Christchurch is a gem of a city and the largest city on the magnificent South Island of New Zealand. Behind Auckland, Christchurch is New Zealand's second largest population center. The population for the entire area is about 370,000, but Christchurch is so friendly and accessible that it feels even smaller. At the center of the city you find the picturesque Cathedral Square, which has a great feel and is truly beautiful. Just outside the city center is some really ugly housing and the occasional, seemingly out of place sex shop, but don't let that dissuade you. Believe it or not, Christchurch has a couple of shady parts, but unless you are hiding, (I mean living) in a gated-community, you are probably a lot safer in Christchurch than wherever you are from. This is a great place to stop and recharge after a long journey exploring such New Zealand wonders as the Milford Sound or any of the other great sights on the South Island.

While there is so much to see on the South Island, you shouldn't pass up Christchurch. While you are in Christchurch you should definitely make you way to the Canterbury Museum-New Zealand Natural Human Heritage. This museum is dedicated to New Zealand's cultural and natural history, and is right in the middle of everything there is to do in Christchurch. While the building is impressive from the outside, it really doesn't do justice to how unique of an experience waits on the inside. You really can get a crash course on New Zealand history both before and after Europeans arrived.

The Canterbury Museum does a great job with its educational exhibits on the wildlife of New Zealand, such as the kiwi and the now extinct mao as well as the white heron just to name a few. Also a great deal of work has been put into the Antarctica aspect of the museum with an Antarctica Gallery that explores the Emperor penguins.

Antarctica plays a large role in the museum with many of the artifacts from the Antarctica explorations now housed in the museum. Many of the artifacts are tools used by the original explorers, are well as detailed maps and information about Antarctica. This is probably the most thought provoking aspect of the museum as you are forced to acknowledge that these early Antarctica pioneers where just a little bit insane and then some.

What might come as a surprise is that the museum also houses some great works of all kinds from around the world. There are Samurai swords in the Asian Gallery as well as works from China.
Some of the most impressive works, not surprisingly, are from the Maori and are not to be missed.

So, you can't go wrong in Christchurch in general and the Canterbury Museum is great. As a final thought, you should also expect to have some very fine meals at a reasonable price. What else can you ask for?