There’s always been a special connection between Christchurch and Antarctica. One of the few ‘gateway to Antarctica’ cities around the world (the others being Cape Town, Hobart, Punta Arenas, Stanley, and Ushuaia), Christchurch has, over the years, hosted explorers, scientists, artists, and tourists who use the city as a staging point to prepare for their trips to Antarctica.

Proud of its connection with Antarctica, or ‘the Ice’ as locals like to call it, Christchurch has never been shy about promoting its historic links through a heritage walking trail around the central city.

Starting at the Captain Robert Falcon Scott Statue on the banks of the Avon River, the trail highlighted places around Christchurch that had been touched in some way by the early explorers such as Scott, Roald Amundsen, and Sir Ernest Shackleton.

Of course, the earthquakes have put most of the walking trail out of commission, with the Scott statue being thrown off its plinth (the surrounding grass thankfully cushioning the fall, ensuring the marble Scott suffered only broken ankles), the Christchurch Cathedral being deconstructed, and Warner’s Hotel having been demolished.

But fear not.

There’s still plenty around the city for Antarctica enthusiasts, with the Air Force Museum and Ferrymead Heritage Park featuring aircraft used in early Antarctica aviation.

Plus there’s the interactive International Antarctic Center (out by the airport) offering a four-season Antarctica weather adventure that includes a blizzard, and the chance to play in snow and on ice, not to mention a ride in a Hagglund all-terrain vehicle.

But the real highlight this year is the month long New Zealand IceFest set to open on September 14th.

The usually green Hagley Park (more recently known as Christchurch’s temporary cultural center) is being transformed into an Ice Station for the festival, with a large ice skating rink, hovercraft, Hagglunds, and huge igloo tents set up as auditoriums where performances, exhibitions, and talks will take place.

Spring might be sprung in New Zealand, but in Christchurch there’s still room for a little slice of winter.

(photo image via flickr – @23am.com)