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Hakatere Conservation Park

Fiona Thomson

I have fond memories of camping near Lake Clearwater in the Hakatere Conservation Park, near Ashburton in the South Island.

Hakatere Conservation Park is a protected mountain basin, covering 60,000 hectares of rugged mountains where the Rakaia and Rangitata Rivers were formed. The landscape here is breathtakingly beautiful, hosting a number of swamps, tarns and rivers, against a backdrop of stunning mountains. Tussock and beech forest cover much of the park alongside the rugged stony greywacke riverbeds and mountain scree, the area being established as a Conservation Park in 2007, by the Department of Conservation.

The wetland area provides a protected environment for many rare and threatened plants, and is home to many bird species.This is one of New Zealand’s best examples of wetland habitat, where lizards, skinks and wētā have made their home alongside native fish and invertebrates. We began our exploration of this area by visiting the buildings at Hakatere Corner — which were the original accomodation for the manager, and shearer’s quarters for Hakatere Station.

Hakatere Station

Hakatere is the Māori name for the Ashburton River, and the name that was given to this high country station.The stone cottage — constructed in 1862 — is one of mid-Canterbury’s oldest residences, and is listed as a Historic Place Category 2 building. 

As part of our taste of the high country we drove to the public road’s end: the gate of Erewon Station, and were delighted to be welcomed by Highland cattle, and Clydesdale horses. More Clydesdales on p11.

Highland cattle at Erewhon.

Some of our group made the 30-minute climb up Mount Sunday — a stunning large piece of rock that was carved out by glaciers thousands of years ago, and sits as a boundary point for the nearby high country stations. Mount Sunday was appropriately named, as it was the regular meeting spot for many shepherds who worked locally; back in the day, they would meet on this hill on their only day off: Sundays!

More recently, it was the film site for Edoras in the movie The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. 

Lake Camp is a basic reserve area, where overnight camping is permitted on the edge of the lake, on the northern and eastern sides. There are public toilets. There is a second option for camping at Lake Clearwater paying at an honesty box. The camping ground can be found near the boat ramp at the southern end of Lake Clearwater. Water is provided there but must be boiled for drinking. 

There are no dogs allowed near any of the lakes or reserves in the area.

Lake Camp

We had a very pleasant evening staying at Lake Camp. This is a fantastic region to explore and one we will return to.

Images ©2024 Fiona Thomson

breathtakingly beautiful

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