After visiting Hakatere Conservation Park three times over the last month, we felt like it was time to share why we just can’t get enough of this incredible spot!
Where is the Hakatere?
The Hakatere Conservation Park is located only two hours from Christchurch in the Canterbury region of the South Island. There’s no reception, rubbish bins, fuel or food inside the park so make sure you stock up at either Mount Somers or Methven before heading in, and bring some big rubbish bags to carry everything out.
The park is home to some of New Zealand’s most impressive mountain vistas and lakes. With mountain biking and hiking tracks, backcountry huts, lakes for recreation and photography, there is something for everyone.
We’ve also found that, being so close to the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, travellers tend to gravitate towards the country’s tallest mountain and the Hakatere gets left off the tourist map. It’s the perfect place if you’re wanting to avoid any crowds and you’ll have the choice of all the best campsites.
Whether you’re an expert after an overnight hut mission or a beginner just looking for something nice and easy, Hakatere has a hiking trail for you.
Mount Sunday is a great one accessible for all skill levels. An easy 90 minute return stroll with minimal elevation, this walk weaves through a valley of tussocklands, flowing rivers and farmland then heads up a reasonably steep incline to the top of Mount Sunday. Here you’ll be rewarded with ripper views of the Rangitata River and surrounding mountains. For all you fantasy geeks, this was also the film site for Edoras in The Lord of the Rings movie, which I imagine is how most people have heard of this place.
If you’re wanting a bit more of a challenge, there are multiple hikes leaving from the Lake Clearwater campground, including the lake’s circuit track. This is a nice easy three hour, 10km stroll around the outside of the lake. This doubles as a bike track if you’re trying to drag the kids along and they aren’t willing to walk anywhere.
Mount Guy is probably the most popular walk in the park and with good reason. With the summit sitting at 1319m, you’ll be blown away by the views of Lake Clearwater. At five hours return, it’s a great hike to choose for a sunrise or sunset mission (for all you photographers out there), just don’t forget ya headtorch!
After a full day adventure? Lake Clearwater to the Mystery Lake will take about four hours one way. You’ve also got the option of returning the same way or walking out the other end at the Potts River Car Park. Here you’ll find a bunch of other tracks, including part of the Te Araroa tramp, New Zealand’s longest hike, which takes you from the very top of the North Island to the bottom of the South.
Where to stay
Unless you’re lucky enough to know someone with a crib in the super small Lake Clearwater village, then your only accommodation options are camping. Not to worry though, the campsites in our opinion are some of the best in the country!
Lake Clearwater and Lake Heron are the two DOC-run campgrounds in the park, with very basic facilities (toilet and running water) and are open from October to April. Both campsites are situated right on the lakefront and have some of the most AMAZING mountain views. We seriously lose our minds every time we stay here, the views are just too good!
If you’re here during the winter months, Lake Camp and Lake Emma are open to camp all year round. Our personal favourite is Lake Camp for the sole reason that you can have a campfire right next to the lakefront… I mean, is there anything better than sitting around a campfire with a cold brew? These two campgrounds only have drop toilets and you do need to be in a self contained vehicle.
Got a boat, kayak, jetski? Lake Camp allows all of these activities and is a brilliant spot to bring the family for a typical Kiwi summer. Just a heads up though, these lakes are fed by the surrounding mountains so even in summer time they’re a bit nippy!
Are you like us and froth over amazing photo opportunities? You’ll want to have the camera in hand from the moment you enter the park. If you’re lucky enough to get calm conditions, the reflections at any of the lakes will make anyone look like a National Geographic professional!
Trust us, no matter what time of year you visit this place will not disappoint. Here’s to the Hakatere!