Solo Travel Destination: Christchurch, New Zealand

We are pleased to present a new Solo Travel Destination Post from Heidi, a member of the Solo Travel Society on Facebook. Heidi is from the United States, and submitted the following report about Christchurch. Do you have a solo travel destination that you would like to recommend? Submit your description here, along with a few photos, and share it with fellow travelers!

Solo travel rating: (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult. Please see chart below)

Languages spoken: English

photo, image, shipping container

Brightly painted shipping containers are used for stores at RE:Start Mall.

Reasons to go:  Wow. It took some time to process all that I saw in Christchurch. It’s a city that was crushed by earthquakes, first in September, 2010 and then an even more devastating one in February, 2011, when 185 people lost their lives.

I rented a bike on a beautiful, sunny afternoon thinking I’d be able to cover more ground on wheels than walking. The friendly owner of the Vintage bike shop showed me a map, drew arrows, circled highlights, and sent me on my way.

After a cruise through the park, the first stop was the Bridge and Arch of Remembrance, honoring those who fought in World War 1. The bridge was closed, however, and a fence surrounded the construction zone. It had been damaged during the earthquake, like so many other monuments had been. Across the street is the “RE: Start Mall,” which is just a bunch of shipping containers brightly painted and sitting at various angles. Retail therapy lives, if only temporarily!

Temporary seemed to be the word of the day. The 185 White Chair Memorial sign said it was only temporary “just as life is temporary.” The “Cardboard Cathedral” was built at the temporary location for the once magnificent cathedral in the center of Christchurch. Everywhere there are fences around damaged buildings awaiting demolition and detour signs blocking the direct passage to locations on my map. I felt like I was on the set of a post-apocalyptic movie. Signs indicating the new location of businesses are everywhere, as well as “For Sale” signs. Huge holes are all that remain of entire city blocks. I imagined the shaking of the earth while I stood staring at the ruins. It lasted 12 seconds. I heard the screams, the sirens, and the buildings crumbling down. Utter chaos and fear. Dust seems to be everywhere as heavy equipment operators move rubble from one place to another.

I dropped my bike off and the friendly shop owner asked me how I liked Christchurch. All I could say was, “I feel like I want to give every resident of Christchurch a hug!” He immediately changed his demeanor and nodded. Three years have passed and the city is still in shambles. I read somewhere that they figure it will take between 20 and 50 years to fully recover.

After leaving the bike shop, I walked through Hagley Park where enormous pine and oak trees grow! Joggers and bikers were out enjoying the perfect weather. Almost instantly, I felt better. The earthy smell of fall was in the air under all those massive trees. Acorns, leaves, needles, and cones carpeted the ground along the path back to my motel. I’m glad that I spent a few days here. I contributed to their economy and absorbed some of their pain. I wish I could do more.

photo, image, white chair memorial

The 185 White Chair Memorial for those who died in the February, 2011 quake.

photo, image, construction site

Clearing way to rebuild their city.

photo, image, Hagley Park

Hagley Park is a beautiful, natural respite from the city.

Solo Travel Destination Rating System

Safety – 1 (1 very safe, 2 safe in most areas, 3 be cautious at all times.)

Language – 1 (1 English is first language, 2 English speakers easy to find, 3 English speakers rare)

Navigation – 1 (1 easy to navigate by transit or car, 2 poor transit, car necessary, 3 not easy to get around)

Culture – 1 (1 Similar to North America or Western Europe, 2 Different from above but relaxed and easy, 3 Challenging)

Average Rating – 1 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult)



  • MilesClarkNZ

    Christchurch has come so far since the 2011 quakes – there’s vibrancy and energy in the air as well as a heap of new places to dine and enjoy a few drinks. Cantabrians are really friendly, and it’s an awesome place to visit on any trip to NZ! For solo travellers looking to visit NZ, I’d recommend a small group tour – I had some family come over from the states who did a tour with a company called MoaTrek. They visited Christchurch as part of their holiday and they loved it.

  • Carob

    Thanks for visiting our beautiful city and blogging about it. We still need visitors and Christchurch has much to offer

  • LJCaro

    I was there too on Feb. 22, 2011, at the airport awaiting my flight out after a wonderful two-and-a-half months in Christchurch. It was a harrowing experience, and I feel so sorry for the city. I want to return soon, as you say, to help the economy a little and show support. On a positive note, the new city that arises from the ruins will be amazing.

  • Bron

    Great article Heidi I am going solo later this year. Can’t wait.

  • Swetha Reddy

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  • Mary Guidry

    En Zed has long been #1 on my bucket list. I, too, hope to visit and contribute to the economy some day. Go Crusaders!! :)

  • Guest

    That is a very moving article, Heidi.

  • Richard Moylan

    Great summary Heidi. I recommend planning to revisit within 10 years as the transformation promises to be impressive. Those that see it now have the unique opportunity to see the beginning of the newest city in the world. Thank you for helping already!

  • Kat

    This is my home town. I’m so glad people are still visiting it and I encourage everyone who goes to NZ to not bypass it thinking nothing is there anymore. There are some great examples of community spirit and Kiwi ingenuity around.
    I live in London now but this once beautiful city will always be home.

  • Victoria

    I was there the day the 2011 earthquake hit. No injuries but nowhere to stay (Grand Chancellor sustained so much damage it was demolished) and getting a flight out was a nightmare. It wasn’t until Australian Foreign Affairs intervened that we were able to get a flight out. Such a terrible event for such a beautiful city.