Once a year my father likes to treat us to a day trip to Hanmer Springs. Every year the boys look forward to it, and this year it was a surprise phone call the night before announcing that Dad had been looking forward to it all week and wanted to go the next day. So we went.
Hanmer Springs is an alpine village, a very pretty 90 minute drive from Christchurch. It is most famous for its thermal hot pools. The thermal springs were discovered by the Maori, and then by a local farmer in 1859, and in 1883 the Government Lands Department excavated the natural springs to create the first swimming pools. Over the next hundred years the pools and Hanmer have grown, and are now a popular tourist destination. Many friends prefer to stay the weekend and enjoy the walks and mountain biking in the surrounding hills and mountains, but we tend to make it a day trip.
There’s something calming, relaxing and luxurious about sitting in piping hot water up to your neck.
I remember coming to the hot pools as a child on the end of a weekend church camp at the local forest park, then it was three uninspiring hexagonal concrete pools, but we still loved it. Now, there are twelve thermal pools, three sulphur pools and a fresh-water family pool, lazy river and kids activity area, as well as two hydro-slides and a SuperBowl. The thermal water is drawn from a bore adjacent to the pool complex. This means you have to remember NOT to put your head or ears under the water!
We reckon the best time to visit is in autumn. In summer it’s too hot to sit in hot water up to your neck, in winter your feet go numb hopping between the pools and I can’t think of a good reason not to go in spring, but in autumn you’ve got the beautiful leaves changing colour. The main street is lined with lovely big trees so it makes a nice entrance to the pools.
Now that the boys are a bit older we can negotiate with them. As youngsters they wouldn’t sit still in the hot pools for long enough, which is what I like to do, and wanted to play in the kids area, which is decidedly cooler! This time we took a picnic, having seen others do so, and this was a great idea. It broke the day up nicely giving us two long swims. There’s lots of picnic and seating within the pool complex, and as the cafe is really bad, it’s the much better option. We stopped for coffee and slice at the end of the day in the cafe, the staff were surly, bordering on rude, the hot drinks were very average and the slice was decidedly awful. The changing facilities could do with an upgrade too, but I’m prepared to overlook that as the pools really area fab.
We start in the hexagonal pools, move to the rock pools, then indulge the boys in the lazy river, family pool and kids playground. After lunch Dad and I took turns in the adults only (bliss!) pools and then we all sat in the incredibly hot sulphur pools before finally getting out and heading home.
This year my eldest son went on the hydroslides and SuperBowl which he’d been keen to try for a few years. He loved it and was able to ride them alone and pop back once in a while to check on us. They have cleverly positioned the family pools and an end of a rock pool close by so parents can now sit in relative warmth and keep an eye on the youngsters.
The pool complex also boasts a spa which I’d LOVE to try……one day.
Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools cost us $50 for a mini group (2 adults and up to 3 children) and the hydroslide cost an extra $10 for unlimited rides. The complex is open 10am-9pm every day except Christmas Day.