Christchurch, New Zealand, 300 mi/480 km northeast of Queenstown, is a graceful city where gardens and architecture still reflect some of the culture and heritage of its European immigrants.
Founded in 1850 as a Church of England colony, it is a picturesque mix of the old, the quasi-old and the somewhat new. Expansive parks lend Christchurch the nickname "The Garden City."
The Avon River curves through the city and its parks, and you can drift along the river in a punt (a shallow-bottomed boat propelled by a long pole), enjoy a picnic lunch on its banks or just take a nice walk.
In February 2011, Christchurch was devastated by a 6.3-magnitude earthquake, which caused extensive damage to the city center and took the lives of 181 people. It was one of the worst disasters in New Zealand's history. Much of the inner city, including the Christchurch Cathedral, was severely affected. The cathedral itself is being rebuilt.
The "red zone," which encompasses the Christchurch Central Business District, is still off-limits and may remain so for many months to come. Visitors are still welcome, however, and are seen as vital to help rebuild the local economy. Many visitor facilities are back to 100% operation, though some will take more time to recover.
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