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A romantic break in snow-capped Hanmer Springs: just magic


September 1, 2011/12.52

Hanmer Springs
Hanmer Springs

Courtesy Vanessa Nelmes/Hurunui Tourism

Shut your eyes. Imagine lazing in a steamy hot tub with someone special. The sun is setting over the picture-postcard snow-capped mountains. Not a sound can be heard save the occasional bellbird call.
   This is 7 St James Avenue, Hanmer Springs: one of the best short holiday bases in New Zealand and in between 2011 Rugby World Cup games, this is the spot to head to recharge the batteries.
   The house is an oasis in Hanmer Springs, the home of the award-winning natural spring hot pools located just a bit north of fastest growing New Zealand wine region of Waipara, and a bit inland from the world famous whale watching area of Kaikoura.
   The whales, wine and romantic hot pools make up the Alpine Pacific Triangle—just north of Christchurch international airport, gateway to the South Island. New Zealand may be famous for its bays, beaches, brilliant snow slopes and beautiful scenery but this tiny resort town 90 minutes north of Christchurch International Airport is a slice of paradise that is fast becoming a hugely popular tourist area.
   I am in heaven in Hanmer; sprawled out, wearing a just a smile and showing an all over tan, dreaming idly, sipping on a fruity Spy Valley sauvignon blanc in this bubbly St James hot tub. I gaze out the window to a lake at my doorstep. We have a huge en suite room and a massive flat-screen TV in the lounge with a roaring gas fire. We are thoroughly enjoying this tranquil moment. Snow lies on the ground after one of the heaviest dumping in years but the resort is tailor-made for sexy romantic couples. All my worries, earthquake aftershocks and work pressures wash away leaving us numb with pleasure. We clink our glasses and discuss our next venture before a soft kiss.
   Our first step is the Powerhouse Café, run by the stunning chef Mary Holloway. She makes the best tamarillo friands in New Zealand and she can run a restaurant blindfolded. The Powerhouse is just over the road from the old Queen Mary Hospital, a former treatment centre for recovering alcoholics. It is a fitting tribute to substance addicts that the Powerhouse Café does not serve alcohol.
   We follow our meal by a bike ride around the town to explore and then have a game of squash at the camping ground before a walk to the summit of famous fir-clad Conical Hill for a breath-taking view overlooking the town.
   Leafy Hanmer—hot in summer and snowy in winter—is a resort for families, for lovers, for romantic weekends or just as a place to unwind. For thrill-seekers, the location has much to offer as well. Visitors can try their luck with fate by bungy jumping, mountain-biking, jet boating, horse trekking, skiing, snowboarding, quad biking through forests, rafting, golf and fishing. Mini-golf was about as adventurous as we got.
   As the sun sets, we make a beeline for the thermal hot pools where about half a million visitors head every year to soak their aches and pains. We just cuddle up in a quiet little hot pool to enjoy the moment while the more energetic visitors choose to fly down the new fun hydro slides. The pools have been used for 125 years but have been totally revamped in recent years and they are easily among the very best in New Zealand.
   After a wonderful evening, we saunter back to our St James Avenue haven, thankful for the trip kindly organized by Alpine Holiday Homes who knew where best to send us for our brief romantic break.—Kip Brook, Word of Mouth Media NZ

Kip Brook is an occasional contributor to Lucire, and a London bureau chief correspondent.

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