The Avon River flows through the centre of Christchurch city.
The river travels from a spring in the suburb of Avonhead through the western suburbs towards the Botanic Gardens, Hagley Park and the Central Business District. From the city it travels east eventually flowing into the Pacific Ocean via the Avon Heathcote Estuart near Sumner.
The river gets its name from the Avon River in Ayrshire, Scotland. It was named in 1842 by early Scottish settlers William and John Deans.
Due to contamination linked to the earthquakes it is not advisable to swim in the Avon River.
One way to experience the Avon River is on a guided punting tour. There are two departure points. In the Botanic Gardens the departure point is the Antiqua Boat Sheds and the the city departure point is by the Worchester Bridge. A return trip from either point is approximately 30 minutes.
Punting on the Avon River
In my opinion the best way to see the Avon River is to walk along one of the many paths that line its banks. There are walks through the Botanic Gardens and Hagley Park. Another popular walk is following the Avon River through the CBD.
Te Papa Ōtākaro / Avon River Precinct is a restoration and development project of a 3.2 km area surrounding the river following the Christchurch earthquakes.
Watermark was the first section to open in August 2013 between the Antigua Boatsheds and Montreal Street with boardwalks, walkways and street furniture. The Antigua Boatsheds were built in 1882 and are the last of the commercial boat sheds that once lined the river. A variety of row boats can be hired from here.
I started my walk at Victoria Square, originally known as Market Square or Market Place. It was developed and renamed Victoria Square in 1896 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. A statue of Queen Victoria was erected in 1903. Other key features include the Captain James Cook statue and the H.L. Bowker Fountain. A $7 million revamp of Victoria Square is in the planning stages at the moment.
The cast iron and stone Hamish Hay Bridge (also known as Victoria Bridge) was built 1863-4 to replace the wooden Papanui Bridge. The bridge originally had a width of 27 ft 6in. Further work was completed in 1875 and 1885 bringing the width to 66 ft. It is the country’s oldest cast iron and stone bridge and survived the Christchurch earthquakes undamaged.
Cook Statue, Victoria Square
Hamish Hay Bridge / Victoria Bridge
Several other heritage bridges cross the Avon River including the Italianate-style arch Worchester Bridge constructed in 1885 and the Hereford Street Bridge constructed in 1938.
Over the coming years there is going to be a lot of work done revamping the Avon River Precinct. Downsteam, next to the Bridge of Remembrance, is going to be The Terraces, which is going to be a key attraction in the precinct. Another attraction being built is the Margaret Mahy Family Playground. The playground is expected to open around Christmas 2015.
The Bridge of Remembrance was built to commemorate those that served in World War I and was unveiled in November 1924. The archway was built over the Cashel Street bridge. It is currently being repaired following earthquake damage.
Bridge of Remembrance
Park of Remembrance