The 450 kilometre road trip runs between Christchurch, Kaikōura and Hanmer Springs. It features Cathedral-like cliffs, forests filled with fairy doors, baby seals in the depth of winter and some of the country’s very best wineries where you can sip away while chatting to the winemaker themselves.
With Christchurch as your starting point, you can catch up on the ever changing city – walk along the new Avon River walkway (or grab a punt), hear the latest developments aboard one of the heritage trams or check out the stunning 360-degree views from the top of Christchurch Gondola.
Stroll back in time at Ferrymead Heritage Park - an early 1900s Edwardian township with restored cottages, shops, tractors, fire engines and model trains.
Those after an adrenaline fix should not miss the Adventure Park – it’s a mountain biker’s paradise and here’s a free tip – walkers can head up on foot before catching a free chairlift ride back down the hill.
First stop north of Christchurch must be Amberley. You’re probably already aware of the town’s reputation for good shopping – if not, go there and be surprised and while you’re there you must visit Ruby Six.
The North Canterbury wine region is ever popular and now home to over 90 vineyards which are producing some of the world’s (yes the world’s) best Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling.
There are plenty of cellar door shops where you can taste and tipple along with some fantastic winery restaurants.
Our top tip is don’t miss Greystone – it’s an innovative, organic vineyard that is producing sensational wines that chef (and certified forager) Mel Wright pairs with fresh, unforgettable fare.
The region has plenty of boutique accommodation - Greystone’s PurePod (a completely glassed room) makes for a special night under the stars or book the Wine Pod at Georges Road which is nestled between the vines with panoramic views of Mount Grey and the Three Deans Range. Black Estate’s B&B is also great option along with Atatū PurePod just up the road in Greta Valley.
For a remote and unforgetable stay, Matai Peak is described as New Zealand’s hidden mountain escape. The old Shepherd’s hut has been transformed into a luxurious hideaway, with the most incredible coastline and forest views.
Have you hit the North Canterbury coast lately? Gore Bay is as gorgeous as ever and you’ll find the Motunau and Nape Nape the perfect places to escape.
If you want a tour guide with a bit of character, book a trip up the Hurunui River with Energy Jet. Owner Tim Loughnan’s a fifth generation sheep and beef farmer and has been running his jet boat business for years. You can even stay on the farm at Tim’s Tawanui Glamping site.
Further north, Kaikōura’s marine life is as abundant as ever and the uplifted seabed (courtesy of the November 2016 earthquake) is well worth exploring.
For a change of pace, treat yourself to a luxurious stay at Hapuku Lodge and Tree Houses. The five Tree Houses sit at least 10 metres above the ground in the canopy of a native Kanuka grove overlooking the Pacific Ocean (yes, the views are divine).
Have you been to Mt Lyford lately? It’s still a great place to escape – book your own log cabin and hunker down in front of an open fire or spend a night in the Eco Lodges or at Lake Stella Mountain Retreat.
Further inland, Hanmer Springs still feels like you’re a world away from real life – what is it about driving over the Waiau River Bridge that instantly relaxes us?
The pools and spa have grown again with 22 outdoor pools and a new AquaPlay area for younger kids.
Adventure bunnies delight in jet boat rides, bungy jumping or the huge network of mountain biking trails.
Walkers should check out the new Island Station Hills walking track – there are two or three day options and you can enjoy the luxury of hot showers in the lodge style accommodation. It’s like no other in the country with a diverse range of landscapes and vegetation.
So there’s something for everyone on the APT – and we guarantee you’ll find things you’ve never seen before.