This is a question coming from someone who has experience driving on the right side of the road in a country without hairpin roads ( Canada), and will have driven several weeks on the North Island, and hopefully still around and with more experience by then.... After staying in the Mapua / Nelson we have 4 days left before taking the plane back home from Christchurch. We are planning to spend our last two nights in Christchurch. This leaves two nights for another visit. We want it to be enjoyable and not too stressful.
The choices I can see are either to drive through Hanmer Springs and spend 2 nights there and from there drive straight to Christchurch. Or to drive from Mapua via Blenheim, Kaikoura to Akaroa and stay there for 2 nights, unless Mapua - Akaroa is too long a drive for one day ?
I can see that Hanmer Springs in an elevated area, but can't tell if it is hilly vs mountainous?
We would like to take the route with the most interesting sights as long as the drive is not a difficult / potentially dangerous one. Your help is greatly appreciated!
Hanmer springs is a beautiful area surrounded by mountains and you have a very scenic drive around. You can do some hiking if you like and of course visit some of the pools
Hanmer has very windy road, but not a difficult drive
It is a long drive between Mapua and Akaroa, so my preference will be Hanmer springs
Hi again wellnessyoga .. yes, I agree with shavy. Doing the Mapua-Akaroa drive is too long to do in a day, comfortably! Hanmer Springs is beautiful, and well worth stopping at, to soak in the hot pools.
Another option to consider is to drive via Blenheim and stop a night, or two, in Kaikoura, the whale watching/dolphin swimming centre of the South Island.
While you are in Christchurch, be sure to take the gondola ride up the Port Hills, for a great view of Lyttelton and Banks Peninsula. I live in Wellington, but was there on holiday 2 weeks ago.
As you will find, driving in NZ is not particularly difficult or dangerous, but we don't have the roading infrastructure of other more populated countries. Traffic is quite sparse in places and at many times of the year. Just remember to keep left, and if in doubt, slow down! I drove from Vancouver to Whistler a few years ago, on the "wrong" side of the road, for me! I had no problem! You should be fine :)
Thank you both shavy and rogerW1nz for your input! I think that driving via Hanmer Springs will work best for us and soaking in the hot springs sounds like a great change of pace.