A lovely spot an hour and a half north of Christchurch, Hanmer Springs offers more than just its famous thermal pools, with some great walks and probably one of the nicest town centres in New Zealand, though competition in this regard isn’t huge.
The obvious place to start are the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools, which are the main driver of the town’s success (and struggles at times) over the past 150 years. Natural hot water springs were discovered in 1859 but it took till 1871 for an enterprising local to build a shed and steps into the springs. There are now 22 pools to explore, offering every variation, from the hottest (~40C) sulphur pools, to cooler swimming pools. There are also four hydro slides, two with rafts. My favourite is the energising Conical Thrill, which finishes with a big drop and slide up the yellow ramp shown below.
The main road in Hanmer Springs leads into Conical Road, at the end of which starts the Conical Hill Track. It was poorly signed posted when I visited in December 2022, but as with elsewhere in town had flash new toilets. A wide and easy path switchbacks up the hillside to the 550m summit of Conical Hill, marked with a slightly strange four sided lookout / shelter.
The views are pretty good all round.
Returning down the Conical Hill Track the Majuba Walk was a pleasant connector to the Woodland Walk, which on a sunny day was absolutely gorgeous, filled with colour and a couple of reflective ponds.
There are so many interconnected tracks around Hanmer Springs, ideal for exploring on foot or by bike. One of the shortest but most filled with interest is the Forest Amble. Christchurch sculptor Andrew Lyons was hired to fill these woods, which he did with aplomb, with increasingly impressive sculptures around the circuit.
Somewhat off the beaten track is Rutherford Crescent Reserve, a pleasant point surrounded by houses. The pond was dug for settlement and stormwater purposes as part of the sub-division.
The main street of Hanmer Springs is one of the most pleasant in the country, with relatively upmarket shops, cafes and restaurants, lots of places to sit, traffic limited to 30kmph, and shady trees. There is a statue of Thomas Hanmer, who the town is named after, despite him never living there (but he did visit).