Lake Pukaki looks unreal in photos. I must admit, when I first saw pictures of Lake Pukaki I didn’t think the colours or even the images were real. I honestly thought that the pictures were heavily edited or manipulated. Well as it turned out, I couldn’t have been more wrong because the lake is literally that beautiful.
Lake Pukaki is the largest of the three alpine lakes in the Mackenzie Basin on the south Island of New Zealand (Lake Tekapo is the second largest). In my opinion, it is by far the most breathtaking lake in New Zealand (fine, Tekapo is equally stunning)!
Why Is Lake Pukaki So Blue?
The first thing that stands out about Lake Pukaki is it’s incredible blue colour. And no, this picture isn’t photoshopped!
The way its waters glisten under the sun is nothing short of magical. I kept asking myself, “how is Lake Pukaki so blue?“. Well, the answer lies in the extremely fine rock particles that get transported from the glaciers called “glacier flour”.
It is the same glacial flour that also lends the colour to Lake Tekapo. So, both Tekapo and Pukaki have the same colour. But what makes Pukaki slightly more beautiful is that unlike Tekapo, it’s away from any town, and it is surrounded by beautiful mountains, including the highest peak in New Zealand – Mount Cook / Aoraki.
The Importance Of Good Weather At Lake Pukaki
The day we arrived at Lake Pukaki it was cloudy and as such the lake wasn’t its usual glittering blue. But there were brief moments of sunshine during which I could see how the waters magically change colour from a dull blue to a sparkling blue!
The next day when the weather improved we were witness to Lake Pukaki in all its glory. As we set out from Mt. Cook, the sun was shining brightly upon the lake and the winds were so strong that they were causing big waves. The rocky shores, the barren hills, the snow capped mountains, and the trees created the most gorgeous contrasts I’ve ever seen! It really was too beautiful to assimilate all at once and even more difficult to leave it all behind. But at least I got some incredible pictures to serve as a memory of New Zealand’s most beautiful lake – Lake Pukaki! And now when I looks at my pictures, I know for sure that they aren’t edited or manipulated in anyway 🙂
How to get to Lake Pukaki
Queenstown is perhaps the closest, and largest city near Lake Pukaki. And that’s why most people going to Lake Pukaki drive from Queenstown.
The drive isn’t short by any means. The 220 km drive takes nearly 3 hours to complete. We set off at 7 AM from Queenstown ourselves and were rolling into Lake Pukaki Visitor Centre at around 10:30 AM. Of course we stopped along the way to see a few other lakes and grab breakfast.
Lake Pukaki Lookout Point
The views from the visitor centre of Lake Pukaki are phenomenal, but I can guarantee that there are much better views to be enjoyed.
So, where’s the best lookout point for Lake Pukaki? I’ll tell you where, it’s called Peter’s Lookout and it’s actually a slight detour from the main highway. If you’re going up to Mt Cook Country Park, then it’s on your way. If not, don’t worry, Peter’s Lookout is a 5-10 minute drive from the main highway number 8 on Mount Cook Rd.
From Peter’s Lookout, this the stunning view you’ll get of Lake Pukaki!
If it’s a clear day, Mount Cook will be visible in this picture.
Lake Pukaki Accommodation
Driving back and forth from Queenstown can be a pain. Because not only will be spend over 6 hours on the road driving, but also you’d want to visit Lake Tekapo.
When we visited Lake Pukaki, we decided to spend the night at Mount Cook Village. We stayed at the Aoraki Court Motel, and would highly recommend it. Honestly, it makes sense if you think about it. You won’t be in a hurry to head back to Queenstown and you can spend all the time at Pukaki and Tekapo to really appreciate the beauty of these two lakes.
In addition, you’ll be able to also explore another lake – Lake Tasman, which is as white as Pukaki is blue. And if that isn’t enough, Mount Cook offers some of the best views of the milky way in the world!
The Mount Cook National Park is not too far from Lake Pukaki and has plenty of good hotels and B&B’s.
As a bonus, here is the drive from Lake Pukaki to Lake Tasman, which is just outside Mount Cook Village.
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Lake Pukaki to Lake Tekapo
From Pukaki you can head down to Lake Tekapo easily. The drive between the two lakes is flat and beautiful. There were some of the longest stretches of straight roads I’ve ever driven on. There’s hardly any civilisation around Pukaki, so it might make sense to head down to Tekapo which has a proper town surrounding the lake.
Here’s a video of the drive between Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo.
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Are you traveling to New Zealand soon? Don’t forget to check out my South Island Itinerary. Also, are you curious to learn about the new electronic visa for New Zealand? Click here to learn more if you qualify.
And while you’re at Lake Pukaki, don’t forget to eat some fresh salmon! It’s absolutely fresh and delicious! Most restaurants serve fresh salmon, or you could even grab some salmon sashimi at the Lake Pukaki Visitor Centre.