Smoothly and happily stepping into every day’s chores can be a challenge after 4 months of travelling. We decided we could use some peace and solitude to get a fresh start at the Ashburton Lakes, Mt Sunday and Lake Clearwater.
Hakatere Conservation Park is only two hours away from Christchurch -in New Zealand’s South Island-. Here you can find the Ashburton Lakes and also visit one of the most important locations in The Lord of the Rings: Edoras.
If you are a weekend adventurer or an “off the beaten path” lover: press play, watch the video and keep reading.
How to get there
This is a 2 hours drive from Christchurch, direction West Coast. The only way to get there is self-driven.
The closest you can get by bus is Methven or Ashburton.
There are shuttle services from Christchurch to Methven -cost around $45nzd-, or you can take the bus to Ashburton. Then you would have to book a day trip or hitchhike-which is legal in New Zealand-. Many people report that is hard to get a ride in the South Island though, so if you go against the clock maybe this is not your best option.
Book a day trip
This option may be good for you if you are based in Christchurch, where you can book the Lord of the Rings full day tour. The cost is $250nzd, but you can get it cheaper if you find a deal in en bookme.com. This I’m telling you just so you know, I haven’t done this myself, I can only say I’ve seen good reviews in TripAdvisor.
Getting from Christchurch to Ashburton Lakes
You don’t need to have a 4×4 to get to the first lakes, but you may consider it if you want to explore and go deeper into the Conservation Park. After Lake Clearwater is all gravel road.
Hiking Clearwater Lake loop
There are a number of hikes of diverse length and difficulty you can do here, you can also stay at a hut or freedom camp. This is a perfect spot for a day trip as it is very isolated, which allows you to enjoy the outdoors right away.
We decided to get to Lake Clearwater and do the loop around the lake. 10km in 3 hours, an easy track, suitable for all ages, no altitude gain.
There’s a very small village by the lake when you do the loop you can see the snowy mountains at the back… it looks like a postcard!
Visiting Mount Sunday
After the hike we took the car and drove to Mt Sunday, better known as Edoras from The Lord of the Rings. There were barely any people, and the 360 views of the valley are stunning.
To get there from Lake Clearwater you just need to drive west for about 20 minutes. There’s a parking spot, from there you walk up about 15 to 20 minutes until you make it to the top of the Mount.
There are campsites where you can pinch your tent. But you can also freedom camp almost anywhere as there are plenty of lakes and no people. Always respect the “no trace” rule.
It goes without saying but you should always leave the place in perfect conditions. Take your rubbish with you and respect the fire rules and regulations.
Our chosen spot for camping was Lake Emma which seemed a pretty cool spot for a morning hike. But hey! This is New Zealand, so of course, it was terribly windy and it started raining. We decided to make our way back to Christchurch.
If you are all about lakes and you happen to be in need of a detour from the main touristic routes, come check Hakatere -aka Ashburton Lakes-. 360º views, tussock grass’s landscape, snowy mountains and a Lord of the Rings location will, honestly, make a great setup for amazing memories.