Tourist hotspots for inland route from Christchurch to Picton
With the fastest route along SH1 between Picton and Christchurch closed for the foreseeable future, if you're planning to do this journey with kids on board, you'll need to plan your journey well.
This route is slower than the SH1 journey so be patient – which is hard when you have kids with you. Take plenty of stops so that everyone can let off steam. Here are some ideas to help you (read in reverse for a southbound trip.)
If you've managed to get on the road early and haven't bothered with breakfast, The Nor'Wester in Amberley is a great place to stop.
Depending on where your journey started, it's only about 45-50 mins north of Christchurch so if breakfast doesn't work, you could just grab a takeaway coffee and stock up on some picnic supplies from the counter food for a proper break later in your journey.
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Once you're on SH7, it's worth taking a slight detour into Hanmer Springs. It might add 15 minutes to your journey but there are lots of options for energy busting activities.
If you have time, everyone could really stretch their legs with a walk up Conical Hill, otherwise you might just want to let the kids run around at a playground.
Whatever the weather is like, pack you're togs and towels in a handy spot and visit the Thermal Pools & Spa. Your only problem might be getting the kids back in the car. Take your own food in or you can buy food at the onsite cafe.
Just over 200km from Christchurch (roughly halfway between Chrisitchurch and Picton) Springs Junction has been recommended as a stopping off place. There isn't a particular business that's been suggested but if you have your own food, stop for a snack or picnic and let the kids run around near the creek.
Further north, Maruia Falls is signposted from the main road and is an easy, five-minute, buggy-friendly walk from the car park. There are also picnic tables and toilets on site.
The Red Barn Cafe is just under 10km north of Murchison and is another good option for letting the kids loose and perhaps stopping for something to eat if you haven't taken food with you. For kids that like animals, there's an animal park attached which you pay to enter.
St Arnaud is in the heart of the Nelson Lakes area and Lake Rotoiti is easily accessible from SH63. Whether you pull over for a paddle, to throw stones into the water or have something to eat on the lake side, see the 'top tip' below and be prepared with sand fly repellent. If you have time to spare and feel like actually getting out onto the Lake, call ahead to organise a 1 hour return boat trip to Whiskey Falls.
TOP TIP: take sandfly repellent with you as many of these inland stopping points can be prone to sandflies. Make sure that you've covered your kids up in clothes and/or repellent before they get out of the car, so that they're not moaning for the rest of your trip!
If you're on your way to Mapua rather than Picton, think about stopping at Hoglund Glass but phone first to see if they're blowing glass on the day you're passing through.
Dinah Cohen writes about finding things to do with kids around New Zealand at Kids On Board.