The Rockies? The Alps? Colorado? Washington? No, no, no….this is the area around Hanmer Springs, NZ…..the Southern Alps! Honest, that is their name. The city of Hanmer Springs is billed as an Alpine village, and it sure looks like one. It is funny…looking at New Zealand’s long, narrow shape, we had assumed that we could drive from one coast to the other in day trips, as it is only, roughly, about 150 miles wide. But we didn’t take into account that the Southern Alps run 300 miles, northeast to southwest, down the length of the South Island. And there are no straight, flat roads, motorways, or freeways that run across the island. There are snaking country roads that go north, then south, then up and around and over….you get the idea! In fact, we saw a sign that said, Slow Down! You are no longer on the Motorway. You are on a Country Road! When we looked at how long it would take to drive to various points of interest, some destinations would have taken up to 7 hours, even though the distance isn’t so great.
So we took a drive to Hanmer Springs, famous for thermal hot pools, skiing, and wineries. We don’t participate in those activities, so for us it was just a drive. And sadly, it was one way in, one way out as a day trip. There were no alternate routes on our way back home to Christchurch. But it was so pretty, and so peaceful. The stunning mountains all around made it a startling contrast to when we drove the North Island, years ago. That is all meadows, farms, gardens, and rolling hills filled with thousands of sheep. While we did see some sheep and cattle here, it was way more mountainous than the north….very rugged.
The town is a cute tourist destination, with shops, cafes, restaurants, and hotels, big enough to wander around for an hour, have some coffee, take some photos, and then head back on the same road to cover the same ground. However, we did notice different sights each way. You see nooks, angles, and views that are visible in one direction but not the other.