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South Island Trip: Kaikoura to Christchurch

Written by Cathy Siegismund
March 2002

After two enjoyable days in Kaikoura, and with it flagged as a place we need to revisit, we set off for Hamner Springs. We had a day and a half until my horse trek.

We had heard that Hamner Springs was a great place and one that we should visit. Hamner Springs is a very cute little mountain town. There is a small ski area and a hot springs, which seem to be one of the biggest tourist draws. We stayed in Hamner Springs for two nights at a great home with two guest cottages, the owners of which had a very cute yellow lab we befriended. During our stay in Hamner Springs, we visited the hot springs, had a fantastic dinner at the Old Post Office, and went for a hike.

Surrounding valley near Hamner Springs

On March 15, we drove to the tiny town of Hurunui where Ken dropped me off and I would meet the guides and other riders on the horse trek. I was participating in a 9-day horse trek with Hurunui Horse Treks. The trek was from Hamner Springs to Kaikoura, called the Mountain to the Sea Trek.

Cath and her horse Jam on the horse trek

To see more go to the Hurunui Horse Trek Photo Gallery

After Ken dropped me off at the Hurunui Hotel, he took off for 9 days to explore some of the adrenaline junkie activities in New Zealand. He had called a couple of paragliding outfits in Christchurch from Hamner Springs, so he headed to Christchurch, where he spent one night.

Ken's solo tour around the South Island

He tried to go paragliding, but for two days the winds were too high.

As the winds were not cooperating in Christchurch, Ken took off to try and see Mt. Cook. Mt. Cook is a peak in the Southern Alps, and the highest mountain in New Zealand at 12,316 feet (3754m). Ken drove west and into the mountainous interior of the South Island. When he arrived at Mount Cook, however, it was so overcast he couldn't see the mountain. He did go to the visitors' center, and then drove to Omarama. Omarama is very small town, but located in a beautiful setting. It is just about in the middle of the South Island in a large valley, surrounded by mountains.

Ken spent one night in Omarama and took a glider flight with Alpine Soaring

The pictures are from Alpine Soaring's Web site. Check it out for more great photos of the area, or if you are interested in a glider flight in Omarama.

While in Omarama, Ken received a call from Drew saying he, Vernita and Marc & Teri were in Queenstown and Ken should come down and play.

Teri, Drew, Marc, Ken and Vernita at the Queenstown Gondola (Photo by Vernita Lytle)

Ken spent two nights in Queenstown with the gang and went luging, went off-road motorcycling, and enjoyed some of the fine Queenstown restaurants.


Ken, Drew and Marc biking in Queenstown


Ken off-road biking

The group then took off for the nearby town of Wanaka, about an hours drive away. Wanaka is a small town of about 3500 people but is a popular Kiwi vacation spot with a lake summer and a ski hill it has tourists all year. Wanaka sits at the end of Lake Wanaka and couldn't be in a more beautiful setting, with several nearby mountain ranges and national parks.

For some reason, the small town of Wanaka is a center of WWII memorabilia. There is an air museum and the New Zealand Fighter Pilot's Museum, which Ken visited. Wanaka is also the site of Warbirds over Wanaka, a huge air show, which occurs every 2 years and features WWII aircraft.

Ken also went to Puzzle World, a puzzle theme park, which he thought was also worth the stop.

Wanaka's Puzzle World

Puzzle World had entertaining mazes, optical illusions and puzzles.

Ken, Drew and Marc messing around at Puzzle World (Photo by Vernita Lytle)

Ken left Wanaka over Haast Pass and headed up the west coast to try and see the Fox Glacier.  The two most famous glaciers in New Zealand are Fox and Franz Josef. Nowhere else in the world, at this latitude, have glaciers advanced so close to the sea. The glaciers are at such a low latitude that in some places it is next to the rain forest and even has Keas, the New Zealand alpine parrot.


Ken arrived at Fox Glacier at 1:57pm in the afternoon, and managed to get on a 2pm hike and tour of the glacier.



Pictures of Fox Glacier

He left the glacier, and drove up the west coast to Hokitika, where he stayed. The next day Ken started heading back to the east coast to meet me. He drove over Arthur's Pass, in the pouring rain, back to Christchurch, where he stayed in a B&B for two nights. The winds were still not cooperating for paragliding, but he did go through paragliding ground school.

Ken met me back in Kaikoura, at the Kahutara Homestead After lunch and saying goodbye to my horse trek pals, we set off for Christchurch. We arrived in the early evening and after checking in to a hotel, went out for dinner. Surprisingly, we had an outstanding Mexican dinner at La Bamba.



Downtown Christchurch

The next morning, we did a little sightseeing around downtown Christchurch. As we only had a few more days until we had to be in Queenstown, we left mid-morning to continue our way down the east coast.

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