INLAND ROAD FROM KAIKOURA
The Inland Road from Kaikoura leads you through most of the alpine Hurunui section of the Alpine Pacific Touring Route. At the Kaikoura end, the road is overlooked by the Seaward Kaikoura Range and then by the Amuri Range as you approach Waiau.
Inland Road is a lesser-known scenic route but well worth the drive, dominated by hills, mountain scenery and a scattering of farms. Note that there are no shops between Kaikoura and Waiau, and a small ski resort village at Mt Lyford, which is well worth a visit.
WAIAU UWHA RIVER BRIDGE
Waiau has one of the longest single-lane bridges in New Zealand. The bridge crosses the Waiau Uwha River, a lovely example of a South Island braided river. There are some passing bays on the bridge, so you can probably get away with a brief photo stop – especially tempting around sunset.
WAIAU FERRY BRIDGE
Shortly before Hanmer, you travel over the Waiau River via the Waiau Ferry Bridge. The bridge crosses a gorge high enough above the river to allow bungy jumping, so it’s a dramatic sight.
There’s a cafe and parking area just before the bridge, and if you drive over the bridge towards Hanmer there’s another place to park that looks up the gorge to the bridge and down the river to the west – so there’s plenty of opportunities to look at the view. You can also hire jet boats, rafts, and other water crafts for exploring the river, and there’s a campground if you want to stay overnight.
Hanmer Springs is a very pretty and relaxed resort town, lined by mature exotic pines, sequoias and redwoods. Although it’s a tourist destination, Hanmer Springs is off the main routes and has retained an alpine feel – even the very large commercial hot pools are well disguised by the trees.
Walking and biking around town is easy, and there’s easy access to the Hanmer Forest trails; at the north end of the town is a 30 minute hike up to the top of Conical Hill, which looks over the town.
If you’re interested in history, check out the Queen Mary Hospital behind the Hanmer Springs hot pools. It’s an unusual historic building, and goes back to when hot pools and fresh air were supposedly all you needed for good health.
Exotic Hanmer Forest is extensive, running down the west side of the town. There are numerous examples of exotic trees, as well as open spaces for picnics and numerous walks and bike trails – we suggest you start by getting a trail map. A particularly pretty section is the Woodland Walk Recreation Reserve, on the side of Jollies Pass Road and just out of town.
DOG STREAM WATERFALL TRACK
If you feel that Hanmer Springs and its forest are a bit too civilised, head to the hiking tracks on the side of Mt Isobel, a peak of 1,319 metres. On the day we visited it was raining, so we chose the beautiful Dog Stream Track that starts at the end of Mullans Road and follows a stream up to a 40 metre waterfall. The track is often rugged and surrounded by native beech forest – it takes about an hour or so each way.
You can walk from the falls to the peak, but the cautionary sign was off-putting given the weather. You can also access the peak of Mt Isobel from Chatterton Road and Jacks Pass on the west side of the mountain, or below Jollies Pass on the east side. Note that Jollies Pass access requires a 4WD.
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