What to Do in Fairlie: The Gateway to the MacKenzie District
A road trip through the South Island between Christchurch and Lake Tekapo is not complete without a stop for a pie or some boutique shopping in the town of Fairlie. But this rural town has many reasons to stay awhile, from the range of scenic walks available to the outstanding golf courses to the fun farm tours. Start adding these activities to your itinerary with this list of things to do in Fairlie!
While you’re here, you might also be interested in the 6 Essential Pitstops for Your South Canterbury Road Trip and The Complete Guide to Mt Cook.
1. Walk Along the Opihi River
Stretch your legs in Fairlie by taking the River Walkway. Follow the Opihi River down this easy-going walkway taking only 40 minutes for the return walk. Alternatively, continue the adventure down the Opihi Gorge Track. There are many more walks available in Fairlie, like the Fairlie-Kimbell walk/cycle track and the Jack Lovelock Track. Find out more in our list of the 5 Best Walks in Fairlie.
Location: Just past the holiday park, 14 Allandale Road
2. Indulge in Pies and Country Cuisine
This high country town sure knows how to make amazing food with a county flair! Try one of the Fairlie Bakehouse’s award-winning pies – arguably some of the best pies in New Zealand or enjoy stunning mountain views from the Farm Barn Cafe.
Location: Fairlie Bakehouse – 74 Main Street. Farm Barn Cafe – Mt Michael on Geraldine-Fairlie Highway.
3. Check Out the Local Art Galleries
Just outside of Fairlie on your way to Tekapo, don’t miss the outstanding art galleries. The Silverstream Gallery displays alpine, floral, traditional and impressionist oil and watercolour paintings. Additionally, stop by the Burkes Pass Gallery to see realist paintings of country life here in the MacKenzie region. There’s also artwork on display along Peace Avenue in Fairlie town.
Location: Silverstream Gallery – 752 State Highway 8, Kimbell, Burkes Pass Gallery – 2122 Fairlie-Tekapo Road, Peace Avenue – middle of Main Street.
4. Fish for Salmon and Trout
Get your fishing gear ready and try your luck on the shores of Lake Opuha, Lake Tekapo, Lake Alexandrina and Lake McGregor. The fishing season starts early October and ends in late April, with the lakes surrounding Fairlie being popular for salmon and trout fishing. Fishing licences are required and can be purchased at the Fairlie House and Garden. Find out more about fishing licences in our What You Need to Know About Fishing in New Zealand.
Location: Lakes named. Fairlie House and Garden – 71 Main Street.
5. Visit the Fairlie Heritage Museum
See one of the largest collections of vintage wagons and carriages in New Zealand at the Fairline Heritage Museum. New Zealand history buffs will love this treasure trove of vintage machinery, farm and household items on display. There’s also a separate transport pavilion. The museum is open daily. Other heritage sites in Fairlie include the James MacKenzie Statue, The Monument, Pace Avenue and the Trooper MacKenzie Statue.
Location: 49 Mt Cook Road
6. Ski at Mt Dobson
Fairlie is the closest town to the fantastic Mt Dobson Ski Area. The ski area has something for everyone, from families on the sunny learners’ area to expert skiers and riders on the advanced trails. Ski hire and a cafe are available on the mountain. The ski field is open July to early October depending on the snow base.
Location: Signposted off Fairlie -Tekapo Road then 17km (10.5 miles) up a gravel road.
7. Take a Tour of an Alpaca and Llama Farm
Tour a working alpaca farm at Gem Alpacas. Feed, touch and meet the alpacas and llamas, then relax at the on-site farm shop for ice creams and drinks. Baby cria are available to see from December to February.
Location: 18 Nixons Road – Book at the Paca Shack, 77 Main Street
8. Take a Scenic Helicopter Flight
See the lakes and mountains of the MacKenzie region from a stunning perspective on a scenic flight. Flights last from 10 minutes or longer, with bespoke options available. Flights depart from the Farm Barn Cafe.
Location: Mt Michael on Geraldine-Fairlie Highway
9. Play Golf
Give a hit to New Zealand’s most popular sport among some of the South Island’s most beautiful alpine scenery. There are four golf courses close to Fairlie, the closest being the Fairlie Golf Club and their 18-hole course. Other options include the MacKenzie Golf Course (9 holes), Mt Nessing Golf Course (winter only – 9 holes), and The Cairns (9 holes).
Location: Fairlie Golf Club – Talbot Road, MacKenzie Golf Course – Tekapo-Twizel Road, Mt Nessing – Mt Nessing Road, and The Cairns – Sibbald Lane, Lake Tekapo.
10. Visit Lake Tekapo
Fairlie is just a 30-minute drive from one of New Zealand’s most-photographed areas, Lake Tekapo. Lake Tekapo has its own set of attractions, from stargazing tours to jet boat tours to hiking trails. Find out more in our 10 Unmissable Things to Do in Lake Tekapo.
Location: Fairlie-Tekapo Highway, 43km (27 miles) west of Fairlie