This is one of those classic New Zealand road trips on the north-eastern South Island encompassing destinations on our bucket list, namely, SH7 from Christchutrch to Hanmer Springs and the SH1 scenic coast road south of Kaikoura all the way up to Picton (the end point of the Queen Charlotte Sound). The trip also includes stop-overs to Blenheim and a number of surrounding vineyards.
After picking up the rental car at Christchurch Airport we made the leisurely easy 1hr 40m trip to Hanmer Springs passing through a number of small towns. Hanmer Springs is renowned for its thermal hot pools which it is indeed an impressive complex encompassing a wide range of pools to cater for all types of experiences. However the attractive township has a lot to offer – smart accommodation and restaurants and a lot of adventure activities like cycling, mountain biking, walking trails, bungy, jetboating, rafting, off-road buggy, skiing in winter and many others. It’s a great holiday destination over a couple of days.
We then drove back east to SH1 via Ferniehurst to maximise the scenic coast road experience to Kaikoura. The coast is spectacular although currently still subject to road works following the December 2017 earthquake. It’s hard to keep your eye on the road when you are constantly distracted by the views. Thankfully there are many viewing areas with great facilities to rest, take photos or lookout for seals on the rocks. Kaikoura is a large town and the stopover for the famous whale watching tour. North of Kaikoura township is Nins Bin – a food caravan specialising is serving local crayfish, mussels whitebait and of course fish â€˜n chips. You devour the food on outside picnic tables so you need to be aware of the seagulls that will snatch your meal in seconds flat if you walk away. Karaka Lobster is another option a little further north.
We rolled into Picton around 3pm to a rather dull looking afternoon. Picton is a large town with plenty of options for eating and accommodation and of course has the large ferry terminal which runs to and from Wellington. It is the gateway to the Marlborough Sounds with the main attraction being the Sounds themselves and the surrounding landscape. On our boat cruise the following day we saw an astonishing variety of sealife (including numerous dolphins and seabirds) plus other birdlife on the Motuara Island sanctuary. Given more time Geoffrey would have walked part or all of the renowned Queen Charlotte Track.
On the trip back to Blenheim airport we stopped over at a number of vineyards for wine-tasting and lunch. There are over 30 vineyards within a 24km circuit close to Blenheim so we select just a few â€“ Cloudy Bay, Alan Scott, Saint Clair (with lunch). Geoffrey also couldn’t resist trying out The Moa Brewing Tap Room which was a pleasant find and I was delighted to discover the Matakana Chocolate factory.
All in all a great 4-6 road trip for as active or relaxing as you want to make it.
If you would like more information about this destination please do not hesitate to contact me.