Alanna dennis and her family took a trip to the south island alpine township of hanmer springs, lured by the promise of crisp mountain air and relaxation.
Travelling with our toddlers has always been tricky – but a short domestic plane ride from Auckland to Christchurch would be manageable, we told ourselves. We cosied up on the flight – 20-month-old Zac on my lap and Dad with three-and-a-half-year-old Ted, window-seat ready. Despite the view, Ted, passionate about skeletons, was not happy one of his Lego ‘skeles’ was packed away in our checked baggage. He was not prepared to settle for one of the other 10 varieties of Lego skeleton that we actually did remember, declaring over and over to the cabin, “I want my happy-face-wobbly-arm skeleton!”. Nevertheless we emerged at Christchurch airport in good spirits and set off in our hire car on the two-hour scenic drive. Both kids fell asleep immediately, which was a win! The drive was beautiful – stunning crystal coloured waters and clear blue skies built our anticipation for the adventures ahead.
Hanmer Springs was peaceful indeed. The tiny spa town is built around a hot spring that was discovered in the 19th century. We drove down the main road past the shops, thermal pools and resturants, and checked into Greenacres Alpine Chalets and Villas – a mere 350m from the Hanmer Village. We were spoilt with a very large self-contained and fully equipped two bedroom chalet, complete with spectacular views out to the mountains.
Testing the waters
Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa feels like a tropical resort, with pools, sun loungers and giant umbrellas everywhere, as well as green open spaces, garden picnic areas and tourists from around the world. We headed to the kids’ area first, complete with tuatara slide, water jets and an impressive cave behind a waterfall. The kids enjoyed the anticipation of a high dumping bucket which sporadically dropped water onto the people in the pool below. After a lengthy play we climbed a mini staircase to discover our own private pool, tucked away with other little saunas and steam rooms. The view of the native gardens outside gave us a sense of seclusion and tranquility – a world away from everyone else.
The boys wanted to try every pool on the way out of the complex, so we obliged, hopping in and out of relaxing rock pools and soothing sulphur pools. Hanmer’s thermal waters really did feel magically calming. The sulphur pools are 40-42 degrees but are rich in minerals and popular for treating rheumatic conditions and paraplegia, and can help heal bone fractures and soft tissue injuries. The water is completely natural, coming straight from the nearby thermal bore, but the heat means they’re not recommended for pregnant women or babies and toddlers. There was, however, a pool to suit everyone. Our kids loved clambering over rocks amongst bubbling rapids, and older children would be excited to try the incredible-looking hydroslides or take on the dizzying SuperBowl ride.
Tasting the elements
We headed across the street to a restaurant called Fire & Ice for dinner, which is renowned for its kid-friendly atmosphere. It didn’t disappoint. The boys climbed around in the custom playground until their dinner was served and a free WiFi connection helped keep them happy on an iPad until we had finished ours. The food was delicious, and we enjoyed al fresco dining in the night air.
Saturday morning we all loved riding our Village Cruiser (a bicycle built for six!) around the township, taking in the scenery. We carefully shared the road with drivers – a slow speed limit is observed for the many tourists on foot or bike. We then played a round of mini golf at Alpine Crazy Putt. We made up our own rules, allowing the boys to roll/hit/throw the balls through the crazy fun loop-de-loops, and they were excited to see just where a ball would magically appear.
After lunch in town and a siesta back at the chalet, the Hanmer Springs Animal Park was next on our list. Entering the park was incredible. It appeared small, but opened up before our eyes – 20 acres of peaceful farm framed with magical mountain views. There were ducks, deer, pigs, alpacas, horses, wallabies and lambs. We hand-fed special food to some of the animals and enjoyed ice cream on the wide decks at the cafe after our farm adventures. That evening we had a takeaway dinner at our chalet, and took a peaceful walk at sunset around the grounds.
We made the journey home to Auckland the next morning, stopping in Christchurch to explore the amazing Margaret Mahy playground. Flying home we all enjoyed sitting down for a rest, after an action-packed couple of days.
|Alanna Dennis is OHbaby! Magazine’s art director and would like to thank Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa for her family’s adventure-filled weekend.|