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10 Must-Dos in and Around Hanmer Springs

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Views, history, snow and hot pools!

From a beautiful alpine township to some dramatic coastline, the area around Hanmer Springs has loads to offer backpackers and working holidaymakers. Many of which settle in the area to work, as a calmer alternative to the bustling Christchurch. So, pour yourself a nice Waipara Valley wine and browse down this list of great day-trip ideas in and around Hanmer Springs and the greater Hurunui District in this list of must-dos in and around Hanmer Springs.

Don’t forget to check out our Hanmer Springs – Guide for Backpackers if you are looking more advice on places to explore.

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1. Enjoy the view from Conical Hill

The short 1-hour track starts steep but gets easier the higher you go finishing with a stunning views of the surroundings. Consider walking the Woodland Walk for a much easier short walk.

Location: End of Conical Hill Road, Hanmer Springs
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2. Embark for a trip back in time

The Weka Pass railway is under 13km long and passes through unique limestone features, but that’s not all! The “loco” runs on both diesel and steam providing a true historic experience. Ask the volunteers for old-time stories – their passion is contagious!

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3. Stroll down Amberley beach

The beach offers endless views almost letting you see both Kaikoura and Christchurch. A side note: if you find yourself in Amberley in the evening and need a fresh beer, stop by the Brew Moon Brewery. You won’t regret it!

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4. Relax in the Thermal pools

Offering a completely different experience between day and night and between seasons, the pools are Hanmer Springs’ number one attraction. Backpacking through New Zealand can be tough, so you deserve to indulge in one of the 20+ pools surrounded by native trees!

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5. Check out early Maori art at the Weka Pass Reserve

The 30-minute walk starting at the entrance of the reserve leads to a large concave rock featuring early Maori rock art – a great way to learn more about the first humans living in the area. Note that the walkway is closed each year between August 1st and October 1st.

Location: Just off State Highway 7 towards Culverden. Either start the walkway from The Star and Garter Hotel or from Waikari township.
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6. Stop by the Motunau Beach Clifftop Coastal Reserve

The beach overlooking the flat-top island of Motunau was once was a whaling station. Today, it is a reserve home to over 5000 blue penguins that you can watch from afar, as it is forbidden to set foot on the island.

Locations: Motunau Beach Road off State Highway 1.
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7. Go to the market

During a Hanmer Springs’ summer, “The Market” is held on the Heritage Reserve every Saturday from 10am-4pm. You will find local food, produce, more food, and souvenirs. For a more local shopping experience, visit the Waipara Valley Farmer’s Market held every Saturday in Amberley.

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8. Hike the Kowai River Walking Track

The 2-hour track follows, you guessed it, the Kowai River! Featuring an incredible amount of birds, a coastal lagoon, and a huge beach spit, this walk is a great way to spend a relaxing afternoon.

Locations: Beside the Kowai River Bridge, Leithfield.
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9. Ski/slide/ride Mt Lyford

The small township of Mt Lyford comes alive in summer as one of the most accessible ski fields from Kaikoura and Christchurch. It’s a great place to spend a weekend when working in the busy cities. If this is the winter season that you dig, don’t miss our Ski Season in New Zealand article!

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10. Be amazed by the Cathedral Cliffs

The large limestone location is one of the most photographed features in the area. It’s worth checking out the route passing by it is called “The Gore Bay Tourist Drive”. Better yet, it is not often crowded. It’s one of the 20 Crazy Rock Formations in New Zealand.

Location: State Highway 1 to Cheviot, down the signposted Gore Bay Road.
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