Want to relax and unwind while you escape from the rat race or explore wide-open natural spaces? How about seeing your children (or inner child) play amidst some of New Zealand's most breathtaking scenery? Here are three dream escapes in the Mackenzie region, which will have you doing all of these things within just three hours’ drive of Christchurch.
Your playful spirit will be invigorated in the Mackenzie region, whether it is on the slopes, on a thrilling flight or snowshoeing in an alpine environment.
When it comes to sliding on the white stuff, you’re spoilt for choice. Mt Dobson Ski Area and Roundhill Ski Area are all handy, with terrain to please skiers and snowboarders of all abilities – from laid-back fun to high-adrenaline descents.
The snow in the Mackenzie Basin is often said to be drier than that in more coastal areas and Roundhill boasts the highest vertical drop of any Australasian ski area.
If you’d rather a bird’s eye view of New Zealand’s highest mountain, check out Air Safaris’ Grand Traverse Scenic Flight. From high up you’ll also see turquoise glacial lakes, golden tussock lands, braided river systems and magnificent mountain peaks.
To really get amongst the landscape, land on the Tasman Glacier with Mt Cook Glacier Guiding and learn basic ice climbing and snowshoeing techniques from the best.
It would also pay to check out Tekapo Springs’ hot pools, outdoor ice rink and snow tube park. There’s something about flinging yourself down a 200-metre ice ramp on an inflatable tube that really gets the adrenaline pumping.
Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is home to a breathtaking medley of glaciers, towering peaks, lakes and turbulent rivers and there are several ways to explore the amazing landscape.
A short walk to a vantage point overlooking the Tasman Glacier provides a spectacular photo opportunity and if you’re interested in getting up closer, you can.
Snow shoeing on the glacier is easy with the modern, lightweight equipment provided by Mount Cook Heli Snowshoeing, giving you the space to enjoy your awe-inspiring glacial surroundings.
Earth & Sky will help you experience the thrill of looking deep into the night skies with a tour of Tekapo’s famous astronomical research observatory.
Mt John Observatory is home to the country’s largest telescope, which studies over 80 million stars during a normal clear night. On a tour you’ll get a glimpse of what life is like as an astronomer and learn about research going on.
For a historical journey of the region, check out the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, which was established in tribute the famous explorer. It is located adjacent to the Hermitage Hotel in Mt Cook Village.
The centre’s custom-designed theatre allows to you to explore the cosmos through amazing digital footage from the comfort of your seat.
When it’s time to get outside again, jump on a scenic flight and feel the snow beneath your feet with Inflite Ski Planes and Helicopters.
The Mackenzie region offers tranquility in abundance, with scenic flights, stargazing, hot pools, fine dining, luxury accommodation and some choice spots for a fireside glass of wine.
A scenic helicopter flight with Heliworks Mount Cook is an unforgettable way to view the spectacular Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.
Unbelievable scenery will unfold before you, from the top of New Zealand’s highest peak to the massive glaciers and views of the West Coast and Tasman Sea.
Another way to take it easy is to do a Three Lakes Tour from Twizel, a historic hydro town, through the heart of the Mackenzie high country. You’ll be entertained by stories of the land, its visitors and settlers as you bypass lakes, hydro canals, power stations, salmon fishing spots and farmland.
Speaking of the high country, High Country Salmon offers visitors the opportunity to purchase and taste delicious fresh fish and the Cheese Room at Ben Ohau Road Cheese’s purpose-built factory is also worth a visit.
You can watch a cheesemaker at work and it is also the perfect spot to enjoy a delicious cheeseboard and drinks while admiring the views of the rugged Southern Alps.
You’ll learn what many of the southern night sky’s prominent features mean for both European and Maori culture and the tour is followed by a relaxing soak in the hot pools.
Where to stay
The iconic Hermitage Hotel in Aoraki Mount Cook Village is home to a selection of restaurants and bars as well as a range of activities to allow you to explore Aoraki Mount Cook National Park.
Lakestone Lodge is a luxurious off-grid eco lodge between Twizel and Tekapo, with stunning views northward over Lake Pukaki to the Southern Alps.
Peppers Bluewater Resort is a perfect place to unwind, with breathtaking views over Lake Tekapo and interior furnishings inspired by the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape.