Kaikoura & Hanmer Springs

Where Mountains Meet the Sea

Beautiful Kaikoura’s natural wonders are outstanding and it boasts a host of eco-tourism ocean activities overlooked by majestic alpine mountain ranges.

The waters off the rocky peninsula of Kaikoura town provide a rich habitat for marine life and seabirds. Swim with fun-loving Dusky Dolphins and watch fur seals rest on warm rocks after a big night of fishing. Kaikoura is famous for whale watching; it lies within the Southern Hemisphere Whale Sanctuary and several species of whale can be sighted here during the year, predominantly the huge Sperm Whale.

The Maori translation of Kaikoura means ‘meal of crayfish’– crayfish and other abundant food sources were the reason the region was originally settled by the Maori. Nowadays, the focus in Kaikoura is on conserving the marine life within a sustainable tourism industry.

Its not about the sea life and whale watching here; the Kaikoura region has some absolutely breathtaking scenery, including some of the highest mountains in the South Island, and provides opportunities to ski and snowboard in the winter months. Go quad biking, river rafting or take a ride on the mountain luge.

Explore the countryside on horseback, take an off-road adventure or visit the farm parks. Visit the winery, stroll through the the lavender farm or treat yourself at the day spa. If you enjoy walking, hiking and cycling, you will find plenty of options ranging from short strolls to multiday hikes and cycle trails.

Just an hour-and-a-half north of Christchurch, Hamner Springs is a natural playground with around 40 kilometres of biking tracks, 56 kilometres of bush walks, fishing, golf, skiing, jet boating, horse trekking, wineries and more.

The area is most famous, however, for Hanmer Springs – a series of open-air thermal pools that have attracted visitors for around 125 years because of the health benefits associated with their natural mineral waters and clean alpine air. The springs have a fully equipped spa complex attached and its possible to relax and rejuvenate with the most modern treatments. The area offers numerous accommodation options, from the simple to the luxurious, and there's certaintly enough to keep you occupied for any number of days.

Insiders' Tips

  • Walk the Shores of Kaikoura Peninsula: See the colony of New Zealand Fur Seals, or take a tour and swim or dive with these playful fellows.
  • Take a Hike: Before you soak in the spas of Hanmer Springs and enjoy scenic views as you traverse sub-alpine scrub to the peak of Mt Isobel.
  • Wildlife Everywhere: Drive or Walk along the coastline here and you are likely to encounter birds, seals and other forms of wildlife.
  • Crayfish Delight: The Maori word Kaikoura means crayfish meal. Make sure you sample this delicacy while you are here.
  • More Marine Magic: Kaikoura is THE place for whale watching, make sure you organise a trip to see these amazing creatures up close.
  • Hot Springs: Of course the most obvious thing to do while in Hamner Springs is to soak in the steaming waters and relax.

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