Twizel sits in a strange space as far as tourist towns go. It’s a popular spot with locals, due to a huge number of baches (holiday homes) and is perfectly positioned as the closest town to Mount Cook National Park. But it’s only 45 minutes from Lake Tekapo, one of the most iconic small towns in New Zealand, and a lot of people would choose to stay there instead. It may not have the scenery of Lake Tekapo, or Wanaka, Queenstown or Te Anau, but there are a few fun things to do in Twizel and you can’t beat the location!
The first few places on this list are things to do in Twizel itself (all a few km from town) but I’ll also mention some of the attractions in the surrounding area.
Lake Rautaniwha is the obvious “attraction” in Twizel, and it’s a nice spot for a stroll. It’s a boating and rowing hotspot but it’s scenic enough to make it worth a visit for those not heading out on the water. You can also get a great view of it from the road above, and there’s another section of it that you’ll see from the main road heading towards the Waitaki Valley.
The Twizel Walkway weaves its way through town and can be accessed from many different points. We didn’t walk the whole thing but saw a few sections. You’re not going to see many amazing views on this walk, but it’s something to do!
You can access Fraser Stream at Glen Lyon Road – again, not the most amazing bit of river but if you’re looking for things to do in Twizel, and you want to stretch your legs a bit it could be a good option. Fraser Stream eventually runs into the Twizel River, and there’s a track from there to Lake Pukaki.
Pukaki Canal / Pelennor Fields
Head along Glen Lyon Road for a few kilometres and you’ll find the most scenic spots in Twizel. Pukaki Canal, with its bright blue water, is a photogenic sliver of water, and Pelennor Fields is a Lord of the Rings filming location. There are walks and mountain bike tracks in this area as well – lots to explore if you have the time and energy, but you can see a lot when parking up by the side of the road.
Loch Cameron is located just before the Pukaki Canal and is one of our favourite places in Twizel. It’s a small lake with an island in the middle, surrounding by golden hills. You can walk around the lake (it won’t take long) or just admire the views from close to the road.
This another scenic spot right by the road – Merino wool is huge in New Zealand so it’s cool to see a lake named after it.
Lake Poaka is a little farther away from the other spots I’ve mentioned, but is accessed along the same road (take Glen Lyon Road, cross the bridge and then turn right following the Pukaki Canal. Lake Merino is close to the bridge. We stayed at Lake Poaka a few years ago as it’s the closest freedom camping spot to Mount Cook. It’s an awesome place to spend the night – consider it if you’re into freedom camping (not sure if it’s worth it otherwise).
Other Things to Do in Twizel
Twizel is a good spot to stock up on supplies, especially if you’re going to be spending a few days in Mount Cook National Park. There are also lots of places to eat and the accommodation there is far better value than at nearby Lake Tekapo. You can play mini golf, real golf and do some shopping. It’s not the most exciting small town in New Zealand but it’s a good place to spend a night or two.
The next few things on this list are things to do near Twizel. Twizel is less than an hour’s drive from some special places!
It’ll take around 40 minutes to drive to Lake Ohau from Twizel, and I’d highly recommend it (especially in winter and early spring). It’s a stunning road and there are lots of roadside photo opportunities. The lake itself is beautiful as well, and there are a few places to stay if you’re looking for a quieter vibe. There’s also a ski field and various walking tracks.
Mount Cook National Park
New Zealand mountain scenery doesn’t get any grander than in Mount Cook National Park. It’s home to the tallest mountains in New Zealand and there are heaps cool spots. The great thing is that you can see some of the best scenery right by the side of the road, and there are some world-class walks that are suitable for most fitness levels (and some harder ones too).
The drive from Twizel to Queenstown and Wanaka takes you through the Lindis Pass. It’s a very popular route and there are some great views along the way. It takes around two and a half hours to drive between Twizel and Queenstown, that’s assuming you don’t stop (which you will if you like nice scenery!).
Lake Tekapo is 45 minutes away from Twizel and again, it’s a route full of views. I wrote a post about Lake Tekapo so I won’t go into it too much here, but suffice to say it’s a lovely small town with heaps to keep you busy.
Are you planning a trip around the South Island of New Zealand? Check out our two-week road trip itinerary!