Lupins are a Mackenzie highlight in the summer months. © Delphine Ducaruge

Loved by the locals: Mackenzie


Picturesque lakes, fields of summer flowers, easy road trips and cute cafés – there's a lot to love in the Mackenzie District.

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. Walking around the lake is lovely during any season of the year, but autumn is especially beautiful. 

2. Dinner by the fire at Poppies Café in Twizel

Make a stop at Poppies Café in Twizel. Maybe you've just done a big hike around Aoraki Mt Cook, and you're after a good hearty meal – Poppies ticks the box. With a fire roaring on colder days and a friendly, family-style atmosphere, you can easily spend 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. While there are some more well-known hikes and tramps in the area, one of the best 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 in between the best parts of the Mackenzie Country, has beautiful views, and is a gateway to dozens of unexplored adventures.

Bike 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. A lovely hidden gem is 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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