Saddle up for a zipline tour like no other in Christchurch
Christchurch, New Zealand's garden city, serves up thrills and views aplenty
Already thinking about your next getaway for the new year? Then be blown away by what the South Island of New Zealand has in store for you.
And now that Air New Zealand - which was recently named 2020 Airline of the Year - has launched its new Singapore-Christchurch seasonal service from now till Feb 22, there is no better time to begin your journey to New Zealand's garden city.
As Christchurch is the gateway to the South Island, it will be worthwhile spending a couple of days exploring the well-established parks, historical landmarks and small cafes and bars scattered across the metropolis.
However, don't be surprised to find that parts of Christchurch still undergoing reconstruction as it's recovering from the 2011 earthquake.
GO ALONG FOR THE RIDE
After spending about five days in Christchurch earlier this month, I found that it is definitely an exciting destination that combines exhilarating adventures as well as cultural experiences.
The city cycle tour is a good place to start if you are looking for a fun and enriching encounter.
I joined a two-hour guided tour conducted by Chill, which operates urban bike and walk tours. It was enjoyable cruising along the city streets on Chill's vintage bicycles, taking in the sights and sounds around me.
Be sure to keep a lookout for the historic landmark that is Christchurch Cathedral, the striking reflective glass structure of the Christchurch Art Gallery, and the Canterbury Museum constructed in Gothic Revival style.
Besides exploring beautiful architecture, the cycle tour will also take you to pristine gardens and the more vibrant parts of town where you can capture Insta-worthy photos of street art and murals.
It was interesting to learn from the local guide about newer architecture like the Memorial Wall, which serves as a tribute and a place of reflection following the earthquake.
For adrenaline junkies, do not miss out on an experience of a lifetime at Christchurch Adventure Park, where there is a zipline tour like no other.
It comprises a ride on New Zealand's longest chairlift, followed by four different ziplines with lengths ranging from 400m to 1,100m.
The third zipline is the country's highest at a staggering 150m in the air while the last zipline is the longest.
Despite my fear of heights, this turned out to be one of the trip's top highlights as I was rewarded with stunning views across the city, to the Southern Alps and Pacific Ocean.
The gradual push-off from the platform also made it a more comfortable and less scary experience.
This small coastal town about a two-hour drive north of Christchurch is the perfect place for marine life enthusiasts and seafood lovers.
Even the road trip gives you a perfect view of the mountains which extend right out to the clear turquoise ocean.
You can also spot New Zealand fur seals in their natural habitat at Point Kean Seal Colony by taking a short hike along the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway.
An exciting attraction in Kaikoura is its internationally renowned whale-watching tours.
Whale Watch Kaikoura, New Zealand's only marine-based whale-watching company, provides visitors with an extraordinary experience of getting up close and personal with giant sperm whales, dusky dolphins and albatrosses.
I was lucky enough to witness one sperm whale's dive while the tour ended with sightings of over 300 jumping dolphins.
Then head over to Nin's Bin, a family business that has been around since the 1970s and is a popular stopover for travellers. It is easy to catch sight of the distinct blue and white caravan that offers a menu of fresh crayfish and mussels.
GET NATURAL AND CULTURAL
Willowbank Wildlife Reserve is home to New Zealand's many native species such as the iconic Kiwi bird. Remember to keep your eyes peeled for the unique kiwi in the reserve's special nocturnal house.
I have always been fascinated by the Maori culture and was glad to immerse myself in Ko Tane, where I learnt more about their history through various demonstrations.
If you are interested in the know-hows of a Maori hunter or traditional instruments, this is the place for you. The interactive village in Willowbank also included a haka powhiri (a welcome ceremony), 45-minute haka performance and four-course dinner with hangi-cooked mains.
Check out the second of our two-part series on the South Island of New Zealand on Dec 27 as we explore the region of Marlborough