High Country NZ – 4WD Off The Beaten Track

In the middle of New Zealand’s South Island lies the Southern Alps. This mountain range is spectacular. The stunning backdrop to the Lord of the Rings trilogy attracts tourists from all over the world. In my last post I described a couple of days skiing in these awesome mountains. While I was in the area I caught up with some old friends who live in Darfield, a small town on the Canterbury plains – the perfect base to explore the high country.

My friends are the proud owners of a Toyota Landcruiser¬†fitted out with mud tires, snorkel and winch….just in case! A Picnic lunch was packed and with another beautiful day dawning we were off.

Along State Highway 73 through some cute little towns, we were in the mountains within half an hour. The drive up through Porters Pass was stunning, especially with the recent snow fall. At the bottom of the pass we turned left to follow the edge of Lake Lyndon. A stop for a few pictures was rewarded with some of the best I’ve taken on this trip. The lake is rather shallow but a popular place in Summer for boating and fishing all year round. Surrounded by mountains it is a beautiful stop.

We carried on past the lake and turned off the road about half an hour later. My friends were keen to show me what their vehicle could do and we followed a rough 4WD track along a dry riverbed. It was certainly impressive the terrain we could tackle! A lunch stop in a very isolated valley with nothing but birdsong was one of the highlights of the day. We got the bino’s out to see if any deer could be spotted but no luck. We made our way back to the road and carried on.

Next stop was Lake Coleridge. This lake is much larger and deeper than Lyndon. Again, surrounded by mountains and beautiful. It feeds into a power station that has been around for 100 years. Amazing feat of engineering. Coleridge village is very quaint, originally set up to house the power station employees it now has some permanent residents as well as holiday houses. There are some awesome walking tracks in this area as well as a very impressive arboretum (tree garden) which was started 100 years ago.

Several large high country stations (farms) are in this area and the general public are able to access their land to hunt/fish/tramp. It’s great the owners are so amiable.

It’s a lovely drive back to Darfield through farmland. The classic kiwi meal of fish and chips for dinner finished off a great day out!