For a rural alpine experience, you can’t go past the lakes district and the small towns of St Arnaud and Murchison. This is rugged New Zealand at its best – unlike the pristine tourist centres of Queenstown or Christchurch, the Nelson Lakes District contains untouched lakes and mountains. St Arnaud makes an ideal base for further exploration of Nelson Lakes National Park or Lake Rotoiti, while Murchison is the gateway to Kahurangi National Park.
Murchison, population 750, is a farming community situated beside the Buller River, a shimmering, deep green body of water that flows from Lake Rotoiti. Lord of the Rings fans have to visit Mount Owen and the Owen River, which was the setting for Dimrill Dale in the Peter Jackson movie. The Buller River is a popular tourist spot and is one of the best trout fishing spots in the country, thanks to the early settlers to the area who bred and then released trout into the river. The intense rapids also make it perfect for white water rafting. Gold nuggets are still found in the Buller River today, so why not try panning for gold?
St Arnaud, nestled at the edge of Lake Rotoiti, is the perfect base for those who wish to explore the Nelson Lakes National Park, where you can hike or fish. Nearby Rainbow Ski Field is open from June till October. St Arnaud also offers fine dining experiences and beautiful natural surroundings, although don’t expect to do a lot of shopping there!