Destination: Mackenzie Country

Located in the heart of the South Island, MacKenzie Country is one of New Zealand's most vast regions. It's a land of huge aqua-coloured glacial lakes and soaring snow-capped mountains (including the tallest peak in New Zealand), a place where the epic grandeur of mother nature is evident at every turn...

Nestled in this stunning but unforgiving landscape are just a handful of small villages, yet a huge variety of exceptional vacation experiences...

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Aoraki Mount Cook

The main drawcard to MacKenzie Country is New Zealand's highest mountain, Aoraki Mount Cook - all 3,724 metres of her. At her base is Mount Cook Village, a tourist centre and the starting point for hiking expeditions (including challenging mountain pass routes and various summit climbs) and other adventures on the her slopes. Sir Edmund Hilary, the first person ever to reach the peak of Mount Everest, used Mount Cook as his training ground.

Look out for the cheeky kea - an encounter with one of these large mountain parrots will be one of the highlights of your trip.

The World's Largest Dark Sky Reserve

The awe-inspiring views don't end when the sun goes down. By night, the sky comes alive with starry galaxies. This pocket of the earth is almost completely free of light-pollution, awarding it the status of being the world’s largest Dark Sky Reserve - and one of only eight international UNESCO sites of its kind in the world.

Visit an observatory to see planets and distant solar systems, or join one of the excellent night tours - it's the closest you'll get to space, on earth.

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At Pukaki Observatory, you can enjoy wine from their fabulous private cellar or a tot of premium whiskey as you marvel at the stellar sights... 

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Church of the Good Shepherd - image via Tourism New Zealand

New Zealand's Most Photographed Place

One of the best places to stargaze is at The Church of the Good Shepherd, one of New Zealand's most iconic places (and the most Instagrammed!).

This tiny stone church is perched on the edge of Lake Tekapo, and is a memorial to the pioneers and first settlers of this unforgiving but beautiful land.

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By day or under the stars, The Church of the Good Shepherd is a very special place indeed.
Image via Synapsee

Dwarfed by an Ancient Glacier

Glaciers that date back to the ice age cascade inch by inch from the heights of the Southern Alps to the valley floors. Hear them groan and grind as they move underfoot.

We can get you up close and personal to the most mammoth of the MacKenzie Country glaciers - including New Zealand's largest glacier.

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A scene from Franz Josef Glacier, photographed by Johan Lolos

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Choose your own adventure - floating above a massive river of ice on a helicopter, cruising right up to the towering terminal on an exclusive boat tour (you'll be able to touch and taste 500-year old ice crystals) or - if you're fit - donning a harness and safety rope to experience an ice climb. Glacier climbing here in Mackenzie Country is considered by many to be the best in the world.

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Sights that will take your breath away...

Soak up the Views

At Tekapo Springs, you can bliss out in the steaming hot water of one of five hot pools, with an amazing lake and mountain panorama before you.

The pools are all fed from natural alpine hot springs, and it's not uncommon to be surrounded by snow as you soak, which adds to the magical alpine experience. There's also a Day Spa on site if you need a little pampering.

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This might just be the best view of any New Zealand hot pool experience
- out across Lake Tekapo to the snowy mountain ranges.

Luxury Accommodation

No matter how deep into the wilderness you explore, we believe you deserve a beautiful night's sleep in premium accommodation.

Two of our cherry-picked partners in the MacKenzie Country area is Lakestone Lodge, a luxury lakefront eco-lodge which opened just last year; and Braemar Station, a rustic high-country accommodation which includes two charming farm cottages and a spacious homestead for parties of two to fourteen.

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Lakestone Luxury Lodge


Great Eateries

You may be hundreds of kilometres from the nearest city, but there's still some excellent eateries about. At Lake Tekapo, put Run 76 (cafe and deli) on your list for a good strong espresso and a hearty gourmet breakfast, and set aside an evening to dine fireside (on pizza, pasta or piada) at the hip-but-rustic Italian restaurant, TinPlate.

Lonely Planet called Astro Café "possibly the best place on the planet for a cafe". The mountain-top eatery (located at the summit of Mt. John) is walled and roofed with glass, giving a spectacular 360° alpine view. Try one of their famous hot chocolates.

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Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail

This fast-becoming-iconic Cycle Trail winds it way along 310 kilometres of aquamarine lakes, golden tussock, fields of lavender and other amazing alpine sights.

Tackle the full trail for a bucket-list experience, or enjoy a few hours on one of the most breath-taking sections.

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Image by Miles Holden, via Tourism New Zealand


Stravon Luxury Wilderness Experiences

Our clients enjoy exclusive access to UNESCO sites and private land, thanks to our partnership with Stravon luxury wilderness experiences. Take a helicopter to a remote alpine forest to hunt wild deer, stalk and lure trout in lakes and streams inaccessible to the general population, or experience yoga and a gourmet picnic on a completely secluded mountain top. (See more info on Stravon's world-class wilderness experiences in our Travel Journal, here.)

If all that weren't enough...

You can also:

Kayak some the bluest, cleanest lakes in the world, take the kids snow tubing at the Tekapo Tube Park, soar like an eagle in one of the world's absolute best gliding locations, and much (much!) more...

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Kayak the brilliant blue, mineral-rich waters of Lake Pukaki or Lake Tekapo.
Image via Tourism New Zealand.

The Mackenzie Country is but one bullet point in a New Zealand holiday-of-a-lifetime list. To start planning your awesome New Zealand adventure, contact our team today!

[Couples Itineraries: Build your dream trip to New Zealand]

Tags: New Zealand Destinations, South Island