The Alpine Pacific Touring Route is one of our favorite self-drive South Island touring routes, jammed packed with a fantastic variety of great experiences and incredible sights.
The starting point of our suggested 3-day tour is Christchurch, although others will start at Hanmer Springs after driving across the Lewis Pass from Greymouth or Reefton on the West Coast. Or, those visiting the northern South Island vineyards of Marlborough will be able to drive south from Blenheim via the newly re-opened coastal highway and start at Kaikōura.
Christchurch to Hanmer Springs via Waipara Valley
Drive: 90 minutes, 84-miles
Depart Christchurch and head drive north to the Waipara Valley, one of New Zealand's premier wine regions famous for its unique landscape and valleys.
Enjoy some wine tastings and lunch at one of North Canterbury's vineyards.
Waiau Valley Vineyards.
Head back south for a short distance to join State Highway 7 and continue further into the Hurunui region, joining the Waiau River as you near Hanmer Springs.
Before reaching Hanmer, make a stop to jet boat the length of the spectacular Waiau Gorge with Hanmer Springs Attractions. If you're feeling extra adventurous, you can wrestle the rapids on a white-water rafting trip, or tackle river crossings, mud, dust and dirt on a four-wheel quad bike.
Jet boat on the Waiau River.
Or navigate half of the journey by inflatable raft and return by jet boat.
The adrenalin rush half!
End your first day at New Zealand’s premier alpine spa destination, the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa. Experience a wide range of activities, from soothing indulgence to exciting family fun. Enjoy the rock and sulphur pools and a popular family activity area - complete with water slides.
Travel Tip: Because of its close proximity to Christchurch, in the summer and school vacations, Hanmer Springs can be quite busy with family groups. We'll help you navigate these peaks when we help plan your itinerary, so you'll enjoy the peace and calm of Hanmer and its surroundings.
The Pools at Hanmer Springs.
Hanmer Springs to Kaikōura
Drive: 2 hours, 80-miles
Leave Hanmer Springs the way you came, following the Waiau River and through the Inland Scenic Route, until you approach the picturesque seaside village of Kaikōura. Explore the maritime vibes of Kaikōura's main street before getting up close and personal with Kaikōura's sea life.
The coastal town of Kaikōura with the Kaikōura Ranges providing a spectacular backdrop.
Whale Watch Kaikōura conducts daily tours observing sperm, blue and humpback whales in their natural habitat, while Encounter Kaikōura offer the opportunity to swim with dolphins and explore the nearby albatross colony.
Humpback Whale, Kaikōura.
Be sure to sample nature's ocean larder while in Kaikōura. Enjoy local produce with a delicious seafood feast at The Pier Hotel. Or for a truly iconic Kaikōura experience, check out the famous Nins Bin, offering organic crayfish from a caravan just 20 minutes north of the township.
For a chance to stretch the legs and view some amazing scenery, try out one of the many Kaikōura coastal walks. Observe seals and seabirds, explore historic pā (Maori Village) and whaling sites and enjoy cliff top views of the sea and mountains. Or dive into some local history at the Kaikōura Museum, home to numerous interesting, quirky and uniquely Kaikōura exhibits.
Mangamaunu, one of the surf breaks on this stretch of coast.
Kaikōura returning to Christchurch
Drive: 2.5 hours, 126-miles
Beginning your final day, savour the first 14-miles on your drive before the road peels away from the coast. Traverse the Hundalee Hills as you make your way south to Cheviot and the Two Rivers Gallery & Café, a tastefully converted garage with an extensive art collective inside and a native garden outside.
Instead of continuing on the main road, take a left at McQueen Street to Gore Bay, one of the region's most underrated assets. This hidden paradise boasts incredible surf, a rugged beach and limited cellphone reception, adding to the sense of escape. From here take the Tweedies Gully walk up through the bush where your reward is The Cathedrals, partially eroded siltstone pillars that look out over the bay.
The Cathedrals at Gore Bay.
Coastal farmlands scenery.
Rural panorama, Cheviot, North Canterbury.
While traveling back on the main road, stop for one last wine and food fix at the award winning Black Estate winery, a family-run vineyard, cellar door and restaurant.
Make your way back through Amberley to Christchurch, reminiscing on the great times you've had on the Alpine Pacific Touring Route.
We can finesse this suggested tour according to your own special interests. Just contact Jane or Lindsay for advice about how to make the most of your visit.