When William Jones noticed fog rising from a walking track in Hanmer in 1859, he had no idea he'd literally stumbled across what would become the area's key tourist attraction.
That fog turned out to be steam rising from holes filled with hot water — Hanmer Springs' time had come as a location of soothing and healing waters.
Located 90 minutes drive north of Christchurch, Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa — incorporating sulphur pools, a café and spa facilities — is a magnet for visitors. So much so, that in both 2004 and 2005, it won Best Visitor Attraction in the New Zealand Tourism Awards.
However, it's not just the thermal waters drawing visitors to this alpine resort. Hanmer's South Island high-country location, and the fact that the Waiau River is its next-door-neighbour, has turned this hamlet into an adventure destination.
Mature native and exotic forests include 50 kilometres of mountain-bike and walking trails. Mt Isobel, reaching 1319 metres above sea level, offers a range of walking grades and distances, and the Waiau River plays host to jet boating, rafting and kayaking. Horse riding, bungy jumping, 4WD motorbiking, and eight-wheel Argo adventures are also available.
Don’t forget, this is an alpine location, which means both Hanmer Springs and Mt Lyford ski areas are top destinations for a bit of heliskiing and snowboarding.
The village has a variety of accommodation options, massage and spa facilities, restaurants, cafes and bars, as well as some boutique shops.