Introduction: AORAKI/MT COOK
Travelling south from Lake Tekapo, it’s a short drive to the southern shores of Lake Pukaki. The largest of the Basin’s three glacial lakes, this long narrow lake runs north-south from the foot of Aoraki/Mt Cook, its pale turquoise waters filling the trough carved by New Zealand’s longest and largest glacier, the Tasman Glacier. Highway 80 follows the Lake’s western shore to Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, and Aoraki/Mt Cook Village, where unimpeded views of New Zealand’s highest mountain over the Lake’s opalescent waters will have photographers scrambling for their cameras. The Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, in the Hermitage Hotel complex, is a tribute to New Zealand’s most famous adventurer, profiling his achievements and documenting the area’s history. In summer, the Park’s alpine flora and fauna, including the Mt Cook buttercup and Golden Spaniard (speargrass), are easily spotted from walking tracks near the Village, while kayak and boating trips on Lake Tasman, heli-biking, flight-seeing, guided hunting, fishing and glacier tours allow visitors to explore further afield. In winter, skiing, snowboarding and heli-skiing within the Park and nearby at Lake Ohau and Lake Tekapo are a pleasing alternative to the larger fields further south at Queenstown.
Lake Tekapo Village sits beside the southern shores of Lake Tekapo, the northernmost of the Basin’s glacial lakes. Here you’ll find the much-photographed Church of the Good Shepherd, which overlooks the lake, and the nearby statue of that indispensable sheep farmer’s work mate, the collie. Above the township, under New Zealand’s clearest night skies, is the Mt John University Observatory. New Zealand’s premier astronomical observatory, it’s the site for a proposed UNESCO-recognized ‘Starlight Reserve’, where light-pollution restrictions protect the night skies overhead. A developing astro-tourism destination, the restrictions ensure that, among other measures, vehicle head-lights must be doused on its approach road. During the day, visitors to the Observatory are rewarded with extensive views of the Lake and surrounding mountains. At the foot of Mt John, near Lake Tekapo Village, Alpine Springs, Spa and Winter Park’s hot pools, spa and winter ice rink offer the chance to indulge in a range of treatments and pastimes which complement the region’s aquatic and mountain activities.
The MacKenzie Basin’s summer mantle is a palate of gold, pastel pinks and purples, highlighting the opalescent turquoise waters of its glacial lakes and the white snow-capped heights of its neighbouring mountains. Driving through this impressionist’s landscape, glimpses of Aoraki/Mt Cook beckon, tempting adventurers and sightseers to come closer and admire New Zealand’s highest peak and the beauties of its surrounding parkland. Here, nature and technology sit handsomely side by side. The Basin’s three glacial lakes, Tekapo, Pukaki and Ohau, form the base on which the Waitaki Hydroelectric Power Scheme was developed. The scheme’s associated canals and dams now form an integral part of the landscape, while providing over half of New Zealand’s hydroelectricity storage capacity. The Basin’s three main settlements are Lake Tekapo Village, Aoraki/Mt Cook Village and Omarama – the place of light – whose clear skies and stable air patterns make it the perfect gliding destination, drawing enthusiasts from around the world to soar silently over the Southern Alps and the Basin in an experience of a lifetime.
This Monument was erected by the runholders of the Mackenzie Country, in appreciation of the collie sheep dog.
Tasman Glacier and Lake