When devastating earthquakes struck Christchurch – New Zealand’s second largest city - almost five years ago, creative and passionate locals were determined to use the opportunity to reimagine their city.
Now Christchurch is emerging with an intriguing new edge and, while the CBD is still a work in progress, visitors to Christchurch who know where to look are certainly well-rewarded.
Five years on from the events that changed the face of their hometown, five local personalities who’ve had an active hand in reinvigorating Christchurch share their favourite thing to do in town.
Sam Crofskey – The man behind Christchurch’s urban renewal
Sam Crofskey, owner of C-1 Espresso, was among the first to breathe new life into Christchurch’s damaged central city.
When C-1 reopened in November 2012 in one of the few heritage buildings left standing, it was the first permanent café to re-establish in town and possibly the first in the world to deliver food at 100km/hr by pneumatic tube and red wine produced from the rooftop vineyard.
C-1’s phoenix-like rise has won plaudits for Sam - even if he is dismissive of this praise, pointing out that there are now more cafés in Christchurch than before the earthquakes.
Sam’s tip: The post-quake hospitality scene - “There are not enough hours in the day (or night) to go to the new places that are springing up - food markets, food trucks, new restaurant, bars, cafes and precincts.”
C-1-Espresso is located at 185 High Street, Christchurch c1espresso.co.nz
Giulio & Christy Sturla - Savouring small and sustainable
Aftershocks were still rattling portside Lyttelton when Giulio and Christy Sturla launched Roots.
From turbulent times and humble origins comes New Zealand’s latest culinary star – the Cuisine magazine ‘NZ Restaurant of the Year’, Roots is taking food sustainability to a new level while helping reinvigorate the little port town.
Drawn to New Zealand’s natural beauty, Chilean-born Giulio and Christy, an American, arrived in 2010 with the dream of starting their own restaurant.
On Giulio’s first day at work in Christchurch, an earthquake severely damaged the city.
That restaurant building survived the earthquake but later damage forced it to close. With a family to support, the couple sold homemade goodies and produce then started a daytime café / evening supper club.
They leased damaged premises, refurbished by hand, gardened, foraged and bartered their way into opening Roots.
Giulio and Christy’s tip: Christchurch Gondola – Take the Christchurch Gondola to the Summit Station on Mt Cavendish for impressive views and “a great place to visit”.
Roots Restaurant is at 8 London Street, Lyttelton rootsrestaurant.co.nz
Glen Tregurtha - Life cycles through Christchurch
Glen Tregurtha’s view of the changing face of Christchurch is an intimate daily affair guiding cycling and walking tours through the city precincts. Each tour is a showcase of the city’s amazing transition as bars, restaurants and commercial buildings open, bringing people back.
In 2012, when Glen began working for Christchurch Bike and Walking Tours, his beat traversed the Red Zone with its checkpoints guarded by soldiers.
“It was difficult seeing the changes,” he says. “But you have to move on at some point.
I knew it was an amazing opportunity for the city to reinvent itself, so from the beginning my mind set has been unwaveringly optimistic.”
Glen’s tip: Summit Road – From Sumner village, cycle or walk up Evans Pass Road to Summit Road, then choose Godley Head for a breath-taking ocean view or head down via Mt Pleasant.
Bike and Walking tours depart from outside The Antigua Boat Sheds (2 Cambridge Terrace). chchbiketours.co.nz
Marcia Butterfield - Christchurch reveals Neat Places
Marcia Butterfield thought her hometown was getting a bad rap when her friends complained about the lack of things to do in Christchurch post-earthquakes, so she set out to prove otherwise.
As the city began recovering its damaged heart, it was hard to keep up with all the creative community projects, new openings and returning old favourites.
Marcia’s response was ‘Neat Places’ – a practical little guide profiling whatever was new and hot to do in Christchurch. Since 2010, Marcia’s “little hobby project” has flourished.
By revealing the hidden gems – local, distinctive and one-of-a-kind businesses – and how to find them, it makes the challenge of exploring a city in recovery more accessible and enjoyable.
The app is free to download - neatplaces.co.nz
Marcia’s tip: Black Estate, Waipara - Family-run winery eatery (90 minutes’ drive north, at 614 Omihi Rd in the Waipara Valley wine region) for stylish relaxed food and wine. blackestate.co.nz
George Shaw - Colouring Christchurch’s streetscapes
Ex-pat Englishman George Shaw, is determined to turn Christchurch into a world street art leader by curating a major exhibition featuring international street artists – the Spectrum street art festival.
Spectrum is the latest event in a movement that is transforming Christchurch into a canvas for a colourful, transitional art movement.
Street art has turned Christchurch into “a magnetic city” with more major murals than anywhere else in the southern hemisphere.
Spectrum (12 December 2015 to 17 April 2016), will be based in Christchurch’s YMCA, with other new outdoor works on various city sites. streetart.co.nz
George Shaw’s tip: New Regent Street - “It’s a lively little spot day and night, crammed full of interesting bars and cafes all set within beautiful traditional architecture.”