1. Hassle-free Molesworth Station Tour, Hanmer Springs
Roughly the same size as Stewart Island, Molesworth is the country's largest high-country station. Bicycle is one of the ways to discover this iconic and remote destination — but it's not the only way. Thanks to Hassle-free Tours' newest itinerary, you can spend the day sitting back and relaxing as professional tour guides take you through this remarkable landscape in 4X4 off-road buses. Departing from Hanmer Springs, stops include the 150-year-old Acheron Cob Homestead, the Acheron River, and the famed Molesworth Homestead. The full-day tours cost $240pp, inclusive of lunch and refreshments. hasslefreetours.co.nz
2. Pukatea Horse Trekking, St James
Natural hot pools are harder to come by on the South Island, which is part of the reason Hanmer Hot Springs is so popular. If you want to get away from the crowds, you'll have to go backcountry, to the Cow Stream Hot Pools in the St James Conservation Area. Unfortunately, the only way to access Cow Stream has been by 4WD, mountain bike or foot — until now. With Pukatea Horse Trekking & Adventures' two-day tour ($550), you'll journey over breathtaking mountains, past glacial-fed rivers, and lakes, before soaking in the isolated high-country pools. Shorter half-day tours of the area are also available, along with stagecoach rides and freedom trekking for more experienced riders.
3. Hurunui Hills, Hurunui
Canopy Camping has perfected the glamping formula. Most of the properties in its collection feature wood-burning stoves, spaces filled with natural light, and more often than not, an outdoor bathtub. However, that's not to say they're cookie-cutter, as demonstrated by Canopy's newest listing, Hurunui Hills. The off-grid cabin features an outdoor kitchen and shower and sweeping views of the Southern Alps and the Hurunui and Waitohi Rivers. It's ideal for a quiet weekend getaway, but if you're looking for a more action-packed holiday, head out on a farm tour with the owners, who are the fourth and fifth generation to live on the property. It's just one hour from Christchurch and costs $240 per night, including 4WD transfers. canopycamping.co.nz/hurunui-hills
4. Tombstone Trail, Hanmer Springs
Carefully hand-constructed, mainly by volunteers, Hanmer Forest Park's newest mountain biking trails were five years in the making. Unveiled in December 2020, the 4km Tombstone Trail is an advanced single-track. After climbing 185m to an elevation of nearly 700m, riders descend 240m of twists, turns, and drops, before connecting to the Jolliffe Saddle trail. Already, reviewers on Trailforks.com are calling it the best trail in Hanmer, thanks to its epic views and fun downhill ride. visithuruni.co.nz
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5. Island Hills Walking Track, Hurunui
If you've ever dreamed of doing an overnight tramp with Fido by your side, this private trekking trail might be the answer. Located 20 minutes from the Hurunui Hotel on the way to Hanmer Springs, the 30km Island Hills Walking Track — which can be completed in two days ($229.50) or three ($323) — runs through river gorges, regenerating beech forest and along sub-alpine ridges. A maximum of 10 trampers sleep in purpose-built huts along the way, with hot showers, comfy beds, and a secure kennel run outside for pooch pals. The best part? Pack transport is included, so you don't even have to schlep your stuff. The track is open from October until mid-March. islandhillsstation.com
- Jessica Wynne Lockhart