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Travel Guide

Towns in the MacKenzie country, trip guide, what to see

Lake Tekapo @Agoda

Towns in the MacKenize country, trip guide, what to see

Mount Aoraki [Cook], the hooker walking trail, the alpine lakes there is so much to do and see in the MacKenize country you need to decide where to stay. Twizel, Mount Cook, Lake Tekapo all have different options for the visitor, perhaps you need to visit all three to decide.


Twizel, originally a created settlement for workers on the massive hydroelectric schemes in the 1970’s is now a thriving visitor destination. It’s location is close to five cobalt blue lakes, including a world-standard rowing course and Formula One class boating area at Lake Ruataniwha.

Twizel is the largest town in the Mackenzie region supporting both a population of 1,200 people as well as over one million visitors in the MacKenzie district. Cafes, restaurants and other visitor services continue to grow and meet the expectations for a superb visitor experience.

Twizel @Stuff

What does the place look like?

While Twizel does not have the drop dead gorgeous scenery of either Tekapo village or Aoraki / Mt Cook village it has a sports stadium, excellent infrastructure to support cycling and a determination to be part of the visitor experience.

Must do experiences

Twizel is a popular base for those who are interested in rock and mountain climbing, cycling on the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail, hunting, boating, or simply relaxing in the town’s cafes.

Fishing for the elusive brown trout. Twizel is a well known destination for avid fishing visitors.

Twizel, Lake Ruataniwha @holidaytwizel

How far to…

Christchurch: 3 hours, 30 mins drive

Lake Tekapo: 40 mins drive

Queenstown: 2 hours, 30 mins drive



Tekapo village with its stories of nineteenth century sheep rustlers (check out the dog statute near the Church of the Good Shepherd) and people who forged their way through the passes in search of land for livestock or for greenstone (jade) make an interesting narrative in the town’s origins.

Lake Tekapo Village @Mackenzie Region
Lake Tekapo (town) @Wikipedia

What does the place look like?

It is hard to find a more picturesque location with a clear deep blue lake, fringed by a mountain range with an impossibly cute stone church tucked into one corner. Tekapo ticks the boxes for postcard perfect. It ranks as one of the most photographed locations in New Zealand.

TIP: While you might have to juggle your photo angle to avoid your fellow travellers there is still room for you. Early morning and later in the day you can easily avoid the day trippers from Queenstown and elsewhere.

Accommodation choices range from backpacker through to four star hotels as well as boutique lodges. Food and beverage outlets cater for visitors year round due to Tekapo being both a winter and summer destination.

Lake Tekapo @Tekapo Heights

Must do experiences

Clear unpolluted sky provides a window to view the stars.  Lake Tekapo is a great night watching destination. The Mt John Observatory offers views of the night sky and the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis). As the Observatory states “We are proud to be regarded as leaders in astro-tourism and star-gazing experiences”

The observatory experience is magic, as though a wizard had waved a wand and the night sky twinkled, the guided talk and explanation about what we were observing has encouraged me to look at the sky differently. Consequently I am valuing our lack of pollution and the ability to see beyond unfettered by the haze of emissions.

@Dark Sky Project
@Dark Sky Project

Lake Tekapo

Peer at the turquoise water in the lake. It is a vivid blue with a clarity that belies any descriptions. The turquoise colour is part of the glacial melt. Glaciers finely ground rock which refracts sunlight. You would not think that simply peering at lake water would be fascinating. It is, and a visit to the high country alpine lakes will testify to this.

Lake Tekapo @Wallpapers Vista

How far to…

Christchurch: 3 hours drive, 228kms

Aoraki/Mount Cook: 1 hour drive, 82kms

Queenstown: 3 hours drive, 256km


An original high country resort destination in New Zealand stretching back over a hundred years the village excels at meeting visitor expectations. It’s location within the Aoraki National Park as well as being 15km from Aoraki / Mt Cook gives the village the status of being the premier mountain village in New Zealand.

Aoraki Mt Cook @Hermitage

What does the place look like?

It is very hard to compete with a magnificent mountain range as your front door view. Aoraki village is all about the mountains.

Must do experience

Glacier walks, heli-adventures, mountain walks and exploration

For the avid mountaineer climbing one of the many challenging mountains just outside your front door.

TIP: If walks, cycling, fishing and lake views are on your must do list then either Twizel or Lake Tekapo would be a preferred choice.

Glacier walks, Mt Cook @mtcook

How far to…

Christchurch: 4 hours, 30 mins drive

Lake Tekapo: 1 hour drive

Twizel: 45 min drive

Queenstown: 3 hour drive


The journey is worth it.

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