Hanmer Springs, Kaikoura, Waipara
Christchurch – easily accessible via direct flights from all over Australia, and just three hours from the Eastern Seaboard – is the gateway to the South Island's natural delights. Here are some of the top day trips you can take heading north from Christchurch.
Picture yourself kayaking around the picturesque Akaroa harbour or indulging in award-winning wines in the nearby Waipara Valley. North of Christchurch there’s a smorgasbord of water leisure activities on offer, from wildlife and seafood in Kaikoura to soaking in hot pools at Hanmer Springs.
1 hour 40 mins from Christchurch – 134 km
Best known for its natural hot pools, Hanmer Springs is an alpine resort town with something for everyone. The adventurous should head straight for the forest and mountains on foot, horseback or bike; bungy jumping, jetboating and skiing are also options. Relax with a leisurely round of golf, soak in the mineral-rich thermal pools and indulge in some spa therapy (leave the kids at the hydroslides), or stroll the main street’s boutique shops and eateries.
2 hours 20 mins from Christchurch – 181 km
Located between the magnificent Kaikoura Ranges and the Pacific Ocean, the coastal town of Kaikoura specialises in marine mammal encounters. Here, you can go whale watching by sea or air at any time of year, swim with dusky dolphins or brush shoulders with playful fur seals. Coastal walks such as the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway are a chance to spot sea birds and learn more about the area’s history. Don’t leave before tucking into a plate of crayfish – the seafood here is spectacular.
45 mins from Christchurch – 58 km
Home to acres upon acres of grapevines, the picturesque Waipara valley is one of New Zealand’s premier wine regions, in particular Pinot Noir and Riesling. Take your pick of vineyard restaurants and tasting rooms; you can also visit olive groves and nut farms to round out your gourmet experience. There’s a handy cycleway and walkway connecting the wineries.