Journey time: 5h:45m (including an hour for lunch at Hanmer Springs and lots of photo stops)
Kaikoura - Hanmer Springs Direct allow 2h:00m
Hanmer Springs - Christchurch Direct allow 1h:55m
Kaikoura - Christchurch Direct on SH1 allow 2h:30m
Weather: Fine and mild (Kaikoura 21°C, Hanmer Springs 23°C, Christchurch 27°C)
There are two main road options to get from Kaikoura to Christchurch. The usual is State Highway 1 which starts hugging the coast and then wends its way through scenic rural Marlborough and North Canterbury countryside.
We chose (and recommend) the inland high country route SH70.
You can get the best of both by following SH1 past the SH70 turnoff at South Bay. Follow the coast down to just past Goose Bay then backtrack to the turnoff and head inland. The coastal scenery is superb.
We head inland and the foothills of the Alps beckon.
The road is excellent but check for weather conditions in the winter as it reaches an altitude of over 1,000 metres.
In spring/early summer the broom gives the scenery a yellow tinge seen here at the Conway River valley.
Livestock, mainly cows but sometimes deer, provide a foreground for the a peep of the Alps in the distance. Skiers come to Mt Lyford in the winter.
The Waiau River crossing is quite impressive.
Turning right from SH70 to SH7 takes us to the turnoff for Hanmer Springs. Scenery is spectacular here.
The Ferry Bridge near the junction of SH7 and 7A offers the adventurous a choice of bungee jumping or jetboating. The rest of us can watch...
...and take in more great views or maybe a walk up the river.
The main feature of Hanmer Springs is the thermal pools but there are walking tracks and 4WD routes. An overnight stay is recommended if you have time.
On the journey back to Christchurch you'll follow the Waiau River and if you're lucky might spot a jetboater racing by. You'll notice the unusual limestone rock formations at Weka Pass just before SH7 joins SH1.
There's a vintage steam railway (regarded as one of the best restored tourist railways in New Zealand) that runs for 12 km along here too. See www.wekapassrailway.co.nz/ for days of operation (certain Sundays and public holidays).
next day we headed inland from Christchurch...