If you’ve been searching for the best things to do in Twizel, then you’ve come to the right place. This extensive list covers everything from beautiful vistas to hiking trails and movie sets that’ll impress even the most experienced travellers.
Twizel might be a relatively small part of New Zealand’s expansive landscape, but it’s mighty.
It’s often used as a trusty base for travellers to Mount Cook National Park and the Mackenzie Basin.
But there’s plenty to do inside the town’s borders for first-timers and repeat visitors alike.
Whether you fancy checking out the many exciting walking trails or simply want to grab a tasty bite to eat at a local cafe, this small-but-charming town has got you covered.
Just be prepared to hop in the car during your trip, as a few of our favourite things to do in Twizel require a short drive.
Now let’s get to it, shall we?
Our Favourite Things to do in Twizel
1. Visit the Twizel Walkway
To kick off our list of the best things to do in Twizel, we have the Twizel Walkway. This is a lovely, family-friendly walk and one that’s not to be missed.
You can enter the trail from virtually any point around Twizel as it’s that all-encompassing.
The entire trail takes around 2-3 hours to complete in a long loop, but you can drop off at any point if you’re not feeling up to the entire hike.
Along the way, you’ll stroll through pine forests, spot towering mountains, and get excellent vantage points of the area’s stunning waterways.
If you’re not sure where to start, the easiest access point is by the car park on Glen Lyon Road.
2. Hike along the Kettle Hole Track
If you’re looking for shorter hiking trails around Twizel, then you’re bound to appreciate the Kettle Hole Track.
It’s just 3.7km and is an out-and-back track. This is particularly helpful if you’re parking in a certain spot to access the trail.
It takes approximately 1 hour to complete, but you should be able to complete it in just over 45 if you pick up the pace.
When you reach the waterside, you’ll be able to stop by Mount Cook View. This is a popular photo spot that offers gorgeous vistas over the mountains and Lake Pukaki.
Talk about jazzing up your Instagram feed!
Address: Pukaki Kettle Hole Track, Pukaki 7999, NZ
Pro tip: If you’re not sure what trail to follow, this handy Google Maps pin should help.
3. Cycle along the Alps 2 Ocean Trail
For anyone who prefers biking to hiking, the Alps 2 Ocean Trail is one of the best things to do in Twizel – by a mile.
To complete the whole track, you’ll have to set aside anywhere from 4 to 6 days, so it won’t be feasible for everyone.
But if you want to experience the best of Twizel’s natural beauty, try the section along Lake Pukaki that runs between Lake Ohau Lodge and Twizel.
This part of the trail stretches approximately 38km and should be doable for most intermediate and experienced cyclists.
It’s not out of the question for beginners either, but the distance might put you off. Worst case, you can choose to cycle just part of it.
Pro tip: Several coach shuttle companies will bring you to Braemar Road if you want to start the trail from there and bike back to Twizel. Otherwise, you can join the trail from Nuns Veil Road, Mackenzie Drive or Glen Lyon Road. Use Google maps to find your way there.
4. Walk through a lavender farm
If you’re on the hunt for incredible photo opportunities in Aotearoa, you might want to visit the New Zealand Alpine Lavender farm in Twizel.
Between December and the end of March, this is one of our favourite local activities. This is when the fields of lavender are in full bloom and looking their best.
And hey – they smell great too!
You can visit the certified-organic fields, buy handmade products and talk to the owners about how the blooms are grown.
Whether you want to check out the purest lavender in the Southern Hemisphere or want to shop for unique gifts, you’re unlikely to be disappointed.
Address: 657 Mount Cook Road, Ben Ohau 7999
5. Take in Mount Cook National Park
You’ll need to hop in the car for this one, but exploring Mount Cook National Park is definitely one of the best things to do near Twizel!
This stunning park boasts New Zealand’s tallest mountain (Aoraki/Mount Cook) and it’s less than an hour from the centre of Twizel.
Just remember to scope out the difficulty of your chosen hikes before pulling on your walking boots. A few of them are extremely difficult and are best reserved for expert hikers.
While in the area, it’s also possible to join a helicopter/ski plane tour, heli hike or enjoy a glacier boat tour (with Glacier Explorers).
And if you only have time for a drive-by visit, the scenic car route is perfect for striking shots from the passenger seat.
6. Sample Fresh Fish at High Country Salmon Farm
For fans of fresh salmon, the High Country Salmon Farm is heaven on earth.
This place is packed with salmon (as you might have guessed!) and there’s a surprising amount to do here.
You can spend your time exploring the fishery, enjoying salmon at the cafe, feeding the fish and even getting in touch with your inner angler.
You get to keep everything you catch, paying by the kilo. They’ll happily help prepare your catch for the road too.
If you’re not into the hands-on approach, you can purchase pre-filleted and packaged raw salmon to take with you. It’s fresh and tasty, so is a must for those that love seafood.
Address: 2602 Twizel-Omarama Road, Glenbrook 7999, NZ
Pro tip: The cafe closes at 5 pm most days, so be sure to visit earlier in the day.
7. Take photographs of the Omarama Clay Cliffs
No list of things to do in Twizel is complete without the Omarama Clay Cliffs!
They’re approximately 25 minutes from Twizel so we’re cheating slightly by including them.
But this natural gem costs just $5NZD to see (for everyone in your car) and it’s an incredible spot for photographs and admiring New Zealand’s natural beauty.
A few of the cliff peaks are over 100 feet tall and you can easily dedicate a couple of hours to the surrounding tracks if you’re in the mood for a hike.
We recommend sturdy hiking boots to explore this area, though, as it’s known for unstable ground and loose rocks.
It’s a good idea to arrive as early as you can if you’re planning to visit at the weekend as it can get fairly crowded.
Address: Henburn Road, Omarama 9412, NZ
8. Visit the Lake Pukaki Viewpoint
There are several glorious lakes around Twizel, but Lake Pukaki just about pips the others to the post.
Not only is it ridiculously blue, but it’s one of the largest lakes in New Zealand. So, we thought it was only right to include this glorious beauty spot on our list of things to do in Twizel!
To reach the popular Lake Pukaki Viewpoint, you’ll need to get on the Alps 2 Ocean cycling trail and find the Lake Pukaki Shoreline Walk.
From this viewpoint, you’ll have a sensational view of the lake and Mount Cook on the horizon.
Just remember to have your camera ready!
Address: Hayman Road, Pukaki 7999.
Pro tip: If you’d prefer not to walk in, you’ll find similarly beautiful views from the side of the road. Just follow State Highway 8 towards the Mount Cook turnoff until you get to Lake Pukaki.
9. Visit the Musterers Hut Cafe: Food, Giftshop, Mini Golf & more!
Back in town, you’ll want to stop by The Musterers Hut Cafe for homemade grub and more.
Though it’s not the fanciest eatery in town, it’s perfect if you’re travelling with kids as there’s a dedicated mini golf and playground area.
And it doesn’t hurt that these guys serve excellent wine and strong coffee for the grown-ups.
It offers classic breakfast fare like omelettes and waffles, along with great burgers and chips!
It’s primarily a cafe, but you’ll want to make time to visit the on-site gift shop before hopping back in the car.
The shop is loaded with crafts and knickknacks made by local artisans, and you’re almost guaranteed to pick up a souvenir or two for folks back home.
Talk about killing two birds (or more) with one stone.
Address: 20 Ruataniwha Road, Twizel, Mackenzie Basin 7901, NZ
10. Visit Lake Ruataniwha
We’ve tried to cover a selection of hidden gems and lesser-known things to do in Twizel, but the must-visit attraction is Lake Ruataniwha.
This artificial lake is extremely popular with boating and rowing enthusiasts, but it’s equally stunning if you adore walking, picnicking or swimming.
If you’d like to extend your visit, there’s an established campground called Lake Ruataniwha Holiday Park that’s right by the lake.
It’s ideal for stargazing once night falls, but it’s also a fabulous accommodation option if you’re keen to stay a touch outside of Twizel.
Twizel is in the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve, so you know you’re in for a treat sun the sun goes down!
The Milky Way is best seen in New Zealand during our winter season. So, whether you pop your head outside of your accommodation at night, or join a tour, we recommend checking out the night sky.
Though the Twizel stargazing tour isn’t as well known as Tekapo, or even Mount Cook, it’s possible to book a private tour that will come to you. This makes it totally unique to the better-known experiences.
12. Visit Ohau
Heading out of Twizel, towards Omarama, you’ll find Ohau.
This charming little town connects to the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail. It is also home to a small family-friendly skifield, Ōhau Snow Fields. In the wintertime, there is no better place to be in the region.
Keen photographers will also want to keep their eyes peeled for impressive hoar frosts.
During the summer, we recommend packing a picnic and enjoying yourself by Lake Ohau.
As Ohau is just a 25-minute drive from Twizel, it’s a short but memorable trip for those that love the outdoors.
13. Check out the Ohau Bridge
Built in 1889, this beautiful old iron bridge is the last remaining engineered structure of its type left in the Mackenzie Basin.
Prior to the bridge being installed, crossings were completed in the water (with many drowning), or by metal wire and cage.
Officials were hesitant to build a bridge at first as they were concerned about the spread of rabbits (an introduced animal that would go on to become a real issue for our native flora and fauna). It was eventually completed though, making river crossings safe for locals.
Now, this old bridge is a glimpse into the past. It’s also a great spot to swim, kayak and paddleboard.
Find it just out of Twizel, before you cross the bridge to the salmon farm.
Pro tip: You can also check out the nearby memorial, remembering a mother and her daughter, who sadly drowned while crossing the river before the bridge was built.
14. Stock up at Jake’s Hardware
Though this might seem like a strange addition, bear with us.
Though Twizel is only a small town, it has an incredibly well-stocked hardware store – Jake’s Hardware.
You’ll find a wide range of kitchen, gardening and camping supplies, games, puzzles, tools, fishing gear, homewards, cards, toys and more.
If you’re camping or travelling by campervan, it’s always good to know where well-equipped stores are – particularly in small towns. It’s also handy to know where you can stop off to buy a gift or something to entertain the kids.
Jake’s ticks all of the boxes, so be sure to swing by if you need to pick something up.
24 Market Place, Twizel 7901
15. Learn how to fly fish
There aren’t many places in Aotearoa that offer better fly fishing than the Mackenzie Basin.
With fast-flowing mountain streams, still-water lakes and small spring creeks, you’ll have plenty of options to catch both rainbow and wild brown trout.
The Tekapo River, just 10 minutes from Twizel, has to be a massive highlight for fishermen and women. It has the largest population of fish per kilometre in the whole South Island!
A number of companies can take you out fishing. They’ll teach you the best fly fishing technique and provide you with all of the required gear and permits.
Or you can have a go yourself. Rod hire and fishing licences are available in town – unsurprisingly, at Jake’s Hardware.
16. Go skydiving at one of the most gorgeous jump sites
Just a few minutes from Twizel, you’ll find one of the most stunning skydiving jump sites in New Zealand.
Flights leave multiple times a day, allowing even first-timers to take a leap of faith with their tandem jumpmaster. You’ll enjoy incredible views over Mount Cook National Park, while enjoying the biggest natural high of your life.
If you have an adventurous spirit you have to go sky diving in Aotearoa – and this is the place to do it!
We hope that this list of things to do in Twizel has helped you craft the perfect itinerary.
If there are any amazing activities that we might have missed, we’d love to hear about them in the comments below.
After all, sharing is caring!