Fairlie travel guide: A must-see in Canterbury

Fairlie is a small town located in the Canterbury Region of the South Island. Surrounded by breathtaking scenery and home to some quirky attractions, it’s an awesome place to visit.

The town is often referred to as the ‘Gateway to Mackenzie County’. As such, it’s a big hit with people who are travelling from Christchurch to Tekapo.

Fairlie also acts as a ski town during the winter months. This is due to its location close to the towering Mount Dobson.

Whatever the time of year though, this small town deserves your time – be it a quick stop at the iconic Fairlie Bakehouse or a longer visit.

This guide will take you through everything you need to know about spending time in Fairlie, including what to do, where to eat, and nearby attractions.

Outside the Fairlie Bakehouse.
The Fairlie Bakehouse is a must-visit spot in town. Photo: Wayne Cartwright.

Things to do in Fairlie

Although Fairlie is only a small town, it packs a surprising punch.

These are some of our favourite local attractions.

Visit Fairlie Heritage Museum

A visit to this museum is a great way to learn about the history of Fairlie.

It is home to a variety of exhibits, including vintage saddlery, sports equipment, tools and household artifacts.

There’s a bit of everything – you’ll even find the old Fairlie Railway Station there!

49 Mount Cook Road, Fairlie 7925

Did you know? The Fairlie Heritage Museum is also home to two motor heritage pavilions which are open by appointment only.

Check out the James Mackenzie Memorial

Although James Mackenzie was Scottish and considered an outlaw, he came to be one of the country’s most enduring folk heroes.

You’ll find the statue remembering him right in front of the Fairlie Bakehouse (which is one of the very best things to do in town – read more about it shortly).

A statue of James MacKenzie and his dog placed on top of a huge rock under a tree.
The James MacKenzie and dog statue. Photo: Wayne Cartwright.

Visit Gem Alpaca Stud

Gem Alpaca Stud is a must-visit in Fairlie!

There, you can take a tour of a working alpaca farm and even meet these cuddly creatures.

After feeding the alpacas, we also recommend visiting the on-site farm shop.

18 Nixons Road, Fairlie 7987

Close up photo of the face of an alpaca.
Meet the locals at the Gem Alpaca Farm. Photo: Dori Estrella, NZTT member.

Have a game of golf at Fairlie Golf Club

The Fairlie Golf Club is an 18-hole golf course located on the outskirts of town. Its beautiful location begs you to admire the views while you play.

Just be prepared for a challenge as this course isn’t easy.

34 Talbot Road, Fairlie 7925

A golf club about to hit a golf ball on the grass.

Marvel at the fields of canola flowers

From late spring to early summer (November to January), fields near Fairlie come to life with bright yellow rapeseed flowers.

In fact, some farmers are even happy to allow you to wander through the fields – perfect if you’re looking for a new profile picture!

A huge expanse of land blossoming with the yellow canola flowers.
Photo: Bernard Spragg.

Places to eat in Fairlie

Fairlie Bakehouse

Fairlie Bakehouse is known right across New Zealand for its delicious pies.

It has a ton of flavours including smoked chicken with mushroom, creamy hearty vegetable, and tender beef steak. However, two flavours are mentioned time and time again; pork and apple, and salmon and bacon respectively.

How will you choose?

74 Main Street, Fairlie 7925

Pro tip: If you only do one thing in Fairlie, make it a stop at this bakery!

A pie and a coffee on the table.
Pies in New Zealand don’t come better than this! Photo: Meghan Turner.

Carnegie’s Restaurant & Bar

Carnegie’s Restaurant & Bar is a family-friendly restaurant that is known for its wood-fired pizzas and classic NZ dishes.

It’s set in a beautiful historic building and serves up huge portions, making it a favourite choice if you’re keen on a sit-down meal.

6 Allandale Road, Fairlie 7925

Eat Cafe Fairlie

The striking mountain views are one of the best things about Eat Cafe Fairlie.

However, they’ve also got some great coffee and tasty breakfast and lunch options.

76 Main Street, Fairlie 7925

Hungry Birds Limited

Hungry Birds Limited is a food truck located opposite Pinewood Motels.

It’s known for delicious takeout Indian curries but they have other options available too, including pizza and hot chips.

Mount Cook Road, Fairlie 7925

Delicious food served in Hungry Birds Limited.

Silverstream Hotel

Silverstream Hotel is home to a historic pub and restaurant, offering both a dine-in and takeout menu.

Not only is the food delicious but they’ve got a large outdoor area too – perfect for summer afternoons and evenings.

762 State Highway 8, Kimbell 7987 (in the direction of Tekapo)

Things to do near Fairlie

Fairlie itself has a lot to offer, but here are some other things that you can do in the area.

Whether you visit these locations as you drive in or out of Fairlie, or make day trips from Fairlie while you stay there, these are all worth checking out.

Spend some time at Lake Opuha

Lake Opuha is a popular spot for boating and fishing especially.

However, there are plenty of other things to do there, including mountain biking, hiking and even llama trekking!

It’s also a lovely place to enjoy a picnic or a stroll.

Lake Opuha is a 12-minute drive from Fairlie.

Glass-like waters of Lake Opuha reflecting the mountains and sky.
Lake Opuha. Photo: Shellie Evans.

Wander around Burkes Pass

Burkes Pass is home to several heritage walks, a union church, and, most notably, ‘Three Creeks’.

This is a quirky spot that’s home to retro collectables, artwork and furniture. It’s fun to explore for 15 minutes or so.

You’ll also often find a coffee cart on-site, serving fresh flat whites to-go.

Burkes Pass is a 15-minute drive from Fairlie, towards Tekapo.

A purple pickup truck in front of an old petrol station at Burke's Pass.
Burkes Pass is an awesome stop on the way to Tekapo.

Ski at Mount Dobson

If you’re in Fairlie during the winter, then a visit to Mount Dobson is a must.

There are a variety of ski routes here, serviced by 4 lifts.

This family-friendly field is a great place to learn and to improve your skills on the mountain.

Mt Dobson Ski Area is a 45-minute drive from Fairlie.

1274 Fairlie-Tekapo Road, Burkes Pass 7987

Photo: Mt Dobson Ski Area.

Visit Skipton Animal Park

You can hand-feed a variety of animals at Skipton Animal Park, including donkeys, alpacas, wallabies and fallow deer.

We also recommend stopping off at Farm Barn Cafe on the way.

Skipton Animal Park is a 15-minute drive from Fairlie.

1891 Fairlie-Geraldine Highway RD 17, Fairlie 7987 (before you enter Fairlie from Christchurch)

A young brown cattle.
Photo: Skipton Animal Park.

Drive to Raincliff Historic Reserve

If you’re looking to see Māori rock art then this is the place to visit.

This area provided temporary refuge for Māori as they travelled through the region, and over time, they left their marks on the rockface.

It’s just a short drive from Fairlie and a worthwhile stop.

Raincliff Historic Reserve is a 21-minute drive from Fairlie.

1580 Middle Valley Road, Middle Valley 7987

Admire the beauty of Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo is one of the most scenic places in New Zealand!

It is part of the Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, and is known for its lake, breathtaking mountain backdrop and stunning old church.

Visit during Lupin season if you can and hit up some of the nearby hiking trails.

Lake Tekapo is a 30-minute drive from Fairlie, towards Mount Cook.

A small log rests on the banks of a calm lake.
Pines Beach, Lake Tekapo.

Explore the town of Geraldine

This country town is known for its museums, art galleries, and boutique stores. You’ll also find a variety of quirky cafes to choose from if you need to recharge.

Our favourite shop, however, has to be Barker’s of Geraldine. There, you’ll find the most wonderful jams, chutneys, cordial syrups and more – and best of all, free tastings!

Geraldine is a 35-minute drive from Fairlie, towards Christchurch.

Barker’s: 71 Talbot Street, Geraldine 7930

Fairlie may be small, but there are plenty of great things to do there.

It’s also a great stop-off point if you’re looking for something to eat whilst travelling through – particularly if you’re keen to try a world-class New Zealand meat pie.

Have you ever been to Fairlie?

If you have, what’s your favourite thing to do?

We’d love to know!

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