width=440Shut your eyes. Imagine lazing in an outdoor hot tub with someone. The sun is setting over picture postcard snow-capped mountains. Not a sound can be heard but the occasional bird chirp.

This is Braemar Lodge by Hanmer Springs, home of the award-winning natural spring hot pools; just past the fastest growing New Zealand wine region of Waipara, and a bit over from the world famous whale watching area of Kaikoura.

The whales, wine and romantic hot pools make up the Alpine Pacific Triangle - just north of Christchurch international airport, gateway to the South Island.

New Zealand is famous for its bays, beaches, brilliant snow slopes and beautiful scenery. But this tiny slice of NZ paradise is becoming a more popular tourist area.

The triangle can be covered in three or four days. It's magic. But Hanmer's the town to blob-out the longest.

To view marine life, Whale Watch Kaikoura refund 80 percent of your money if you don't get close to a big whale on a trip though they generally see whales about 98 percent of the time. Kaikoura is a special place of towering, snow capped mountains that plunge dramatically into the Pacific Ocean.

So back in Hanmer, I'm sprawled across and dreaming idly in our bubbly hot tub at Braemar Lodge, which is tailor-made for sexy romantic couples. This is the best luxury hideaway to stay in Hanmer. It is one of the finest lodges of its kinds in New Zealand at $400 night and less weekdays. It's impossible to put my finger on why Braemar, is so relaxing. They have a top chef, superb restaurant, big open fire in the lounge and happy staff. Mandy looked after us a treat and she is one of the best.

We had a massive new suite and as the sun was setting we discretely slip out of our clothes and slithered into our private outdoor hot-tub. Sipping fruity aromatic Spy Valley sauvignon blanc, our cares and work pressures wash away leaving us numb with pleasure.

The next morning it only gets better. Gentle South African-born Trilby runs the spa at Braemar Lodge and tells me I need to see a kinesiologist because my neck is too tense. I felt relaxed everywhere else! After facial and body massages we cruise back to Hanmer, five minutes drive away, for a coffee.

The place to go for a latte and the best tamarillo friand in New Zealand is the Powerhouse Cafe. Run by Mary Holloway it ranks as one of the finest cafes in the country with brilliant service. It is across the road from the old Queen Mary Hospital, which used to be a secret retreat for recovering alcoholics. It's a fitting tribute the Powerhouse Cafe does not serve alcohol!

Leafy Hanmer - hot in summer and sometimes snowy in winter - is definitely a place for lovers, for romantic weekends and a place to unwind. For the more energetic, try bungy jumping, mountain-biking, jetboating, horse trekking, skiing, snowboarding, quad biking through forests, rafting, golf and fishing.

Our romantic break is over in a flash - so to speak. We hop into our trusty Jucy rental car and tootle back to Christchurch stopping off on the way at Muddy Water to sample some of the best local wine in this rapidly developing wine region.

Years ago Waipara was known for its sheep farming - and the great Canterbury lamb was the biggest export money spinner. Today the north-west facing paddocks have vanished and replaced by vineyards - as far as the eye can see.