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When traveling south from Kaikoura on Route One after passing the turnoff to the Conway Flats and crossing the Conway River it is 17 kms to the turnoff to Hanmer Springs on the Leader Road. Just at the turn off to the right along the Leader River is a large flat parking area one can use if a self-contained vehicle is used. The Leader Road is a narrow winding country road but no problem for vans and buses. A well maintained road with not much traffic. It ends up in the town of Waiau on the Waiau River. Just before the town pull off while still on the hill overlooking the community and the Waiau River valley for one of the most spectacular scenes one will find. Get the camera out for
At Waiau there is fuel by the way in case the traveler forgot to fill up and a great pub. Here is where the road joins up with Route Seven. Passing through town and over the river on a long one way bridge there is a good flat parking area on the left by the river. Route Seven continues on to the West Coast. Be sure to take the 7A turnoff to the right to reach Hanmer Springs.
The most spectacular scenery in the area is here on the Waiau River in what they call "Thrillseekers Canyon". Pull into their parking lot on the right and have a look or take advantage of one of the jet boat rides or bungy jump off the bridge. Getting back into the vehicle have your cameras ready to snap a shot when on the one way bridge. There is also a place to park for photos just past the bridge on the left. From here the road descends into the valley and is but a few kilometres from Hanmer.
For over 100 years people have been going to the thermal wonderland known as Hanmer Springs to soak away those aches and pains. In one of the finest natural thermal hot pools in the world one can enjoy the feel of the peaceful warmth. Lots of pools both public and private to enjoy as long as the visitor desires. Great way to pass a few hours.
Hanmer Springs also has a fine array of cafes, shops and galleries to enjoy traipsing through. The Majuba Gallery at the far end of the community on the right is well worth going to. The favourite cafe is Springs Deli in the centre of town. Top ten on the list of South Island cafes.
The Route to the West Coast from the Kaikoura region - Lewis Pass -
On the Lewis Pass one will see the Victoria Forest Park to the east, Paparoa National Park on the west of the road and Lake Sumner Forest Park to the South. This should give the traveler an idea of the country one is in. There is very limited road access into all of this a
real wilderness area. A visitor once said it is as close to walking a wilderness track as one can get just driving. .
Driving from east to west it just seems to get better as one travels before ending up in the small community of Reefton. Two places to stop. First is just past the Lewis Pass is: Maruia Springs Thermal Resort (if you didn't stop at Hanmer) where a Japanese theme is
apparent with a Japanese bathhouses and traditional Utasyu massage. Ensuite rooms available also along with a fine dining experience with Japanese dishes at the restaurant, Shuzan. Bookings essential by the way. They also now have places for parking camper vans.
There are several places along the way where one can park overnight and/or just take a rest. The DoC Camp at Marble Hill is spacious plus is the starting point for a trek to Lake Daniels for the trampers/hikers. There is a place marker there that is right on the
Alpine fault Line!!! Hope it doesn't shift while visiting!! Next place along the road will be Springs Junction where one can stop at the cafe and fuel is available. It is at the junction of Route 7 and Route 65. Be sure to stay on Route 7 through the Victoria Forest Park. The road follows the Inangahuna River at this point. Lots of trout in the river if one would like to give it a go. Next stop is Reefton. Allow some time to explore here.
A small but exciting town to the west of the Lewis Pass. When the traveler gets to Blacks Point (1.7k before Reefton) it is worth a visit the
Museum. This area was heavily mined for gold and coal. The Murray Creek Goldfield 12 km (five hours) track will take one to many of the old deserted mines. A short 15 minute walk on the Golden Fleece walk by the museum for those in a hurry. It is recommended to go on into Reefton and stop by the Information Centre. One of the finest in New Zealand so don't miss it. There one can get all the information for the area before deciding what may be the adventure for the day. A fantastic presentation of the area and also a replica of an old goldmine to explore right in the Information Centre. Of course a visitor must stop and say hello to the Bearded Miners in their shack in the
middle of Reefton. The Old Miners might even treat a visitor to a yarn or two and a billy tea. A stop at the Broadway Tearoom where a real good cup of coffee should be considered.
A great time to visit Reefton is through December/January when the Summer Festival is going on Plenty of accommodation available. The Governor's Mansion is being turned into a fabulous accommodation. It is a part of the Reefton Rover's Retreat complex that includes
the Old Nurses Home Accommodation and Backpackers at 104 Sheil Street. What a building! A spacious lawn and garden along with plenty of space for sixty. Well maintained and done with style to be enjoyed. An interesting side trip is to Waiuta, the town at the top of the South Island's richest goldmine now a ghost town but has plenty of caravan sites. It is a 21km drive off Route 7 from Reefton about half sealed. Plenty of ruins and relics to see. Check with the Information Centre first.
Leaving Reefton on Route 7 the traveler now heads south toward Greymouth. If one is real lucky and it is a weekend or a holiday the opportunity to visit Kopara (website) should be taken. Not on any tourist road map or advertised to tourists. Turn left at Ngahere to Nelson Creek and continue on the Nelson Creek Bell Hill Road. It's a long drive about 30 km mostly on an unsealed road. A group of South Islanders own the place and have black powder shoots with everybody dressed for the occasion. Visitors are welcome to stay in self-contained vehicles. Something worth seeing if one has the time and desire.
Next stop Blackball - A really fascinating old gold mining town.
You have to stop at the "Hotel Once Formerly Known as the Hilton" and have a look around. Each room is separately decorated plus a gallery upstairs. Great job. There always seems to be some kind of activity presented also. The food is recommended.
Also a free place to park for self-contained vehicles in Blackball. Turn left on Stratford St and park on the gravel area outside of the Blackball Recreaton Reserve.
Worth it to see a real gold mining village still active. maybe you can talk one of the locals into taking you gold panning.
Ending on the West Coast at Greymouth -
Greymouth is the largest town on the West Coast built on the Grey River. Good place to park the motor home is behind the Caltex station downtown built and maintained by Kea motorhome rentals. Be sure to stop and see the Jade Boulder Gallery, 1 Guinness Street, for the ultimate in jade work. A definite not to be missed place to go 10 km south of town is Shantytown, a restored 1800's pioneer town based upon the West Coast gold rushes of the mid 1800's. A stay at Lake Brunner(great trout fishing) outside of town a few kms is recommended. More on another segment on this area.