TranzAlpine, Christchurch to Greymouth

The TranzAlpine is a scenic tourist train that travels from Christchurch to Greymouth.

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The journey is 223 kilometres (139 miles) one way and travels across the Canterbury plains, alongside the Waimakariri River and through the Southern Alps. It is regarded as one of the top scenic train rides in the world.

There are 3 passenger cars A, B, D. The C car is a café car serving meals, snacks and beverages. KiwiRail Scenic Journeys currently serves prepackaged meals from catering company Wishbone. Staff can heat up meals. The meals are reasonably priced but many passengers seem to bring their own snacks as it is only a four-and-half-hour trip one way.

An open viewing car was located at the front of the train, offering the best opportunity for photos and a breath of fresh air.

The train departs Christchurch at 8:15 am and travels across the Canterbury plains with stops at Rolleston, Darfield, Springfield and Cass.

TranzAlpine, Christchurch Railway Station

TranzAlpine, Christchurch Railway Station

TranzAlpine crosses Canterbury plain

TranzAlpine crosses Canterbury plain

Springfield

Springfield

The train stops at Arthur’s Pass for approximately 20 minutes, which is a good opportunity to get off have some fresh air, take some photos, throw a snowball or two.

After Arthur’s Pass train stops at Otira, Jacksons, Moana (Lake Brunner), Kokiri before a scheduled arrival in Greymouth at 12:45 pm.

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Arthur's Pass

Arthur’s Pass

Greymouth Railway Station

Greymouth Railway Station

The train returns from Greymouth at 1:45 pm arriving in Christchurch at 6:05 pm. It is possible to do the TranzAlpine as a day trip or have an overnight stay in Greymouth.

 

The Giant’s House Akaroa

The Giant’s House is a quirky sculpture, mosaic garden and gallery in Akaroa.

The Giant's House

The Giant’s House

The sculpture, mosaic and terraced garden is created by artist Josie Martin.

The Giant’s House is located at 68 Rue Balguerie, which is off Rue Lavaud (Akaroa’s main road).

Winter hours (1 May – 24 December) are 2 pm – 4 pm and summer hours (26 December – 30 April) are 12 pm – 5 pm. On cruise ship visiting days (October – December) it is open 12.30 pm – 4 pm. Adults are $20, children (2 – 15) are $10, students and NZ super gold card holders are $17. There are family pass tickets available.

The house also offers bed and breakfast accommodation.

The house was built in 1880 by the BNZ Bank Manager. It took 5 years to build the house using Kauri and Totara milled from the Banks Peninsula. The house was named ‘The Giant’s House’ after a little girl looked up at the house and said it was so big it must belong to a Giant.

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Akaroa Museum

Akaroa Museum is a local history museum.

Akaroa Museum

Akaroa Museum

The Museum is located at 71 Rue Lauvaud. The museum is open 7 days a week, except Christmas Day and ANZAC Day morning. Summer hours are 10:30 am – 4:30 pm and winter hours are 10:30 am – 4:00 pm.

When I visited the galleries were closed due to construction work. The gift shop was open and it was possible to view the museum’s three heritage buildings.

The Akaroa Museum was established in 1964 around the Langlois-Eteveneaux Cottage, a two room cottage built in the early 1840s for Aimable Langlois. He returned to France in 1842. In 1858 the cottage passed to Jean-Pierre Eteveneaux and later his son Jean-Baptise, who did remodeling. In the mid 1960s the additions to the cottage were removed to return it to its original two room cottage.

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Langlois-Eteveneaux Cottage

The Museum is also responsible for the Old Akaroa Court House and the Custom House.

A resident magistrate’s court was formed in Akaroa in 1840. It was not until 1880 though that the Court House building was built and was in use until 1979.

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Old Akaroa Court House

Old Akaroa Court House

Custom House, located at the end of Rue Balguerie, near Daly’s Wharf, is a short walk from the Museum. It was built in 1858 after Akaroa become of customs port of entry in 1842. The building later became a survey office and later part of the Borough Council chambers.

Custom House

Custom House

Akaroa Lighthouse

The Akaroa Lighthouse is a historic Akaroa landmark.

Akaroa Lighthouse

Akaroa Lighthouse

The six-sided wooden lighthouse was originally located on the Akaroa heads at the entrance to Akaroa Harbour. The lighthouse was built in 1878-9. The tower was 28 feet (8.5 metres) high. The light itself was 270 feet above sea level. The light, which first shone in January 1880 was visible 37 kilometres (23 miles) out to sea.

The lighthouse was replaced by an automatic light in 1977. A volunteer community group formed the Akaroa Lighthouse Preservation Society and brought the lighthouse for $1. It was cut into three pieces and reassembled at Cemetery Point (now known as Lighthouse Point) on the 4th October 1980.

It is open to visitors on Sundays weather pending from 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm or by prior arrangement.

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Views from Akaroa Lighthouse

Views from Akaroa Lighthouse

The Hilltop Tavern

The Hilltop Tavern, which is 470 metres above sea level, is famous for its view and is worth a stop if making a trip to Akaroa from Christchurch.

The Hilltop Tavern

The Hilltop Tavern

The Tavern, which is located at 5207 Christchurch Akaroa Road (SH 75) is open 5 day a week; Wednesday 10 am – 4pm, Thursday to Saturday 10 am – close, Sunday 10 am – 4 pm.

Even if the Tavern is closed it is still worth pulling into the car park to check out the view.

The original Hilltop building burnt down in 1930. A new building was built in 1931, which still stands today.

Hilltop Tavern serves a range of meals including wood-fried pizzas, fish & chips, nachos, burgers, salmon, prawns and ribs. They also have a breakfast menu and do a range of cafe cabinet style food.

Table at The Hilltop Tavern

Table at The Hilltop Tavern

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Views from The Hilltop Tavern

Views from The Hilltop Tavern

Little River Craft Station

Little River Craft Station is a former railway station that has been converted into a local craft market and tourist information centre with historic displays.

Little River Craft Station

Little River Craft Station

Little River Station, which is located on Christchurch Akaroa Road (SH 75), was built in 1886 and was the terminus station on the Little River Branch line until 1962.

The station buildings are managed by the Little River Railway Station Trust, a volunteer community group that has leased the historic railway building from the Christchurch City Council and have restored and maintain it.

The Station is open 7 day a week, except Christmas Day and ANZAC morning. Summer hours are 9 am – 5pm and winter hours are 9:30 am – 4:30 pm.

The Craft Station sells a variety products including art, jewellery, baby and women’s clothing, knitwear, patchwork, leather work, wood work, pottery, soft toys, local souvenirs, soap, preserves, vegetable seedlings and plants, cut flowers and fresh produce.

They also have displays on local history and railway memorabilia. These displays are regularly updated by the Trust.

Fresh produce and plants for sale

Fresh produce and plants for sale

Railway memorabilia

Railway memorabilia

They also provide tourist information on Little River and the Banks Peninsula region to Akaroa.

A small section of tracks have been installed behind the station so that a number of preserved heritage freight wagons can be displayed.

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Preserved heritage freight wagons

Preserved heritage freight wagons

Little River Railway Station Platform

Little River Railway Station Platform

 

International Antarctic Centre

The International Antarctic Centre in Christchurch is the base for New Zealand, the United States and Italian Antarctic programmes. It is also home to a visitor’s centre.

International Antarctic Centre

International Antarctic Centre

The visitor centre is located on Orchard Road (between Memorial Ave and Wairakei Rd) across the road from Christchurch International Airport. It is open every day from 9 am to 5.30 pm.

There is a free Penguin Express Shuttle van that departs Canterbury Museum (Rolleston Ave) on the hour from 9 am (October to March) and 10 am (April – September). The last shuttle departs the museum at 4 pm. The shuttle returns to the city on the half hour with the last shuttle departing at 4.30 pm.

Penguin Express

Penguin Express

There are numerous displays on the Antarctic including information on the landscape, wild life, conservation efforts, and what life is like for scientists and visitors at Scott Base.

The International Antarctic Centre is also highly interactive. There is an indoor polar room that is kept a minus 5 degrees Celsius. Visitors can take the ‘Polar Plunge’ ice water challenge, stand by the Wind Chill Machine, slide down an icy slope or crawl inside a snow cave. Every hour an Antarctic Storm blows through with a temperature of minus 18 degrees. Warm jackets and overshoes are provided.

My favourite is the Little Blue Penguin enclosure with its two viewing levels. All the penguins are rescue birds that would have survived in the wild. The penguins are feed daily at 10.30 am and 3.30 pm.

Little Blue Penguin Enclosure

Little Blue Penguin Enclosure

There is also the 4D Theatre – a 3D film with added dimension of physical effects. There are currently two films playing Happy Feet 4D and Ice Voyage.

They also play the 17 minute short film Beyond the Sunset from Emmy Award winning filmmaker Mike Single. The film shows the seasonal arc from sunrise to sunset in the Antarctic. The film plays continuously on a large HD theatre screen.

The Hagglund is an all terrain amphibious Antarctic vehicle. The centre offers 10 minute rides around a dirt track that has hills, mounds and crosses water.

Hagglund

Hagglund

For visitors that are not interested in the Hagglund ride or the 4D theatre they can purchase Xpress Admission, which does not include these two attractions. For savings book tickets online. The International Antarctic Centre offers adult, child, student / senior and family passes.

Avon River

The Avon River flows through the centre of Christchurch city.
Avon River

Avon River

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

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

Cook Statue, Victoria Square

Hamish Hay Bridge / Victoria Bridge

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

Bridge of Remembrance

Park of Remembrance

Park of Remembrance

Quake City

Quake City is a exhibition on the Christchurch earthquakes.

Quake City

Quake City

The purpose built exhibition opened in February 2013 after the Canterbury Museum hosted a temporary exhibition in 2012.

The museum will be located on Cashel Street, opposite the Re:START Container Mall until May 2017. It is open 7 days a week from 10 am to 5 pm. Adults are $20, concession $16, accompanied children under 15 are free.

The February 2011 earthquake caused wide spread damage to Christchurch city. There are some objects on display including a sign from the Pyne Gould Corporation building; from the Cathedral Blessed Sacrament there are pieces from the dome, the Belfry door from the North Bell tower, and one of the four bells; from the Provincial Chambers there is the Speaker’s Chair, decorative ceiling pieces, and a clock and carved head from the Stone Chamber; and from the Christ Church Cathedral there is the fallen spire.

Elements from the Cathedral of Blessed Sacrament

Elements from the Cathedral of Blessed Sacrament

Christchurch Cathedral Spire

Christ Church Cathedral Spire

There are also displays from those who helped in the aftermath of the earthquake including Mayor Bob Parker’s orange jacket, items from Student Volunteer Army and Search and Rescue workers.

There are interactive activities for visitors including jumping on the spot to see seismograph in action, pedaling on a bike to play a cycle-powered short film, and a Lego table for the young and young at heart.

Also there is interview footage with locals telling their stories from that day.

Be sure to check out the restroom facilities!

Canterbury Museum

Canterbury Museum is a natural and human history museum located in Christchurch.

Canterbury Museum

Canterbury Museum

Canterbury Museum is located on Rolleston Ave, next to the Botanic Gardens and Christ’s College. The museum is open every day, except Christmas Day. During the summer (October to March) the museum is open from 9 am to 5.30 pm. During the winter months (April to September) the museum closes at 5 pm. Entry to the museum is free but donations are appreciated. The Discovery Centre is $2 per person, no charge for children under three.

The museum was established in 1867 by German geologist Sir Julius von Haast and was originally housed in the Provincial Council Buildings.

Its current site is the impressive Gothic Revival stone building, which was designed by Benjamin Mountfort and opened in 1870. Over the years there have been several extensions to the building. Today the museum building is four levels. Exhibits are located on levels 1 and 3. There is a café with views of the botanic gardens located on level 4. Level 2 is the administration level and is closed to the general public.

The museum has over 2.1 million items in its collection.

Level 1 has excellent exhibits on early Canterbury settlement, Maori history and New Zealand natural history.

The Mountfort Gallery occupies the part of the original Canterbury Museum building and is named after Benjamin Mountfort. It currently houses the museum’s European Decorative Art and Costume collection.

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Mountfort Gallery

Mountfort Gallery

There is a slice kiwiana with Fred and Myrtle’s Paua Shell House. For over 40 years Fred and Myrtle would show tourists around their paua shell decorated home in the Bluff. Following the couple’s passing their grandson donated the paua shell collection to Canterbury Museum. A replica of the lounge was created using photographs taken in late 2006.

There is also a replica of early Canterbury street on level 1 with early 19th century shops.

Fred and Myrtle's Paua Shell House

Fred and Myrtle’s Paua Shell House

The third level has much of the natural history section including the bird hall, dinosaur and geology exhibits. The third floor also has international exhibits including an Asian Arts collection, Egyptian exhibit with its own mummy Tash pen Khonsu and an Antarctic exhibit.

Antarctic exhibition

Antarctic exhibit

Egyptian exhibition

Egyptian exhibit