This road trip loop takes in mountain views, historic gold towns, the wild, South Island west coast and some of the best natural hot pools in the country. You could easily choose to extend your stay in any one of these stops and make the trip last a week with plenty more to see and do.
From the plains of Christchurch to mountain hot springs
Whether you’ve flown into Christchurch, the South Island’s most metropolitan city, or arrived after taking in other stops on the way from Picton heading up into the hills provides a sense of adventure not to mention some Instagram-worthy views.
It’s just over an hour and a half’s drive from Christchurch to Hamner, and you’ll pass beaches and wide-open farmland as well as a scattering of vineyards on your trip north.
On arrival you’re spoilt for choice for activities. There are the world famous hot springs, but there are also Forest walks, horse trekking, trout fishing, jet boating, bungy jumping and even golf to enjoy in picturesque surrounds.
Another hour down the road brings you to the high point of this alpine road, 907m up and following an old Maori trade route. If you’re keen on seeing more of the landscape up close, there are plenty of both long and short DOC walks in the area.
Continuing on, you’ll pass through Reefton. The Town of Light still holds a 1900’s feel in much of its architecture and boasts of being the first place in New Zealand to have public electricity. There is an excellent i-site with a small gold-mine replica and some great interactive displays.
Your final destination, another hour away, is arguable the heart of the West Coast. Greymouth is the biggest town this side of the mountains. Like Reefton it is steeped with gold mining history and you can experience it at the faithfully recreated European pioneer town Shantytown.
If you haven’t had enough adventure on your way to town, there are more walks, rafting and caving, as well as sea fishing, fly fishing, and more. Or if you fancy something a little more sedate to end the day, a tour of the local brewery Monteith’s, is a great way to unwind.
There is a big range of accommodation, from lodges, to backpackers, along with a number of camping areas and freedom campsites for those in self-contained transport. Please respect the restrictions and responsibilities of using these areas.
It’s only an hour-long drive between the coast and the mountains, but this stretch of highway is one of the loveliest on earth. Flat planes give way to snow-capped mountains and if you’re adventurous, there are some epic walking tracks with magnificent views of rivers, lakes and mountains around every bend. Do note however that this area is for experienced backcountry trampers only, and in winter it’s often covered in snow. Do check access and weather before you drive.
While there isn’t the bustling town centre of some South Island towns, if you want to see some of the world’s most magical mountains up close, it’s worth doing a longer walk and staying a night in this small village.
From here it’s only an hour back down the hills towards the plains of Christchurch where you can flick back through some of the best photos of your trip.
Happy travels from all of us at _Mode.