• Annabel Emery

Lake Tekapo & Mount Cook Day Trip

Updated: Mar 18, 2019

Last week I had the pleasurable company of one of my old university friends crashing on my sofa in Queenstown! Whilst Lizzie was here I wanted to show off my local landscapes and couldn't have thought of anywhere more beautiful than my favourite destination on the South Island; Mount Cook.

Located in the Mackenzie Basin in the area of Canterbury, Mount Cook and the surrounding lakes are one of the best corners of New Zealand. Abundant in natural, untouched beauty this wild rural area boasts panoramic views everyday of every season.


1. Twizel

2. Lake Pukaki

3. Lake Tekapo

4. Lavender field

5. Mount Cook


  • Aoraki / Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand, standing currently at 201,724 metres.

  • The incredible blue colour of both lakes are due to glacial flour which is made from extremely fine rock particles that have travelled down from the surrounding glaciers. Then, when the sunlight hits the lake surface, it reflects off of these particles and shines a brilliant blue (read more about that here).


1. Twizel to 2. Lake Pukaki

We left Queenstown at around 10.30am and arrived in Twizel for 1pm. We ate lunch at a lovely restaurant called Poppies Cafe and then drove 15 minutes straight through the countryside until we reached the first of our three main stops; Lake Pukaki.

CAN YOU BELIEVE HOW BLUE IT IS!? It is luminous and huge and so so blue. SO BLUE.

Lake Pukaki is in fact the largest lake in the Canterbury region - rather fitting as it sits beneath the tallest peak; Mount Cook. Of course, this is a dream-scape for photographers and is one of the most photographed areas in the whole of New Zealand.

This is my third time standing in awe at this particular spot - it doesn't get old. I also need to mention that the water is FREEZING, so it's more of a picnic spot than it is a swimming spot.

A view of Mt. Cook from Lake Pukaki

3. Lake Tekapo

About a 30 minute scenic drive from Pukaki, along State Highway 8, lies an equally gorgeous body of water named Lake Tekapo. Tekapo is the more famous of the two lakes, as it is surrounded by the ever-busy little town of Tekapo, where travelers take overnight rest at the many hotels and campsites. Between the months of November and February, the Mackenzie region is abundant in colourful lupins - flower plants usually pink or purple in colour. In all honesty, the lupins were the whole reason that I wanted to explore Mackenzie for a third time (having done it twice in the winter months), but we were gutted to find out upon arriving, that they had all wilted! The best time to go and see them is December in the height of Summer.

Nevertheless, we still enjoyed a pootle around the area in the car, getting out to go and say a little prayer in one of the most photographed chapels in the world; the Church of the Good Shepherd. The stone church is best seen at night, when there are few tourists edging in to your shot, and under a moonlight starry sky. When I did my month long road trip back in September my travel mates managed to snap a couple of mesmerizing photographs of Tekapo in the night:

If you get the chance to stay over at Tekapo, they have the hot spring pools and loads of star-gazing tour combination packages which I am hoping to take part in this coming Winter!

4. Lavender Field

Feeling a little disappointed from the lack of lupins, my eyes lit up as we made our way from Tekapo to Mount Cook and spotted a lavender field on the left! We pulled up, cameras at the ready and managed to somehow walk in without having to pay the advised $5 entry fee (there's nothing more annoying than having to pay for nature right?).

We were there probably no longer than 10 minutes. We did a little catwalk through the rows of lavender, clicking away at our cameras and climbing all over the lilac tractor that was conveniently placed near a set of wooden benches and swings. The field wasn't overly busy, so I reckon we got there at a decent time (around 4/4.30pm) to get some tourist free photographs in. On site during the opening hours of 10am-5pm, there are purple trucks selling lavender ice-cream and beauty products, but as far as I could see, as we were driving back from Mt. Cook and through to Twizel, there is no gate on the farm so if you wanted to go in without being charged, I don't see why you couldn't just waddle in after hours.

5. Mount Cook

Today we were not hiking, walking or doing anything other than immensely enjoying the views. Sometimes the best days are those where you just grab a bag of snacks and beers and hit the road with a destination in mind but no particular plan. Plus I just received my new Sony camera in the post (Christmas present from me to me), so it was play day.

From Lake Tekapo is takes roughly 50 minutes to reach the start of the Mount Cook Hooker Valley trail - which I have hiked in the past and it was one of my favourites to date. The track is fairly flat all the way around and takes about 3 hours to return to the car park. You don't need any significant level of fitness to hike over the three swing bridges and pass alongside Mueller Lake and the Mueller glacier, so it's a good track to bring your family. The track finishes with spectacular views of the iceberg adorned Hooker Lake and a ground view of Aoraki/Mount Cook and the Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o te Moana.

Today however, we were just site seeing and didn't have enough time to complete the track - so we played chicken on the road leading up to Aoraki in order to capture some snaps...

Life is good.

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