Christchurch, New Zealand

January 2018

I knew Christchurch would be epic when I saw their airport had a fake mountain backdrop.


  • Road trip to Arthur’s Pass
  • Franz Josef Glacier hikes
  • Kayaking across Lake Mapourika
  • Street art in Christchurch
Just another clean ass airport in New Zealand. There was also a prayer room to the right with an icon of a stick man kneeling.

“Why on earth would you come to Christchurch and not plan to see nature?” asked my perplexed Airbnb host in Christchurch. We were chatting after I arrived, and she asked what I had planned to do during my stay. I cheerily chirped that I had no real plans, and that I’d hang around the city.

It rained for four days straight after I arrived to Christchurch. It even flooded in some areas. This is was taken outside the Christchurch Art Gallery.

Apparently no one comes to Christchurch to see Christchurch. She basically called me an ignorant American. Well, maybe not that directly. But it kind of was. She tried to soften what she had just blurted out by throwing in a generalization that “Americans [not you, Claire, but yes, you] are so ignorant when it comes to traveling,” and then added that, “They’re lovely people, though.”

Much of the city is still recovering from the massive 6.3 earthquake in 2011. If you look carefully, you can see a large church behind the steel beams. There was a museum dedicated just for the earthquake. It was called Quake City and cost $19 NZ admission.

Ok, so I was a lazy

Christchurch park, outside of the botanical gardens.

Knowing that my trip would culminate in Christchurch, I lost steam and didn’t fully plan or research. So, I mostly anticipated seeing the city and relaxing. Plus, with all that soft, warm summer rain, I was extra lethargic.

Shopping area with shops made from containers and cute lunch trucks. It rained. A lot.

After that conversation, however, I felt a pang of slight regret because I should’ve planned to see every inch of New Zealand’s untamed, wild gloriousness that was within my reach. I quickly snapped back into militant travel mode.

Christchurch Botanical Gardens during a light summer rain.

I didn’t travel 27 hours for nothing, right?! Word.

The walkway before reaching Christchurch Botanical Gardens.

My frantic schedule change

The city is a cool mix of new and old.

I hopped on my computer and completely changed my schedule for Christchurch, canceling other Airbnbs I had lined up and booking new rooms along the way to Franz Josef Glacier, which marked my new destination. It was a five-hour drive from Christchurch.

No, this is not an amusement park. It’s a Christchurch playground that puts all American playgrounds to shame. Kiwis don’t mess around!

So, I packed up the little clunker and drove through Arthur’s Pass, Whataroa, Hokitika (Ho-ki-tika, for some reason that one took me forever to figure out how to say, I kept saying Ho-ti-kika), and finally Franz Josef Glacier.

Local office workers come to eat lunch here, which is near the park and Botanical Gardens.
I noticed there were containers that blocked the wreckage caused by the earthquake.
Christchurch street art, undoubtedly my favorite part of the city!

The South Island is all about the southern part, duh

Devil’s Punchbowl at Arthur’s Pass

The South Island in New Zealand has so much adventurey goodness. You can go on a gazillion breathtaking hikes, skydive, kayak, white water raft, see glow worms in creepy caves, bungee jump and so much more.

This was a hike I did around Okarito.

I was bummed I didn’t have enough time to see Queenstown, but it was simply too far for me to drive. It would’ve been better to jump on a short flight, but considering the lack of time I had left before flying home, I think I did a pretty good job of jamming it all in.

Road to Arthur’s Pass & Franz Josef Glacier was the most peaceful, scenic road trip, ever

Never a dull moment while on the road. Another WTF moment!

I first headed up the mountain through Arthur’s Pass National Park. The drive was relaxing and a few times I literally gasped at the grandness of the landscape that completely engulfed me.

On the way to Arthur’s Pass.

I stress out when there’s one road and an impatient car trailing inches behind, so I made sure to go at my own pace and take my sweet ass time. There were hardly any cars anyway, and whenever there was, I simply pulled aside and allowed the driver to quickly pass.

Humming along Route 6 to Arthur’s Pass.

The road was sometimes windy, but nothing crazy or scary. The countryside in Ireland was way scarier. I soaked in the ever-changing scenery.

On the way to Arthur’s Pass. Those are cows in the distance.

Sometimes it was green and spring-like as far as the eye can see, and other times, it was rocky and dry, with giant boulders sitting alongside the road, like Mount Doom in the land of Mordor.

There were a lot of one-lane bridges, which means you have to pull over and wait until the on coming car passes.

There was water, everywhere. In all forms, colors and textures, whether it was coming from above in some waterfall contraption, flowing next to me in a gushing giant stream, or a sparkly glimmer on the horizon.

The road to Mount Doom? Thankfully, that’s not the road I had to take.

New Zealand has a bazillion hiking trails. Many of them are nicely paved and very easy.

Parking is also a cinch, since there aren’t a lot of cars to begin with, and there’s no such thing as meters or parking restrictions posted sidewalks. Well, I saw a few, but I was told it’s not enforced.

I turned left here, or was it right?


Hokitika was like time warping back to the ’90s. A one-hour photo!

I bummed around in Hokitika for a day, but stayed in an inn 30 minutes away in Whataroa.

An old church in Whataroa.

I even watched “Darkest Hour” here. (Spoiler alert, it was boring.)

No, that’s not a conference room with a big screen. That was the actual theater! It cost $13.50 NZ for a ticket.

The movie theater fit 15 people and was like a sauna in there. I noticed that New Zealand (and Australia for that matter) doesn’t blast air conditioning indoors, like they do in the states when it’s hot outside. I didn’t mind it because I tend to get cold.

During the silent parts of the film, I could hear the grandma next to me — her stomach was growling. As the crowd of 15 people and I walked out of the theater, one guy’s entire backside was drenched from sweat! Yikes.

But the best part about the theater? They actually had assigned seating!

As you can tell, there’s not a lot going on in Hokitika. But it was still lovely to see. Doesn’t the sky look bigger in New Zealand?

Franz Josef Glacier

See the glacier way at the top? On my way to Franz Josef Glacier.

There are two glaciers on the west side of New Zealand. One is Franz Glacier and the other is Fox Glacier.

It looks so close! You can pay for a tour of the top of the glacier, but of course I didn’t bring the right shoes so I couldn’t do it.
There were so many waterfalls on the way to Franz Josef Glacier.
Devil’s Punch Bowl waterfall at Arthur’s Pass.

I went to Franz Glacier and hung out in the little town to eat, get coffee, get groceries and schedule a kayak trip.

Kayaking on Lake Mapourika underneath a magical rainbow.
Plummet-to-your-death sign, on the walk to Franz Josef.


This was the morning view from my porch at the little inn in Whataroa. The sun comes up in New Zealand at 5:40am!
Another view from my room in Whataroa.
This was the house right in front of where I was staying in Whataroa. It’s covered by the giant tree.
It’s Gandalf! I stopped by this cafe in the middle of no where for a flat white, and their credit card machine was broken. I had zero cash, so back in my car I went, white flat-less. (That was not my car but it could’ve been.)
I passed through a little town near Franz Josef Glacier and had brunch and a flat white.
A hike up to see the spectacular views from Westland Tai Poutini National Park.

2 thoughts on “Christchurch, New Zealand

  1. The southern part of New Zealand looks utterly amazing. I’m sure the in-person view was even better too! Looks really untouched.


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