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The best eateries in Hamilton for breakfast, lunch and dinner


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Breakfast / Brunch: THE KIRK CAFE. 6 Te Aroha Street, Hamilton

Take one quick look at the Instagram grid for The Kirk Café and you’ll be straight on the phone to make a booking! The Kirk is known for its impressive presentation, serving up creative and colourful dishes that look like they belong firmly in the pages of a food magazine. Described as the ‘best little gourmet café and brunch spot in Hamilton’, The Kirk Café is open from 8.00am until 2.30pm from Monday to Saturday and opens at a leisurely  9.30am  on  Sundays  to  cater  to  the  later  risers.  With  a  welcoming  interior  and  a  gorgeous  sunny outdoor area for warm and bright mornings, The Kirk café is one of the many nice places to eat in Hamilton within walking distance from our motel, and a lovely spot to begin your day.

On the menu are options for healthy and not-so-healthy dishes. They cater to keto diets, gluten free diets and diets that are yet to begin. The sticky fried chicken eggs benedict is a popular choice—but you’ll have to get there early to lock it in. Because it’s always in hot demand and when it’s gone, it’s gone! For something lighter, there’s a delicious superfood vegan granola or eggs with your choice of sides. No matter whether you’re after sweet or savoury, The Kirk Café has something delicious to offer. Make sure you take your phone too –Instagram awaits!

 

Lunch: GOTHERNBURG.17 Grantham Street, Hamilton

Looking  for lunch  restaurants  in  Hamilton for  a  special  occasion,  a  birthday  surprise  or  just because  you deserve a fantastic meal with impeccable service to boot? You won’t be disappointed with Gothenburg—it’s the highest rated Hamilton restaurant on Trip advisor and the reviews are what restaurateur dreams are made of.Located in central Hamilton overlooking the Waikato River, Gothenburg has a beautiful dining room with floor  to  ceiling  windows.  Gothenburg  is  fabulous  for  dinner  too,  but  during  the  day  it  has  such  a  beautiful outlook that it’s a tier above other lunch restaurants in Hamilton.

Gothenburg  has  an  extensive  tapas  menu,  evenly  split  into  vegetable  tapas,  meat  and  poultry  tapas  and seafood tapas.There is a huge range and we can tell you now that you’re likely to have a tough time choosing! Some of the options include spicy Kim Chi and pork dumplings, a brioche crayfish roll and sundried tomato and mozzarella arancini. And if you’ve got room, the dessert and cheese menus will be the icing on the cake of your Gothenburg experience.

 

Dinner: PALATE.20 Alma Street, Hamilton

If you have an anniversary or a birthday coming up and you’re looking for Hamilton dinner places that offer something special, jump  on  the  Palate  website  and  make  your  booking  now.There’s  a  seven  course degustation menu with matching wines, and if you choose this experience you’ll get VIP where you can see the talented team at work.Otherwise, the a la carte menu offers two courses for $60 or three courses for $75—a very reasonable price for the outstanding quality of the dishes.

The Palate experience is all about top quality food and wine. All the staff are passionate about what they do and this becomes clear from the minute you step through the door. Palate has won multiple awards since it was established  in 2005 and  has become a bit  of a  Hamilton institution... Hamilton dinner places don’t come much better than this!


Hamilton’s top restaurants for every occasion


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If you’re looking for great places to eat,Hamilton has plenty of options.But we know that trawling through website reviews can be tiresome. Maybe you’re looking for something for a specific budget, a special occasion or you’ve got a hankering for a delicious buffet! Whatever it is you’re looking for, we’ve got you covered.

 

For the special occasion

Do yourself a huge favour and pay a visit to Gothenburg or Palate. You’ll experience exquisite food, beautiful views and delightful service in these Hamilton restaurants. Best to book in advance too, they’re popular and can book out on the weekends!

 

For the best cheap eats in Hamilton

There are lots of good contenders for the best cheap eats in Hamilton,and your preference might just depend on your preferred cuisine. But Hamilton cheap eats, we don’t think you can go past Dumpling House. It’s quick, delicious and won’t break the bank!

 

For the best Asian cuisine in Hamilton

If you’ve got a hankering for some Chinese food, try Sichuan Style on Collingwood Street.As with many Asian restaurants, the menu is extensive and caters well to vegetarians. Popular dishes include the pork Sichuan dumplings, steamed buns and the handmade noodles.

 

For the best burgers in Hamilton

Sometimes you just need a big, juicy, delicious burger to fill you up and a cold beer on the side. Burger Bro in the city is the only licensed burger joint in Hamilton and on Thursdays you’ll get both burger and a beer for just $20, offering Hamilton cheap eatsat great value for money. This little Victoria Street eatery is hard to miss—just look for the orange façade!

 

For the best pub meal in Hamilton

We’re lucky enough to have a Speights Ale House just ten minutes walk from our Hamilton motel, and we often send hungry guests there when they’re looking for a hearty meal and a relaxed vibe. It’s just by Waikato Stadium too, so ideal if you’re attending an event! A great choice if you want something to eat in Hamilton where you know there will be all your favourites on the menu.

 

For the best high tea in Hamilton

Zealong Tea Estate is in Gordonton, just outside of Hamilton, and is renowned for its high tea experiences. Gather a group together and venture out for selection of tasty treats served among out on the patio overlooking the gardens. And if you’re a tea fan, you can even take a tea tour while you’re out there.

 

For the best takeaways in Hamilton

If you’re looking for the fastest and best cheap eats in Hamilton that you can take away to enjoy, look no further than Oxford Takeaways.The fresh is fish, the chips crisp and salty and the meal packs are great value if you have a family to feed.


Hamilton’s top four hikes


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Hiking is incredibly popular here in New Zealand, and we often have visitors staying at our Hamilton motel who make it their mission to complete at least one hike in every city or town they visit. While our city is relatively flat, we’ve got plenty of great hikes to try out in the hills and countryside that surrounds. Here, we’ve rounded up the top five best hikes near Hamilton based on popularity, accessibility and reviews from our guests.

Hakarimata Summit Track

This hike kicks off in the outskirts of Ngaruawahia, about 25 minutes away from our Hamilton motel.While the Department of Conservation calls it an ‘easy’ track, it’s worth keeping in mind that the summit is 335 metres high and there are 1349 steps to climb. But if you’ve got a moderate level of fitness and are keen to try out hikes around Hamilton, please don’t let the steps put you off! Rumour has it that some people even run the track for fun. When you reach the top after about one and a half to two hours, you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views across the Waikato Basin and all the way down to Mt Ruapehu on a clear day.The Hakarimata Summit Track is a must if you’ve got a few hours spare and are after cheap things to do in Hamilton.

 

Nikau Walk, Kaniwhaniwha

The Nikau walk can be found near the small township of Pirongia. From our Hamilton motel, you’ll drive for half an hour on State Highway 3 and then Te Pahi Road until you reach the Pirongia Forest Park / Kaniwhaniwha Reserve. The Nikau Track is a three-hour return walk and there are lots of highlights to enjoy. It’s a great choice for hikes around Hamilton that come with a side of adventure—the Kaniwhaniwha Caves are located near the start of the Bell Track, 5 minutes from the junction with the Nikau Walk, so take a torch and explore them while you’re here. On your seven-kilometre walk, you’ll follow a trickling stream around a loop surrounded by lush green with nikau palms, ferns and plenty of bird life.

 

Wairere Falls, Okauia

It’s a bit of a drive out to Okauia—just under an hour to be exact—but it’s worth the trip if you love a good waterfall! Wairere Falls is actually thehighest waterfall in the North Island, sitting at 153 metres high. The walk to the viewing platform at the base of the falls take around an hour and a half, but it’s a lovely walk through the cool bush and over little wooden bridges. If you’ve still got energy when you arrive at the base, you can spend another 30-45 minutes climbing to the top of the falls which will give you epic views over the valley and the Waikato Plains.

 

Hamilton Lake Domain

Ok, so it doesn’t strictly fall under the best hikes near Hamilton, but Hamilton Lake Domain is still a great place for a long, leisurely walk in the fresh air. It’s perfect if you have kids, a pram or require a smooth and flat surface for wheelchair access. The path around Hamilton Lake Domain is almost four kilometers long and you’ll enjoy watching the bird life in the area including ducks, Pukeko and geese. If you’re there are the right time, you might even be lucky enough to see little ducklings or goslings on the lake.Cheap things to do in Hamilton don’t come much better than this!


Epic Hokitika Walks and Wonders


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Hokitika crams so much of New Zealand’s best into one cute little town. Stunning ocean sunsets, greenstone artistry, great tasting seafood, and Franz Josef Glacier, just 40 minutes down the road. And what better way to experience the best Hokitika attractions, then on foot or bike! We’ve rounded up the best cycle trails and short walks in Hokitika for avid hikers, bikers and nature lovers. 

Hokitika Gorge (1-hour loop track) 

Just 30 minutes east from the Bella Vista motel, is the gorgeous Hokitika Gorge, one of the most stunning walks near Hokitika. This gentle and popular track packs in not one, but two suspension bridges, allowing expansive views of the gorge and the glacier-fed turquoise waters which flow through it. (Don’t jump in however, as the Hokitika River is swift, cold, and dangerous all year round!)  

The trail reveals a surprise at every turn, jam-packed full of natural beauty and manmade marvels from impressive native trees, expansive views, a swing bridge to bounce across and curving boardwalks. A large rocky outcrop provides a perfect spot to snap photos with the aqua-tinted river and gorge walls, as your backdrop. Photo’s pop best on a clear sunny day when the water sparkles with a backlit effect. You’ll enjoy spectacular views from the 90-metre suspension bridge of the upper Hokitika valley and the Southern Alps before entering a forest canopy of towering Miro, Rimu and Kamahi trees. This accessible two-kilometre track is one of the best things to do in Hokitika and a visitor highlight.  

Dorothy Falls Track (2-minutes – that’s right!) 

For waterfall fans, combine the Hokitika Gorge walk with a detour to the impressive Dorothy Falls for a refreshing dip in its natural plunge pool. Don’t let the winding gravel entrance road put you off as it’s likely you’ll have this natural treasure all to yourself. And best of all, it’s only a short two-minute trek to the Falls from the carpark. Afterwards, head to a picturesque picnic spot on nearby Lake Kaniere, one of New Zealand’s most beautiful lakes and a popular spot for both water sports and birdwatching.  

 

The Treetop Walk 

Head 15-minutes south from the Bella Vista motel and you might spot a tall metallic nest peeking above the dense forest canopy. Turn off the highway and you’ll realise it’s not a disused air traffic control tower, but the highest vantage point of the Hokitika Tree Top Walk. This Meccano-like series of interconnecting steel bridges and forest viewing platforms, is one of the top things to do in Hokitika and a West Coast must-do.  

The nearly half-kilometre walkway starts with a gentle ascent into a canopy of Rimu and Kamahi trees bursting with native birdlife. Along the way, informative panels provide insight on the rainforest and West coast ecosystem, a natural habitat for many endangered species. The cherry on the top is the aforementioned ‘Hokitika Tower’, a spiral 100-step staircase up to a 40-metre viewing platform. Here you’ll enjoy expansive views of nearby Lake Mahinapua, the ocean and snow-tinged Southern Alps.  

The next stop is the Mahinapua Springboard, a cantilevered viewing platform, to view the black swans, mallard ducks and white herons, peacefully gliding on the lagoon below. Look out for parakeets and tui too, in the surrounding forest. 

This enjoyable 45-minute canopy walk is one of the best walks near Hokitika, revealing timeless native trees from on high and a slice of New Zealand’s under threat rainforest. While future generations may miss out, you don’t have too so add this unique attraction to your ‘Hokitika to do’ list. 

 

West Coast Wilderness Trail 

Hokitika is the main gateway to The West Coast Wilderness Trail, so hire a bike, grab a gourmet sandwich from the Hokitika Sandwich Shop and hit the track for a day ride from the Bella Vista Motel. The Trail is part of the national Great Rides network and can be bitten off in short chunks or ridden over four days. You’ll cycle east from Hokitika into the surrounding hills on a smooth, well graded trail towards Greymouth and enjoy views of wild landscapes, the rugged coastline and Southern Alps.  

 

We can help book daily shuttles to different sections of the 132-kilometre trail and assist with your bike hire too. After a full day’s cycling, you can return to the comforts of the Bella Vista Motel Hokitika and a well-deserved good night’s sleep.


Hungry in Hokitika: Top Places to Eat and Drink


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The West Coast is famous for its stunning scenery, glaciers, Tree Top Walk Hokitika, gorgeous greenstone, and fertile rainforest. But at the Coast’s beating heart, are its local growers, boutique brewers and talented chefs who have transformed the region into a food mecca. Here’s the Bella Vista’s guide to the best places to eat in Hokitika, so you’ll leave inspired, well fed and hungry to return.  

 

Winner of New Zealand’s Best Sandwich  

The hip folk at the top rated Hokitika Sandwich Shop take their New York-style sandwich making seriously. Made to order, chunky slices of freshly baked ciabatta bread loaded with your choice of free-range meat, organic vegetables, South Island cheeses and condiments, like tangy sauerkraut. No wonder this gourmet sandwich joint has a cult following, especially when the milkshakes are made with Lewis Road Creamery ice cream and the coffee is Fair Trade. So, it came as no surprise to the locals, when the humble Hokitika Sandwich Shop was awarded New Zealand’s 'best toastie'. For a picnic with punch and a quick healthy bite, this is one of Hokitika’s best places to eat lunch. 

 

Best Hokitika Seafood and Pizza 

This seaside town is serious about its seafood so head to the riverside spot of Dulcies, for Hokitika’s favourite fish and chips. Choose from crumbed hoki, gurnard and blue cod with a generous side of salty, fluffy hot chips for under $12 a serve. Go the fully Monty and sneak a decadent chocolate explosion donut into your order. Then grab your paper-wrapped takeaways and stroll to nearby Sunset Point for an al fresco dinner overlooking the sun-striped ocean. (If the mouth-watering fare makes it that far!)  

What makes Fat Pipi Pizza unique? Let’s just say their pescatarian-topped pizzas and beach front location are both West Coast winners. Yes, the classic Margherita is on the menu, but where else can you enjoy smoked salmon or 140 grams of whitebait layered with capers and lemon on a garlicky, buttery, doughy base? For vegetarians, there’s the mighty Punk pizza, piled high with caramelised pumpkin, feta, cashews and coriander pesto. Be sure to pair your meal with a glass of the Fat Pipi’s Far Canal wine (or in the local lingo, ‘Fa-kin-hell’), a cheeky Otago red. Whatever your language, the Fat Pipi is West Coast-style pizza perfection, with a well-deserved spot on the best ‘Hokitika Places to Eat’ list.  

 

Best Hokitika Vegan Café 

In a region where hunting and fishing is a popular past time, it’s perhaps surprising that one of the best restaurants in Hokitika only serves plant-based food.  But the Gatherer Wholefoods café turns the notion that vegan food is boring, straight on its roasted cauliflower head. And the only hunting this owner chef does, is foraging for the best local field mushrooms. 

With a Mexican-inspired menu big on fresh flavours, tuck into mushroom ceviche or the k?mara tacos topped with overnight-marinated cashew cheese. Best of all the taco tortillas are pressed daily and the seasonal menu changes often, so the locals return time and again. This place will turn die-hard meat eaters into legume lovers at first bite.  

 

Best restaurant in Hokitika (to mingle with the locals)  

If you fancy pub-style fare, book the lively Stumpers Bar and Café for dinner, just a five-minute walk from the Bella Vista motel. They serve up tasty homestyle food like seafood chowder, lamb shanks, local venison, and wedges of old-fashioned cheesecake (just like Mum used to make) with generous portions to boot. For a friendly slice of Hokitika life (and a game of pool), this popular gastropub is a great place to kick back, after a day’s sightseeing. 

 

Most innovative Hokitika food 

Fancy grilled huhu grub with a round of colostrum shots? Followed by a dessert platter of larvae ice cream and Chocolate worm truffles? No local food guide would be worth its salt without highlighting the famous Hokitika Wildfoods Festival in March. This unique feasting experience is designed to push your culinary comfort zone, serving up dishes at once odd, yet strangely enticing. The Feral Fashion competition is also a visual feast, where the locals strut their wild side and play furry dress ups, vying for the most Feral of Them All. While you may end up flossing insect legs from your teeth, you’ll love the foody flair which courses through this vibrant West Coast festival. 

While we’ve hopefully whetted your appetite on places to eat in Hokitika, please ask the Bella Vista Motel team for up-to-date information as restaurant opening hours and menus can change between summer, winter and Covid alert levels. We can also tailor suggestions around what you love to eat (or drink)! 


Hidden Hokitika Tree Top Walk


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Hokitika’s cool town cachet is well deserved with its artsy vibe, annual Wild Food Festival and rugged West Coast scenery. But the town’s most popular attraction is poised peacefully above your head in a native forest canopy, just south of the Bella Vista Motel.  

Guest blogger, Liz Lyons, shares her family’s experience on the West Coast Tree Top Walk, one of the best things to do in Hokitika. 

Entertaining two teenage boys on a South Island road trip can be a challenging task. The distances are long, the fast-food chains are few, and the Wi-Fi dead zones are parental purgatory. Announce that you’re taking them on a ‘Hokitika tree top walk,’ and the backseat groans are deep and long.  But once my two Neanderthals had sprinted up a 100-step spindly tower to breathlessly take in one of the best views on the West Coast, my reputation as ‘fear factor Mum’ was restored. And best of all: they had no idea this aerial canopy walk even existed. 

It was a rare blue-sky day, when we stepped on the West Coast Treetop Walk, an aerial Meccano-like series of interconnecting steel bridges and viewing platforms, just 15 minutes south of Hokitika. The walkway’s design came from the same team behind four popular canopy walks in Australia, and is now regarded as one of the top things to do in Hokitika, drawing visitors from all over.  

The nearly half-kilometre walkway starts with a gentle ascent into the canopy of Jurassic-looking Rimu and Kamahi trees. Along the way, are informative panels on the rainforest eco system, Hokitika history and the native birdlife. 

The big boy magnet is the ‘Hokitika Tower’, a long spiral staircase leading up to a 40-metre viewing platform, which can sway in the high West Coast winds. 

Luckily the day we visited, the weather played ball and we enjoyed expansive views from a motionless Hokitika Tower, of nearby Lake Mahinapua, the wild Tasman Sea and the snow-capped Southern Alps. The boys even consented to a family photo without pulling faces; a miracle in itself.  

Back on the lower level, the next intrepid stop is the Mahinapua Springboard, a cantilevered viewing platform, which the boys joyfully stomped across, quickly clearing the deck of anxious visitors. The black swans and white herons, gliding peacefully across the serene lake below, ignored the shrieks from the deck above. The boys’ Dad, no less. 

Afterwards, over cheese toasties and C4 coffee at the adjacent Tree Tops café, one of the best outdoor places to eat in Hokitika, my lads boasted about conquering the highest manmade tree walk in New Zealand. While the highlight for their Mum, was getting up close to giant trees and viewing these timeless treasures from the ‘top down.’ Who knows if future generations will get to hover above beautiful rainforest like this? All the more reason to add the Hokitika Tree Top Walk to your ‘Hokitika to Do List’, as this was a memorable experience we’d repeat in a heartbeat.  

More information:  

  • The Hokitika Tree Top walk is a leisurely 45-minute canopy walk along a high steel viewing platform, over 450 metres long.  
  • Pricing: Adults $32, children $16, or $77 for a family of four.  
  • Opening hours: Summer Hours: 9am – 5pm, Winter Hours: 9am – 3:00pm  
  • Fully accessible apart from the narrow tower stairs. A special motorised wheelchair is available on request.  
  • Open rain and shine - umbrella hire and ponchos for sale. 
  • Visit treetopsnz.com 

Getting there: A 15-minute drive south of Hokitika  


Best places to eat Hanmer Springs


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As a popular family and short break destination, the thermal spa town of Hanmer Springs boasts an impressive range of eateries to relax and refuel at, after a day on the slopes, quad biking, rafting or hiking. We’ve done the hard yards and rustled up the best places to eat in Hanmer Springs, whether you’re seeking fine dining, a wine tasting or a hearty meal and brew.  

Best all-day cafés in Hanmer Springs 

And the award goes to the Roasted Bean! Start your day with one of the best lattes or steaming white chocolates in town, because this spot roast their own beans on-site from Colombia, Brazil and Papa New Guinea.  Look out for the specialty banana waffles drenched in maple syrup and the bubbling-cheese doorstopper sandwich, both hugely popular with visitors and locals. If you’re peckish after a soak at the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools or need to feed scratchy kids early, the pizza oven fires up from 5pm. Order a starter of an 8-inch crispy pizza bread with garlic spread, mozzarella and olive oil. Then choose a fully loaded pizza or two, from Moroccan Lamb, Smoked Chicken or the veggie-friendly Pear and Blue Cheese, with caramelized walnuts. With real bases made from scratch and keto-friendly options, everyone will leave full to the brim.   

 

The Powerhouse Café, set in a repurposed hydroelectric power station building is another a great place for breakfast and lunch offering an array of homestyle food which caters to vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free and gluten-free. 

Best Hanmer Springs vineyard  

You’re spoilt for choice on the 2-hour drive north from Christchurch with a few wineries to choose from. The Waipara wine region is awash with cellar doors and some of the highest altitude vineyards in the country, so add a wine trail to your ‘things to do in Hanmer Springs’ list. With its expert wine makers, drop into the Waiau River Estate over summer, to sample their Hells Gate Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. They grow a range of varietals including Riesling too. If you’re more of a red drinker, indulge in a tasting of their small-vintage Pinot Noir. You won’t be disappointed as you savour top class wine and take in stunning views up the Waiau Gorge towards Hanmer Springs and the Southern Alps foothills.  

 

Best sweet treats 

If you’re a big kid with a sweet tooth, or want to delight the little kids, one of the best Hanmer Springs attractions are its boutique sweet makers. From mouth-watering squares of creamy fudge at The Fudge Shop to big gob-smackers, New Zealand made brittle, and other childhood favourites at The Lolly Pot, these sweet spots are one of the best things to do in Hanmer Springs with kids. 

 

Best family-friendly dining 

With an on-site playground, a spacious indoor area and alfresco seating, the Fire & Ice Cafe Restaurant and Bar offers a great spot for families to relax or couples to find a quiet corner. Its bistro-style menu will suit the pickiest or fussiest little diner. Enjoy a seafood or antipasto platter while the kids chow down on junior servings of fish and chips, pasta carbonara or a chicken salad wrap. The ‘Farm on a Plate,’ a virtual meat grazers fantasy of pork, steak, chicken, ham, and sausage, topped with fried egg, and a side of fries might just beat the heartiest of appetites. 

 

Best fine dining experience  

With a swag of New Zealand beef and lamb awards, and an award-winning head chef, No.31 Restaurant is a great dining destination for gourmet meat-lovers. Experience premium New Zealand eye fillet and other local specialities like Fiordland wild venison or duck, in a lovely cottage courtyard in summer or besides a cosy open fire with a candle-lit table in winter. Save room for their warm sticky liquorice pudding, served with salted caramel sauce, candied walnuts and vanilla bean ice cream. With an extensive wine list, treat yourself to an evening of memorable food and warm yet deferential hospitality, befitting an eatery of this standard. This spot is a deserving contender for ‘Best Restaurant Hanmer Springs.’  

 

Best cheap eats Hanmer Springs 

From highbrow to high five burgers, check out the menu at PJ’s for great takeout. With a range of tasty burgers and fish and chips to go, visitors consistently rate PJ’s as one of the best burger places to eat in Hanmer Springs. 

Guests often ask the Bella Vista team about the best places to eat in Hanmer Springs. We’ll not only recommend popular Hanmer Springs attractions but where best to whet your appetite. 


Hanmer Springs best hikes


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The picturesque spa hamlet of Hanmer Springs, with its natural thermal springs and crisp alpine air, has long attracted visitors since the 19th century. It’s a great base for keen hikers with stunning day walks in Hanmer Springs and the surrounding Hurunui district. We’ve rounded up the best short Hanmer walks.  

Best orientation walk (1-hour return) 

Arrived early? No worries, drop your bags at the Bella Vista check-in and head up Conical Hill for the best views of the village and Hurunui countryside. The gentle zig-zag trail winds up through a protected pine forest of Japanese cypress, giant fir and Atlantic cedar, brimming with birdlife. You’ll emerge at a lookout approximately 200m above the village. Perch at the top and enjoy a patchwork vista of Hanmer Springs and North Canterbury laid out before you. This Hanmer forest walk is one of the more popular things to do in Hanmer Springs.  

 

Top 3-in-1 circuit walk (2-hours return) 

This is one of the more diverse walks in Hanmer linking three well-groomed tracks into one full loop. The Upper Dog Stream Track, Jolliffe Saddle Track and Timberlands Trail Circuit are yours for the taking, in under two hours.   

The gentle Upper Dog Stream Track heads upstream through shady forest revealing excellent views of Mt Isobel at the picnic area. Beyond the Dog Stream footbridge, the zig-zag track becomes rougher as it climbs through native beech forest to intersect with the Jolliffe Saddle Track. A small clearing on the pass summit comes with a picnic table and splendid views of upper Dog Stream and Mount Isobel. Venturing over the saddle, the track passes through dense, sunlight-dappled exotic pine, before it crosses Jolliffe Road and joins the final sector, the easy, downhill Timberlands Trail. At the base, you’ll encounter a large grove of impressive Californian Redwood as you return back to Jollies Pass Rd, just a 7-minute drive from the Bella Vista Hanmer Springs. 

 

Best waterfall walk Hanmer Springs (half day) 

Once again, head for Jollies Pass Road to reach this trail. This fairy grotto-like track includes stairs, narrow cliff faces and watershed crossings so best suited to experienced hikers or families with teenagers. Once you reach the main waterfall, enjoy picture-perfect views of cascading water, the surrounding fern glade and green-tinged rocks lined with moss.  

Rather than returning the same way, hop on the clearly marked Spur Track, beside a smaller set of cascading falls.  This trail initially climbs up away from the stream, traversing an open meadow above the bush line, providing epic views of the Waiau Valley far below. You’ll then descend through native forest to reach the Mt Isobel Road and the Nature/Fir Trails, a direct shortcut back to the Waterfall Track carpark.  

The Bella Vista team will happily provide recommendations on the best walks in Hanmer Springs. Otherwise, pop into the Hanmer Springs i-SITE Visitor Centre for detailed trail maps on Hanmer walks.  


Hello Hanmer Springs


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With scenic hikes, thermal springs, skiing and thrill-seeker activities, the alpine village of Hanmer Springs is the ultimate destination for families, with toddlers through to teens. With so many Hanmer Springs attractions on offer, here’s our guide to the most enjoyable family activities. 

Best views and short walk in Hanmer Springs  

Take a 30-minute wander up the pine-needled Conical Hill track, directly behind town, for the best views of Hanmer Springs and the surrounding Hurunui district. The track is sited in the Heritage Forest, a Crown-protected mix of native trees and exotic flora, some of which were planted over one hundred years ago. It’s a hill climb but this zig-zag track is one of the best mountain buggy walks in Hanmer Springs with pleasant seating at the top to enjoy the views. Afterwards, head to the popular Hanmer Thermal Pools and Spa for a relaxing soak their range of hot pools.  

 

Best pre-schooler activity  

The Tarndale Reserve Fairy Trail takes top prize as the most enchanted of them all when it comes to Hanmer walks. Bewitch the under-fives as they search for brightly coloured miniature doors along the lower Dog Stream track, opposite the Brooke Dawson Reserve. It appears magical fairies exist in this Hanmer Forest walk so expect a lot of noisy door knocking. Encourage the kids to explore the intricately painted facades, door to door and the rock art scattered along the track, for hidden details.  

Top tip: After crossing the Dog Stream bridge, follow the path into the forest. The first fairy door can be seen at child’s height at the base of a tree. Stoop or you might miss it! 

 

Best wildlife Hanmer Springs 

Combine the fairy trail walk with a visit to the nearby Hanmer Springs Animal Park, just a 10-minute stroll from the village. This is one of the best Hanmer Springs attractions for families as it’s home to twenty-five distinct species of animals, from lambs to llamas and a walk-in wallaby enclosure. The kids are encouraged to handfeed the wallabies and other farm animals. What a delight for little marsupial fans! Pack a picnic, watch the kids jump on the trampoline and enjoy the tranquil surroundings, as your new friends graze close by.  

 

Best Hanmer Springs attractions for teens 

Treat the teens to an off-road quad bike experience where they’ll forge streams, tackle bumps, and plough through mud. This is one of the more adventurous things to do in Hanmer Springs. The 2-hour tour with the expert guides at Hanmer Springs Quad Biking Tours caters for ages sixteen and above, with absolutely no prior experience needed. Young kids from age four, can jump into an off-road buggy with a parent and enjoy the non-stop thrills too of this rugged back country, most visitors miss. 

 

Best Hanmer Springs Cheap Eats 

Family holidays should mean a break from cooking, without breaking the bank. For reasonably priced, tasty takeout, check out the menu at PJ’s (who claim to make the best burger in Canterbury). Using locally sourced meat and produce, the PJ signature burger combines Prime North Canterbury beef, cheddar cheese, lettuce, fresh tomato, relish and their very own secret sauce. Visitors consistently rate PJ’s as one of the best burger places to eat in Hanmer Springs. The fish and chips are great too, especially for fussy eaters. 

The sweetest little spot in Hanmer Springs is the famous Fudge Shop on the Conical Hill Road. This team have been churning out mouth-watering sugar, spice and all fudge nice, for 20 years. The kids will squeal over the rainbow of colours displayed behind the counter. Imagine a buttery square of rich gingernut crumble, salted caramel or for a New Zealand twist, pineapple lump fudge. Oh my! Add this decadent den to your Hanmer Springs to do list.   

With so many family-oriented things to do in Hanmer Springs, ask the Bella Vista team for recommendations. They can also book private group tours on your behalf and suggest family-friendly places to eat in Hanmer Springs. 


Six epic Franz Josef walks


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Glacier country serves up far more treats than just the Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk and heli-hiking. Look beyond the alpine vistas and you’ll discover mirror-like lakes, ocean views, cascading waterfalls, daisy-laden meadows and hidden forest trails well off the beaten track. Here’s a guide to the best Franz Josef walking tracks, whatever your interests.  

 

Best glacier views without a helicopter:  Alex Knob Track (8-hour return) 

Accessed from the Glacier Access Road, just south of the Waiho River Bridge, this full day 17-kilometre hike is quite the gut buster and one of the best all-day things to do in Franz Josef. The upside however are the killer Franz Josef Glacier views you’ll be rewarded with on reaching the Alex Knob summit. Leave the more pedestrian sightseeing trails behind and take the zigzag track past rimu, r?t? and k?mahi forest and through alpine meadows to the Rata Lookout.  From there, follow the trail markers to the summit enjoying wider views of glaciers and the Tasman Sea. Climb past the turn-off to Lake Wombat, and the magnificent Franz Josef will come into frame. Push onto the Christmas Lookout and the mighty Alex Knob summit for the best views without flying! 

 

Best West Coast views and wildlife: Okarito Trig walk (1.5 hours) 

For unbeatable views of the West Coast and Southern Alps, drive 25 minutes seaward to the tiny settlement of Okarito. Jump on the Wetland trail before taking the well-graded Okarito Trig track up to a viewpoint overlooking Westland Tai Poutini National Park. Enjoy views on a clear day of Aoraki Mount Cook, Mount Tasman, the Southern Alps, serene lagoons and the West Coast. Combine your hike with a guided kayak tour across the serene Lake Mapourika, through a hidden estuary to the Jurassic-like Okarito State Forest and the Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary. Your knowledgeable local guide will point out the unique wetland birds like the graceful kotoku or white heron. The lagoon’s habitat hosts more than 76 species of birds including the endangered royal spoonbill, so pack your binoculars.  

 

Best underground walk: Tartare Tunnels walk (1 hr 20 min return

Discover the picturesque Tartare Gorge, glow worms and abandoned moss-covered water tunnels on the 4-kilometre Tartare Tunnels Walk. The trailhead at the end of Cowan Street follows an old road that once led to a hydroelectric power station. Walk past the Callery Walk junction and continue climbing until you drop down into the Tartare Gorge.  

A steep and narrow forest climb from the gorge lookout, reveals the disused tunnels dripping with ankle-deep water and your very own echo-chamber. Top tip: Wear sturdy footwear and a head torch to enter the tunnels then turn off the light to discover your very own reception committee; hundreds of luminous glow worms!  

 

Most instagrammable track: Lake Matheson (1h 30 min return) 

Famous for its mirror-perfect reflections of New Zealand's highest mountains, Aoraki Mt Cook and Mt Tasman, the Lake Matheson track attracts coach loads of visitors. But with international tourists in short supply, New Zealanders’ currently have this serene spot all to themselves. Lake Matheson is the perfect all-weather walk serving up picture-perfect views, just a 30-minute drive from the Bella Vista motel. Add this short yet picturesque hike to your ‘Franz Josef things to do’ list. 

 

Best chance of Kiwi spotting: The West Coast Wildlife Centre 

This Franz Josef conservation centre excels at breeding Rowi Kiwi, a rare species of New Zealand’s national bird, and the endangered Tuatara. Take a walk through this attraction on a rainy-day as their guided tours are run indoors.  There’s a dark house to view kiwi’s, a small cinema which screens West Coast documentaries and an indoor glacier experience, making this one of the best Franz Josef things to do with kids.  

 

Pakihi walk (30 minutes return) 

You’ll rarely spot kiwi on any Franz Josef walking tracks, but this area is home to the rarest species of them all, the little Okarito Brown 

At the trailhead, check out the informative panels before the route takes you across the Pakihi wetland and gently ascends through kamahi and rimu forest to a lookout. Here you’ll enjoy panoramic coastal, rainforest and Okarito Lagoon views, framed by the Southern Alps and Aoraki Mount Cook. 

Whatever your timeframe or fitness level, there’s walks in Franz Josef to suit you. Just ask the Bella Vista team for hiking suggestions and they’ll steer you in the right direction.