Hanmer Springs Tourist Attractions
140km north of Christchurch, situated in a sheltered hollow at an altitude of 366 m, is the spa and holiday resort of Hanmer Springs (pop. 1,200), noted for its abundant thermal springs. It is a quiet little place, surrounded by Hanmer Forest, with the hills of the Hanmer Range (skiing in winter) as a backdrop.The springs, which had long been used by the Maoris for therapeutic purposes, are said to have been discovered in 1859 by the manager of a farm at Culverton. Soon afterwards the government built a sanatorium, a psychiatric clinic and a soldiers' convalescent home.
For adventurous visitors there are jet-boat trips and white-water rafting on the nearby Waiau River, as well as bungee jumping from the 31m high bridge over the river.
In summer all-terrain vehicles can travel from Hanmer Springs to the remote Molesworth Station, the largest in New Zealand. This former sheep farm with some 1800 sq.km of grazing land has gradually been acquired by the state. In the past repeated burning of the grass, overgrazing and a plague of rabbits led to severe erosion. Part of the land has now been improved on sound ecological principles and provides grazing for cattle rather than sheep.
Hanmer Forest covers an area of 17,000 ha, much of it of natural southern beech. Various exotic species were planted by convict labor in 1902. Nowadays the new plantings are mainly of Californian pine and Douglas fir, timber from which is sold mainly in Christchurch. There are trails of varying length through the forest, and the scenery can also be seen from the 16km Forest Drive road; permission to drive on it must be obtained from the local visitor center.