Picture a family-oriented forest park where every conceivable adventure and recreation activity is conveniently at hand.
Hanmer Forest Park has it all, with a unique complementary attraction that few resorts can offer holidaymakers – blissful relaxation in steaming therapeutic hot mineral pools at the end of each day. Hanmer Springs township and spa, close by the forest, is the South Island’s main thermal resort.
The range of activities in and around the forest park is quite daunting, so it’s a good idea to explore your options at the visitor centre. Short walks through the exotic forest are a good starter. The pleasant Woodland Walk enters the forest 1 km from town on the Jollie’s Pass Road, and passes through Douglas fir, poplar and redwood stands. It joins a network of walks, which include the Conical Hill Lookout and the 41 metre high Dog Stream waterfall. More ambitious tramps follow marked forest tracks and poled routes on open tussock to Mt Isobel (1,324 metres), starting from either Jollie’s Pass Road or Jack’s Pass Road.
Other activities in and around the park include horse treks in the exotic pine forests and trout fishing in local rivers and lakes. Thrillseeker’s Canyon near the Waiau Ferry Bridge is the venue for jet-boating, rafting and bungy jumping.
In autumn the forest park is especially beautiful as the soft orange and gold hues of the poplars, birch, sycamore and rowan trees create a colourful dappled landscape. In winter the emphasis shifts to skiing and snowboarding at the Hanmer Springs Ski Field. Heavy snowfalls bring the added bonus of an après ski soak in the thermal pools surrounded by a blanket of white powder over the surrounding rocks and gardens.
One ‘must see’ coach tour takes you over Jack’s Pass behind the forest to Molesworth Station, the biggest sheep and cattle farm in New Zealand. A highlight is the visit to the historic Acheron accommodation house at the confluence of the Acheron and Clarence rivers.
Sample everything Hanmer has to offer. It is a dream holiday destination.