Twizel township was built in 1968 as base for one of the most impressive hydro-electric power schemes in the Southern Hemisphere.
The town was to be bulldozed once the construction scheme was finished, however, the population began a campaign to retain Twizel. The Government offered the town to the Mackenzie Country Council, complete with many houses, sections, and all facilities, such as shopping centre, community complex, medical centre, church, fire station, sportsfield, heated swimming pool, service station, etc. The town has continued its service role to the surrounding areas as well as expanding its tourist role as the nearest township to Mount Cook, the highest peak in Oceania.
The Mackenzie Basin is located in the middle of the South Island at an average of more than 300 meters above sea level. It contains Lakes such as Tekapo, Alexandrina, Pukaki, Ohau, Ruataniwha and Benmore. Because of the fact that the Basin is surrounded by mountain ranges it has a very distinct climate. The Mackenzie Basin is named after the legendary Scottish shepherd James Mackenzie. In 1857 the 704,000 hectares of the Basin was divided among runholders who mainly run merino sheep.
Before the white settler came the coastal Maoris used to migrate to the Basin for the hot summers. They quarried stone and hunted moa. There is evidence that the Basin was once covered with Totara Forest. A reforestation programme for the Basin is underway. The Mackenzie Basin is accessible from Christchurch through Burke’s Pass, from Queenstown through the Lindis Pass and from the East Coast through the Waitaki Valley via the Otematata Saddle.
From a Tourist’s point of view, this region offers numerous activities, especially for the adventurous traveller.
You can take a scenic flight from Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook giving you superb views over the Southern Alps and its surrounds. Your ski-plane can actually land on the Tasman Glacier to make your flight truly unforgettable. All sorts of ski options are available, including heli-skiing and ski touring, with experienced guides at your disposal. They can take you climbing, tramping and snowboarding. For an unrivalled experience, the guides can even take you on a glacier exploration adventure.
Mountain Climbing is a major attraction here, with the challenge of Mt Cook, the highest peak in Oceania (3750m or 12,303ft), being the ultimate goal for the truly hardy and adventurous traveller. Guides from a number of companies can organise your climb and supply all the necessary equipment.
Boat cruises and tours of Lake Tekapo are a feature of this area, with many companies able to take you on fishing and exploration ventures. You can even try out heli-fishing, which saves a lot of travel time and is great for those on a tight schedule.
Do you enjoy Canoeing or Kayaking? Many tourism operators in this region offer a wide variety of adventures just for you! They can be tailored from mild to wild according to your level of ability.
With this much to try out, it is essential that you allocate enough time to really enjoy the experiences offered by this region.