’s brand-new hospitality precinct alongside Ōtākaro/Avon River. The all-encompassing retail, office, restaurant and bar complex is inspired by the alleyways of cities like Melbourne, with interlocking passageways and balconies across two stories. Fat Eddie’s, Kong and Original Sin were the first establishments to open in this prime location in 2017, followed by Botanic in early 2018, and there are plenty more to come. Take some time to explore your surrounds, including the restored Bridge of Remembrance and the peaceful Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial. These sights, along with The Terrace, form part of the new Avon River Precinct – a 2.8-kilometre shared promenade for pedestrians, cyclists and slow-moving vehicles.
Shop ‘til you drop
Take a glimpse into Christchurch’s future with The Crossing (stop six on the tram tour) – a brand-new retail precinct on the corner of Cashel and High Streets. The precinct’s people-friendly design makes it a dream place to explore the shops by foot and the tramway runs through, adding a dash of nostalgia to the sparking new development. Explore brand new laneways and find clothing from international brands such as Country Road, H&M and Seed. Walk to the end of High Street and you’ll find yourself in the vicinity of popular eateries such as C1 Espresso, Dux Central and Little High Eatery.
A dose of the arts
Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu (stop 10 on the tram tour) offers fabulous photo opportunities, including the bull on the piano in front of the gallery and the striking wavy glass façade depicting the koru and Ōtākaro/Avon River. The gallery survived the quakes and has since received further strengthening. It is now home to Universo Brasserie & Bar – a relaxed café by day and a contemporary, European-style restaurant by night. The Arts Centre is nearby, featuring one of the most significant collections of heritage buildings in New Zealand. It is a must visit for fans of beautiful architecture – particularly those with an interest in the distinctive Gothic Revival style, and is the subject of a huge restoration effort. Bunsen, the first café to open at the Arts Centre following the Canterbury earthquakes, is well worth a visit. The restored building where it is located was historically used for chemistry and science labs and the café’s menu and decor celebrates this history. The Arts Centre is also home to several unique retailers, from Frances Nation to Shopology and The Fudge Cottage. One of Christchurch’s luxury boutique hotels, The George, is a short walk away. The five-star accommodation is in a beautiful setting overlooking picturesque Hagley Park.
Get amongst the greenery
Established in 1863, the award-winning Christchurch Botanic Gardens feature one of the finest collections of exotic and indigenous plants to be found anywhere in New Zealand. The gardens back onto Canterbury Museum (stop 12 on the tram tour), which is home to a wide array of fascinating objects and exhibitions. The gardens span 21-hectares and feature several conservatories, memorials, walking tracks and the stunning ilex Café, which is run by well-known local chef and restaurateur Jonny Schwass. The airy and architecturally-designed building was inspired by Palm House in Kew Gardens, London. You’ll also find the Antigua Boat Sheds not far away (down the other end of Rolleston Ave), which is where you can board an Edwardian punting tour to see the gardens or city from a new perspective.
A splash of colour
End your tram experience on New Regent St (stop 17 on the tram tour), boasting distinctive pastel colours and beautiful Spanish Mission architecture dating back to 1932. Designed by Francis Willis, the 40 buildings on the street were one of the few large-scale building projects undertaken in the South Island during the Great Depression. Spot the large street art mural in a carpark across Gloucester St and discover an amazing array of bars and eateries – from The Last Word (a stylish whisky bar) to The Caffeine Laboratory, which lives by its reputation for high-quality coffee and great food. There’s also Rollickin Dessert Cafe – a must stop for gelato, sorbet and espresso lovers. Hit up Francesca’s Italian Kitchen for dinner and when it’s time to rest up, there’s just the place around the corner. Crowne Plaza Christchurch overlooks historic Victoria Square on the corner of Armagh and Colombo Streets and has an excellent restaurant on site.
Christchurch is a vibrant, energetic city where urban regeneration, creativity and innovation thrive. Picture amazing street art, innovative projects, a booming hospitality scene and state-of-the-art architecture that is changing the way the city looks, feels and functions – all the while staying true to its heritage and traditional English feel. Take time to explore the city by double-decker bus, vintage bicycle, tram or classic Edwardian punt – or grab your walking shoes and discover bars, eateries and an eclectic mix of boutique shops by foot.
The new blue tram
The newest addition to Christchurch’s eye-catching tram fleet is Tram 1888 – an R-class tram from Sydney. Built in 1934 and leased from the Sydney Tramway Museum, the tram started its life at the Fort Macquarie Depot – now the location of the Sydney Opera House.
Being the only restaurant tram in New Zealand means this is something a little special. The Tramway Restaurant is a great way to explore the inner city, while enjoying delicious food along the way. The 36-seater air-conditioned, colonial style dining tram departs daily as the sun disappears and the sparkling lights of the inner city emerge.