Tekapo to Lake Pukaki scenic drive NZ

The scenic drive from Tekapo to Lake Pukaki offers 47 km of mountain and lake scenery. Learn how to get there and see a video of what to expect on this scenic drive through the Mackenzie Basin.

The scenic drive from 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 much more quiet in winter.

As a side note: The fall foliage at Lake Tekapo is awesome in autumn.

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 live 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 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 – 30 minutes to drive from Tekapo to Lake Pukaki.

State Highway 8 between 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) here.

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. And you’ll see lupins alongside the road if you do this scenic drive in summer and snow on the mountains in winter.

If you’re looking to see scenery that is more than just distant mountain ranges, you can opt to take the Canal Road when driving from Tekapo to Lake Pukaki.

Approximately 14 km (9 mi) from Tekapo there is a private road called the Canal Road, which takes you past 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 maximum speed limit allowed on the Canal Road is 70 km/h (43 mph). The Canal Road has been closed for canal repairs and might be opened again in the future.

The Tekapo to Lake Pukaki scenic drive joins up with the Hwy 80 to Mount Cook National Park scenic drive.

How to get to Tekapo and Lake Tekapo

From Christchurch, drive South in the direction of Timaru on State Highway 1. On State Highway 1, 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.

Basic info for the scenic drive from Tekapo to 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 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 Tekapo to Lake Pukaki, New Zealand.

Video of the Tekapo to Lake Pukaki scenic drive

The 3-minute video below takes you on a scenic drive from 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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