Get full details of the scenic drive from Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki with insider's tips, and see a video of what kind of scenery you can expect to see.
The scenic drive from Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki follows State Highway 8 through the heart of the Mackenzie Basin.
Tekapo is a well-known little town in Mackenzie Country. Tekapo tends to be very busy throughout the entire year with lots of tourists and tour buses passing through it, although it is quieter in winter.
Lake Pukaki is a glacial lake that has become famous for its milky blue color and as the foreground to Mount Cook. I can promise you that Lake Pukaki looks much more impressive when you see it in person than it does in any photograph or video. You have to catch the lake on a sunny day, though, to get to see its mesmerizing blue color.
The scenic drive from Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki is approximately 47 km (29 mi) in length. Driving at about 100 km/h (62 mph), it would take approximately 25 to 30 minutes to drive from Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki.
I’ve driven from Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki in 25 minutes but Google estimates it to be a 33-minute drive. You can find other driving distances and times as calculated and estimated by Google as well as a map on the South Island driving distances and times page.
State Highway 8 between Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki is a pretty straight road with a few curves, so it’ll be fairly easy to drive at 100 km/h (62 mph) there.
There isn’t much to see along this stretch of road other than several mountain ranges, Lake Tekapo in Tekapo, and Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook once you reach Lake Pukaki. You’ll also see lupins alongside the road if you do this scenic drive in late spring (November) or early summer and snow on the mountains in winter.
Approximately 14 km (9 mi) south of Tekapo, there is a private road called the Canal Road, which takes you to a salmon farm. This road leaves State Highway 8, follows the Tekapo-Pukaki Canal, and then joins State Highway 8 again later on via Hayman Road. The Canal Road was recently closed to vehicles, so you cannot drive on it anymore to get to Lake Pukaki from Lake Tekapo.
However, it is still open on the Lake Pukaki side. You can walk or bike on the road, and you can still drive to the salmon farm, which is far enough to get scenic views. Also see the official information for accessing the Tekapo Canal.
Insider’s tip: There is a pond on the Lake Pukaki side of the Canal Road where you can get reflections of Mount Cook in the pond on windless days. So before you reach Lake Pukaki when driving from Lake Tekapo on State Highway 8, take the turnoff for Hayman Road, and then drive to the pond on the Canal Road if you are doing this drive on a windless and pretty cloudless day. The views are worth it; trust me.
The Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki scenic drive joins up with the State Highway 80 to Mount Cook National Park scenic drive, but before you reach the junction with State Highway 80, make sure you stop at the information center to get an iconic view of Mount Cook with Lake Pukaki in the foreground.
From Christchurch, drive south on State Highway 1 in the direction of Timaru. Once you’ve passed Ashburton, you’ll see a sign for Mount Cook (Aoraki) and Geraldine. Hook onto State Highway 79 to Geraldine.
Continue driving on State Highway 79 until you reach Fairlie. In Fairlie, take State Highway 8 to Mount Cook and Tekapo.
While there are other routes you could take to get to Lake Tekapo, this is the shortest driving route from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo.
Once you reach Lake Tekapo, continue driving straight on State Highway 8 toward Lake Pukaki.
|Driving distance:||47 km (29 mi)|
|Driving time:||25 – 30 minutes|
|Road type:||Sealed (paved) two-lane highway|
|Road condition:||Very good; smooth driving|
|Best time to drive:||Morning|
|What you’ll see:||Mountains, lakes, tussock grassland, lupins (in summer), snow (in winter)|
Below you’ll find a map showing State Highway 8 from Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki. The star indicates the start of the scenic drive and the flag indicates the end of the scenic drive. Use the plus and minus buttons to zoom in and out of the map to see more or less detail on the map.
Figure 1. Map of State Highway 8 from Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki.
The 3-minute video below takes you on a scenic drive from Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki on a partly cloudy but sunny day in summer.
Note: Roads can be changed or get closed. The information presented here was accurate when it was gathered.
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