Our home for two nights (it did have a homely feel) was The Heritage Christchurch, a refurbished old government departmental building on Cathedral Square. This hotel is within a hub of art, music and fabulous food and is within walking distance of the river, museums and the Botanical Gardens. The Christchurch Cathedral is right next door. Unfortunately, it is still in ruins but we were told funding has been approved, so work should start in 2019.
The Heritage Christchurch in Cathedral Square. The OGB has the inviting outside bar. This greets you as you enter the hotel.
The old government building originally housed public servants, and the huge steel vaults, where many documents were kept, have been converted into toilets. Oh, if those vaults could talk? Imagine the secrets they kept.
At the reception, we were handed an actual key to our suite, no swipe cards here. The heritage theme is evident throughout the hotel, complete with old-fashioned door locks, art deco lights, sweeping stairs and dark timber balustrades.
The O.G.B Bar and Cafe greets you as you walk in the front entrance of the hotel. There is covered outdoor seating and live music is a feature most nights. This "speakeasy-style" bar also includes the Parlour Cocktail Bar and Woodwards Barber Shop.
We enjoyed two fabulous breakfasts, freshly cooked and served by smiling waiters dressed in 1920s inspired uniforms of barber-shop braces, crisp shirts with rolled sleeves and flat woollen caps. Very hipster!
Nick Inkster, the owner of this establishment, introduced himself to us and we chatted about his dream of coming back to his hometown (after working in Australia for some years) and opening up a bar. He has achieved a lot more than that, with The O.G.B being voted Christchurch's best bar for 2017 and 2018.
This bookshelf is actually a door to the Parlour Cocktail Bar.
He went on to explain the cocktail bar, hidden behind a bookshelf that is actually a door, is his latest addition and is available for hire for private functions.
The O.G.B is certainly the place to be at night. It was pumping with people for the two nights we stayed. The second night a group of people celebrating a birthday were dressed in Highlander costumes. This seemed so appropriate and fitted in perfectly with the atmosphere of the bar.
We could not fault the service, both from Nick's friendly staff or the hotel staff. The Heritage Christchurch is not your usual hotel, it is more like a B&B with all the city essentials – free wi-fi, comfy beds, TV in lounge and bedroom, fully equipped kitchen and washer/dryer, as well as lounge/dining areas. Some suites have two bathrooms. There is also a pool, spa and fully-equipped gym.
It was unfortunate we only stayed two nights as we would have liked to have enjoyed more of what The Heritage and The O.G.B had to offer, especially the nightlife and great food. What our stay in Christchurch did do is set us up for a scenic tour of New Zealand with some spectacular scenery.
Many of you will remember the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. There are still remnants of the devastation but much work has been done in rebuilding the city centre. There is a young and vibrant vibe, with many bars, cafes and restaurants along the Avon River. We ate lunch at Amazonita, which is a fusion of South American and Italian cuisine. The food was fresh, modern and served by cheery waiters who made us feel welcome.
The front bar of The OGB with Christchurch Cathedral to the right.
New Zealand is much like Australia when it comes to travel times between towns. If you base yourself in Christchurch, which is a good idea because of the international airport, hire a car to discover the many scenic lakes on the South Island.
We met many people driving in camper vans. These are very popular with families and the holiday parks dotted all over the South Island are well-equipped to cater for these vans.
We spent 9 days and only received a glimpse of the adventures you can experience on New Zealand's South Island. If you want a getaway but still want modern comforts with country charm then check out Christchurch, it has a lot to offer. Flight time is a lot less than flying to Europe or the USA, the scenery is one "WOW" moment after another, and you won't come home with jet lag.
Here are a few tips before you go -
The South Island is cold and the weather does change quickly, especially in the mountains. We went in Spring (September), which is so pretty with all the flowers in bloom, but as we headed down to Queenstown, we did encounter snow. Pack warm clothes and layer up. When the sun is out, peel off your jackets, beanies and gloves.
Be prepared for wind and rain as well. The West Coast is especially windswept with the Tasman Sea's "roaring forties" buffeting the coast. Internet coverage in the 'wild west' is intermittent and can be slow. Just enjoy the scenery, there is plenty to see.
Take sensible walking shoes, or even hiking boots if you are travelling into the wilderness, which is spectacular and highly recommended. Spring and Summer is a great time to visit with water sports, fishing, hiking and mountain bike riding popular.
Attire in Christchurch is smart casual and the weather was the warmest we encountered. As you travel around, you will need warmer, comfortable clothes. Pack for an adventure if you are travelling out of Christchurch.
We found New Zealanders to be warm and friendly. They love having a chat. There is a welcome feeling from the moment you step off the plane. Our short break was relaxing with some adventure thrown in. The best decision we made was starting our trip in Christchurch and staying at The Heritage. The O.G.B has the best hotel breakfast we've woken up to, there wasn't a stale buffet in sight.