Travelling through the Hurunui District you can often find yourself heavily guided by State Highway 1 along a well-trodden route through the region’s main streets and townships. Here you’ll find plenty of boutique shops, world class restaurants, and a few other pleasant surprises, but to find the real beauty of the Hurunui and some of the region’s best kept secrets, you need to head off the beaten track, and explore the breadth of natural and local attractions on offer.
So, to make your Hurunui experience a little easier, and definitely richer, we’ve put together a bucket list for the inquisitive, adventurous, and curious traveller.
This is one for the photographers and sightseers [which to be fair is most of us right?]. Cathedral Cliffs is a stunning unique natural beauty, a large eroded clay formation creating an incredible cathedral spiral effect in the hillside. As soon as you drive down Cathedral Road you’ll be met by the towering cliffs above Gore Bay. It’s a well-known secret locally, but you’ll find plenty of space to explore around the beaches and native New Zealand bush while taking in the incredible vistas.
To escape the crowds, head down to Manuka Bay to discover a pretty and secluded beach which is a favourite for locals in the know.
North Canterbury Wine Trail
The North Canterbury Wine Region is one of New Zealand’s premier wine producing regions. Known as the coolest little wine region in the country, the area has soul, style and authenticity set in stunning terrain just 45 minutes’ drive from Christchurch. The North Canterbury Wine Region produces some of the best Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and aromatics in the world. It is also home to a range of artisan food producers who innovate and go out of their way to craft some amazing fare. With a range of boutique accommodation available, this is a wonderful place to get away. This truly is a food and wine lovers paradise.
Energy jet is the Hurunui’s newest attraction to blow your hair back, or just take in an exclusive tour of some of the most picturesque scenery in the region. After years of jetboating along the picturesque waterway, local farmer Tim Loughnan and his family made the move into the tourism industry. As the only jet boat operator on the Hurunui River, Energy Jet has exclusive access to close to 100-kilometres of impressive environment along the river. The landscape is spectacular, braided rivers are unique internationally, which is special for overseas visitors, but the best thing about the Hurunui River is its diversity, with big braided sections, narrow canyons, and white water sections. Whether you’re looking for the synonymous jet boar thrill ride, or an unmatched sightseeing tour of the Hurunui River, there’s something for everyone.
Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa
An icon of the region, centred in the alpine spa village of Hanmer Springs. The natural thermal pools are the biggest and best attraction of its type in the South Island. It’s no wonder it’s a calling card for couples, families and groups to escape for a day of relaxation and pampering. Along with over a dozen thermal pools, hydro slides, picnic areas and a café, connected to the attraction is the world-class The Spa, offering everything from therapeutic massages and aqua-therapy to natural cosmetic treatments. You’ll come away feeling like a new person!
Along with the ultimate in relaxation, Hanmer Springs is also renowned for its adventure industry. Bungy jumping, jet boating, quadbike tours, clay shooting and horse riding to name a few. But a natural feature really ramping up is the growing network of first-class mountain bike tracks interlaced throughout Hanmer Forest behind the village. From elementary to expert, Hanmer Trails offers thrills for every level. Whether you’re looking for an edge of your seat white knuckle ride through the pines, or a gentle tour through historical woodlands, you’ll find it here. You can hire mountain bikes in the village so don’t worry if you’ve left your wheels at home. And the best part? You’ll be spoilt for choice and space with over two dozen tracks to explore. Once you’ve gotten your adrenaline fix, there’s no better place to rejuvenate exhausted muscles than riding back down to the world famous Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa.
St James Walkway
If you’re looking to get out and experience the best of Hurunui’s natural beauty, there’s no better way than the St James walkway. Covering 66-kilometres over 4–5 days, the reserve boasts exceptional natural features including glaciated valleys, streams, wetlands, lakes and picturesque tarns, with bountiful opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, horse riding, skiing, hunting and fishing.
Alpine Pacific Triangle
A complete experience for the curious and adventurous traveller, this circuit will take you through the incredibly diverse beauty of the Hurunui’s landscapes spanning an array of environments you can experience over a few days. An endeavour you’d be hard placed to find anywhere else in the world.
From the indulgent North Canterbury Wine Region, the alpine beauty of Mt Lyford and Waiau, secluded beaches of Gore Bay and Motunau, the resort town of Hanmer Springs, the coastal wildlife playground of Kaikōura, and the old country charm of Weka Pass and Hawarden, this is a roady which truly has it all!
There’s plenty more off the beaten track to explore and find in the Hurunui. But with this handy bucket list, you’ll be on your way to discovering some of the best this great region has on offer.