We're just back from a great 3 days in stunning sunshine in Hanmer Springs - which is chokka with Chch holidaymakers on a weekend like this. We realised that eating out could be a crowded exercise, so we took a couple of precooked dinners with us and ate in the motel, and went out for a pretty good pub meal on the last night. You could dine at the top of the market if you want, but I wonder how much trade those boutique restaurants get outside the brief tourist seasons. They're going broke genteelly, I suspect.
Speaking of genteel, there was a lot of "Fendalton goes country" going on - Rod & Gunn jackets, $400 Ballantynes jerseys, Rieker shoes, Porsche Cayennes & Volvo station wagons, all to cruise up the main street for a latte - and a chat with your neighbours from home. I had a chuckle at seeing all this knitwear being heroically paraded in 25 deg sunshine. I managed fine in shorts and a t-shirt most of the day, though the nights were frosty.
Hanmer gets few overseas visitors, so its attractions are aimed at the domestic market - there are four motor camps, all with lots of cabin/motel options like we used, and heaps of motels, plus a well organised holiday-house rental operation. Apart from a soak in the hot pools (we only went once, it was very crowded), recreation consists of walking or mountain biking in the miles of forest trails around the town - that was really nice, and the walk up Conical Hill is well worth the half hour uphill.
The big deal for us was the first day, with fresh snow on the tops as we drove over Jacks Pass - I biked down the other side while Heather drove, into the head of Molesworth Station. That is a magnificent high country valley, and we had a really nice time driving a bit, exploring by the river, looking at the old cob buildings from the horse carriage days. (No photos of those, my batteries let me down.) We returned over Jollies Pass, which is quite a rugged steep road - it's not essential, but we liked having diesel & 4wd as we chugged quietly over large corrugations and washout patches.
So that's Hanmer - it's very pretty, but too close to Chch to be anything other than a combination fun park (2 mazes, 4 mini-golf, lots of bike rentals and takeaway food) and a second Merivale Mall. We've now seen it and had a nice time, but I doubt we'll go back soon, other than maybe for a day trip. More photos are on my Flickr site.
A 3-D view of Hanmer Springs and Molesworth beyond. Jacks Pass is at the head of the left hand valley, and Jollies Pass at the right.