Driving into Christchurch, it looked like a typical small, urban sprawl city, with busy streets filled with restaurants and businesses. As we made our way to the city centre, in search for our hostel (Foley Towers), we noticed that nearly ever motel had a glaring NO VACANCY sign. Amazed at the filled hotel establishments, we assumed there must be something big going on in the city for the motels outside the downtown area to be filled.

When we signed into our hostel, we asked the lady what was going on this weekend as the motels were all booked. Sadly, she said nothing was happening – it was mostly people impacted by the earthquake, still living there without a home…

As we made our way towards downtown, the evidence of the deviation from the Feb 2011 earthquake became obvious. Beautiful Victorian houses were boarded up – abandoned due to the destruction. Blocks of gravel parking lots where buildings once were and shops barren and broken inside. We even saw a street blocked off by police as a hotel collapsed unexpectedly during the demolition of it today.

CBD’s Copthorne Hotel Collapses 

A small glimmer of life appeared on the newly opened New Regent Street with colorful shops and cafes that lined the small pedestrian street. You can see the right side is of open shops, while the left side still has many openings awaiting businesses to come.

New Regent street’s cafes and shops 

Once the centre icon of the city, Cathedral Square, was now blocked off around the once beautiful Cathedral that was devastated by the earthquakes. The rebuilding has begun but it is still a long way from being the icon it once was. It’s amazing how it’s been 2.5 years and so much is still left to do in the city.

ChristChurch’s famous Cathedral being reconstructed 

Where we really felt the life of the city revived was around the new mall, Re:Start, that is built entirely of sea containers. A sea of shops and restaurants line the street which actually gives it quite a sheek and innovative look.

Re:Start Mall downtown Christchurch 

Even the banks have created mobile banking stations and we even spotted a Lululemon shop with its own sea container store

Bank of New Zealand mobile bank Lululemon Sea Container store 
A museum downtown, Quake City, showcased the impact of the earth quakes on Christchurch and gave a telling story of how the community was devastated, yet banded together to rebuild their city. A movie played of Christchurch residents recounting their stories – some amazing triumphs of survival – some tragic losses and heartbreak. It really gave you a true sense of what happened that day.
Quake City Museum 

It was evident new life was beginning to take root in the city – I look forward to coming back again and seeing how Christchurch continues to re-build itself.