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Day trips

Hurunui scenic road trip routes what to see and best things to do

  • 3 minutes

Canterbury, South Island

Uncover the hidden corners of Hurunui, north Canterbury. Either a quick day trip from Christchurch or leisurely spend several days exploring the region. There are gardens, parks and autumn colours, and sub-alpine landscapes to savour. Find the joy in fly fishing braided rivers or indulge in a wine and food foraging trail. Hurunui routes encompass hot springs and alpine passes or meander along quiet coastal communities. The classic holiday idea of going where the heart & soul suggests is tailor made for Hurunui. Side roads, detours and finding out what’s round the next corner has the making of special holiday memories.

River Access, Hurunui district side roads to quiet rivers, Gravel road, Canterbury NZ
River Access, Hurunui


  • Autumn colours is a serious contender for best season. The days are still warm and sunny, but the leaves have started to colour and early morning mists remind you of the shift of the seasons.
  • Summer warmth invites visitors to the great outdoors to experience the sweeping landscapes.
  • Spring is new green leaves unfurling on deciduous trees, lupins in bloom and cultivated gardens offering glimpses of upcoming glorious herbaceous border displays
  • Winter is cold with winter winds dropping temperatures below freezing. There is a distinct possibility of snow closing roads


The least well known alpine passes is the Lewis. A worthwhile gem introduces visitors to the thrill of traversing the Southern Alps. The Lewis pass is one of three backbone alpine passes. The passes rise and fall over the spine of the Southern Alps. Lewis Pass is a great introduction to the West Coast via the quirky town of Reefton. The Lewis Pass, unless it is the middle of summer there is always the possibility of snow dusting the road. The road usually experiences closures mid winter after a heavy snowfall.

TIP: Check road conditions before departing

West Coast Lewis Pass mountains, New Zealand
West Coast Lewis Pass mountains


  • Hurunui Hotel (1869) is the oldest hotel to continuously serve alcohol. The infamous ghost of Charlotte who died in mysterious circumstances in 1903 is well known for her meet and greet shrieks.
Maruia hot springs, Canterbury, New Zealand
Maruia hot springs, Canterbury
  • Maruia Springs Thermal Resort is delightfully rustic with a naturally shaped pool surrounded by river boulders. The spectacular mountain peaks are the icing on the cake. Terraced above the Maruia River it’s sublime to soak in mineral waters with a vast wild landscape.
  • Marble Hill Campsite (Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve is where the forest melds with river flats. Kaka are often sighted overhead and the short walks are accompanied by the thrum and roll of stones in the river water.
  • Spring is when the lupins bloom, although designated as a exotic plant pest the sheer glory of waves of purple tinted, pink washed flowers is enough for any serious instagram moment. Lupins make for great tourism poster shots of alps, rivers and ephemeral spread of spring flowers.


A trip that requires several days to thoroughly detour its 450km length.


  • Hanmer Springs with its stupendously superb geothermal springs and glorious natural walks for all age groups and fitness levels.
  • Waipara Valley with its boutique wine cellars, the North Canterbury Wine Region. The characteristic lime terroir produces award winning pinot noir. Accompanying aromatic wine is the food foraging producers of the area creating one of a kind farm to plate joy.
  • Kaikoura and the home of ecotourism and pods of whales. The marine environment produces foodie heaven from crayfish to mussels with birds, dolphins, seals plus the superstars whales a year round attraction.


This short 21km tourist drive is the classic detour. Cheviot is a small town on State Highway one. Plenty of cafes and pop up coffee stalls for road trippers. Most people miss the sign for Gore Bay and continue onto Christchurch. Gore Bay tourist drive is clearly signposted with the well known brown background tourist route / place signage. Take the detour and explore the side roads of Hurunui. [Travelling north start the trip at Domett settlement]

Touring map


  • Gore Bay while there are no lifeguards is viewed as a safer surfing beach due to two headlands providing protection from ocean currents
  • CATHEDRAL GULLY AND MANUKA BAY siltstone pillars formed by the erosion of softer rock. The well known landscapes of the badlands of Montana were formed by the same process. The eroded weathered pillars are eye catching
Gore Bay's Cathedrals Sunset New Zealand
Gore Bay’s Cathedrals Sunset
  • Viewpoint Lighthouse and remote Manuka Bay’s enormous piles of sea sculptured driftwood. The steep beach is not recommended for swimming rather for observing the power of the ocean, the elements in a secluded location where your mobile has no service
  • Hurunui River Mouth views of avid fishing buffs catching salmon before the fish embark on the river run to spawning beds. NZ Fishing describes “At the mouth the best fishing tends to be in the surf when the river is low and salmon are congregating outside the mouth waiting for a flood before running the river. Wind and tides affect which side is best to surf cast from, but if in doubt head for the south side. The best times to fish are generally on a low tide or early stages of the incoming tide. The first hour of daylight is great fishing on any tide.”
  • Port Robinson Walkway 3km (one way) track with its cliff top views.


A quiet achiever compared to New Zealand superstar wine regions of Hawkes Bay, Nelson, Marlborough and Otago the lesser known Hurunui district is home to some of the oldest vineyards in New Zealand. A surprise element for visitors is the foraging and food expeditions that accompany the wine trail.  Join Rosie, Limestone Hills on a truffle hunt. Combined with farm to plate exquisite food, unusual visitor experiences Hurunui is worth popping into before the crowds arrive.



  • Canterbury Truffle Festival, JULY Look out for truffle tastings, menus, lunches, dinners, truffle hunts and truffle days out. It’s a winter winner for lovers of the finest things in life – fine food and fine wine.
  • Boutique wineries featuring single origin wines owned and operated by family enterprises
  • A stunning vineyard is Black Estate with its winery and lunch menu that packs a punch. Pinot noir tastings among the vines is a treat or a roaring fire in the comfort of your private table.
  • Greystone Wines is an award winning organic winery. The new cellar door now boasts an eatery which offers a weekly changing set menu made from locally grown, organic and foraged produce and is headed by acclaimed chef and forager, Melany Wright.
  • Combined with the Alpine and Pacific road trip you have the making of a week leisurely exploring the Hurunui


The Hurunui District Council has a number of public toilets available for your use. You will find them in the following locations:

Amberley Domain

50 Douglas Road, Amberley


41 Hall Street, Cheviot


27A Mountain View Road, Culverden

Gore Bay

22 Cathedral Road, Gore Bay

Greta Valley (Garage)

2 Valley Road, Greta Valley

Hanmer Springs (Chisholm)

27R Chisholm Crescent, Hanmer Springs

Hanmer Springs (DOC)

103 Jollies Pass, Hanmer Springs

Hanmer Springs (Jacks Pass)

1 Jacks Pass Road, Hanmer Springs


10 Horsley Downs Road, Hawarden


17 Leithfield Road, Leithfield

Leithfield Beach

1 Lucas Drive, Leithfield

Motunau Beach

2 The Parade, Motunau Beach

Mt Lyford

98 Mt Lyford Avenue, My Lyford


15 Lyndon Street, Waiau


4 Weka Pass Road, Waikari

Waipara Domain

3 Church Road, Waipara


Unique journeys, personal adventures.

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