You’ll pass through Fairlie on the drive between Christchurch and Tekapo / Mount Cook — if you have time you should definitely take the short detour to Lake Opuha. This small man-made lake is surrounded by hills and mountains and offers up some beautiful views in its reflective surface.
Driving to Lake Opuha
Lake Opuha is located around 12 kilometres from Fairlie and you can see some great mountain views on the drive there. You can park up by the main road or take the gravel road (look out for a sign for Opuha Dam) for an elevated view of the lake. You can drive to the dam (and further around) and there’s a road which we drove up and later learned was private where we got loudly barked at by heaps of dogs. This whole stretch of road is really scenic, especially in winter when there is some snow around.
We actually went to Lake Opuha twice on our recent trip to the Lake Tekapo and the Mackenzie Basin — once at sunset and again the next morning. Sunset there would be amazing on a good night but there weren’t many colours in the sky. The next morning we returned and the light / conditions were perfect. The best lake-level views are right by the main road and on a calm day the 360 degree view of hills and mountains reflect perfectly in the lake. It’s a bit like a more low-key version of Lake Matheson, only most people have never heard of it!
For most tourists, Fairlie is a place to pass through rather than stay, but it does make a good alternative to nearby Tekapo as it’s a lot less touristy. It’s also popular in winter as there are some ski fields nearby. If you are only passing through make sure to stop off at Fairlie Bakehouse and try a pie — the pork belly and apple sauce pie (including crackling) might just be one of the best things you’ll eat on your trip to New Zealand!
Are you planning a trip to Tekapo and Mount Cook National Park? Will you stop off at Lake Opuha on the way? Let us know in the comments below!
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