South Island | New Zealand | The Road to Edoras
Whether you’re looking to step into the tussock clad valleys of the ‘Rohan’ region or discover some of New Zealand’s most incredible scenery, The Road to Edoras will not disappoint!
Made famous by Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Hakatere Conservation Park is surprisingly easy to get to. You’ll need a full day and a reliable vehicle to truly explore the best of this high-country utopia. From Ashburton you’ll drive through Mid Canterbury farmland on sealed roads as far as the Hakatere Station Buildings, then the dusty (or wet and muddy) adventure begins!
Steeped in history, Hakatere Station was home to families who worked in the most inhospitable alpine surrounds while eking out a living from farming. You’ll learn about two local women who lived more than 20 miles apart. Mary Rutherford & Mrs Lambie regularly trudged through the tussock land to meet for chats and a cup of tea. With their long dresses and thick leather boots, they and their children would meet at Trysting Stone by Lake Clearwater. Women were scarce in the high country so meetings required some serious effort. When you have seen the terrain they traversed to enjoy each other’s company, you’ll truly appreciate their story.
From the Hakatere Station Buildings you can take a right turn onto Hakatere – Heron Road and head for Maori Lakes & Lake Heron. The thoroughfare to Lake Heron is a little unkempt. There are places where the road resembles a snake that has swallowed a basketball. These points will alert you to drive wide, the holes feel like the Grand Canyon if you drive through them. Maori Lakes are more akin to an actual pond; however, they support plenty of bird life and large black swans paddle graciously on the water. A small DOC camp can be used by self-contained campers & caravanners for short stays. It’s not sheltered by any means. Located on tussock plains, surrounded by towering hills you’ll find yourself totally exposed to the elements. It’s a weird feeling, like being on another planet. Maybe another camper will park beside you, maybe you’ll be alone there. The only reminder that you’re not too far from civilisation is the occasional passing car or farm vehicle. This area is also part of Te Araroa – New Zealand’s Trail, a complete walkway from Cape Reinga in the North, to Bluff in the deep South. If you encounter folk with large packs and walking poles, they’re not in the land of the lost, they have taken up the challenge of traversing more than 3000-kilometres on the trails of paradise.
Lake Heron offers a striking landscape of rolling hill country surrounded by towering, snow capped peaks. There are several trails accommodating day walkers and Double Hut serves as a rustic accommodation option if you want to stay and explore more. Double Hut Track crosses the Rakaia Valley arriving at the Lake Emily section of Te Araroa. Located on the edge of Lake Heron is a small campground with flush toilets in a sheltered gully overlooked by the sometimes-bustling yards of a shearing shed. The whole area is surrounded by Lake Heron High Country Station, encompassing almost 20,000 hectares of alpine terrain.
If you choose to continue driving straight ahead from the Hakatere Station Buildings instead of taking the turn to Lake Heron, Hakatere – Potts Road will lead you to Mt Sunday & Edoras. Though the road is unsealed, it is well maintained as far as Lakes Camp & Clearwater.
Lake Clearwater is a small settlement made up of holiday homes. At 650 metres above sea level, winter here is certainly picturesque though extremely chilly! Adjacent to the village there is a camping area with rest rooms and a fresh water source which is recommended to be boiled prior to drinking. An ‘honesty box’ system applies for camp fees. Numerous tracks ranging is skillset from easy to advanced can be accessed from here. Don’t forget your camera, the scenery is utterly sublime.
You can venture past Lake Clearwater over a clanging cattle stop on the Hakatere – Potts Road to a beautiful valley where the Lawrence, Clyde & Havelock Rivers form the headwaters of the Rangitata River. This area is on the edge of Erewhon Station (almost nowhere spelled backwards) and you’ll certainly feel like you’re in the middle of it! (Nowhere, that is). Surrounded by majestic mountain ranges and hardy tussock land, this is Edoras.
I ventured into Hakatere Conservation Park on a fine (though frosty) autumn morning in a front wheel drive hatchback. The drive was mostly comfortable and easy, though the road to Lake Heron & the Hakatere – Potts Roads beyond Lake Clearwater were a little rougher and the road surface changed frequently. In wet, icy or winter conditions, a 4WD may be necessary.
Whether you choose a day trip or to stay and camp a while, the ambience of experiencing one of New Zealand’s most delicious landscapes will exhilarate and enthral all who visit. Remember to leave your canine friends at home, no dogs are allowed in the conservation area.
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