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Forest Parks in the Hanmer / North Canterbury Region

North Canterbury boasts two of New Zealand's 20 Forest Parks, of which seven are in the South Island. These Parks administered by the Department of Conservation (DOC). These parks demonstrate a diversity of topography and wildlife and provide opportunity for the casual tourist, recreational seeker, photographer, nature-lover, tramper, hunter and angler alike. This can be seen in the two parks in North Canterbury.

Hanmer Forest
The Hanmer Forest is one of the oldest exotic forests in the country. Originally a treeless tussock valley the forest was begun in 1902 using convict labour as an experiment to assess its viability in supplying the local Christchurch market. The diversity of trees in the area, some of massive size, provides a wonderful opportunity for visitors to walk several forest walk tracks.

The forest now covers about 17,000 hectares, encompassing indigenous mountain beech (tawhai) forests, scrub and sub-alpine flora along with the early exotic plantings providing a variety of colour and interest. The early exotics planted by prison labour include conifers such as European and Japanese larch, Corsican and Austrian pines, radiata pine and Norway spruce, while broadleaf varieties such as European alder, silver birch, rowan and sycamore are also to be found. Plantings these days are mainly radiata pine and Douglas fir to supply mainly local market needs. 

Native birds are readily seen including the bellbird (korimako), fantail (piwakawaka), tomtit (miro-miro), grey warbler (riroriro), rifleman (titipounamu), tui, kereru and the New Zealand falcon (karearea).

Walking tracks in the area include the following:

  • Woodland Walk (45 minutes return)
  • Forest Walk (1 hour return)
  • Conical Hill (1 hour return)
  • Nature Trail (30 minutes return)
  • Waterfall Track (3 hours return)
  • Mt Isobel Track (5 hours return)
  • Chatterton River Track (2.5 hours round trip)
Further information can be gained from the local information centre.

Lake Sumner Forest Park
Lake Sumner Forest Park consists of 102,296 hectares of mountainous land, half of which is forested with mainly red, silver and mountain beech trees. Interestingly, Lake Sumner itself, along with several other lakes is not part of the Park!

It is very popular for its challenging tramping, climbing and hunting opportunities. One of the most famous walks follows the route of the ancient Maori greenstone trail, and later developed by gold miners in the 1860s on route to the diggings over the West Coast. This tramp is approximately 4 days and takes the tramper through the Harper Pass. Another popular walk is one that takes the tramper over the Kiwi Saddle to Lake Sumner itself, and takes about two days. Huts are provided for trampers to use on both these tracks.

The Lake Sumner area with its majestic alpine views is also renowned for its flora and fauna, providing ample opportunity for the nature-lover, photographer, tramper, fisherman and hunter alike. Native birds, including the kiwi, woodpigeon, kaka, kea and bellbird, abound in the region.

Several hot springs provide further interest and pleasure.

Hanmer Springs Helicopters is able to provide access to some of the most remote and exciting areas to assist you in pursuing your particular interest in this amazing area.

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