Orana Wildlife Park, Christchurch

Orana Wildlife Park is New Zealand’s only open-range zoo sitting on 80 hectares of land, located just outside of Christchurch.

Orana Park opened in 1976 as a drive-through open-range zoo. What made it popular in the early years was its drive-through lion reserve. The lions were known for climbing on top of vehicles.

In 1995 Orana changed its business model. Visitors could no longer drive through the park. They would walk around the park or ride on the complimentary shuttle. This also meant the drive-through lion reserve closed. Today for an additional cost visitors can do the Lion Encounter. They will hop onboard a vehicle with the zoo keepers that drives through the lion enclosure. The keepers will feed the lions from within the safety of the vehicle. As you can see from the photos below the lions will often climb on top of the vehicle.

There are other activities, which are included in the standard zoo entrance price that offer visitors the chance to feed or see animals up close. There is the opportunity to hand feed a giraffe twice day and in the afternoon at the rhino encounter visitors will be only a few feet from a white rhinoceros (safely separated by two fences of course).

The day I visited there were also keeper talks for the Meerkats, Kea, farmyard animals, Tasmanian Devils, Trout and Gorilla.

There is also the Safari Shuttle, which provides guided commentary as it circuits the park. This takes approximately 25 minutes.

Orana Wildlife Park is located at 493 McLeans Island Road, Christchurch.

Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch

The Isaac Theatre Royal is a heritage theatre in Christchurch.

The theatre, which was designed by Australian brothers Sidney and Alfred Luttrell, opened in 1908. It is the only operational Edwardian style theatre remaining in New Zealand.

The first theatre on Gloucester Street, the Canterbury Music Hall, a wooden building was built in 1863, on a site across the road from the current theatre. The theatre later became the Royal Princess Theatre and then the Theatre Royal. This building was replaced by another wooden building in 1876.

The new Theatre Royal opened on its current site in February 1908. Its design included a traditional horseshoe-shaped dress circle and gallery, elaborately decorated walls and a painted dome. The theatre has had several renovations over the years. In 1928 the theatre interior had a major rebuild – only the dome, which features a painting of scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, remained untouched.

By the 1970s owner J.C. Williamson Theatres were scaling down investments in New Zealand. As a buyer was unable to be found it appeared the theatre would be demolished and the land sold. A group ‘Friends of the Christchurch Theatre Royal’ was formed to try and save the theatre. The Theatre Royal Foundation was later formed that raised the funds to buy the theatre from Williamson.

For many years restoration work was carried out with very little budget. Between 2004 and 2005, a $6.2 million redevelopment was undertaken. This included demolishing the original brick fly tower and dressing room facilities and building a larger modern concrete fly tower and dressing room facilities. The stage and fly tower was made wider and deeper.

Unfortunately the auditorium and foyer were damaged during the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake and following aftershocks. The theatre was closed for nearly four years while a $40 million restoration was completed. The theatre reopened on the 17 November 2014.

The main auditorium seats up to 1292 across three levels – Stalls, Dress Circle and Grand Circle. There is also the Gloucester Room, which is a studio space suitable for rehearsals, workshops and performances.

The theatre is named after art patron Lady Diana Isaac, who generously supported the 2004/05 refurbishment. Lady Isaac passed away 23 November 2012, aged 91.

The Isaac Theatre Royal is at 145 Gloucester Street. It is just around the corner from the New Regent Street Precinct.

Van Gogh Alive

Van Gogh Alive is a large-scale immersive multi-sensory experience featuring the works of Vincent Van Gogh.

Van Gogh Alive opened today Saturday April 10th at Spark Arena in Auckland. It is on until May 6th. I had the opportunity to see it last month at the National Air Force Museum in Christchurch.

The exhibition features over 3,000 images that are projected over the walls and floors. The giant projections are set to a score of classical music. The experience uses 40 high-definition projectors and cinema-quality surround sound.

On arriving visitors will enter the Interpretive Area, which offers visitors the chance to familiarise themselves with the life and works of Vincent Van Gogh before entering the sensory experience.

There are many Instagram worthy moments to be had, including a three-dimensional life-size version of ‘Van Gogh’s Bedroom’ and a sunflower-filled mirrored hall.

Vincent Willem Van Gogh (30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890) was a Dutch post-impressionist painter who posthumously became one of the most influential figures in Western art history.

Over a decade Van Gogh created about 2,100 pieces of art, including about 860 oil paintings. Most of these were made in the last two years of his life. These included landscapes, still lifes, portraits, and self-portraits. His works were often characterised by bold colours and dramatic expressive brushwork.

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.