“ Sightseeing Type: Tours „
Christchurch was the last location of my New Zealand North to South holiday and I arrived there both tired and exhausted. As with any major city, it is important that you get yourself familiar with your surroundings and as I had a couple of nights booked here, I decided that the best way to discover Christchurch was through the highly recommended tram network.
The tramway has a bit of a mixed history as they were originally introduced in the city back in the early 1900's but were then discontinued in the 1950's. The trams have since been reintroduced and the ones used now are historic restored ones, which altough aren't the most comfortable, give a feel of the tradition and history of the early years.
The tramway runs on a 2.5km loop of the city and takes in most of the major attractions in the area. Tickets can be bought either from conductors at one of the eleven stops or from the driver himself. An adult ticket cost around $15 and is valid for 48 hours with a hop on-hop off system. The driver provides a commentary of the area and sights and each seems to have his own eccentricities! The trams are pretty regular to (every 10 minutes or so) so you never have to wait too long for one if you've jumped off to explore an area. There was also a restaurant tram that needed to be booked in advance on the evening.
Overall, I found the tram system an excellent way to both get round and discover Christchurch. As much of the city is quite old and historic, the tramway feels like the only way to get round.
I can't remember a great deal about this tour as I took it almost 5 years ago, but it was a wonderful way to see the sights of Christchurch and the staff running the tour were dressed in old costumes adding to the authenticity of the journey. The stops are at all of the main sights in Christchurch (which is fairly compact and doesn't take long to get around) but it is the ideal way to see everything of interest if you are only spending a day there, as I was. The scenery is really pleasant, especially by the River Avon and there is a commentary too so you are not just guessing where you are going. I recall it was relatively cheap and the stops were frequent with not long to wait until the next tram came along. I would definitely recommend seeing Christchurch this way, even if you are spending a week there. You'll definitely learn something new on this journey and see the city from a new perspective.
The Christchurch tramway is a 2.5km long tourist tramway that loops around the city centre of Christchurch in New Zealand. Although vintage trams are used, this is not a historical remnant (the tram networked stopped being used in the 1950s), but were reinstated as a tourist attraction in 1995.
Each tram has its own quirks and features, and each driver tells you different interesting stories about the places you are going around. We thought that some of the stories may have had fictional elements added to them - the drivers were all charming and eccentric. Some of the trams are a little more rickety than others, though I found that they were comfortable enough inside for short distances. With these being vintage trams, accessibility isn't great - wheelchair access to the trams is available, though not from every station, and you get the driver to help you with pushchairs.
You buy a ticket that lasts for 2 days (current cost NZD15, about £7) and hop on and off at one of the 11 stops. The trams take about 25 minutes to go around the whole circuit. The number of trams on the circuit at one time goes down outside of peak times, but it's usually every 8-12 minutes or so, so we found that we didn't need to plan too carefully, but just kept an eye out for how far away the next tram was (you can often see them in the distance some time before they get there). Sadly, as this is a tourist attraction and not public transport, they do not run very late or very early (9am-6pm in winter).
It's more of a fun activity to do in itself than a sensible method of getting around the city centre - I found that the centre of Christchurch was so small that once I'd seen everything once, I got a bit bored with the tram and it was generally quicker just to walk places rather than use the tram as transport. So a ticket that lasted two days wasn't much use to me - I just wanted to go once around the loop and the ticket is quite expensive for that. But they do have some special tickets that combine a tram ticket with entrance to other attractions - if you are going to lots in this area, this might make it more affordable.
In the evening, they run a restaurant tram, which goes round and round the loop over a period of 2h or so as it serves dinner. We didn't do this as with the exchange rates it was very pricey (about £30-50 per person!), but even though the catering facilities are not large (they don't have a range for children), they do have vegetarian, gluten free and dairy free options.
The tram station is a shopping mall that was re-engineered to take the tram route through it. So this tram actually goes through a building! There are sliding glass doors at the entrance to the building to keep the draughts out when the trams are not around. The tram is supposed to wait for a traffic light to say it is time to go, but when I was on it, they went a bit too late and the tram crashed into the closing doors and pulled them off! Fortunately, nobody was hurt and we all got an excellent story for our postcards "I was on a tram. It crashed into a building!"
In summary, this is a fun tourist attraction and if you can afford it and like rickety vintage vehicles, it's worth a go as a tourist attraction, but don't bother using it as your main method of transport.
When in Christchurch we decided to take a ride on the rustic trams. They do a circle of the city centre giving you some commentary and stopping at different places so you can get off to see the sights. It is a hop on hop off tram, which means you might not finish your journey on the same tram. Your ticket lasts you for 24 hours. The stops are detailed below.
**STOP 1 - Cathedral Square**
This is the heart of the city, here hosts markets, stalls and the information office. The day we were there, there was a art exhibition with different sculptures set up. I'm assuming this is only a yearly thing though. In the centre there is a Cathedral which you can go in and see. You can pay a small donation and climb the spire. To do this you have to climb a small spindly staircase. Up at the top there isn't a great pile of room but it's worth it to see the city from a height.
**STOP 2 - Worchester Bridge**
Most people don't get off at this stop, as it is only a bridge. You can get off and have a walk along the river to see the ducks. The main reason people would get off is to go Punting on the Avon. We done this and even though it was cold I enjoyed it. There is an extra cost to do this option.
**STOP 3 - Art Gallery**
There is an art gallery at this stop, which displays New Zealand art. A shop selling some items is also here if you want souvenirs. A café and restaurant is here if you want to relax and have a bite to eat.
**STOP 4 - Arts Centre**
This is an old university, which has been changed into shops. It is quirky and unique shops selling different things. My favourite was the toffee shop, they had some delicious toffee and chocolate yum yum! Even walking around the old university grounds is relaxing and enjoyable. I am told a craft and produce market and food fair occurs every weekend here.
**STOP 5 - Museum, Botanical Gardens**
Unfortunately we didn't have enough time to go to the museum. It has a ranging collection of exhibits of natural and human histories of Canterbury, New Zealand and Antarctica. Right beside the museum is the botanical gardens. We went for a walk around here, which was very relaxing and beautiful. It has rose and water gardens, native plants, conservatories and also some beautiful water fountains.
**STOP 6 - Hagley Park**
We didn't stop in this area but there are walks here, a golf course, Victoria Lake and Christ's college.
**STOP 7 - Cranmer Square**
It is a 5-minute walk to Victoria Street, which has speciality shops.
**STOP 8 - Casino**
The old Provincial Chambers were here and then a short walk took you to the Christchurch casino.
**STOP 9 - Victoria Square**
Avon River was here which you could have walked along. You could have seen historic buildings as you walked along.
**STOP 10 - New Regent Street**
I though this place was so cute with its Spanish Architecture. A full street is constructed in the 'Spanish Mission' style of architecture. Each painted in a different pastel colour. It is worth while to get off here just to see the buildings up close. All the buildings have boutique shops, restaurants, café and bars.
**STOP 11 - Tram Station **
Here has more shops and to be honest I was bored with shops by the time I got here. I am told there is a mechanical performing time clock to watch out for.
The trams will then loop and go back to stop one.
I wasn't overly impressed with this company. A tram seen my partner and I, as well as another couple waiting and he never stopped to let us on. There was definitely enough space for us on the tram, he was just being rude. Instead we had to wait an extra 10-15 minutes to get on the next tram. I didn't feel that the tour was very personal. You were given history and information on Christchurch but there was no-one to ask questions or give you further information if you wanted. Inside the tram was nice and vintage, Each tram varied in standard and I suppose how polite or nice the driver varied as well. It only costs $12.50 for an adult which doesn't cost much but you could have walked most of the circuit yourself. The actual time you were on the tram wasn't very long. It may be a good trip to do if you have little time and children may enjoy the novelty of being in an old tram.
Also posted on Ciao under my username Denisekelly40
Discover an historic part of the centre city on a restored Tram. 2.5 km stretch takes about 25 minutes to complete, but of course you will want to get on and off to have a look at the attractions!