Finding your bliss on holiday is a many and varied thing – pampering, wilderness escapades, awe-inspiring landscapes… you'll find it all in Hurunui. This district of North Canterbury packs in a host of diverse itineraries, so all you need to do is discover your own ultimate getaway.
For outdoor enthusiasts
Hurunui's landscapes of rivers, mountains, beaches, and native bush mean those looking for a bit of adventure can find it around every scenic bend. Outstanding water sports, hiking, fishing, hunting and golf will have nature lovers in rapture. Cyclists are particularly spoiled for choice – take your pick from the multitude of fantastic mountain biking choices of Hanmer Springs. Or for gobsmacking views while you take to the track, the St James Cycle Trail is 64 kilometres from start to finish, and as the wheels turn you'll be treated to the sight of mountain peaks, high country lakes, alpine meadows, towering beech forest and expansive grassy flats. If snowy adventures are more your speed, then make a beeline for the region's best kept snow secrets: the spacious expanse of Hanmer Springs Ski Area , suitable for all skill levels, and the unique Mt Lyford Alpine Resort Ski Area. The latter's uncrowded powdery paradise has the highest point, at Mt Terako, of any lifted ski area in New Zealand and its location means premium snow rides are available at times when other ski hills can't deliver.
For a relatively small corner of New Zealand, Hurunui has an abundance of culinary wonderment. The wine region of Waipara Valley not only produces some of the country's best drops with some spectacular cellar door offerings to sample from, but many winery restaurants offer world-class food to match. At highly acclaimed Black Estate, for example, you could be tucking into a sumptuous local Wash Creek lamb dish served with spiced stone fruit, cherry tomatoes and pine nuts and finishing up with a dark chocolate, black raspberry, plums, fennel and honey dessert, all washed down with award-winning wines. Local produce is proudly championed at the region's eateries. If you fancy taking home some of the ingredients to cook with, including silky olive oil, earthy truffles and some of the country's best beef and venison, head to Amberley Farmers Market, where you can also chat with passionate growers and producers about their wares.
For family fun
Families are spoilt for choice in Hurunui. Along with the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa, with its exciting hydroslide options and pools to make a splash in, there are parks and gardens to explore, horse trekking for equine fun, and more animal moments to revel in at Hanmer Springs Animal Park. This two-acre park land has panoramic mountain views as its backdrop while the kids delight in some furry and feathered friends, such as goats, emus, donkeys alpacas, llamas, ducks, chooks and more – there are opportunities to touch and handfeed too. The Amberley Area Cycle Trail is also particularly family friendly, passing through scenic farmland and off the main road.
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For sanctuary seekers
No visit to Hurunui is complete without a restorative visit to the famed Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa. With 22 outdoor thermal, sulphur and freshwater pools to choose from, you can always find an intimate spot for some tranquil me-time, where stresses melt away with every blissfully enveloping moment. Take that a step further at The Spa, where you can sink into an even more indulgent relaxation with one of their luxurious treatments. Luxury accommodation options at the village also offer spa treatments and exceptional suites, some with spa pool options so you can soak under the stars. A more intrepid moment of rejuvenation can be found if you opt to seek out the Cow Stream Hot Pools, located in the St James Conservation area. Follow the St James Cycle Trail up Peter's Valley and you'll be rewarded with a soak in these isolated high-country pools – an experience not easily forgotten.
Of course, this is but a taster of the holiday escapism that Hurunui offers in spades. Head to visithurunui.co.nz to find many more reasons to visit this lesser-known wonder of New Zealand.