Exploring Hanmer Springs by Rocket Bike and Climbing Conical Hill

Since we arrived in Hanmer Springs a couple of days ago, we were intrigued by these ridiculous-looking 4-wheeler bikes that a few businesses in town are hiring out to explore the town. And you know us, we are always keen to try something new! So this morning after some breakfast in the Jack in the Green Backpackers, we head into town to explore Hanmer Springs by “rocket bike”.

Renting out the rocket bike

Hanmer Adventure, an adventure centre hiring out all sorts of bikes (check out yesterday’s post of our quad biking adventure), just happens to have some “rocket bikes” proudly parked up and ready to go outside the adventure centre. You can either hire out a 2-seater or 4-seater rocket bike for 30 minutes-1 hour.

The friendly member of staff, Brook, shows us how these rocket bikes work, as well as the rules when taking these bad boys on the road. Then she pretty much tells us about what the bikes can’t do, from going up hills to reversing. We see, “rocket bike” was an ironic name for this mode of transport…

Our pimped-out ride

Nevertheless, we hit the streets of Hanmer Springs in our pimpin’ ride. The overhead cover flapping in the wind is the finishing touch to upping our street-cred as we peddle in unison. We check out the main street of Hanmer, saying “hi” to the locals in pub as we pass. Then we discover a cute tree-lined street that we almost want to follow uphill until we chicken out and do a 50-point turn in the road (Ok, it isn’t that bad).

Peddle faster, Robin! Peddle faster, Robin!
Just look at that face! Just look at that face!
Enough rocket biking, let's go for a hike Enough rocket biking, let's go for a hike
Lurking in the pine forest Lurking in the pine forest

It’s the simple things…

On the way back to Hanmer Adventure, we pass fellow rocket bikers who have smiles as big as ours, calling: “This is so much fun!” as they zoom past us.

We park up as smoothly as we can in perhaps not the most maneuverable bike in the world. We can consider the rocket bikes as one of those rides you always wanted to go on as a kid. Now you can say: “Screw you mum and dad, I’m on my gap year and I will shamelessly ride one of these bikes!” Well, it’s not the worst things you can do on a gap year, let’s be honest.

A hike up the Conical Hill Trail

Now that we have had a morning well-spent, we decide to use our not so funny own two feet to tackle one of the many hiking trails around Hanmer Springs. The Conical Hill Trail is an easy one to find and walk to from Hanmer Springs town, so that’s where we head to next.

Rampaging the Hanmer Springs in our rocket bike

Zigzags in the pine forest

At the end of Conical Hill Road, three different signs welcome us to Conical Hill. The track starts off on a sealed footpath decorated with exotic berry trees and native tussock until the surrounds completely change to inside a pine forest. Even the temperature suddenly drops in the shelter of the forest and there’s a dampness in the air. We follow a wide trail scattered with fallen red pine needles. The track gradually zigzags up the hill, although there are plenty of shortcuts where others have forged their own trails over exposed tree roots.

Benches and birds

A couple of benches on the way up indicate just a taster of the awesome views to comes with one bench overlooking the town or Hanmer Springs (and the other bench literally facing tree trunks, but their Ok to look at too, we guess).

The further we ascend up the hill, the closer to the tree canopy we get to – a place that native birds love! Three fantails spread out their fan-like tails like some sort of courting ritual (who ever said that three’s a crowd?) and a couple of silvereye. As you can see, the European bird names are very literal.

Catch your breath, Laura, we're nearly there! Catch your breath, Laura, we're nearly there!
We made it to the top! We made it to the top!
Robin tries to find our where the hell he is Robin tries to find our where the hell he is

Awesome views over Hanmer Springs

The final zag of our zigzag hike up Conical Hill brings us to an exposed hill top revealing some epic views of forested mountains behind us, Hanmer Springs town in front, and long-stretching golden fields reaching out to more spectacular mountains. It’s just another example that hills in New Zealand are definitely worth the climb!

With a shelter and seats and a separate picnic bench on a not-so-far peak, there’s plenty to stay up here for a while.

Back down with some forest appreciation

After snapping up a few pictures (and by few, we mean a sh*t lot), we head back down the hill and into the forest. We almost skip the whole way down with the ease in comparison to hiking up. We also get to appreciate how different this exotic forest is compared to New Zealand’s dense and mossy forests we have seen. The pine trees feel more aggressive in a way in their fight toward sunlight, killing their own branches on the way up and hardly letting anything else grown on the forest floor. It’s a different kind of beauty, we suppose.

Rounding off our time in Hanmer Springs

We make it back down Conical Hill with plenty of time to pack up our bags and hit the road to Kaikoura – a journey of golden mountains and stunning coastal scenery.

It’s been a great mix of relaxation and child-like fun at the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools, along with first-time experiences with quad biking, and today we have topped it off with some free and inexpensive activities. Make sure you join us tomorrow for the start of a “whaley” great week in Kaikoura, New Zealand’s marine wildlife mecca. See you then!

Laura and Robin

Following one of the sneaky shortcuts through this fun bit of forest - Shh, don't tell anyone
Following one of the sneaky shortcuts through this fun bit of forest - Shh, don't tell anyone Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Want more?

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Until tomorrow’s post, check us out on the HerePin app to meet other travellers in your area. We also post travel tips for New Zealand on Facebook, as well as our adventure on Instagram.

See you tomorrow!

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