Mackenzie Country: Magic among the mountains

By Sarah Ivey

Photographer Sarah Ivey, who grew up in the Mackenzie Country, uses her camera to introduce the rugged beauty of a place few New Zealanders have visited.

A shepherd and his dogs have a spectacular view of the surrounding Southern Alps. Photo / Sarah Ivey
A shepherd and his dogs have a spectacular view of the surrounding Southern Alps. Photo / Sarah Ivey

The Mackenzie Country - or tussock country as some call it - lies high up in the heart of the South Island, surrounded by some of the country's tallest mountains.

This is a ruggedly beautiful place, in summer a spectacular landscape of rock and tussock, in winter a snow-covered white wonderland.

Skiers flock to the area to take advantage of plentiful snowfalls that accumulate on the Ohau, Mt Dobson and Roundhill ski areas or, for the slightly more adventurous, heli-skiing among the great peaks of the Southern Alps.

But there's more to the Mackenzie Country than spectacular skiing and dramatic hiking.

It's also a fantastic place to go walking, horse riding, mountain biking or four-wheel-driving, and to go fishing and hunting, get a taste of high country farming, climb glaciers and mountains or explore lakes and rivers by kayak.

The Mount Cook Village is home to the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, where visitors can take a trip through the solar system in the 3D Planetarium or wander through the Hillary Museum. The famous Hermitage hotel offers a range of options, from basic beds with hamburgers and chips for backpackers, to luxury rooms accompanied by a glass of red by the fire and a taste of the locally grown venison.

Then there's beautiful Lake Tekapo, with its powder-blue waters, which is also home to the Alpine Springs and Spa and Winter Park, where kids keep themselves entertained on the ice rink while parents soak in the hot pools.

On a clear evening, the stargazing on the summit of Mount John, home to the Mount John Observatory, is phenomenal.

And over everything hangs the spirit of the man this country was named after, James Mackenzie, New Zealand's most famous sheep rustler, who was captured in 1855, released in 1856 ... and vanished without trace.

* Further information: To check out the options for visiting the Mackenzie Country, try websites such as mtcooknz.com and tourism.net.nz or glentanner.co.nz.

- NZ Herald

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