Editor's Note: Cruise ships have not called at Christchurch since the 2011 earthquake that destroyed its pier. Ships now dock at Akaroa, more than an hour's drive away. A new cruise berth at Lyttelton Port is expected to be rebuilt in time for the 2019-2020 summer season.
Christchurch could qualify as a template for the perfect small city. With a population of around 350,000, it's the largest of New Zealand's South Island cities -- it's also the most English looking in appearance. Unsurprising, when you realise that Christchurch was envisioned as a planned community for the Church of England in the 1850s.
Nearby, the stunning gold and green Canterbury Plains, back-dropped by mountains and with a web of indigo streams, are so familiar that many "The Lord of the Rings" fans now recognise them as Middle Earth.
Visitors to Christchurch don't need to consciously avoid the subject of devastating earthquakes that hit the city between 2010 and 2012. Many reminders remain, but residents are stoically independent, and Kiwis (the people, not the bird) tend to be a positive lot.
Rebuilding began almost immediately but progress was slow. Extensive plans for the next decade or more aim to create an accessible and liveable city. Shops, cafes and bars have returned in force, as have visitors.
Remaining intact, of course, is the languidly winding Avon River, its banks flanked by parks and gardens. Punts still drift along it -- along with their punters in waistcoats and straw boater hats.
As always, the seasons come and go, with spring and autumn each a delight in this leafy city, which is often accurately referred to as the Garden City. Much still remains from the past, and the many new additions to the city are fascinating and well worth seeing.