A weekend in Hanmer Springs
Hanmer Springs is just short of a two hour drive from Christchurch and is popular among both tourists and Cantabrians keen for a romantic getaway. It's like a miniature Queenstown, with access to a couple of ski fields, a few mountain biking trails and that festive spirit in the air, all year round. If you're arriving in your campervan, you'll see plenty of 'No Freedom Camping' signs around the town. Don't feel discriminated against! Also like Queenstown, Hanmer Springs was one of the towns which was the hotbed for freedom camping and something was needed. Hence a lot of signs around the place.
If you're wondering if there is a freedom campsite in Hanmer, at the time of writing (July 2015) there is one suitable for certified self contained vehicles (look for the green icon on the CamperMate app) which is on Department of Conservation managed land (rather than council land). It's located just off Jollies Pass Road (head past the sign for Hanmer Forest and look for a small Pawsons Road sign). It's small and basic, with only a handful of space available but it's there and available. The official text (which you'll also find on the CamperMate app) is:
Restricted to self contained vehicles, for 4 nights maximum in a single calendar month, between 5 pm and 9 am the following day. So as long as you are certified self contained, and obey these rules then you're sorted and can spend some time exploring the town.
So, what's there to do in Hanmer? Hands down, the most popular activity in Hanmer is the Thermal pools which is right in the middle of town. It's a little pricey at $22/adult but after a days skiing, mountain biking or hiking the pinch doesn't feel all that bad. There's a bunch of pools to choose from ranging from 28 degrees up to about 38 or so degrees. These do get packed out from about 12pm, so if you can get there in the morning from 10am it's recommended.
You shouldn't have an issue finding a park for your campervan in Hanmer Springs. Yes, it'll be packed directly outside the pools, but if you can'd find something suitable around there just head up Cononical Hill Road until you find a park and walk back down into town. You shouldn't have to walk more than 3 or 4 minutes.
So, you've finished your dip in the pools before the lunchtime crowd and now you're looking for somewhere to eat. You've got plenty of options from cafes, takeaways, supermarket and my recommendation, the Bakery about 100 metres up from the Four Square supermarket. For a busy town, the prices were actually quite reasonable and if you don't mind possibly standing in line for 10 minutes then go for one of their pies or rolls as the food was good.
On the same road as the bakery (walking away from the town) you'll find the Conical Hill walk, a 20 minute walk up to a nice view over the town. It's a nice bush walk that meanders through the trees and ends with a nice view over the town. I'll admit that I cheated and this photo below was only half way up. So just imagine a view twice as good as this. It's a great town, with lots of charm. Somewhere you can easily have a great weekend either in winter or summer, campervan or self drive.
So on the evening of writing this is snowed, which turned the town a beautiful white. This time made it all the way up Conical Hill and took this photo. Well worth the journey up there.
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