You’ll drive around the shores of Lake Pukaki when driving between Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook (or between Twizel and Mount Cook) and if you’re lucky enough to strike it on a nice day you’ll be blown away by how blue it is. It’s a surreal place to see and is one of the main reasons why the road to Mount Cook is (in my opinion) the most scenic in New Zealand. Is it the bluest lake in New Zealand? Well, I haven’t seen them all, but it’s a pretty safe bet.
The best place to see Lake Pukaki is on the road between Twizel (or just outside Twizel) and Mount Cook. You’ll also see it a lot on the road between Lake Tekapo and that turnoff to Mount Cook, but it’s a little less photogenic on that stretch. Make sure to stop at Peter’s Lookout – it’s well signed and is one of the top spots for seeing Lake Pukaki from above.
You can also get that famous winding road shot here (walk down to the road from the car park) – it obviously looks better in certain light so it’s a good idea to stop there both on the way to Mount Cook and on the way back.
As you drive further towards Mount Cook you’ll see more and more of Lake Pukaki. There aren’t any major viewpoints along this stretch but there is generally room on the side of the road to pull over. The last time we were there we saw Lake Pukaki at it’s absolute bluest (I don’t think I’ve ever used that word before) and it was a great experience.
READ MORE: Check out our South Island road trip itinerary!
The section between Lake Tekapo and the turnoff to Mount Cook National Park is nice too but we never seem to strike it in the right light. Again, there are a few viewpoints to stop at and you can easily get down to the edge of the lake. There’s also the Lake Pukaki Track – we haven’t done that as I can’t imagine the views being any better (you can see Lake Pukaki from so many angles when driving) – let me know if you’ve done it though!
Is it always so blue?
Not really. We’ve driven to Mount Cook four times now (which makes it eight times we’ve driven that road) and it has been a bit of a mixed bag. Sometimes the clouds roll in which dulls the blue a bit. Other times the lake is quite calm, meaning it reflects the sky and gets a bit glary. The last time we visited the sky was clear (apart from a few clouds which allowed for some nice contrasting colours) and it was very windy. I reckon wind is the key – it means the lake doesn’t become glary and the blue really comes out. I could be wrong though – I’m no lake colour expert! You’re probably wondering why it’s so blue…? It’s because of glacial flour (don’t worry, it’s the first time I’ve heard that term too!), which is finely ground rock particles from the nearby glaciers.
READ MORE: Check out these fun things to do in Lake Tekapo and the Mackenzie Basin (so many mountain views!)
Thing to see nearby
There is so much to see near Lake Pukaki – it’s kind of in the middle of one of the most beautiful areas of New Zealand. Mount Cook National Park is the obvious highlight (check out the Hooker Valley, Tasman Glacier, Kea Point and Red Tarns hikes) and Lake Tekapo is one of New Zealand’s most scenic towns. Also check out the Waitaki Valley (Benmore Peninsula Track, Elephant Rocks) and the scenic drive to Queenstown through the Lindis Pass.
Are you planning a trip to Mount Cook National Park? Check out my posts!