The scenic drive to Hanmer Springs is a mere 90 minutes north of Christchurch. Perfect for a weekend away, the resort town is popular amongst Cantabrians and international visitors.
I had yet to visit Hanmer despite having resided in Christchurch for almost two years. Nick’s birthday weekend was a great excuse to treat ourselves to a mini getaway. I was immediately reminded of family ski trips to the Canadian Rockies, on a much smaller scale (as is customary in New Zealand).
After exploring the main drag of Hanmer and poking our noses into a few boutique shops (Nick needed some new bathers), we had a coffee at MK Restaurant. The sleek, minimalist interior appealed to me on every level and the flat whites were served in bowls.
We checked into Braemar Lodge & Spa, a gorgeous alpine resort with views of the snow-speckled mountains. The lodge is 10-minutes out of Hanmer on a winding gravel road up the hill. The rooms are massive and even have their own soaking tubs and fireplace. Here, you’ll be treated to floor-to-ceiling windows of the Southern Alps, not a bad sight. We cozied up in our robes for the evening with takeaways and a bottle of pinot noir from nearby Waipara Hills winery.
Having spent Saturday night lounging, we decided to venture out of our room for Sunday brunch. Just when I thought the views couldn’t get any better, we were treated to panoramic views at Braemar’s in-house restaurant, Altitude. Of course, the food was also incredible – we opted for the eggs benedict with plenty of cold breakfast options on the side.
If you’re looking for accommodation slightly removed from the busy main street, I’d highligh recommend checking out Braemar. Ideal for a romantic getaway, the secluded lodge is tucked away from the touristy Hanmer Springs.
Needing to walk off our breakfast, we decided to venture to Hanmer Forest. We opted for the Conical Hill walkway, which is a leisurely stroll through the forest. Surrounded by coniferous trees, we took in the fresh alpine air as we made our way up the hill. Rewarded with a beautiful yet misty view, we slowly made our way back, thankful we had rugged up in our beanies, mittens and layers.
Next up, we headed to the acclaimed thermal pools and spa. Hanmer is most commonly known for its hot springs and there’s plenty to explore. From the relaxing rock pools to the waterfalls, aqua therapy and sulphur pools, we could’ve spent an entire day pool hopping. The pools all vary in temperature, but winter is the ideal time for a soak. If you’re looking to amplify your relaxation levels, stop by Artisan Spa in Hanmer Village for a facial or massage.
On our drive back to Christchurch, we stopped at the historic Hurunui Hotel. The 1861 hotel and pub was badly damaged during the earthquakes, but the adjacent restaurant is open for business. Fuelling up for the remainder of the drive, we had some of the best coffee in the Hurunui District and deliciously hearty burgers. Be sure to look out for Frog Rock, the rock formations are amazing – I couldn’t help gawking as we drove past.