Hanmer Springs is a small resort-style town in the Canterbury region of New Zealand’s South Island. Nestled into the hills, its proximity to the outdoors and its relaxed vibe draw in plenty of tourists. The whole town is like a well-groomed park, with tree-lined walkways, open outdoor spaces, and easy access to trails.
While Hanmer Springs is mostly known for its thermal pools, there are lots of other things to do there. There are tons of walking and hiking paths in town, and even more just a short drive away. You’ll also find a lot of mountain biking trails along the hills. Besides the outdoor stuff, Hanmer Springs has all of the amenities you’d want on holiday, like boutique shops, delicious cafes, and a spa.
Hanmer Springs is best for a weekend getaway rather than a long stay. It can be romantic, family-friendly, or adventurous. It’s just a couple of hours from Christchurch, so it’s easy to get to.
Here is my recommended itinerary for a visit to Hanmer Springs
See the Town from the Top of Conical Hill
There are plenty of places to walk or hike around town, but the one must-do walk is Conical Hill. The walk is short but it’s 100% uphill (if you couldn’t guess by the name). However, the switchbacks make it a fairly easy walk, as long as you go at your own pace. Once you reach the hilltop, you’ll find a viewing platform where you can look out over town, and see the surrounding mountain ranges. It generally takes about 25 minutes to get to the top. You can also bike to the top and access other bike trails from there.
Grab Coffee at the Roasted Bean
The Roasted Bean is a cute, welcoming café with a tasty menu for breakfast, brunch, or lunch. They also have really good coffee. The atmosphere is relaxed but with great energy. Spend an hour savoring your coffee or go ahead and order something delicious off the menu.
Relax at the Thermal Pools
The number one attraction in Hanmer Springs is the thermal pools and spa. Everything is basically centered around it, so you absolutely have to visit while in town. The hottest pool is 37 C (98 F). It’s easy to spend a few hours (or most of the day) trying out various pools, finding your favorite, and then zoning out as if nothing else matters in the world. The Aquatherapy pools are especially nice—jets, bubbles, and no kids allowed.
Go for a Walk in Hanmer Forest
Hanmer Forest Park is another great place to go walking, trail-running, or mountain biking. The Forest is a quick drive from the town center, or a 10-minute walk. A variety of trails run through the forest, ranging from 30 minutes to a few hours.
Get Gelato at Si Gelato
“It’s never too cold for a gelato,” or so says Si Gelato. During summer, nothing completes an afternoon like a smooth gelato, but no one will stop you from getting one in the cold of winter either. A sweet treat is welcome no matter the time of year. At Si Gelato you’ll find simple flavors alongside a few more interesting ones. The store is located on the main street.
Explore the Heritage Sites
A quick jaunt around town will reveal a few historical sites. Behind the Thermal Pools complex is Queen Mary Hospital Historic Reserve. The old hospital and nurse’s hostel still stand amongst the trees, and some information is detailed in front of each building.
Visit the Local Shops
Hanmer Springs has plenty of shops to look through during an afternoon stroll. You can find bathing suits, outdoor gear, gifts and souvenirs. Be sure to check out Mirror Mirror Boutique for some stylish clothes and Up the Garden Path for decor and gifts.
Stay at the YHA Kakapo Lodge
Hostels are the perfect accommodation option, and not just for backpackers. The Hanmer Springs YHA has dorms and shared rooms, but it also has plenty of private rooms and family rooms. It’s in the perfect location, just a short walk from the thermal pools. The hostel is clean, quiet, and home-y. The kitchen provides everything you need to cook and there’s a cozy fireplace in the common room. It also has a beautiful outdoor patio area filled with tables and chairs. The YHA is probably also the most affordable option in town.
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