Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough
Christchurch full of fun family activities
Relocating to a new city for work can be an exciting step on life’s journey, but it can also be hard leaving family, friends and familiar surroundings behind.
We’ve found some fun, iconic local days out that will help you fall in love with your new home.
PUNTING ON THE AVON
There’s no need to go all the way to Oxford or Cambridge for the chance to lie back and be propelled along a lazy river by someone in Edwardian dress of striped blazer and tie, braces and straw boater.
The distinctive Antigua Boat Sheds, also striped, is one of Christchurch’s oldest buildings, and almost unique in still being used for its original purpose, hiring out boats since 1882.
These days they also offer rides in traditional flat-bottomed punts, pushed along the Avon River’s shallow waters by a punter with a long pole.
This a fun and relaxing way to spend half an hour and it’s surprisingly educational too. Without being lectured, you’ll learn from your friendly punter all about the Avon’s wildlife – trout and eels, ducks, geese and swans – as well as some of the city’s history – and random quirky facts.
RIDE A VINTAGE TRAM
Jump aboard the city’s famous vintage tram which trundles around a hop-on hopoff 4km loop of the central city, beginning near the poignant quake-damaged Cathedral, and venturing near the vibrant street art of the High St and SALT precincts. Look forward to a thoroughly entertaining commentary from the chatty tram drivers. A colourful highlight of the route is travelling past the pastel-hued Spanish Mission shopfronts of New Regent Street.
MARGARET MAHY FAMILY PLAYGROUND
Alongside the Avon River, just a couple of blocks from Cathedral Square, lies the most fun to have come out of the post-quake rebuild. In the biggest playground south of the equator, more than two hectares are devoted to supplying the means for play and adventure of all sorts, appealing to a wide range of ages.
If you’re in the mood for a physical challenge, a race, climbing, digging, squirting, bouncing, sliding, spinning or skimming, this is the place to lose time. Big, colourful and full of variety, its clean lines are pleasing to the eye at the same time as providing many kinds of play equipment, traditional and modern.
Opened in 2015 and named after the much-loved, and local, children’s author — with a nod too to colleague Elsie Locke — this is a celebration of the carefree, uncomplicated, physical fun that childhood is meant to be all about. What’s even better though is that grown-ups can get in on it too: the equipment is robustly built and sufficiently large-scale for parents to share the excitement.
A whole family can fit abreast on the giant slide, two people can race on the flying fox, operating the water channels can be a group effort, and there’s enough sand for a castle as big as you want.
There are barbecues too, so you can make a day of it.
NZ’S ONLY OPEN RANGE ZOO
Christchurch’s sprawling Orana Wildlife Park is New Zealand’s only open range zoo, and it’s also the only place in the country where visitors can see gorillas. Orana has five of the giant primates, and other highlights straight from Dr Dolittle’s appointment book are also mainly from Africa. Hand-feeding the giraffes is a special experience, and the daily lion encounter allows visitors to travel in a protected vehicle while Orana’s big cats are being fed. Iconic Australasian species include kiwi and rambunctious Tasmanian devils.