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I have travelled throughout most of New Zealand and I’ve seen many spectacular mountains, experienced a number of adventures amongst the most stunning scenery, yet, when asked where my favourite place is I would have to say Braemar Station. In fact, if you were to ask most of my colleagues who have guided trips all across New Zealand, I'm sure they would probably say the same.
Braemar Station is a working sheep, cattle and deer farm on the eastern shore of Lake Pukaki just 30 minutes from Tekapo. Covering 63,000 acres, the farm has been run by the Mackenzie family since 1969.
The cosy accomodations avaliable for booking are the Sheep Shearer's quarters or a couple of smaller cottages nearby. All have shared facilities for bathrooms, bedrooms and a group kitchen in the Shearer's quarters, are clean and comfortable and have immediate access to the fields, farm and lake shore. The view is phenomenal and the beauty of staying in such a remote location is that, without the distractions of television, internet and phone coverage, and with the freedom to explore the farm and surrounding area, you can truly relax and take in the breath-taking scenery.
Lake Pukaki (7th largest lake in New Zealand at 179km squared) is a glacially formed lake, therefore, with much sediment suspended in the water (otherwise known as 'rock flour') in the sunlight it can be coloured the most striking blue you're ever likely to see. Lake Pukaki is also New Zealand's largest single controllable storage reservoir and is part of the Waitaki Hydro Electricity Scheme (8 natural and man-made lakes linked by canals and accommodating 8 power stations). Throughout the country hydro-electricity schemes generate just over 50% of New Zealand's energy.
At the Northern end of the lake lies Mt Cook National Park and Mt Cook (Aoraki) himself standing tall at 3754 metres. Watching the sunset cast beautiful pinks over Mt Cook and the surrounding mountains might be one of the most beautiful things you ever see, that is until dusk gives way to the first evening stars. As night time falls an even greater magic appears in the sky above, for Braemar Station is within the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. With minimal light pollution, naturally dark skies and plenty of clear nights the quality and quantity of stars is incredible. The Milky Way is easily spotted and the Southern Cross is also visible if you can recognise it amongst the millions of other stars! If you are an early riser sunrise is just as special, I particularly love to take a quiet walk through the fields with only a few birds and sheep for company and watch as the glow of daylight slowly brings the surrounding mountains to life.
Even if there is bad weather on the cards it is often only within Mt Cook National Park, and Braemar Station, just 35km away can usually escape the worst. However, different weather systems can also provide some unusual and fascinating cloud formations, creating a different but equally beautiful experience.
For me, Braemar Station with its backdrop of Lake Pukaki and Mt Cook is simply stunning and being there feels like fuel for my soul. We visit Braemar Station on a number of our Active Adventures New Zealand trips - it always makes for a special way to end our adventure around the South Island.
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