One of the advantages of a compact inner city is that it's possible to walk to quirky neighbourhoods on the outskirts of town. One of the most fascinating is these is the Aro Valley, and in particular the famously offbeat Holloway Road.
While there have been signs of the inevitable gentrification (such as a marketably quaint B&B), in most ways this tucked-away valley has hardly changed since the 19th century. At one stage it was so run-down and forgotten that Victoria University considered it a suitable site for dangerous experiments. For a while it was dominated by cheap student flats, which could be notoriously cold in winter (as a story by Samara McDowell points out). While there are no longer as many mad hippies with goats as there were even ten years ago, there are plenty of odd little artworks in gardens and on the street, such as this transformation of a gas meter into an alien creature.
There's also a real sense of shared responsibility for the public realm, and various residents have provided public amenities that combine practicality with humour. Why lobby the council for a public bench when you can just put out an old car seat?
There's a lot of history in the area, as the archived Mitchelltown history page and Aro valley heritage trail show. The bottom of the valley has a notable War Memorial, and just around the corner are the remains of the toilet that saw the infamous Sutch incident. At the top of the valley there's the Waimapihi reserve and the spooky Waimapihi stream, but that's a completely different journey.