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The alpine spa resort of Hanmer Springs is the jewel in the crown of the Hurunui District’s tourist attractions. Coming a close second, though, is Waipara Valley, the centre of Canterbury's wine-growing and with a burgeoning reputation for the quality of its rieslings and pinot noirs.
For centuries the thermal pools at Hanmer Springs were used by Māori travelling through the area. The first bathhouse was built in 1883. Today, the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa is a landscaped complex and day spa. It offers a range of therapeutic treatments for a complete spa experience.
For something more active, try Hanmer Adventure and Hanmer Springs Attractions. During winter, hit the slopes at Hanmer Springs Ski Area and Mount Lyford Alpine Resort. Other activities include hiking, mountain biking and 4WD adventures.
Waipara Valley is the centre of Canterbury's wine-growing. For a winery lunch, explore the cellar doors at your own pace (with a designated sober driver, of course) or join a wine tour with Waipara Wine & Craft Beer Tours.
Amberley This rural service town is the southern gateway to the Hurunui region and a destination in itself if meandering through craft and thrift shops is your thing. The nearby Amberley Beach golf course delivers rolling greens and sweeping sea views.
Weka Pass Look out for Frog Rock and Seal Rock among the striking limestone formations you can see on the drive through this spectacular gorge. Or take the trip through the gorge on a heritage steam or diesel-electric train.
Cheviot Halfway between Kaikoura and Christchurch, Cheviot is a great place to break your journey and an even better place to stop and explore. There’s walking tracks and cycling trails, and among the shops and restaurants there’s jewellery, homewares and original New Zealand art on offer.
Gore Bay Wax up the board and hit the surf at Gore Bay, one of New Zealand’s safest surfing beaches, or try your luck surfcasting for dinner.
Enjoy a luxurious soak in the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa. Sample local wine at the cellar door. Brave a jet boating adventure in a rugged gorge. Horse trek in the North Canterbury foothills.
When travelling to Hanmer Springs and Hurunui from Christchurch, stop for lunch at the acclaimed Nor’Wester Café in Amberley. In Hanmer Springs, try Powerhouse Café & Restaurant, Monteith’s Brewery Bar and No. 31 Restaurant & Bar.
Some of the first examples of Māori rock art are to be found in natural limestone shelters in the Weka Gorge. The simple human figures, fish and dogs were drawn on the shelter walls in charcoal and red ochre as much between 600 and 1000 years ago by Māori hunting moa and other birdlife. From Waikari township, a 40-minute walk takes you to the most significant site.