Hanmer, a haven for romance and relaxation

This is one of the two best places to soak in a hot tub in winter in New Zealand.

There’s something about the crisp smoky air in Hanmer.

There’s no other place like it. In winter, it is heaven…strolling to the thermal pools in the still cold atmosphere and, after an hour of blissful soaking, ambling back up the hill, taking in the dizzy aroma of the smoke from many of the burning house fires. Our ‘home’ on St James Ave is toasty when we talk inside. We rack open a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and put our feet up by the fire. We feel so relaxed and make plans for things to do tomorrow.

During a yummy Powerhouse Café cooked breakfast we considered going mountain-biking, jetboating, horse trekking, quad biking through forests, rafting, golfing or fishing but instead choose the easy way out with a simple round of mini golf.

Skipping too much junk food recreation, we decide to walk to the summit of Conical Hill. It starts off steep but it is a breeze and so peaceful, taking 20 minutes or so through the giant conifer trees, Oregon and pine, listening to the constant whistle of bellbirds till we get to the lookout at the top. It’s a stunning view.

With the air cooling down fast on our return, we headed back to the pools and slipped into our private thermal pool looking out to the native ferns. The water temperature was 40°C…divine.

Shut your eyes. Imagine lazing in the giant hot tub with your partner. The sun is setting over picture postcard snow-capped mountains. Not a sound can to be heard but the occasional native bird chirp. Mmmmm.

We found out the iconic award-winning attraction sees more than half a million visitors annually. It has an array of thermal pools to suite all desires; aqua therapy, atmosphere, heat or adventure and boasts a luxurious spa with 12 treatment rooms, including a couples’ rooms.

In a bizarre dichotomy of experiences we’re shifted from moments of blissful relaxation to pure intense adrenaline as we head to the hydro slides. Hanmer has the South Island’s only SuperBowl ride which offers a cool two-person tube experience for those keen to share the rush.

It’s thirsty work relaxing so we quaffed down a pint of lager at Monteith’s Brewery Bar and munched on a tray of chips, sweet bay scallops and tiger prawns.

On our final night we enjoyed the best restaurant in town – Malabar. They say it’s a restaurant that’s broken rules because it embraces Asian and Indian cooking. They say people first eat with their eyes and then their mouth – this is what Malabar is trying to achieve. 

The quality of the food and service at Malabar was first rate and we had the most pleasurable and most authentic Murgh Makhani (butter chicken) we’ve ever tasted in New Zealand. Front-of-staff Gurjeet was extremely polite, helpful, passionate and both a credit and asset to the restaurant. We will return.

Hanmer, this tiny slice of NZ paradise is a popular tourist area or get-away resort because it’s largely a place to blob out and wash away any of life’s pressures. Leafy Hanmer – hot in summer and sometimes snowy in winter – is a place for lovers, for romantic weekends and a place to unwind.

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