What to do in Christchurch while WORDing

I am the polar opposite of a travel blogger (my holiday this year was a night in Methven - 96.8 km away) and I don't go out much at night (old, parsimonious) BUT I am an absolute fiend for town. In the week, at the weekends, I'm out there with my whānau, getting into all the stuff that the Christchurch CBD has to offer. 

SO here are some travel tips for all the writers, thinkers, readers, and people coming to Christchurch for WORD Christchurch Festival 2018 - Wednesday 29 August to Sunday 2 September.
Add your suggestions in the comments!


Centre of Contemporary Art (CoCA)

We do art good. Go to Centre of Contemporary Art (CoCA) and have a browse of the new Chch / Ōtautahi Zine Library and Nicola Jackson: The Bloggs: "Nicola Jackson has created her own version of an anatomy museum, filling vitrines and cabinets with a range of curious objects and adorning the walls with paintings of inquisitive characters."

Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū

Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū is an utter gem. Not only does it have fabulous art, but it includes a design store with an assortment of gifty goodness (including books). Right beside it there's a great food spot called Universo (the yorkshire pudding, lamb ends, gravy and parsnip on the menu is delish).

Exhibitions on during WORD are We do this (I keep revisiting this one - Judy Darragh's jaunty Rug, Roberta Thiornley's stately photo of her Mum) and Tony de Lautour's US V THEM. Some WORD events are on in the gallery, so you'll have plenty of opportunities to browse its riches. 

Street Art

We've become pretty famous here in Christchurch for our street art. If you spot something on your travels, your go-to resource is Watch this Space - a crowdsourced map of street art spots, past and present. It might also give you ideas of street art you want to find. 


The official WORD booksellers are University Bookshop UBS and they will be on site at festival venues. Buy books by WORD authors, and get 'em signed!

Scorpio Books is in the BNZ complex at 120 Hereford Street if you want to wander to a bookshop in town and browse. I am fully a Scorpio Girl.

Posted by Scorpio Books on Thursday, October 5, 2017

If you want to head further afield for books (old and/or new), some of my faves are the Edgeware Paperback Centre in St Albans, London Street Books in Lyttelton, and Smith's Bookshop in The Tannery.  

Victoria Square

Victoria Square is a lovely spot to wander in, and it has words by Fiona Farrell (who has written acclaimed books about the Christchurch earthquakes). 

Ngaio Marsh House

The perfect post-Ngaio Marsh Awards activity is to go to the open day at Ngaio Marsh House on Sunday 2 September. You can see her paintings, and perfumes, as well as her books - it's such a stylish Cashmere home. 

Ngaio Marsh's house

Visit the Ngaio Marsh House and Heritage Trust website to find out more about Ngaio's home

River of Words

Come to 110 Cashel Street, stand in front of the projectors, and watch as the words change. John Maillard's interactive lighting display River of Words is inspired by the people of Christchurch. 


Normally I'd be advising you to visit our town library/ies, but they'll be closed in preparation for the opening of our new central library Tūranga (set to open on Friday 12 October). Do check it out though, and there is free wifi in Cathedral Square too. 

You are most welcome at any of our branches


  • Perch yourself on the big green seats in Cathedral Square by Gloucester Street for a good selfie op.
  • Have a boogie on the Dance o mat (right beside Tūranga).

Margaret Mahy Playground

This is a fun place for all ages. Writers and festival-goers - ride on the flying fox, or shriek your way down the dread twisty slide. 

This place also stands as a tribute to our great writers - word witch Margaret Mahy and peace activist heroine Elsie Locke

Margaret Mahy Playground 
Margaret Mahy Playground. Flickr 2015-12-23-IMG_1733

The Christchurch Arts Centre, Botanic Gardens and the Museum

Cuningham House 
Cuningham House, Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Flickr 2014-07-27-IMG_0809

A favourite local outing is the big 3 - the Arts CentreCanterbury Museum and the Christchurch Botanic Gardens.

Highlights are:

  • Arts Centre: Rutherford's Den for hands-on science, the glorious Great Hall;
  • Botanic Gardens: daffodils; the gorgeous new Visitor Centre at the Botanic Gardens; the gaudy Peacock fountain; conservatories (Cuningham House) is a tropical wonderland, Townend House is full of begonias);
  • Canterbury Museum: the Victorian Christchurch street and fashions; interesting Christchurch Antarctic collection, and check out exhibitions of Wildlife Photographer of the Year and Disenchanted Prophets: Photographs of Waitangi Protest. 

The Quake City exhibition is on display at Quake City, 299 Durham Street North, corner Armagh Street. It provides a good insight into what Christchurch people have been through, and the progress of the rebuild.


New Regent Street is the setting for a Pop-up Festival on Thursday 30 August. It also has lots of fab food and drink options to dip into. Rollickin' Gelato (which also has a shop in the Arts Centre, and a cart at the Margaret Mahy Playground) is a Christchurch stand out. My fave is the hokey pokey, but I had the Fairy Bread yesterday and it was delicious. 

More food & drink picks:

  • Karage curry at Samurai Bowl on Colombo Street
  • Cookai Sushi Train in The Crossing
  • The Emerald Room at Dux Central - they have a cocktail that has mandarin in it
  • Leisurely beer and chats at Smash Palace
  • Pizza at Winnie Bagoes
  • Tiramisu and Quattro Stagioni Pizza at Mediterranean Food Co
  • Boxed Quarter on the corner of St Asaph and Madras has a stellar lineup - glorious pastas at ChiChi Kitchen, yum Korean street food at Steampunk Laboratory, lots of delish options here
  • There is this drink at OGB that may or may not be called a Tillbury Place. It has whiskey and freeze dried rhubarb
  • Little High Eatery - my faves are Bacon Brothers Burnt Broccoli and Base Woodfired Pizza (the St George)
  • Vanilla Ices in Victoria Square. My pick is the ice-cream and secret recipe raspberry (I've asked, they won't tell)
  • Escarto Espresso in Cathedral Square (great coffee, and they use Whittakers Dark Ghana in their hot and iced chocs - yum).
  • Friday Night Food Trucks in Cathedral Square, after which you might feel like a wee boogie at the Dance-o-mat on the corner of Colombo and Gloucester Streets.

Edible Book Festival - Wednesday 29 August

Ara Library will be hosting an Edible Book Festival event on Wednesday 29 August. Find out how to enter. 

You can view the entries from 10am at the Rakaia Centre Atrium of Ara Institute. The winners will be announced at 12.15pm and then the real fun begins - eating the entries.

"Best in show" winner - The Kite Runner, created by Bree Underhill
"Best in show" winner - The Kite Runner, created by Bree Underhill. Friday 1 April 2016. Ara Library's Edible Book Competition at the Ara Institute of Canterbury. Read the Ara Library blog post. Flickr 2016-04-01

More to do in Christchurch

If you want to explore more things to do in Christchurch, try:

Ōtautahi locals, share your picks too - what are the places you recommend?

Previous travel tips for WORD Christchurch