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

Christchurch Botanic Gardens

The Christchurch Botanic Gardens is a public garden located in central Christchurch, next to Hagley Park.

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The 21 hectare (52 acre) garden was formed in 1863 when an English oak was planted to celebrate the marriage of Prince Albert and Princess Alexandra of Denmark.

At the Rolleston Ave entrance, next to the Canterbury Museum, is the Armstrong Lawn, which is named after John Armstrong one of the early curators of the Gardens. Located here is the Peacock Fountain, which was imported from England and unveiled in 1911 after a bequest from local businessman John Peacock. The fountain went into storage in 1949 and was restored and moved to its current location in 1996.

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Peacock Fountain

Nearby is the Curator’s Cottage, this Tudor-style house was built in 1920. It is now a Spanish style restaurant and cafe, serving lunch, dinner and tapas 7 days a week.

The iconic Avon River runs through the Botanic Gardens. Visitors can take a guided Edwardian style punting tour on the Avon River through the gardens. The 30 minute tours depart from historic Antigua Boat sheds.

Curator's Cottage

Curator’s Cottage

Woodland Bridge crossing the Avon River

Woodland Bridge crossing the Avon River

The Central Rose Garden was built in 1909. The rectangular garden is based on the rose garden owned by the Duchess of Sutherland in Herefordshire, England.

A highlight is the Garden’s six indoor conservatories, which are open daily from 10:15 am to 4 pm.

Cuningham House, which houses the tropical plant collection opened in 1923 and is named after Charles Cunningham, who bequest funds to the Gardens.

Townsend House has the cool greenhouse flowering plants collection. The original Townsend House opened in 1914, following funds from the estate of Annie Townsend. The current Townsend House opened in 1955.

Cherub statues, Townsend House

Cherub statues, Townsend House

Garrick House, which houses over 500 species of cacti is named after Henry Garrick who donated a collection of cacti to the Gardens. Next door to Garrick House is Gilpin House, which is named after Huia Gilpin, a former director of the Council’s Parks and Recreation department. Gilpin House has the orchid collection. Both Garrick and Gilpin House opened in 1960.

The Gardens’ alpine plant collection is housed in Foweraker House. This building opened in 1967 and is named after Jean Foweraker, who donated many plants to the Gardens.

The Fern House opened in 1955 houses a large collection native New Zealand ferns.

Garrick House

Garrick House

Fern House

Fern House

A more recent feature to the Gardens is the World Peace Bell, which was installed in the Gardens in 2006. There are fewer than 25 of these around the world. The bell is made from coins and medals from over 100 countries and symbolises a nation’s commitment to world peace.

World Peace Bell

World Peace Bell

The gardens are open daily from 7 am. The gates close 9 pm November to February, 8:30 pm March, 6:30 pm April to September, and 8:30 pm October. The cafe and visitor centre is open 8:30 am to 5 pm.

There are entrances on Rolleston Avenue, Riccarton Avenue and Armagh Street. There are public carparks at Riccarton Avenue and Armagh Streets with free parking up to 180 minutes. Note: The Armagh St is currently closed for repair.