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1. Twizel is the biggest town in the Mackenzie High Country. It sits on State Highway 8 in the Canterbury region, south of Tekapo and north of Omarama.
2. It’s known as the gateway to Aoraki / Mt Cook World Heritage Park, being just a short drive from Mount Cook Village. The magnificent Southern Alps can easily be seen from the town.
3. Despite its old-fashioned name, the town of Twizel is relatively new. It was founded in 1968 as a home for construction workers on the nearby Waitaki hydroelectric project. Set out in ‘Scandinavian style, it has a town square in the middle and looping roads around the outside.
4. The town is named after an area of Northumberland, England called Twizell by the man who surveyed him. No one knows why the extra ‘L’ dropped off…
5. Twizel isn’t even supposed to exist today! Because it was built to house workers on a short-term project, much of the town’s infrastructure was planned to be temporary so the area could return to nature after the workers left. But after the project finished in the early 1980s, Twizel residents fought to stay put and the town was saved.
6. If you’re a keen astronomer, get to Twizel now! Twizel is situated within the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky reserve – the largest reserve of its kind in the whole world. When viewed from the reserve the night sky is almost totally free of light pollution, making this area one of the best stargazing sites on earth.
7. Twizel is close to five beautiful lakes. The closest is manmade Lake Ruataniwha, with Lake Ohau to the West, Pukaki and Tekapo to the north, and Benmore to the south.
8. The area around Twizel is well-known for fly fishing. If you’re not the patient type and don’t feel like standing in a river in your waders for hours waiting for a bite, you can also visit one of the three salmon farms in the area.
9. Twizel is part of the Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail, which runs over 300km from Aoraki / Mt Cook to Oamaru on the coast.
10. Lord of the Rings fans will recognise Twizel as the location of Gondor and the Pelennor Fields in the Lord of the Rings movies. Today you can take a location tour with local outfit OneRing Tours.
InterCity runs daily services to Twizel from Christchurch and Queenstown.. Services operate in Newmans and GreatSights coaches.