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5 of the Best Things to Do in Fairlie

5 of the Best Things to Do in Fairlie

Fairlie, like many small towns close to tourism giants, is in a strange position. It gets heaps of people passing through on the way to Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook, but aside from grabbing a pie (at one of the most famous pie shops in New Zealand) most tourists don’t linger. Should you stick around for a few hours or a few days? Are there many things to do in Fairlie? You’re about to find out!

Fairlie Pies

The main reason to stop in Fairlie is to eat a delicious Fairlie Bakehouse pie. If you’re not from New Zealand you may not know about our national pie obsession, but it’s real and you’ll be converted if you spend enough time here.

The pies at Fairlie Bakehouse are famous in New Zealand, and you’ll likely see evidence of it in the form of a decent sized line at lunch time. Don’t let it put you off though, the pies are worth the wait. We always go for the pork belly pie (complete with crackling) and it never disappoints. Actually, it did disappoint once – we bought one at a dairy and it had clearly been in the pie warmer too long (days possibly) – it was horrible and the crackling was chewy rather than crisply – it almost put me off Fairlie Bakehouse pies for good!

Lake Opuha

In my opinion, the second-best thing to do in Fairlie is a trip to Lake Opuha. It’s around 10 minutes from downtown Fairlie, and if you go in the right conditions and light the view will blow you away. We went in winter, so a good helping of snow set the scene.

You can drive down a gravel road for an awesome view, or just admire the lake and mountains from close to the main road.

Go For a Walk

There are several walks in Fairlie, including the Opihi River Track which follows the Opihi River for around 12 kilometers. We did a small section close to town and it was nice enough. The other one that we looked into (and did a bit of) was the Jack Lovelock Track. I’m going to be honest here – neither of these walks will be anywhere near the highlight of your time in the Mackenzie District.

There are far more scenic walks nearby (Lake Tekapo, Mount Cook etc), but if you’re in Fairlie and you need to stretch your legs then they’ll do the job.

READ MORE: The Tasman Glacier Track, Mount Cook National Park

Tasman Lake

Explore the Town

Downtown Fairlie is a very small place, which means you can take it all in on a quick walk around town. There are some nice old buildings in town, a few galleries, a museum and some parks to relax in. It’s a typical small New Zealand town and is far more “real” and untouristed than nearby Lake Tekpao.

Other Things to Do in Fairlie

You could go for a drink in the local pub, play a round of golf at Fairlie Golf Club or maybe try and do some fishing (I’m not a fisherman, but I assume there are fish there). There’s also an alpaca farm and a ski field nearby. To be honest, you can do all those things in any number of other small New Zealand towns, so if you’re short on time I wouldn’t spend too long in Fairlie at the expense of other places nearby.

Burkes Pass

If find yourself in Fairlie there’s a very good chance you’ll be passing through (or have already passed through) Mount Cook and Lake Tekpao. A good place to stop between Fairlie and Lake Tekapo is Burkes Pass. It’s a tiny little settlement with some interesting history and a very picturesque little gallery / café / shopping area.

Should You Stay in Fairlie?

Fairlie is a good option to spend a night in if you want something a little cheaper than what’s on offer in Lake Tekapo. They are only 30 minutes apart, but you wouldn’t want to drive between the two too often. So, if you’re coming from Christchurch, it could be good to spend the first night in Fairlie before continuing to Lake Tekapo the next day. Or just breeze straight through, only stopping for a pie.

Are you planning a trip to New Zealand? Check out our South Island Travel Guide!

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who has just returned home after 6 years abroad. Join me as I see as much of the South Island as I can.

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