Twizel wasn't built to last, but it ended up becoming one of New Zealand's absolute winners! Twizel was built in the late 1960s as a temporary town to house the workers on the hydroelectric scheme and was meant to be demolished in the early 1980s. The residents fought a lengthy legal battle with the government and the town was eventually handed over to the Mackenzie District Council. Back in the day you could buy a Twizel house for a ridiculously low sum of money, sometimes as cheap as a few thousand. There are stories of people trading Twizel sections during poker games!
Twizel has long been underrated by some people, but when my wife and I first visited we were awe-struck. With so many lakes near the town and gorgeous mountains in every direction, we couldn't believe it wasn't more popular. We saw that it was destined to become well-known and we wanted to get in while it was still affordable.
Times have certainly changed. Houses that sold 10 years ago for $140k are now selling for $500k or more. The town has many new subdivisions with expensive new houses. There are estimated to be around 50 building companies working to build their clients' homes in paradise. The secret is out.
We made the decision 12 years ago to buy our 10 acres of land and move here with no jobs and limited savings. Now we work from home marketing the Mackenzie Region and local businesses, plus we've built two houses on our land and rent one out to visitors. We've created an eco-sanctuary aimed at protecting the rare Mackenzie flora and fauna, and we love sharing our paradise with guests, and often hang out with them in our retro-museum garage over a glass of wine while taking in the epic mountain views. We're raising our three kids in a peaceful environment and count ourselves fortunate every single day.
Twizel has five lakes within a close drive from town: Pukaki, Ruataniwha, Ohau, Poaka and Benmore. This makes the town a haven for boating, fishing and swimming. By night it is a stargazer's delight – people often think of Takapō/Lake Tekapo for stargazing, but Twizel is also part of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve as well. The world-famous Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail has sections in and around Twizel, perfect for a day trip, and cycling alongside the turquoise waters of Lake Pukaki while taking in the views of snow-capped Aoraki/Mount Cook is truly something magical!
Twizel is also just a 45-minute drive to either Aoraki/Mount Cook or Takapō/Lake Tekapo – making it a perfect place to base yourself as you explore the area.
One of Twizel's must-dos is the Twizel Bookshop & Hydro Café – New Zealand's smallest bookshop, which is super cute. It's situated in a tiny room inside a cafe that embraces the hydro-heritage of Twizel. You can enjoy a great coffee, slice of cake and a good book. It doesn't get better than that.
Going for a swim in Loch Cameron rates highly for our family. The water is warm and it's fun to swim out to the tiny island.
The Twizel River trail is a beautiful walk under trees along the river. There are swimming holes and bike trails, and it's dog-friendly with large areas to run around.
Ben Ohau walk might be New Zealand's best walk. This is the walk that keeps delivering – around every corner it changes scenery: golden tussock, castle-like outcrops of black rock, mountain streams, beech forest, sheep-grazed green paddocks, historic huts, and outstanding views of Lake Ohau.
And to eat, head to the Ministry of Works – known to locals as MOW Bar, we love going there for pizza and local craft beers from Burkes Brewing Co. MOW is opposite the playground, which means parents can chill out while keeping an eye on the kids.