Classic Car Road Trips: Christchurch to Hanmer Springs

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By Ben Selby

If there is one day trip which Cantabrians love just about as much as any other, it would without a doubt be the trip to Hanmer Springs from Christchurch. So many families make the pilgrimage to this relaxing community in the heart of the Canterbury High Country.

The appeal of Hanmer Springs is considerable, with the famous hot pools and spa being the main feature of the town, along with a plethora of cafes and scenic walks in the surrounding areas.

If you were to start from Central Christchurch, you would need to make a beeline straight for the newly opened Northern Corridor. Once you have made it there, you should then proceed along SH1, passing over the Waimakariri River and through the friendly local communities of Woodend, Waikuku, and Leithfield. If you have a bit of time, turn left at Leithfield and head out to Leithfield Beach.

Parking up on next to the seaside, you get a great view of the South Island’s east coast on a good day. Its an ideal place for budding photographers to bag a few snaps of the coast line.

Rejoining SH1, you then head north through Amberley. This town has a number of great cafes and antique stores, so if you fancy a bite to eat or a peak at something unique for the study, the definitely stop here.

Leaving Amberley, you then head through North Canterbury Wine Country of Glasnevin. In this area are Mount Brown Estates and Pegasus Bay on you right and left respectively. For avid consumers of the grape, it is worthwhile stopping by.

After you cross the Waipara River, you then leave SH1 and turn left inland on State Highway 7. This is where the road start to rise, fall, twist and turn as you motor through Weka Pass.

Along this road, you pass a famous geological anomaly known as ‘Frog Rock.’ It is essentially a cliff top which bears a striking resemblance to a Frog resting on a tree branch.

After the hills, you arrive in Waikari. Here you can stop for a bite at Pam’s Café and Gifts and if you are lucky, see the famous Weka Pass Railway Steam Locomotive in action.

Here the road flattens out and you cross the Hurunui River. The scenery of the Southern Alps to your left is nothing short of stunning as you head towards Culverden and Balmoral.

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After passing the Waiau River, the roads then begin to twist and climb once more. Here is a perfect oppourtunity to give your classic a bit of stick along some truly amazing roads. Responsibly of course.

When you arrive at the Tekoa Range, don’t miss the right turn off to Hanmer Springs on SH7A. Once you turn right, straight away you are crossing a very narrow bridge. Here, if you are feeling brave enough, you can bungee off this bridge.

A quick drive remains until you arrive in Hanmer Springs. Once here, you have endless choice of activities. The natural go-to for many is the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa which if you have an open top car on a cold day, is a welcome experience.

You also have great eats like No.31 Restaurant and Bar and MK. Should you want to spend the night, there is a wide range of accommodation options available to suit all budgets.

For classic car owners, Hanmer Springs presents a grand day trip with the kind of stunning scenery and sights usually reserved for the classic European Alpine tours of yesteryear.

Whether it’s your Austin Healey Sprite or your Datsun 120Y, there is plenty here for petrol heads to enjoy.

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