Hanmer Springs is well known for its thermal pools but the surrounding area has so much more to offer those wanting to experience the New Zealand high country. At 400m above sea level, it takes just 10 minutes to drive to a point above the bushline to enjoy stunning views, wild rivers, snow-capped mountains and alpine walks. For those with a day to spare, Chris Preston from Amuri Estate Retreat knows the best way to spend it.
0800 Pack a good lunch, lots of water and a few clothing layers, jump in the car and take the 10 minute drive up the Clarence Valley Road to Jacks Pass. At the pass take the time to read the local information board and look out over the Hanmer Basin. You have two options here. On your right (looking to the Clarence Valley) you have the more well-used track that leads to Mt Isobel (1324m) and to the left the less-used, but just as spectacular, track to Dumblane (1303m).
0830 I recommend Dumblane. The first 30 minutes takes you through low alpine shrubs and grasses. The climb is steady but not hard and as you are above the bush line already you get the benefit of the expanding views.
0900 At this point you will begin to get bigger views of both the Hanmer Basin and the Clarence River. The track crests and you get some relief from climbing and drop down into a shallow basin before starting your assault on Dumblane. This is a good time for a snack and to shelter from the wind.
1000 The next stage takes you to the summit. It is a gentle but steady climb and at this point you are in true alpine country – don’t hesitate to pull on your jacket if you need to. It can get cold and windy and in April it can even have snow at this height. The track is poled so you should not have any problem finding it.
1130 Summit! Phew, stunning views of the Hanmer Basin and beyond into North Canterbury, down the Clarence River Valley and the high peaks of the Southern Alps to the west and south. There are few places in New Zealand that you can get this sort of view after a 2-3hr walk. Pick a sheltered spot, take out lunch, explore the tops and enjoy the setting.
1230 Time to head back, quicker and easier but be careful to take your time and enjoy the views as you go.
1430 Back at the car, it’s time to take a refreshing dip in the Clarence River just five minutes’ drive down the hill. It’s cold and fast flowing so stick close to the bank.
1530 Back to Hanmer Springs and the warmer water of the thermal pools.
Mt Isobel takes a similar amount of time as Dumblane, but because there’s a good track in place if you hoof it you can be there and back in a little more than three hours. From the summit you’ll enjoy panoramic views of the Hanmer Basin. But be warned: ice axe and crampons may be necessary in winter and snowdrifts can be deep.