While you’re here, you won’t want to miss –
A breath of fresh mountain air…
One of the South Island’s best kept secrets is the Mackenzie District. Boasting the soaring peak of Mount Cook/Aoraki in the northwest, this central South Island icon is popular for its wide array of recreational things to do as well as breathtaking scenery.
Versatile Lake Tekapo is the district’s other iconic draw-card – offering a ski resort in winter and water sports in summer. It’s also an important generator of hydroelectric power. The Mackenzie Basin is said to have the purest air in the Southern Hemisphere, so make sure you spend some time checking out the night sky when you’re here!
Lake Tekapo and Mt John Observatory
You’re in Mackenzie country once you’ve passed Fairlie.
This heritage town is known as The Gateway to the Mackenzie and well worth a visit if you need a stop-off. Keep heading west and the sparkling shores of Lake Tekapo will soon come into view. The lake is the second largest in the district, and a popular tourist destination for its activities and beautiful scenery. The Church of the Good Shepherd and its bronze collie dog statue on the shores of the lake, are much photographed New Zealand images.
When there are good weather conditions, stars light up the night sky in a heavenly fashion, that has to be seen to be believed. For a closer look, visit the Mt John Observatory for a spot of stargazing through New Zealand’s largest telescope. This article from Wild Junket Magazine will give you an idea of what you’ll be able to see.
Mount Cook Village
No visit to the South Island is complete without getting close to spectacular snow-capped Mount Cook. It’s just a short drive from Lake Tekapo to Mount Cook Village, which doubles as a visitor center as well as base camp for climbers.
The village is the starting point for most of the recreational things to do in Mount Cook. You can you can take a scenic flight over Mt Cook and its glaciers, join a small group to cruise on the Tasman Glacier Terminal Lake to get up close – and even taste – a glacier or head out on one of several short walks, including Kea Point Walk and Hooker Valley Walk, for the views of the mountain.
Incidentally, Keas are highly intelligent alpine parrots native to New Zealand. They have a tendency to be inquisitive and known to cheekily steal food and clothing – be prepared!
For fine dining with a wow factor, try the Panorama Room at the Hermitage Hotel situated in Mt Cook Village.
As its name suggests, large picture windows face out onto a breathtaking mountain vista – and, the cuisine here is top-notch.
Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Center
A center dedicated to New Zealand’s most famous explorer and mountaineer can be found next to the Hermitage Hotel. Sir Edmund Hillary spent a lot of time on Mt Cook before his record-breaking Mt Everest climb in 1953. The center features a digital planetarium and 3D movie, as well as a museum displaying the history of the district, its people and Sir Edmund himself.
Twizel in the south of the district is a great place to be active or just relax at one of the town’s restaurants and cafés.
Its proximity to both the lakes and Mount Cook make it a good base for hiking, skiing, fishing, boating and more. Contact us for more details on one or more of the many available tours – scenic flights around Mount Cook, group hiking tours, boat cruises and Lord of the Rings location tours – available in Twizel.
The Mackenzie District may be small, but it’s perfectly formed with enough gorgeous lake and mountain scenery to keep everyone happy. Spend any amount of time here getting to know the people and you won’t leave disappointed.
If you’re eager for outdoor activities, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Mount Cook to keep yourself active. And if you’re more creatively inclined, you’ll find the majestic landscape inspiring.