At 12:51 PM on February 22nd, the earth roared and the entire South Island of New Zealand rumbled.
I was sitting at my desk in Queenstown – some 500 kms away from the Garden City of Christchurch – and as I looked out on our balcony overlooking The Remarkabes, I saw my mountain bike shake back and forth and the floor beneath my feet rolled as if I was riding the historic TSS Earnslaw across Lake Wakatipu.
The 6.3 earthquake that struck a mere 5 kms beneath the surface was felt as far away as Wellington on the North Island.
The effects of the quake will be felt in Christchurch for years to come – there was massive loss of life, property, and heritage in the South Island’s largest town.
The Garden City will never be the same again and the events of February 22nd will go down in the history books as one of New Zealand’s saddest days.
Through all of this, it’s crucial to realize that New Zealand is still very much open for business.
The economy has surely taken a huge blow, yet New Zealand will continue to prosper and continued high tourism numbers will be key to a successful recovery.
Here are: 5 Reasons Why You Should Still Visit the Most Beautiful Country in the World
1) The Damage is Extremely Centralized
The images that have been broadcasted by the mainstream media throughout New Zealand and the world show a Christchurch that has been devastated. Without a doubt, this is true – estimates are as high as $15 Billion to rebuild the city.
While the City Centre will sadly never look the same and the Eastern suburbs are severely damaged, much of Christchurch remains essentially unaffected. I was driving into the city a week after the quake and it was very much normal days until just blocks before the City Centre.
The damaged area of New Zealand is equivalent in size the area of Lower Manhattan.
The Garden City probably won’t be open to the general tourist for some time, but it’s crucial to realize the small area affected when considering the rest of New Zealand that is begging to be explored.
2) The Christchurch Airport is Open and Fully Operational
One of the most popular New Zealand itineraries begins in Auckland and ends in Christchurch. For those that are just traveling the South Island, about 90% arrive and depart from Christchurch.
Clearly, the Garden City is a crucial entry and exit point for the traveler to New Zealand.
While you probably won’t spend much time in the city itself, it’s worth noting that the Christchurch airport is fully operational and getting in and out of the South Island is just as easy as it ever has been.
3) Canterbury Needs You
New Zealand needs you almost as much as Canterbury needs you. You shouldn’t wipe New Zealand from your travel plans and you most certainly should spend time in the stunning Canterbury Region.
Canterbury offers everything from glacial lakes, to seaside villages like Akaroa, to natural thermal pools and hot springs in Hanmer Springs.
The cultured can sip world-class wine, the adrenaline junkies can bungy jump in Hanmer Springs or experience epic mountain biking on the St James Cycle Trail, and trampers can take in the alpine glacial lakes at the base of Aoraki Mt Cook.
Don’t skip Canterbury. Why? The businesses here need you and you’ll miss out on some truly unique New Zealand experiences.
4) Experience the Genuine, Open, and Laid Back Kiwi Spirit
Nowhere else in the world does the laid back, no worries outlook on life permeate all aspects of society like it does in New Zealand. It’s an addictive aspect of this country and New Zealanders themselves are reason enough you should still visit Aotearoa.
Canterburians had spent the past six months rebuilding their city after the September 4th earthquake that badly damaged Christchurch.
The February 22nd quake has essentially made all that work for naught, yet again volunteers from throughout New Zealand have flooded the city ready to help. Money, food, and other support has come to Christchurch from all over New Zealand – from Cape Reinga to Bluff.
Kiwis are as welcoming as they are relaxed.
You should travel to New Zealand to experience this ‘no worries’ culture, while at the same time doing your part to ensure the whole of New Zealand recovers from the devastating quake.
5) New Zealand is a Microcosm of the World
New Zealand is quite simply one of the most beautiful and diverse countries in the world (Not convinced? Check out 20 of New Zealand’s Most Best Views).
In an area the size of the state of Colorado, you have snow-capped mountains, arid deserts, tropical islands, dense rain forests, white-sand beaches and intensely green countryside.
You should still travel to New Zealand as there is so much to be seen outside of Christchurch. A typical trip to New Zealand would typically entail two or three days in the Garden City, so don’t miss out on the trip of a lifetime simply because one city is out of commission.
What’s your take? Have you traveled New Zealand? Leave your best experiences from Aotearoa in the comments section below.