Riwai Grace's Christchurch

I’m a tour guide, a navigator for social enterprise Whānau Whanake, and I also work for Fire and Emergency New Zealand. So I’ve had the pleasure of working in central Christchurch for the last 20 years.

I’ve seen the devastation and I've seen the rebirth and I’ve worked through it all. I always seemed to find lost tourists and I’d give them directions and recommend places to go or to eat. I like the interaction - meeting new people and hearing stories of where they come from, so after doing some guided tours overseas, my wife Cate and I thought it would be nice to do the same thing for Ōtautahi - and help people discover our awesome new city as it rebuilds. That was the start of Āmiki tours - we love showing people our city’s hidden gems and the way Māori stories now sit alongside our European stories in the new city.

Rooftop bar above Muse Art Hotel

159 Manchester Street, Christchurch Central

It’s so cool that the people behind Muse Art Hotel were able to save that building on Manchester Street and turn the top floor into a rooftop bar - the Pink Lady. It overlooks Rauora Park, which is now the city’s third largest park so it’s a great place to sit and take in the beauty of the surroundings - and the Port Hills in the distance. If I was ever going to have a night in town, I would definitely stay at the Muse. It’s really funky. They’ve done such a great job.

Staff working inside the Pink Lady bar.

Share some kai at Inati

48 Hereford Street, Christchurch Central

Inati means ‘to share’ and Simon Levy’s restaurant is all about that. I love the idea of sharing food, being fully engaged with other people, sharing stories and ideas. At Inati you try lots of small dishes so there are multiple flavours and experiences. The menu changes with the season and it always challenges my palate - in a good way! The duck trumpet is devine and my favourite ever dish was his Venison Wellington - that was just delightful.

A chef working in the kitchen at Inati.

Touch the pounamu at Oi Manawa

Montreal Street, Christchurch Central

The earthquakes were a full-on time for us at the Fire Service. You just kept going to work - kept trying to do what you could to help people. Oi Manawa, the earthquake memorial along the riverside, is a really beautiful acknowledgement of what happened and of the people who died. Whenever I go past the pounamu, I stop, touch it and breathe - and it really does connect me back to the land. I always tell people to go at day and at night because it’s a completely different experience. I find peace here - it fills my wairua (soul).

The touch stone at the Earthquake Memorial.

Seafood experience at Hali

The Crossing, Christchurch

Inati’s Simon Levy’s second restaurant is Hali. The first-floor bar has an original cocktail menu plus great wine and beer selection. On the second floor is a casual bistro-style restaurant inspired by the sea, showcasing the stunning kai moana of Aotearoa. From classic Scottish smoked salmon with black garlic to clams or half a cray (grilled or thermador). This whole concept excites me. I think it’s great that he’s put it in The Crossing where people can discover all the nearby shops.

Booth seating at Hali.

Brunch and books at Tūranga

60 Cathedral Square, Christchurch Central

Our new library, Tūranga, is one of the best things to come out of the rebuild. I always start at Foundation Café - the chefs there do great coffee and brunch. Then I will always go up to the fourth floor and out on the terrace to look at the view of the Cathedral. This view brings the city together for me - something we gained and something we lost. Seeing it from up there changes the whole experience. Also, don’t miss the artwork on the Colombo Street side of the building which tells the story of our ancestor Paikea and his migration from Hawaiki to Tūranga.

Brunch on a table at Foundation Cafe.

Coming together at Market Square

Corner Colombo and Armagh Streets, Christchurch Central

Market Square, or Victoria Square, is a special place. It was an important mahinga kai place and then later Māori traded here with whalers. It became Victoria Square when a statue to the queen was erected in 1903. She stood there alone until 2019 when Ngāi Tahu master carver Fayne Robinson installed two waka carvings with signatories of the Treaty of the Treaty of Waitangi. I think it's great to acknowledge all sides - Māori and European - and bring our histories together. I believe that’s the only way to move forward.

A statue standing in Victoria Square.

Take your time in Scorpio Books

BNZ Centre, 120 Hereford Street, Christchurch Central

Scorpio is an iconic Christchurch bookstore. I remember buying books there in the 1990s when it was on Hereford Street. It was the place to go for different authors that you couldn’t get in Whitcoulls. It’s one of the city’s specialty stores that I still love to stop into. You can really take your time here and find something great to read. While you’re in Cashel Square, pop into Hapa - a gift shop specialising in New Zealand artists.

People browsing books inside Scorpio.

Sit on the giant mōkihi

2 Cambridge Terrace, Christchurch Central

The Antigua Boat Sheds are probably the first place I ever had a coffee in Christchurch. You can just relax and take in the magical area or hire a kayak to explore the river. Across the river, there’s now another special spot to sit and enjoy the river - a giant mōkihi (raft) sculpture. With the rebuild, there’s been a lot of work done with Māori to restore the river itself - 400 tonnes of shingle were removed and cleaned. There are more eels, more fish and it’s a lovely place where you can escape all the glass and be in nature.

The Christchurch Boat Sheds.

Your name on fudge at the Arts Centre

Worcester Street, Christchurch Central

Every time I go to the Arts Centre, it blows my mind how they managed to save it. It’s the largest heritage restoration project in the world! You look at all the stonework that’s been painstakingly replaced and it’s incredible. Don’t miss the amazing stained glass window in The Great Hall. But my favourite is The Fudge Cottage. It’s been going for 30 years and I love the smell, the colour and the warmth of the staff. I’m such a fan, my wife got me a personalised block of fudge for my birthday.

A woman working inside Fudge Cottage.

Play like a kid

Armagh Street, Christchurch Central

We love taking our mates from out of town to the Margaret Mahy playground in the evenings - when most of the kids have gone home for tea. We like to bounce on the tramps, swing on the swings and race down the slides. It’s great to let go and be a kid again. Rollickin’ Gelato is a perfect match for this silly fun - it’s just around the corner on New Regent Street. Jed Joyce started Rollickin’ Gelato from a mobile cart when he was just 15 years old. Seven years later, there are two permanent Rollickin’ locations in Christchurch, and they often have queues out the door.

The Margaret Mahy playground.