Hiking the Benmore Peninsula Track, Waitaki Valley
This underrated hiking track, just a 30 minute drive from Twizel on the road towards Mount Cook and Tekapo (from Dunedin), features sweeping views of Lake Benmore and the Waitaki Valley. Hiking the Benmore Peninsula Track only takes an hour or two and it’s easily one of the best things to do in the Waitaki Valley. Keep reading for more information (and lots of photos).
Hiking the Benmore Peninsula Track
The Benmore Peninsula Track starts just above Benmore Dam — we visited the dam a year or so ago and didn’t even know there was a track nearby. The track starts in the shade of pine trees and very early on you’ll come to a fork in the road. It’s a loop track so it doesn’t matter which way you go but starting on the left track (the thinner of the two tracks you’ll see) seems like the best way to do it as the views are more open once you get to the top of the hill.
A view of the islands
After an uphill slog with no views to speak of we were beginning to question our decision to hike this track. That all changed when we got above the treeline. The view above Lake Benmore, with its small islands and snow-covered surrounds, is pretty special. Bear in mind there won’t always be snow — we did this hike in mid-October we were lucky that it had snowed heaps the previous day (despite winter having finished 6 weeks before!). I’m sure this place will be great at any time of year, but you can’t beat it with a bit of snow.
The Islands Viewpoint
You’ll continue along a ridge for quite a while before reaching the “Islands Viewpoint”. From this spot (and the track leading to it) you’ll get 360-degree views of Lake Benmore and the surrounding hills. Once there you’ll probably wonder why this walk isn’t more popular. The views are great and it’s likely you’ll probably be the only ones there to appreciate them.
From the main viewpoint it’s an easy downhill hike back to the car park. All up the hike took us 90 minutes and it’s easy (even though the first section is straight uphill). This is the perfect hike for people driving through the Waitaki Valley (who would most likely be doing a Dunedin – Mount Cook / Tekapo trip like us). We haven’t seen everything in the Waitaki Valley, but this hike seems to be the obvious highlight.
Getting to the Benmore Peninsula Track
This track is located just above Benmore Dam. The closest town is Otematata (2.5 hours from Dunedin, 30 minutues from Twizel) — you’ll see the turnoff for Benmore Dam (Loach Laird Road). The start of the track is just up the hill from the dam.
Are you thinking of hiking the Benmore Peninsula Track? What is your favourite underrated hike in New Zealand? Let us know in the comments below!