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With its Gothic architecture, manicured parks and gardens and even genteel boating on the River Avon, leafy Christchurch is a vibrant replica of an English university town in the South Pacific. For most visitors, the Garden City’s appeal lies in its sunny climate and natural attractions: sport-centric Hagley Park, Christchurch Botanic Gardens and Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, not to mention tastings at the region’s many vineyards. The largest city on New Zealand’s South Island, Christchurch took a pounding from earthquakes in 2011, sustaining severe damage to the stately Gothic Revival-style Christchurch Cathedral and other historic structures. But reconstruction and new investments indicate a strong renewal for this resilient city.
The English upper class came to the flat plains that run east of New Zealand's Southern Alps and made this place their own during the Victorian era.
A century later, Kiwis still joke of how Christchurch operates under the delusion it's just a short train ride into London. And with punts along a meandering Avon River, gardens everywhere, and a city centre built around a neo-gothic Anglican cathedral, it's easy to see how that impression sticks.
This city of 300,000 - hub for the agriculture-dominated Canterbury region - is arguably the country's prettiest because of all those genteel, oh-so-very English amenities. It's also within easy striking distance of the country's highest peaks, including world heritage area Mt. Cook.
Within the city, there are all those gardens (including Christchurch Botanic Gardens), numerous festivals (like one just for buskers) and attractions. And like the rest of the island, Christchurch has plenty for anyone looking for adventure, from surfing to jetboats.