The Must-Dos in Hanmer Springs: New Zealand’s Alpine Spa Village
Hanmer Springs strikes the right balance of relaxation and adventure. The alpine spa village in the Canterbury region of the South Island is famous for its natural hot springs pumped into the huge Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools complex. But the hot pools is just a great way to end your day here in this alpine paradise. Enjoy walks through pine forests, jet boat tours, white water rafting, quad biking, bungy jumping, multi-day cycle trails, archery and more throughout your stay. Be inspired by this list of things to do in Hanmer Springs.
From a beautiful alpine township to some dramatic coastline, the area around Hanmer Springs has loads to offer travellers, so we’ve also listed some amazing day-trip ideas in the Hanmer Springs and surrounding Hurunui District.
For more trip-planning success, check out The Complete Travel Guide to Hanmer Springs.
1. Go for a Walk in the Hanmer Forest
There are plenty of places to stretch your legs in the forests surrounding Hanmer Springs. For a short walk, do the Conical Hill Walk (1-hour return) which is a steep climb through pine forest with rewarding views. Alternatively, the Woodland Walk is another 1-hour walk is a flat and easy walk suitable for the whole family.
Location: Conical Hill – start from Conical Hill Road, Woodland Walk – start from Jollies Pass Road.
2. Unwind at the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools
Hanmer Springs’ most famous attraction, the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools is a huge hot pool complex and water park. Relax in the 15 different outdoor pools including a lazy river and pools nestles in natural settings. For those wanting a bit more excitement, there are several waterslides and a children’s play pool. Get your Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools Admission Ticket on Viator, Tripadvisor or Klook. See more 10 Damn Relaxing Hot Pools in New Zealand.
Location: 42 Amuri Avenue, Hanmer Springs town centre.
3. Go White Water Rafting
It’s you and your team against the choppy waters of the Waiau River on this exciting grade 2-3 rafting trip. Suitable for families and rafting newbies, this white water rafting trip with Hanmer Springs Attractions features dramatic views of soaring peaks and marble land formations. In the crystal clear waters, just try to resist jumping out of your raft for a swim. See the white water rafting tour on Viator, Tripadvisor or Klook. Plus, check out more family-friendly activities in the 10 Things to Do in Hanmer Springs with Kids.
Location: Hanmer Springs Attractions base, 839 Hanmer Springs Road, approximately 8km (5 miles) from Hanmer Springs.
4. Jump on a Quad Bike Tour
Explore the exciting terrain of the Hanmer Springs area on a thrilling self-drive quad bike tour. There are three options for quad biking in Hanmer Springs: Hanmer Springs Adventure Centre (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor), Amuri Jet (Viator/Tripadvisor) or Hanmer Springs Attractions (Viator/Tripadvisor/Klook). The first takes you through farm and forest and to spectacular viewpoints, while the latter tours speed along creeks, rivers and farms.
Location: Adventure Centre – 20 Conical Hill Road. Hanmer Springs Attractions & Amuri Jet – Ferry Bridge, 839 Hanmer Springs Road, approximately 8km (5 miles) from Hanmer Springs.
5. Do the Hanmer Springs Bungy Jump
If you’re looking to tick “bungy jump” off the bucket list, then you can do it right here in Hanmer Springs. The Hanmer Springs Bungy is 35m (115ft) high and admittedly, the shortest one in the country – but hey, at least you can still say you’ve done one. The jump is from the historic Ferry Bridge where you’ll take the leap over the Waiau River. Book your bungy on Viator, Tripadvisor or Klook!
Location: Ferry Bridge, Hanmer Springs Attractions base, 839 Hanmer Springs Road, approximately 8km (5 miles) from Hanmer Springs.
6. Blast Down the Waia River in a Jet Boat
Adventure-seekers have two jet boat trips to choose from in Hanmer Springs. Amuri Jet and Hanmer Springs Attractions jet boat tours both offer 30-35-minutes blasts down the Waiau River taking you through narrow gorges, shallow braided sections and features 360° spins! Check out Amuri Jet on Viator and Tripadvisor and Hanmer Springs Attractions on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook.
Location: Both tours depart from 839 Hanmer Springs Road, approximately 8km (5 miles) from Hanmer Springs.
7. Try Archery or Clay Pigeon Shooting
Get full instruction on archery or clay bird shooting at the Hanmer Springs Adventure Centre. All the equipment is provided, with advice to improve your shots as you go, as well as few challenges to tackle along the way. It’s a great way to get competitive with your mates or loved ones. Book your session on Viator or Tripadvisor.
Location: Adventure Centre – 20 Conical Hill Road, Hanmer Springs town centre.
8. Indulge in Some Wine Tasting
For a change of pace, sit down to a wine tasting at the Waiau River Estate. Among some of New Zealand’s highest altitude vineyards, Waiau River Estate grows a range of varietals, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir. They are open from Friday to Sunday. For more wineries in the area, see our 10 Wonderful Wineries in the Waipara Valley. Plus, more experiences like this are listed in the 8 Romantic Activities in Hanmer Springs for Couples.
Location: 2254 Mouse Point Road, 13km (8 miles) south of Hanmer Springs.
9. Ride the St James Cycle Trail
An awesome mountain bike trail awaits in the St James Conservation Area just north of Hanmer Springs. The 60km (37-mile) trail from Maling Pass to St James Homestead takes you through the stunning Clarence and Waiau valleys. The trail is mostly a grade 3 intermediate trail with a grade 4 section between Saddle Spur Bridge and Scotties Hut. Needless to say that the trail is not for the faint of heart, but those wanting an easier half-day option can do a ride from the St James Homestead to Peters Pass with an attractive waterfall and picnic area.
Location: Tophouse Road, 13km (8 miles) north of Hanmer Springs.
10. Hit the Slopes of the Hanmer Springs Ski Area
If you should come to Hanmer Springs between July and September, you may be lucky enough to spend a day on the slopes providing the conditions are right. Experience one of New Zealand’s iconic club ski fields, Hanmer Springs Ski Area, for an authentic ski day away from the crowds, yet still with the luxury of groomed runs. See how the ski field compares to others in The 24 Ski Fields in New Zealand. Plus, check out more experiences like this in the 10 Luxury Activities in Hanmer Springs.
Location: Top of Clarence Valley Road, 17km (11 miles) from Hanmer Springs town. Shuttles are available from the Hanmer Adventure Centre in town.
11. Check Out Early Maori Art at the Weka Pass Reserve
Now moving onto the day trips from Hanmer Springs, the 30-minute Weka Pass Historic Reserve walk 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 1 and October 1.
Location: Just off State Highway 7 towards Culverden. Either start the walkway from The Star and Garter Hotel or from Waikari township. This attraction is approximately 63km (39 miles) from Hanmer Springs.
12. Embark for a Trip Back in Time
The Weka Pass Railway is under 13km (8 miles) long and passes through unique limestone features but that’s not all! The “loco” runs on both diesel and steam providing a truly historic experience. Ask the volunteers for old-time stories their passion is contagious!
Location: 113 Glenmark Drive, Waipara, approximately 77km (48 miles) from Hanmer Springs.
13. 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 5,000 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, approximately 105km (65 miles) from Hanmer Springs.
14. Experience a Local Market
During a Hanmer Springs’ summer, “The Market” is held on the Heritage Reserve every Saturday from 10am-4pm. [Update: The Market is no longer operating]. 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.
Location: Waipara Valley Farmer’s Market – Carters Road, Amberley, approximately 87km (54 miles) from Hanmer Springs.
15. 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: Besides the Kowai River Bridge, Leithfield, approximately 91km (56.5 miles) from Hanmer Springs.
16. Stroll Down Amberley Beach
Amberly 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!
Location: End of Amberley Beach Road, approximately 4.5km (3 miles) from Amberley and 92km (57 miles) from Hanmer Springs.
17. Ski/Slide/Ride at Mt Lyford
The small township of Mt Lyford comes alive in winter as one of the most accessible ski fields from Kaikoura and Christchurch. It’s a great place to spend a weekend when working in busy cities. If this is the winter season that you dig, don’t miss our Ski Season in New Zealand article!
Location: Mount Lyford Forest Drive, Mt Lyford, approximately 35km (22 miles) from Waiau and 82km (51 miles) from Hanmer Springs.
18. Be Amazed by the Cathedral Cliffs
Check out these large limestone pillars weathered into the cliffs. Cathedral Cliffs are just some of the features worth checking out along the route called “The Gore Bay Tourist Drive”. Better yet, it is not often crowded. Find more features like this in the 20 Crazy Rock Formations in New Zealand.
Location: State Highway 1 to Cheviot, down the signposted Gore Bay Road, approximately 103km (64 miles) from Hanmer Springs.