Before going to New Zealand for the first time I had a very hard time trying to squeeze some space from my schedule to shoot sunrise and/or sunset at Lake Pukaki and Tekapo, and at the end, both lakes were pushed down to the bottom of  the “must shoot” list by other locations. But things don’t go as planned very often and by now these two lakes are my two the most visited and photographed places in New Zealand, so much for planning, huh?!

Lake Pukaki is the largest of the three parallel lakes created by receding glacier ice more than 12000 years ago. Lake is fed by a melt-water from Hooker, Mueller and Tasman glaciers and contains large volumes of extremely fine rock particles – glacier flour, which adds beautiful turquoise colour to the water.

Lake Pukaki is 260 km west of Christchurch or about 4 hours drive and a very hard to miss – road passes just along the coast presenting some extraordinary views.

There are several lookouts along the road with excellent views of Aoraki/Mount Cook. Unfortunately, most of these lookouts are not marked, so be alert and ready to pull over, otherwise you are going to miss some nice scenery. There is also a small visitor centre  located at the southern end of the lake on top of the dam. My personal favorite spot is near a small unmarked camping area next to the Hayman Road.

Before posting this article I spent quite a bit of time researching what the word “Pukaki” means. Here are two meanings which I could find:
– “a great swelling or choking in a throat” – referring to a rushing water in the flood season
– source of the river

If you know any other meanings or legends related to Lake Pukaki, please share!


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  • Honeymoon bed breakfast

    Your photography is really very awesome and truly shows your proficiency. The place looks good for holiday vacation as well. Could you provide some help about this area?

    Basically I have free time in mid October to end of January and want to enjoy this period with my family. Is this place suitable for my family with ample amenities available? How about camping?

    I’m hoping you will provide better guide and I know you visited several destinations.



      There are several spots along the road where you could stop for a night – camping or campervan, but no amenities. If you need an official camping site or hotel, you can drive to Mount Cook village – a great place with Mt Cook views. Camping area there has basic facilities – that's where we stayed.