Hanmer Springs and Kaikoura are both towns on the South Island of New Zealand that we have visited previously, but Akaroa was new to the itinerary. We can thank another of our friends, also named Ann, for that suggestion. Each of these towns are unique in their own right, and they are towns that will remain on our list of places to visit again.
Akaroa is situated on the coast, about 80km southeast of Christchurch. It was New Zealand’s only French Settlement, with 60 of the first emigrants arriving in August, 1840. Whilst retaining a French flavour with a few French flags flying and French street names, it was the quaint village atmosphere and scenic beauty that attracted us. Although we didn’t do it, swimming with Hector’s Dolphins, one of the world’s smallest and rarest breeds, is the unique attraction of the town.
The highlight of our day was a picnic by the bay, where we gave thanks to the trusty Leatherman, allowing a cleanly sliced tomato to go with our cheese, salami and crackers. I will be back to Akaroa, next time including the Little River Rail Trail on the agenda, a flat and easy 50km trail, following the route of the 19th century rail line between Hornby and Little River.
We chose to spend a night in Hanmer Springs, a 2 hour drive north west of Christchurch, just to experience an early evening soak in the hot thermal pools, which are this town’s unique attraction. We weren’t disappointed. The hottest of the pools is 42⁰C, which we did enjoy briefly, but the 35⁰-38⁰C “adult therapeutic spa pools” were the ones where we spent most of our soaking time. The other experience we enjoyed in Hanmer Springs was staying at Jack in the Green Backpackers. Older people often think that backpacker establishments are just large dormitory rooms and only for the young ones. That’s not the case. Whilst many have dormitory rooms, the also have double rooms with either shared facilities or ensuites. Jack in the Green had a double room with an ensuite, so this is where we stayed. The cost is also attractive when you compare it to a standard motel room. We paid $86 for the night, and enjoyed cooking a hot breakfast of farm fresh free range eggs that were available in the common kitchen. We will continue to seek out backpacker or hostel style accommodation on our travels.
Kaikoura sits on the east coast and is home to an astonishing variety of marine life including seals, dolphins, whales and albatross. It is also said to be host to some of New Zealand’s best eco-tourism experiences and has a fascinating Maori history. Our experience in Kaikoura started with a walk across the rock platform at the end of Fyffe Quay, where one of the region’s seal colonies is located.
We did manage to meet a couple of the smiling local inhabitants. We also took an easy climb to the lookout which provided a spectacular view of the coast line. They say that on a clear day you are able to see the North Island from here. Whilst we couldn’t see the North Island, the view was certainly worth the climb. We lunched in Kaikoura on freshly smoked salmon, with some beautifully steamed mussels, crumbed calamari and local fish. It was quite delicious washed down with a chilled local Pinot Gris. YUM!
You know you have enjoyed a destination that you would return to, and each of these places are already on our plan for a return New Zealand holiday.
Do you have a favourite holiday destination that you will return to?