Loved by the locals: Mackenzie


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1. Walking around Lake Alexandrina

While the Tekapō lakefront is usually packed with tourists for most of the year, nearby Lake Alexandrina is a quiet refuge for locals.

A peaceful, still lake packed with trout, where motorboats are banned and old campervans have been parked for decades, Lake Alexandrina is one of the last authentically Kiwi holiday spots around Tekapō. 

It's perfect for a peaceful escape in a popular area. I enjoy walking around the lake during any season of the year, but autumn is especially beautiful. 

2. Dinner by the fire at Poppies Café in Twizel

I can’t really put my finger on why I love Twizel so much, but whenever I pass through, I always make a stop at Poppies Café. Normally I’ve just done a big hike around Aoraki Mt Cook, so I’m after a good hearty meal, which Poppies does fabulously.

With a fire roaring on colder days and a friendly, family-style atmosphere, I have easily spent many hours enjoying the cosy café with a big glass of wine and a good book or tucking into a big plate of risotto with friends. They do great breakfasts too, but dinner is lovely, especially if you want to try the local Aoraki salmon.

3. The views from Kea Point at Mt Cook

Pretty much no matter where you go around Aoraki Mt Cook National Park, you are guaranteed great views. Quite possibly the easiest place to access the Southern Alps, it’s one of my favourite escapes on the South Island, and no matter how many times I return, I’m never bored.

While there are some more well-known hikes and tramps in the area, one of my favourites is Kea Point. It’s not too long and it’s an easy track that most people can do. In short, this walk has it all and gives you some of the best views of the park.

It leads you to a beautiful view of Mueller Lake and Mt Cook in the distance along with great views of the thundering hanging glaciers of Mt Sefton.

4. Get lost among the back roads and canals behind Twizel

Twizel is one of my favourite getaways on the South Island. It's in between the best parts of the Mackenzie Country, has beautiful views, and is a gateway to dozens of unexplored adventures.

I love biking along the back canals behind Twizel along Ben Ohau Station, especially turning doing the unknown dirt roads to see what’s on the other side.

My favourite little spot has to be Lake Poaka. More like a pond pretending to be a lake, it’s an incredibly peaceful place to go camping and chill out for a few days, where you will more than likely have the place to yourself.

5. Cruise down Braemar Road between Tekapō and Pūkaki

Braemar Road between Tekapō and Lake Pūkaki has to be one of Mackenzie Country’s best-kept secrets. An unsealed backcountry road, it connects the road along the Mt John Observatory with the eastern side of Lake Pūkaki.

While a four-wheel-drive vehicle isn’t always necessary, there can sometimes be muddy potholes along the way, especially in winter. The views of the surrounding country and the Southern Alps are to die for and make all the bumps worth it.

But the best bit? No one knows about this road, and you’ll likely not encounter another soul out there. 

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Where to stay in Mackenzie District

From $185
The Chalet Boutique Motel

The Chalet is beautifully located on the lake front and offers you fantastic views to the lake and surrounding mountains either from the apartments and/or . . . More . . . 

From $185
4.4 /5
From $34
4.4 /5
Twizel Holiday Park

A warm welcome and peaceful surroundings. Situated in the township of Twizel. Twizel Holiday Park is the closest holiday park in Twizel to Aoraki/Mt Cook . . . More . . . 

From $34

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4.0 /5
From $140
4.0 /5
Aoraki/Mt Cook Alpine Lodge

Our superbly located lodge is in the heart of the beautiful Aoraki/Mt Cook alpine village. Our focus on customer service, cleanliness, along with the superb . . . More . . . 

From $140

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4.8 /5
From $38
4.8 /5
YHA Mt Cook Visit website

YHA Aoraki Mt Cook features mountain views, and is 600 metres from Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre and all the other local attractions & eateries . . . More . . . 

From $38

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Mackenzie: for lovers

Lording over the Mackenzie region, Aoraki Mount Cook has become a symbol for what could easily win the unofficial 'most beautiful region in New Zealand' competition. Read the story . . . 

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Lake Tekapō: shimmering beauty

By day, the view’s pretty spectacular – the arid splendour of the Mackenzie Country dominated by Aoraki Mount Cook. But you really want to be here when it gets dark...  Read the story . . . 

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Aoraki Mount Cook National Park: home to our own Everest

Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is a rugged land of ice and rock, with 19 peaks over 3000 metres, including New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki Mount Cook.  Read the story . . .