Hanmer Springs is a easy 90-minute drive from Christchurch, which means you can jump on a plane in Auckland on a Friday afternoon for a quick flight south (1hr 25min), and be in an alpine paradise in time for dinner.
Check-in experience: You're not in Auckland anymore Toto - the temperature drop was noticeable the moment we stepped out of our Jucy 4WD rental car. The lobby is warm and inviting though, the rooms well heated, and on-site restaurant Isobel's has a big fireplace, perfect for those crispy nights. This is the only fully serviced hotel in town.
Rich history: The hotel dates back to 1897 when it was built as an 18-room wooden lodge by Robert Hood. It was used as a hospital by the Red Cross for soldiers returning from World War I from 1914-16, and was added to in 1932 with a Spanish-style concrete building with colonnades, Moorish arches and a bell tower. The original lodge was damaged by fire in 1958, with one of the historic photos on the walls showing furniture thrown down from upstairs windows.
Room: I was away with my sister and we had a comfortable Deluxe room in the lodge, with two queen beds, a telly with Sky, and an iPod dock. The hotel has 64 rooms on its spacious 9ha grounds, which includes 11 three-bedroom self-contained villas.
Price: Winter pricing starts from $199 per night for a Superior room with breakfast for two and wi-fi.
What's so good about this place? Location - the hotel is right in the centre of the village, meaning you can walk to all the eateries, bars and town attractions, including its famous thermal pools and spa. The forest is just a few minutes away, with access to several mountain bike tracks and hikes - don't miss the 30-minute trek up Conical Hill, right in town. Next door to the hotel is the Alpine Crazy Putt minigolf course and the little pedal cars you'll see pottering about the village. Within driving distance are the golf club, bungy jump and jetboat, an animal petting farm, skifield, and wineries.
And the bad? There's no lift, so if you have a second storey room in the lodge you'll have to get one of the staff to help you with your luggage, which they're more than happy to do.
Toiletries: Heritage Hotel's own Manuka Spa range.
Food and drink: Breakfast, lunch and dinner are available at on-site Isobel's restaurant (try the locally sourced venison or lamb). The restaurant's doors open up for dining al fresco on the patio during the day.
The bed: The hotel has just upgraded many of its Sleepyhead beds and this one was so cosy I didn't want to get out of it.
A room with a view? We overlooked the main street, while the rooms on the other side had views of the lovely gardens.
Bathroom: The ensuite had a big, wheelchair-accessible shower. The floor was flat, so water went everywhere until we sussed it out.
Free wi-fi? Yes.
Noise: None to speak of at all, even on the first weekend of the April school holidays when the village was busy.
Exercise facilities: There's a tennis court, petanque piste, and for the summertime - when the days get super-hot - there's a solar-heated outdoor pool.
Perfect for: A weekend getaway from the city, to take the thermal waters and breathe in some of that clean mountain air.