Dreamy New Brighton

Nestled a mere 9 kilometres from Christchurch’s CBD sits the coastal suburb of New Brighton. The city was originally called in O-ruapaeroa in Māori, which means an east wind on the shore. The strong easterlies are exactly what you’ll feel when rounding the corner towards the beach to walk along the New Brighton pier, reaching out into the Pacific Ocean.

My husband and I spent the afternoon in New Brighton last week, enjoying some surprisingly gorgeous weather mid-winter, and loved walking in the sunshine among the heirloom palm trees while sipping our Switch Espresso coffees. The town seemed such a strange mishmash of sun, fresh salty breeze, stunning palms mixed with the strong feeling and physical signs of abandonment. Post-quake the small centre feels deserted and well past its prime. See images from this Stuff article to get the feel of the beachside village today. Some local coffee shops are sprinkled around with a few retailers, all promoting budget buys in shops that are dire need of refurbishments. Many establishments closed due to earthquake or fire damage and have yet to return. Even the graffiti art feels old, dated and neglected. On the gorgeous sunny afternoon, my husband and I were nearly totally alone roaming along the New Brighton Mall, giving us an eerie feeling of vulnerability, like a ghost town.

New Brighton
Saturday traffic and crowds in Mid-Century New Brighton, Christchurch, image credit of Fairfax Media

However, in the mid-century Cantabrians spent hours in grid-lock traffic on Saturdays on the road to the New Brighton shopping centre, Christchurch’s only weekend shopping option. In 1946 a Christchurch law was passed prohibiting Saturday trading, which did not extend to New Brighton, and for four decades the seaside village enjoyed the prestige of being the main weekend destination for Christchurch families. Information sourced from Christchurch City Council.

With the incredible weekend shopping experiences offered in Christchurch such as the Tannery, Lyttelton Saturday Markets, Ricccarton Bush Market & the new CBD shopping district, there isn’t a need to try to return New Brighton to it’s former weekend glory, as no one is holding the rest of the city back on Saturdays. However, the real shame is that the layout, sunshine, gorgeous aged palms and salty beach vibe in New Brighton is sitting there, day after day, in gorgeous potential that is not being actualised. While I do not own the billions needed to invest in re-creating a relevant & fun space to revitalise this corner of our cool city, I can dream & design, which is what I love doing most.


The overall mood of my dream New Brighton re-vamp is a mash-up of Art Deco Spanish Mission Revivalist architecture, which is found in New Regent Street in Christchurch, the gorgeous colours and Jetson vibe of Miami architecture, which incorporates into Art Deco architecture so well. The look and feel is softened a bit with a relaxed seaside vibe but still packs a punch with neon lights, sherbet colours and historic detailing.

New Brighton Mood p1


In order to incorporate fun and weekend livelihood back into the village centre, parking areas will be moved further away from the coastline to allow for the creation of zones, as shown below.

New Brighton Regions 1

D E T A I L 

I envisage a gourmet pizza shop, a swanky jazz night club, soda parlour & hot dog stand all sitting along the Mall leading up towards the pier. I’m imagining a ferris wheel, live street music & candy floss stands all in full swing on weekend evenings in the existing carpark behind the Spagalimis. And definitely a drive-in movie theatre with food carts that can be texted for order & delivery right to the driver’s side window. Inspiration for the zones shown below.







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