The Custard Square Bookshop

Wednesday to Sunday 10am-4pm (unless it’s raining)

The Arts Centre, 2 Worcester Boulevard, Christchurch

As a tram rattles down Worcester Boulevard, the driver loves to point out an adorable outdoor set-up known as The Custard Square Bookshop. The vintage caravan of soft yellow and white is adorned with antique bookcases, clusters of foraged flowers, and lovely big umbrellas. Tucked into a corner of The Arts Centre, close to Frances Nation Grocer, the miniature bookshop’s cute factor is impossible to ignore.

When you step inside the tiny shop, it has a wonderful surrounded-by-books feeling. Custom shelves line the interior from top to bottom, and every inch of them is chock full of literary goodness. Quaint little window sills make a perfect spot to display even more written gems. Book enthusiast and avid collector Cathleen Murphy had always wanted her own bookshop, and from the first moment, she discovered the caravan, she knew it was meant to be.

Handbuilt in the 1950s from upcycled pieces of broken aircraft, the custard square caravan was originally built for a honeymoon adventure. How fitting that a caravan full of stories should contribute its own piece of history to the mix. The books themselves are a diverse collection of poetry, autobiographies, fictional works, and anything that’s a bit interesting, quirky or amusing. Eager to inspire the next generation of readers, Cathleen also has a sweet little reading nook set up for kids. The colourful book stand and fun-size wooden seats create a popular spot underneath a nearby cherry tree. 

All the books are just five dollars, mainly because Cathleen is very comfortable with her five times tables. So for the price of a coffee, you can learn something new, get lost in a gripping story, or momentarily visit a strange and faraway land. Once you’ve chosen your book, pick up a fresh fruit ice cream from Frances Nation, stroll through the botanic gardens to find your perfect reading nook, and enjoy a glorious, leisurely afternoon. 

Words by Nicola Amy Hinman & Photography by Nancy Zhou

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