Hot Steamy

Hanmer Springs Thermal Reserve, 1 Jacks Pass Road (& 0800/442-663 in NZ, or 03/315-7511; www.hotfun.co.nz), have attracted visitors for over 100 years. The complex boasts seven open-air thermal pools, three sulfur pools, sauna and steam rooms with plunge pool, four private thermal suites, a 25m heated freshwater pool, a family activity pool with two waterslides, a gym, and therapeutic massage facilities. The water in the pools is maintained at a temperature between 89.6 °F and 104°F (32°C-40°C). The Garden House Café overlooks the whole complex. The pools are open daily from 10am to 9pm. Adults pay NZ$10 (US$5.50) admission or NZ$12 (US$6.60) for a day pass; children pay NZ$5 (US$2.75). Now attracting over 500,000 visitors a year, the springs are planning a NZ$1 million (US$550,000) development to expand current facilities. This will include additional thermal pools and picnic areas.

Hanmer Springs is 11/2 hours northeast of Christchurch. It's a picturesque drive, but be careful in winter, when icy conditions can make the roads dangerous. Take Highway 1 out of Christchurch and go 45 minutes to the left-hand Hanmer turnoff just over the Waipara River Bridge. It's well signposted the rest of the way. If you don't have a car, call the Hanmer Connection (& 0800/377-378 in NZ, or 03/315-7575), which operates daily between Christchurch and Hanmer. Bookings are essential. It costs NZ$25 (US$14) one-way, NZ$45 (US$25) round-trip.

The Hurunui Visitor Information Centre, Amuri Avenue (& 03/3157128; fax 03/315-7658; www.hurunui.com), is open daily from 10am to 5pm.

If you'd like to stay overnight in Hanmer Springs, try the Cheltenham House dd, 13 Cheltenham St. (& 03/315-7545; www.cheltenham. co.nz). Len and Maree Earl have 32 years' worth of local knowledge and an elegant 1930s home with six sunny, spacious bedrooms; central heating and electric blankets will insulate you against those icy, 14°F (-10°C) winter mornings. The house is set in large gardens, a 2-minute stroll to the Thermal Springs. This is great style at an unbelievably good price— NZ$140 to $200 a night (US$77-$110). Another good B&B option is Albergo Hanmer, 88 Rippingale Rd., Hanmer (& and fax 03/315-7428; www.albergohanmer.com), which has three spacious rooms. The new Heritage Hanmer Springs, 1 Conical Hill Rd. (& 0800/368-888 in NZ, or 03/315-7021; www.heritagehotels.co.nz), is another excellent choice, with 65 stylish rooms from NZ$200 (US$110).

The Old Post Office Restaurant (& 03/315-7461) is probably the best restaurant in Hanmer, and by all accounts it could give plenty of city establishments a run for their money. Main courses run NZ$28 (US$15). It's open daily from 6pm until late; reservations are essential.

WALKING ON THE WILD SIDE

Snow, avalanches, and over 4,000mm (160 in.) of rain a year have their impact on the walking tracks here. Despite these changing conditions, the area has numerous 2- to 3-day tramps and many shorter walks that bring you up close to thundering waterfalls, wild rivers, dripping beech forests, and a wealth of birdlife.

A lot of them are also tough going and require a degree of skill in personal navigation using maps and compasses. Make sure you're tackling something within the range of your ability, and no matter what the weather is like when you set off, always bring plenty of warm clothing. Pick up the Department of Conservation's two brochures, Walks in Arthur's Pass National Park and Arthur's Pass Village Historic Walk, at the visitor center.

Two short walks worth doing are Devil's Punchbowl Waterfall fjf and Bridal Veil. Each takes 1 to 1 Vi hours. The historic village walk ($ is a pretty 1 ^-hour wander that can be accomplished easily if you've stopped off at Arthur's Pass on the return TranzAlpine journey.

WHERE TO STAY

For the modest sum of NZ$100 to $115 (US$55-$63), you can take a bed at Arthur's Pass Chalet Restaurant & Accommodation, Main Road (& 03/3189236; www.arthurspass.co.nz). Its 11 units are right in the heart of the little township.

Grasmere Lodge This is the New Zealand equivalent of an English country-house hotel where an intimate number of guests receive the very best personal service. It's also a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group, and hosts Oliver Newbegin and his wife, Vicki Harraway, are experts in unobtrusive pampering. Six rooms in the original lodge and six suites in the grand new homestead spare nothing in comfort. All of the spacious units have

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