Experience the Alpine Pacific Triangle
Canterbury Road Trips
SUGGESTED TIME: 3+ DAYS
The Alpine Pacific Triangle encompasses three of Canterbury’s best recreation destinations and unique environments. The light brown hue of the Waipara valley in summer, native forest and limestone hills deep in the Hurunui and misty Kaikoura mountain ranges plummeting into the emerald ocean. Every turn will offer a new point of interest, be it a seal sleeping on the rocks, a stone cliff resembling a frog or rows of grapevines blurring into one as they flicker past your window.
You could spend a day on the trail visiting each of the main centres or a week exploring each nook, cranny and community along the way. Irrespective of your timings, here's how we recommend you do the Pacific Alpine Triangle - all you'll need is an appetite, sturdy shoes and your bathing suit.
Amberley to Hanmer Springs
Drive: 1 hour, 10 minutes, 87km
Join the trail in Amberley, 45 minutes from Christchurch and continue your way north to the Waipara Valley, one of New Zealand's premier wine regions famous for its unique terroir and valleys. Stop by Black Estate winery, perched on one such valley overlooking the rolling hills, to taste some of the regions delectable wines.
Head back south to the State Highway 7 turnoff and continue further into the Hurunui region stopping in Culverden and joining the Waiau River as you near Hanmer Springs. If you feel like you haven’t seen enough of the river don't stress, you'll see it a few more times before your journey is over, maybe even at 90km per hour from the back of a jet boat thanks to Hanmer Springs Attractions.
End your first leg on the main road into Hanmer Springs flanked by towering redwoods - home of the acclaimed Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa. Spend as long as you need here to relax and explore the surrounding walking tracks, capping off your day with a dinner at Malabar Restaurant. Lauded by critics and diners alike, Malabar provides innovative Asian cuisine that utilises the freshest and best New Zealand ingredients.
Hanmer Springs to Kaikoura
Drive: 2 hours, 6 minutes, 130km
Leave Hanmer Springs the way you came, following the Waiau River until you come to the town of the same name. What comes next is one of the most picturesque passages of the Alpine Triangle as you approach Kaikoura from the mountains to the west.
Explore the maritime vibes of Kaikoura's main street and check into your accommodation before getting up close and personal with Kaikoura's sea life. Whale Watch conduct daily tours observing sperm, blue and humpback whales to name a few, in their natural habitat while Encounter Kaikoura offer the opportunity to swim with dolphins and explore albatross colonies.
Spend as long as you wish in Kaikoura but don't leave without tasting the local delicacy, crayfish. Nin's Bin offers an organic crayfish experience perched on the grass bank in between the ocean and State Highway 1, just 20 minutes north of Kaikoura.
Kaikoura to Amberley
Drive: 1 hour, 50 minutes, 134km
Beginning your final leg, savour the first 23 kilometres' 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.
If you just can't cope with the thought of driving to Amberley and finishing your journey then take one more detour. Instead of continuing on the main road, take a left at McQueen Street to Gore Bay, one of the regions most underrated assets. This hidden paradise boasts incredible surf, a rugged beach and very little 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.
Rejoin the main road and make your way back to Amberley and Christchurch, reminiscing on the great times you've had on the Alpine Pacific Triangle.