Christchurch to Kaikoura to Hanmer Alpine Pacific Triangle | Apollo Campervans NZ
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Christchurch to Kaikoura to Hanmer Alpine Pacific Triangle

This 5 day trip takes you on the alpine pacific touring route to an alpine spa and adventure town, the wildlife mecca of Kaikoura and the wine trail of Waipara

5
Days
460
Kms
20+
Stops
3
Whale Species to Spot

This unforgettable journey truly does offer something for everyone with a fantastic mix of relaxation and thrill-seeking activities on a journey of discovery from a secluded alpine spa town to the coasts. You will crisscross the vast plains, passing vineyards, rolling hill country and the wonderful clear braided rivers of North Canterbury that lead down to a deserted and unspoiled coastline full of both swimming and surf beaches and amazing wildlife!

The wonderful Waipara wine region might be small, but it is the fastest growing of all of New Zealand's wine regions producing award winning Pinot Noir and Rieslings. While there are some major players in the area, most of the 75 vineyards that inhabit this area are small, boutique wineries producing high end wines for the region. The area is also strewn with olive groves and bright fields of lavender, making this section of North Canterbury quite stunning. 

From the fertile fields to the braided rivers, swimming and surf opportunities, the North Canterbury waterways have it all. Its coastline is filled with little hidden gems while the rivers that come out of the high country provide awesome fresh water swimming and fishing opportunities. 

It’s not all about the countryside however, with two world class towns on this route. Hanmer Springs alpine spa town will spoil and excite you while the quite amazing plethora of sites and wildlife available at Kaikoura, one of the best places to view whales and marine wildlife anywhere in the world will thrill you!  

This route can be accessed by those finishing up the treasured pathway in the North, or the Wild West Coast Road in the West to extend your road trips into longer adventures or it can be done as a loop itinerary from the hub of Christchurch as shown here.  

 
 
 
 

 

Day 1: Christchurch – Kaikoura (3hrs, 200km) 

Start your trip by heading north into the wonderful Waipara wine and food district, home to some of New Zealand's best wines at some amazing vineyards with cellar doors ready for you to try them at. 

As you continue North, there is a plethora of North Canterbury beaches to explore, with our favorite being those around Gore Bay. Here you can swim and surf while also check out the awesome Cathedral Cliffs.  

You will pass over the scenic hundalee hills before following the picturesque coast as you play “spot the seal” all the way to your final destination of the day, Kaikoura where famously, “the mountains meet the sea”. This is one of the best wild life spotting destinations in New Zealand, if not the world. Being so close to the sea and home to a massive fishing fleet, be sure to try some fresh seafood for dinner, with blue cod and grouper being excellent local fish.  

Highlights 

Where to stay: Peketa Beach Holiday Park is the only campsite offering beach side pitches in Kaikoura and provides an idyllic, dog friendly campsite just outside the township. 

Apollo hint: The Pegasus Bay winery is an ideal stop on your journey through wine country. A beautiful stone chateau set within beautiful gardens, it’s a lovely place for some wine tasing and lunch. 

Looking out over the Waipara valley and vineyards

 

Day 2: Explore Kaikoura 

Along with these massive mammals, you can even jump in the water with the puppies of the ocean, the New Zealand Fur Seal. On the coast itself, you can see one of New Zealand’s largest variety of sea birds including the majestic albatross as well as shearwaters, penguins and many more on the peninsula walkway. Treat yourself to the local delicacy of cray fish at the iconic “Nins Bin” while in town, especially as Kaikoura translates to “eat crayfish” in Maori! 

Highlights 

Where to stay: Donegal House provides free camping for self-contained vehicles along with powered and unpowered sites all at this historic location complete with onsite Irish pub with live music, Irish dance and great stories! 

Apollo hint: Kaikoura literally translates to “eat crayfish” so If you’re looking to try the local delicacy, Nin’s Bin is an iconic seaside stall that serves them fresh daily. 

Nin's bin is the home of Kaikoura crayfish

Day 3: Kaikoura – Hanmer Springs (2hrs, 130km) 

Start the day with one of the most unforgettable experiences you will ever have. You are in one of the best places to see whales anywhere in the world thanks to the 3km deep ocean trench that runs just off Kaikoura coast. Sperm Whales reside here 12 months of the year making it the BEST place in the world to see them. Along with these locals, you also have the chance to see humpbacks (June – August) and Orca (Dec – March). Many other species of whale are sighted sporadically throughout the year and if you are very lucky, you might even see the mighty blue whale as they transit through the trench.

What a way to wave goodbye to the coast as you turn onto the inland road towards the heart of the South Island. You will pass first through the mountain ranges and then onto rolling high country of the foot hills before fowling the waiau river in and arriving in Hanmer Springs, a place of thrills and relaxation like no other. The thermal pools provide an ideal place to relax at the end of your trip, with pools ranging in temperature from a heated cool pool right up to 36C hot pools to hidden away rock pools at the perfect temperature to relax in without having to move.  

Highlights 

Where to stay: In the summer, there is a great Freedom Camping area at the confluence of the Hanmer and Waiau rivers giving you 24/7 access to awesome swimming holes, while in the winter the Top 10 is ideally located to give you walking access to the pools, restaurants and activities in the township 

Apollo hint: Join “Pools Plus” for free to get discounted entry to the thermal pools at Hanmer Springs Thermal Reserve. Adults save $7 per person-per visit! 

Whale watching off the Kaikoura coast

 

Day 4: Explore Hanmer Springs 

Take an early dip in the pools before a day of thrills. Hanmer Springs Attractions provides your one stop shop for adventure in Hanmer Springs. From jetboating to river rafting, to quad bike tours and bungy jumping, they have it all waiting for you try. The best part is, they all run from one location making it easy to do multiple tours in a day. 

If you’re looking for some time to reflect in the peace and quiet, we highly recommend the short walk up conical hill. It’s just hard enough to make you feel ike you earned all the relaxation you have had while in Hanmer! 

Highlights 

  • The many adventures offered by Hanmer Springs Attractions including rafting, jetboating, clay target shooting, horse trekking and quad bike tours. They are Hanmer’s one stop shop for adventure 

  • Conical hill walk 

Where to stay: In the summer, there is a great Freedom Camping area at the confluence of the Hanmer and Waiau rivers giving you 24/7 access to awesome swimming holes, while in the winter the Top 10 is ideally located to give you walking access to the pools, restaurants and activities in the township 

Apollo hint: There is a hidden away walk called the Art in the forest walk, a lovely short walk complete with lots of intricately carved wooden animals, birds and objects. See if you can find them all! 

Jet boating on the Waiau river at Hanmer Springs with Hanmer Attractions

Day 5: Return to Christchurch (1hr 45mins, 130km) or continue the journey 

Today is decision time, you can enjoy a final dip in the pools before following the waiau river through the foothills where you need to keep an eye out for Frog rock! After, make your way back to SH1 for a quick trip back to Christchurch or if you're not ready for the adventure to end, you can head north to start the Treasured Pathway or west to start the Great Coast Road and Glacier Highway. The best thing about travelling by motorhome and campervans is the flexibility to have the kind of holiday you want. 

Highlights 

Apollo hint: If you have the time, there is a scenic walk on the old weka pass railway at Waikari to some ancient limestone over hangs. These are home to some early Maori wall art thanks to Maori first exploring this area 1,000 years ago! 

hanmer-springs-thermal-pools

Ready to explore?

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