Hanmer Springs: taking the cure

Hanmer Springs – 90 minutes north of Christchurch airport, is New Zealand’s premier alpine spa and a holiday destination, popular with both locals and international visitors.

The little resort town sits in a high country basin, 385m above sea level, in the foothills of the Southern Alps.

Originally built around natural hot springs in the town centre, Hanmer Springs has grown into a year-round resort offering fun-filled activities for visitors looking for everything from family fun to adventure thrills, to romantic getaways.

Hills, rivers and forests offer an impressive landscape for outdoor activities from mountain biking trails, to hiking, golf and horse riding.

Hanmer Thermal Pools

Early Māori first discovered the hot bubbling pools in the secluded upland tussock country, but it was Europeans who began to populate the surrounding Hurunui region from the mid-1800s and popularised ‘taking the cure’ at Hanmer.

The ‘cure’ consisted of walking forest trails, inhaling invigorating alpine air and daily bathing in the therapeutic hot sulphur pools - activities that are still very much part of the Hanmer experience.

The thermal pools, which underwent major redevelopment in 2010, are an impressive complex of pools and experiences including sculptured rock pools where temperatures range from 33˚C to 41˚C, and a family activity area - complete with water slides.

The pools attract more than 500,000 visitors annually, including 100,000-plus Australians.

Luxury spa experience

The hot springs also draw visitors seeking a romantic or therapeutic getaway at nearby Hanmer Springs Spa - a luxury spa experience offering pampering, relaxation and massage therapies.

Just a few steps along the main street, The Heritage Hanmer Springs is a five-star destination in an historic turn-of-the-century building.

Other accommodation options in and around Hanmer include five-star bed & breakfasts, lodges, apartments, motels, rental holiday homes and holiday parks.

The town also has fine restaurants, cheerful cafés, bars, galleries and boutique shopping. There is also a weekend market.

Outdoor adventures

Out of town, forest trails set the scene for hiking, mountain biking or horse treks, and there are multiple outdoor adventures to be had on land or water.

For adrenalin thrills, the historic Waiau Ferry Bridge, at the mouth of the Hanmer Valley, is a bungy launching pad. In the water below, there are jet boats and rafts to ride the rapids.

The local golf course has year-round scenic vistas, and it’s only a short walk from the centre of town.

In winter when the mountains are cloaked in snow, Hanmer is the ski resort of choice for skiers and snowboarders enjoying the slopes of nearby Hanmer Springs Ski Area and Mt Lyford.

Alpine Pacific Touring Route

Hanmer Springs is one of the destinations on the Alpine Pacific Touring Route - a 370km self-drive itinerary that includes the Waipara wine region, and Kaikoura on the Pacific coast.

Kaikoura - midway between Christchurch and the Marlborough Sounds - is New Zealand’s leading eco-tourism destination, and home to New Zealand’s only marine-based whale watching experience.

The Waipara Valley - 45 minutes north of Christchurch - produces award-winning pinot noir, riesling, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc wines. New Zealand’s fastest developing wine region has 80 vineyards, including Pegasus Bay.

It is part of the North Canterbury Food and Wine Trail which includes wineries, cafes and restaurants, and accommodation.

More information

Canterbury trails - exploring big country

NZ eco-tourism: Whale Watch Kaikoura

Cycling trails in New Zealand's South Island