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Kaikōura to Hanmer Springs Road Trip

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If you are searching for a compact and highly scenic road trip - the Alpine Pacific Triangle delivers! Experience the wine and food treats of Waipara, the spa delights of Hanmer Springs and the marine mammal encounters of Kaikōura and more on this South Island road trip adventure.

On this 450km journey, start by exploring Christchurch, particularly the RE:Start temporary development before heading to Hanmer, where the thermal hot pools await. Of course, you will also want to experience all that the Waipara region has to offer in particular the vineyards with their cellar doors awaiting your arrival!

Ready to start exploring? Grab your campervan hire in Christchurch and explore this iconic New Zealand South Island road trip.

Travel

3 - 5 days


Route

Christchurch to Christchurch

450km


Best Time of the Year

Any time of the year

Highlights

  • Kaikoura
  • Waipara
  • Hanmer Springs

The Journey

Days

1 2 3 4 5

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Day 1
Christchurch to Waipara

Distance 58km - Driving Time 50 minutes

Pick up your camper at our maui branch in Christchurch. Located at 159 Orchard Road, just a short distance from the Christchurch airport. Once you have got your camper, take your time exploring the South Island’s largest city. Christchurch is an entertaining mixture of refined lifestyle and cultural excitement. There is so much to do, including jumping on a gondola ride to see the city, going rock climbing in the surrounding mountains, wandering the botanic gardens and heading to Willowbank wildlife reserve to see a kiwi!

Also, do not miss a stop at the RE:Start area for a mix of quirky architecture and a shopping fix. After the Christchurch earthquake in 2011, this development was quick to form out of shipping containers. This unique shopping mall also referred to as the Container Mall, is made up of funky retailers, cafes and restaurants - perfect for a leisurely stroll and to grab a bite to eat before hitting the road.

Once you have finished exploring the city, leave the city lights behind as you make your way north. The drive north takes you past the surf beaches of Woodend, Waikuku, Leithfield and Amberley, ending finally in the hinterland region of Waipara.

Waipara is known for its vineyards, olive groves and superior food experiences. If you are a wine lover, sample some of the pinot noir and riesling grape varieties this region is famous for. Join a tasting at one of the local wineries, and then treat yourself to a meal with a view overlooking the wineries.

For a unique experience, stay the night at Waipara Sleepers. This unique historic accommodation offers a variety of budget-friendly options. Choose to stay at one of the campervan sites or opt for a night in a converted railway carriage. These little red carriages come with their own piece of track, wheels and all! These little red carriages are a beautiful contrast to the vibrant green gardens of the property - making them the perfect photo opportunity!

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Day 2
Waipara to Gore Bay

Distance 63km - Driving Time 50 minutes

Drive 50 minutes north to Gore Bay, a coastal settlement about 8km from Cheviot. As you pass through Cheviot, grab any last-minute supplies as this will be your last chance. Gore Bay is a secluded area with a grand total of 14 permanent residents and two local campgrounds. In this quiet coastal refuge, you will find beautiful beaches, camping, bushwalks and the stunning geological formation of Cathedral Cliffs.

On the drive out to Gore Bay, you will pass the Cathedral Cliffs lookout. These cliffs are an impressive series of pillars formed by years of rainwater eroding the soft rock of this area. These are best viewed from the Cathedral Rocks viewpoint, so be sure to have your camera ready to snap some pictures of these fascinating cliff formations. After capturing this rocky wonder, continue along the road until you reach the rough shores of the bay. From here, you can continue exploring the natural wonders of this area with the hiking trails in the bay or choose to set up camp for the night.

When you’re ready to park up, make your way to the local Gore Bay & Buxton Camp Grounds. This is the perfect beachside campground with direct beach access, hot showers, and powered camping sites.

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Day 3
Gore Bay to Kaikōura

Distance 76km - Driving Time 1 hour 10 minutes

Sit back and enjoy the impressive scenery of the coastal ranges on the route to Kaikōura. Before you arrive, be sure to stop for lunch at Nins Bin, 20 minutes outside of Kaikōura. This 50-year-old family business is known for its daily caught ocean-to-plate meals. With its beachside views and laid-back charm, it is easily one of the best places to visit in New Zealand for a fresh seafood outdoor cafe meal.

When you have finished feasting, make your way into Kaikōura. This town is a base for wildlife experiences of all kinds – it’s also a great place to eat crayfish (also known as lobster). One of the best things to do while in town is to join a whale watch tour with Whale Watch Kaikoura. On these tours, you may see anything from minke, humpback and southern right whales mixing with dolphins and orcas. You can also walk to see fur seal colonies and spy on big seabirds such as mollymawks, albatross and petrels.

When you finish, park up for the night at Kaikoura TOP 10 Holiday Park. If the day full of adventuring wasn’t quite enough, this park has plenty of features to keep you entertained. Take a dip in the heated swimming pool, challenge fellow travellers in the games room, race with a pedal go-cart hire and more.

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Day 4
Kaikōura to Hanmer Springs

Distance 130km - Driving Time 1 hour 50 minutes

After three jam-packed days of adventuring on this New Zealand road trip, today is the perfect day to enjoy a well-earned rest at Hanmer Springs. There are a number of ways to get to Hanmer Springs from Kaikōura, depending on the route you want to take. The most scenic route is via the Inland Road, which takes you past the entrance to the ski village of Mount Lyford. Alternatively, you can travel a bit further south and take the Leader Road. The Leader Road incorporates coastal and rural farming views and finishes at the Waiau Township. Can’t decide which route to take? Rest easy knowing that on both routes, there are plenty of photo opportunities for the avid photographer.

Hanmer Springs is a destination for relaxation and indulgence - making it a popular New Zealand tourist attraction. Spend the day relaxing in the Thermal Pools & Spa, soak in the hot springs or treat yourself to a range of world-class spa therapies. This ranges from reviving facial therapies to volcanic basalt stones and couples treatments. The options are endless.

If that doesn't pique your interest, outdoor activities are also a Hanmer specialty. Forest walks, horse trekking, trout fishing, jet boating, bungy jumping and golf are just some of the options for adventuring in the beautiful outdoors in Hanmer. There is even a range of pools and slides to keep the whole family entertained. Once you have finished playing in this natural outdoor playground, stay the night at Hanmer Springs TOP 10 Holiday Park. Just a short five-minute drive from the spring, you can even schedule another morning soak if you like!

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Day 5
Hanmer Springs to Christchurch

Distance 133km - Driving Time 1 hour 45 minutes

The route back to Christchurch initially follows the beautiful Waiau River. As the largest river in southland, boarded by pristine forest and dramatic mountains, it's worth a stop. Once you have soaked up the views, jump back on the route south as it leads you through the Balmoral Forest, across the Hurunui River and past the Waipara region. This is your last chance to grab a bottle of your favourite Riesling from the local cellar doors and enjoy the picturesque views of farmland, vineyards and olive groves in this area.

The last leg of your journey takes you back past the surf beaches of Amberley, Leithfield, Waikuku and Woodend. This time choose to stop, take a stroll on one of these beautiful beaches or grab a bite to eat before driving to Christchurch.

Choose to spend another night here and explore this vibrant city. There are plenty of great activities to choose from, including a once-in-a-lifetime 4-course dinner on a tramway! Once you have finished exploring, hand your camper back to the maui Christchurch branch and head home.

Ready to book your next New Zealand adventure?

Kaikōura to Hanmer Springs is an iconic road trip filled with the very best adventure, culinary delights and geothermal attractions. Fill your heart (and belly) on this South Island trip to remember. Ready for your next New Zealand adventure? Book your maui camper today.

Need help choosing the right motorhome to travel New Zealand, deciding what to pack on your campervan adventure, or where to stay during your trip? Check out our blog and get inspired with campervan travel tips, destination guides and more. Also, be sure to download the thl Roadtrip App. This road trip itinerary planner is the perfect companion for a New Zealand road trip adventure!

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