Visit Omarama, Mount Cook / Mackenzie Country, NZ

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  • Omarama is located southern Mackenzie basin, near lakes Benmore and Aviemore. It is one of the world’s best locations for flying gliders, and is close to ski fields and wilderness areas for hiking, mountain biking and 4WD tours.

    Canterbury Ski Area - Ski Season for 2014

    ·       Mt Hutt - From 7 June 2014

    ·       Mt Dobson from July 2014

    ·       Tekapo (Round Hill) from July 2014

    ·       Fox Peak – from June/July, as snowfall permits

    ·       Click here for information on skiing in the South Island

    Traditionally, Omarama has been a service centre for the local sheep farming industry. In recent decades, with the decline of sheep farming, it has grown as a centre for tourism, while new industries such as salmon farming and wine making have increased.

    The Ahuriri River and Ahuriri Conservation Park are just north of Omarama. The river is very good for fly- fishing, and is home to the world’s rarest wading bird, the Black Stilt, which is endemic to the Mackenzie Basin. Lake Benmore and the amazing landforms of the “clay cliffs” near St Bathans are two popular local attractions.

    Accommodation in Omarama (NZ)

    Omarama has a number of high-quality hotels to choose from. Motel accommodation is also offered.

    A holiday park and a number of backpacker hostels and lodges cater for travellers on a budget.

    There are also bed & breakfast and farm-stay establishments, for a taste of kiwi hospitality, as well as self-contained units and holiday homes for rent.

    Transport around Omarama

    Omarama is located at the junction between State Highways 8 and 83. It is about 2 hours’ drive from Queenstown or from Timaru. Wanaka, Tekapo and Mount Cook Village are 1–1.5 hours’ drive, while Twizel is only 25 minutes away.

    Inter-city coaches and budget/backpacker transport operators serve Omarama from main centres nearby, including Queenstown and Timaru.

    Omarama’s airport services charter flights only.

    Mountain bikes are available for hire at Omarama. And local shuttle/taxi services can provide transport to and from nearby destinations.

    Tourist Activities around Omarama

    Omarama is perhaps most famous as a location for gliding. Its clear air, and local wave systems and thermals make it one of the world’s best sites for gliding at altitude. It has been used as a testing location by NASA and round-the-world balloonist Steve Fossett.

    Visitors can enjoy tandem glider flights from 1 hour to 2.5 hours, and longer. If weather conditions are suitable, passengers may be given the chance to take control of the aircraft. Flights of up to 500 km at altitudes of up to 20,000 feet are possible.

    The Ahuriri River and Lake Benmore offer great fishing for trout and salmon. Guided fishing safaris are available locally. Visitors can also tour a salmon farm, and may catch and keep their own fish. Lake Benmore is also popular to visit for its dam and hydro-electric power station.

    Scenic flights that operated from Omarama Airport are a great way to see all of the Southern Alps, including Mount Cook and 16 other peaks higher than 3,000 metres. These include flights by vintage biplane or by helicopter. Helicopter flights usually touch down on the snow of a mountain plateau or glacier, giving passengers the chance to walk around and take photographs.

    Helicopters can also be used by skiers, mountain bikers and hunters to gain access to remote areas for off-piste skiing, biking virgin country, or hunting red deer, thar, wapiti and wallaby.

    Ten minutes north of Omarama are the Clay Cliffs – a dramatic landscape of eroded pinnacles and gulches. Another popular local walk is Ladybird Hill, which has a café and one of Otago’s oldest wineries.

    Due to its clear air and altitude, Omarama (meaning “place of light” in Maori) has a spectacular night sky. A mid-winter “star festival” is held each year, during which time street lighting is dimmed so that the starry night sky takes centre stage. An astronomical observatory at Benmore Peak, 13 km north of Omarama, is worth visiting.

    The brightness of light and the colours of the landscape have long inspired artists to paint this region, and a number of landscape artists live locally. Their work can be viewed and purchased at local galleries. The town also has restaurants and golf, and a sheep farming-based attraction that include demonstrations of sheep shearing and mustering using dogs.

    For relaxing afternoons or evenings, Omarama has a hot tub (Jacuzzi) park – another great way to appreciate the scenery.

    • Scroll down for Omarama accommodtion & activity listings