After crossing the Rangitata River into South Canterbury, SH1 and the Inland Scenic Route (SH72) narrow to within 8km of each other at the quaint town of Geraldine. Here you can choose to take the busy coastal highway through the port city of Timaru, or continue inland on SH79 into Mackenzie Country, where NZ's tallest peaks rise above powder-blue lakes.
The Mackenzie Basin is a wild, tussock-strewn bowl at the foot of the Southern Alps, carved out by ancient glaciers. It takes its name from the legendary James ‘Jock’ McKenzie, who ran his stolen flocks in this then-uninhabited region in the 1840s.
Director Sir Peter Jackson made the most of this rugged and untamed landscape while filming the Lord of the Rings, choosing Mt Cook Village as the setting for Minas Tirith and a sheep station near Twizel as Gondor's Pelennor Fields.