Mackenzie Basin short walks

Track category

Short walk


Various from 10 min to 2 hr return


Lake Pukaki and surrounds

Pukaki boulders

Time: 10 min return

Access is along the Aoraki/Mt Cook highway approximately 5 km from the SH 8 turnoff. This short track is on the Lake Pukaki side of the highway and leads up to the Pukaki boulders. These boulders (called erratics) were deposited by glaciers that dominated the area between 12,000 and 200,000 years ago.

Tibetan prayer flags and a small plaque placed here are a memorial to several guides from the local climbing fraternity. The boulders are popular with rock climbers and mountaineers driven away from Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park by bad weather.

Marker Bay

Time: 20 min return
Distance: 1 km

This is a well-formed track that starts on the edge of Lake Pukaki just off SH 8 immediately before the Lake Pukaki dam (approximately 10 km north of Twizel).

The track heads past an old concrete water reservoir which was used by the Lake Pukaki Village before the lake levels were raised and the village disappeared. The track leads through pine trees and is a great stroll on a hot day.

Kettlehole track
Keen walkers pose for a photo at the
start of Kettlehole Track

Kettlehole Track

Lake Pukaki Terminal Moraine Conservation Area

Time: 1 hr return loop
Distance: 4 km

This walk starts just east of the Pukaki River spillway. It is signposted off the southern side of SH 8 where there is a designated car park area. From the car park the walk follows a 4WD track into the Pukaki Terminal Moraine Conservation Area. Turn off the 4WD track onto a grassy track which leads to a distinct kettlehole. The track circles the rim of the kettlehole and then returns the same way.

The views along this track are spectacular, as it passes through moraine hummocks covered in scattered short tussock and mixed shrublands typical of the less-modified moraine landforms in the Mackenzie Basin.  

Ruataniwha Conservation Park

Ben Ohau Wetland

Time: 10 min one way
Distance: 1 km

This track starts at the carpark area off Pukaki Canal Road on the western outskirts of Twizel. Follow a 4WD track (marked easement) until you reach a small gate in the fence which gives you access to the wetland. This deep, natural Carex wetland is a good spot for bird-watching.  

Parsons Creek viewpoint

Time: 10 min to viewpoint

Access is via the Parsons Creek entrance on Lake Ohau Road (approximately 54 km from Twizel). The walk starts with a moderate climb through the Parsons Creek beech forest margin before heading out into open grass and shrublands. Avantage point in the forest is reached after 10 minutes.

Temple Valley circuit track

Time: 1 hour

Temple Valley is signposted along Lake Ohau Road. This track circles through the beech forest.

Ahuriri Conservation Park

Canyon Creek Picnic area

Time: 20 min one way

Access to the upper Ahuriri Valley is via the Birchwood Road. From the 4WD road end it is a short walk to the Canyon Creek picnic area.

Note: From here the track standard changes to tramping track and then a marked route over the spectacular canyon and through beech forest to the upper valley. 

Reserves and conservation areas

Spring Creek

Time: 45 min
Distance: 2.5 km

This is a small area of conservation land signposted off SH8 about 12 km south of Twizel township. This area protects 100 hectares of fescue tussock grassland, as well as a small area of Carex wetland. Once through the gate on the western side of SH 8 there is an old farm track that leads to the wetland area. The formed track finishes at this point but it is possible to wander around the conservation area and over to the far western boundary.

Wairepo Kettleholes

Time: 1hr 30 min return
Distance:  7 km

The entry point to the Wairepo Kettleholes is 14 km along Quailburn Road at a sign-posted car park. Quailburn Road turns off SH 8 four kilometres north of Omarama. The easement follows an old 4WD track through private farmland. A stile leads into the conservation area and from here it is a short distance to the kettleholes in the south-eastern part of the conservation area.

The kettleholes provide an important feeding area for a number of key bird species including the black stilt/kakï and wrybill/ngutuparore. When the water level recedes during summer, the base of the kettlehole is covered in a very rich carpet of tiny turfland plants. There are also fragmented patches of red tussock particularly alongside the meandering Wairepo Creek.

Lake Ohau Terminal Moraine Reserve

Time: 45 min loop
Distance:  3 km

The moraine reserve walk comes into its own in autumn and winter when the dominant westerly winds abate. The Lake Ohau Terminal Moraine Reserve is reached off the southern side of Ohau Canal Road. From Glen Lyon Road,cross the Lake Ohau canal and drive up the hill to the sign-posted car park. The track can be walked in either direction and follows a gravel road along the top of the moraine reserve and then descends to a 4WD track back along the edge of Lake Ohau.

Getting there

The Mackenzie Basin is situated in the centre of New Zealand's South Island. It features mountains, lakes, rivers, beech forest remnants and rolling tussock country.

All of the walking tracks described here are easy to access from main roads and offer fantastic views of the Mackenzie high country, with the exception of Marker Bay which ends in a nestled cove beside Lake Pukaki.

Some of these walks include easements through private farmland. Please respect the landowners’ rights by keeping to the marked easements. These are well-signposted and marked by orange poles. Please ensure all public access gates for walkers are closed behind you.

Plan and prepare

The climate in the Mackenzie Basin is traditionally very hot in summer and extremely cold in winter.

New Zealand weather can also change very rapidly. Walkers need to be prepared for a range of conditions.

It is advisable to carry drinking water, a hat, sunblock, a raincoat and some warm clothing.

Light footwear such as running shoes is suitable for most walks; for the walks graded ‘route’ sturdy boots are best.

Related link

Day walks in Mackenzie/Waitaki (PDF, 2172K)

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