Altitude Is The Key To New Zealand's Prestigious Salmon Shop

There are several things New Zealand is globally noted for. Among them are world-class Sauvignon Blanc, rugby, stunning landscapes, and, of course, the filming of The Lord of the Rings films. Located in the Pacific Ocean, New Zealand is composed of two large landmasses (North Island and South Island) plus hundreds of smaller islands off their shores. Travelers from all over the world visit the country to experience its glaciers, mountains, lakes, and national parks, not to mention burgeoning dining and culture scenes in the larger cities.

While some tourists are enjoying a second breakfast on their tour of Hobbiton on North Island, a few others are trekking up the Southern Alps of New Zealand on South Island. Their destination: Lake Pukaki, home to a tiny shorefront fish shop selling some of the most luxurious freshwater king salmon in the world. The shop is just a tiny piece of the full operation; the salmon itself is raised nearby in the most pristine conditions, creating a fish that is sustainable, fresh, and incredibly tasty, per The New York Times. While farmed salmon is steadily raised and available in many parts of the world, those raised in the mountains of South Island are overseen by humans but cared for almost exclusively by Mother Nature herself.

Altitude means high oxygen

Located in the Southern Alps, Mt. Cook Alpine Salmon is the highest-altitude salmon farm in the world. The fish are farmed in a natural grid of waterways that connect three lakes: Pukaki, Tekapo, and Benmore, per Mt. Cook Alpine Salmon. This creates millions of gallons of pure, ice-cold, constantly flowing water that is naturally high in minerals and oxygen. Because of this, the salmon are sufficiently exercised and need no vaccines or antibiotics, thus limiting the amount of time they are handled by humans. They are hand fed by the staff, and this is mostly to ensure that their handlers can detect any signs of stress or illness.

The drive to the Mt. Cook Alpine Salmon Shop takes hours and, according to The New York Times, can occasionally be perilous. But most who have experienced the salmon there will say it's all worth it. Once you've purchased your container of salmon, you can take it right outside to one of the picnic tables that face Lake Pukaki and the mountains beyond. It's a breathtaking view, worthy of five stars in and of itself. The salmon is described as stunning: fatty and unbelievably fresh, as if it's been pulled out of the water moments ago. You might not believe the fish is actually sustainably farmed and not wild, but the salmon here would undoubtedly rival any other kind in the world.