Words Victoria Tait
Only 90 minutes’ drive from Christchurch lies the quaint alpine village of Hanmer Springs. The drive from Christchurch through Hurunui District, with lush forests, rolling hills of vineyards and towering mountains, on its own is enough to get you in the holiday mood. It’s drives like these that make you remember how lucky we are to have such exquisite scenery on our doorstep.
Hanmer village itself has developed considerably over the years and could easily be mistaken for a European alpine village thanks to its boutique shops and diverse eateries. There are many fantastic accommodation options and a great range of outdoor and family activities including skiing, jet boating, forest walks and the famous hot pools and spas. Follow the tips on our travel guide below to ensure you experience the best of Hanmer.
Situated at 20 Chisholm Crescent, The St James is a 5-star Qualmark-rated hotel. Choose from deluxe studios, executive spa studios, to one- and two-bedroom apartments that feature kitchens and luxurious fixtures and furnishings. A 10-minute drive from Hanmer’s centre, Select Braemar Lodge is a luxury spa resort offering stunning views across the valley towards the mountains and alpine forests. Complete with spa facilities and an excellent restaurant, it’s the perfect location for a romantic weekend. The Heritage Hanmer Springs Hotel is situated right in the heart of the village and offers fantastic service and facilities ideal for families. Village Lake Apartments are only a stroll away from the thermal pools and spa. It’s luxury 5-star accommodation with 13 two- and three-bedroom apartments from which to choose.
Jet boat down the spectacular Waiau Gorge for an unforgettable experience. Not for the faint-hearted, a bungy jump off the historic 135-year-old Waiau Ferry Bridge includes a 35-metre freefall. Take a forest walk – the Conical Hill route is about an hour round trip and provides great views of the valley and into the forest behind. The Hanmer Forest trail is relatively flat and ideal for walkers and bikers, about a 20-minute walk from the main street. Take an afternoon wander through the shopping village, or hire a tandem bike and take the whole family for a ride through the township. Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa are perfect for melting away any stress, aches or pains. The spa has a wide variety of pools for both fun and relaxation including 12 open-air thermal pools, six private indoor thermal pools, and three sulphur pools. Recent studies have shown that the thermal water takes 173 years to reach the pools. This means the water in which you bathe fell as rain and snow on the mountains of Hanmer 173 years ago – you can’t get much purer than that.
Hanmer Springs has a large selection of eateries, from cafés and takeaways to more formal dining. Some of our top-rated destinations include: the art deco-inspired Eden Restaurant (formerly Chantellinis) with its private dining rooms, Fives Stags for its hunting lodge feel, the quaint cottage that is No. 31 Restaurant and Bar, and picturesque Altitude Restaurant and Bar (at Braemar Lodge) that boasts floor-to-ceiling windows. Corianders offers authentic Indian cuisine, Rustic Café & Tapas Bar has excellent coffee and great breakfast, and the Hanmer Fish and Chip Shop we love for its
café-style cut chips.
Retail therapy is easy with a fantastic selection of contemporary shops. LifeStyles Hanmer Springs is on hand if you find your swimsuit completely out-of-date, while Mhor and Rhom will have you kitted out in style, as both offer high-end brands such as Loobie’s Story, Verge and David Pond. Complete the look with some Beau Coops heels or a Status Anxiety wallet from Mirror Mirror Boutique. Don’t think the kids will be missing out, either, with Stylish Baby & Child stocking the adorable Pretty Brave range of shoes, as well as designer clothing labels, such as Kiwi brand Triangle, and a wide range of toys. Offering jewellery as well as art of all varieties, Majuba Gallery is an ever-changing contemporary art space, while Up The Garden Path has a café in the gift shop that sources a range of homeware, gifts and accessories. Looking for something for the home? You will want to have a browse through Homestead Interiors, with its decadent selection of furniture and homewares, and more.