creative commons credit: mollivan_jon

No cash, no car, how is a study abroad student supposed to get out and see her new city? The answer: take the bus to the nearest free stuff. Soon after I arrived I purchased a Metrocard and teamed up with a friend to learn how to navigate the bus system and see what Christchurch has to offer. A bus ride is $2.50 with a card and $3.50 if paying by cash, to go anywhere in the city. Plus if you get on another bus within two hours, it counts as a transfer and the subsequent ride is free. Here are some of my favorite free things to do around town that are easy to reach by bus.

The Botanic Gardens

Okay, so I’m a biology major.  I can’t help it if I get excited about plants!  One of the first places I visited in Christchurch was the Botanic Gardens, located just down Riccarton road and not too far from the University.  Even in winter, the Gardens are beautiful.  All varieties of native and non-native trees adorn a network of trails that dance through the greenery.  Toward evening it got a little chilly, but I made a mental note to bring a picnic lunch when the weather is a little warmer.

Botanic Gardens

Riccarton Mall

Riccarton Mall, the closest to the University of Canterbury, is the largest mall in Christchurch.  It has two floors full of stores that would be great for window shopping, even if a few of the stores are above this Uni student’s budget. There are specialty stores and bookshops as well as a grocery store and K-Mart, so while the shopping itself isn’t necessarily free, a walk around the mall is fun all on its own.

Riccarton Mall
creative commons credit: CafeCecil

New Brighton Beach

This is an excellent spot for a day trip, or possibly a sunrise.  The dark sand is littered with bright white shells, and driftwood rests at the upper part of the beach like natural sculptures.  It is roughly a two-hour walk down the length of the beach, and you can walk either on the beach itself or on trails through the grassy dunes just above it, where you get a great view of the ocean.

New Brighton Beach

The Port Hills

The Port Hills are the smaller mountains to the south of Christchurch, located just above Banks Peninsula.  There are lots of hiking and mountain biking tracks in and around the hills, and the bus takes you right up to the starts of many trails.  I love hiking almost as much as I love plants, so I was sure to spend some time here.  One afternoon I tramped to the Sign of the Kiwi, where there was a great view of the city to one side, and the peninsula to the other.

The Port Hills

The City Center

The city center was pretty badly damaged by the earthquake of three-and-a-half years ago, but it’s rebuilding in amazing ways.  In addition to the museum and little shops open all around town, there’s the Re:Start Mall or Container Mall, built out of shipping containers painted bright colors.  Not far from that, the Transitional Cathedral is used for both church services and events such as concerts.  All around the city you can also find works of art that show Christchurch is alive and vibrant, even in the midst of reconstruction.  Tiny satellite art museums shelter themed displays, while larger sculptures can be seen in parks and on street corners throughout the city.

The City Center: Container Mall

The best part of taking the bus?  En route to one attraction, you may spy another by simply looking out the window. Not only is it an effective way to get from place to place, but it has helped me broaden my horizons here, letting me experience Christchurch more completely.  For a Uni student on a budget, the bus is definitely one of the best and most accessible ways to get out and discover the city.

Elizabeth Jacobsen is a student from Williams College and a TEAN Featured Blogger. You can also read her blog, There and Back Again while at the University of Canterbury. Elizabeth is currently studying abroad with TEAN in Christchurch, New Zealand.