Even the most seasoned traveller will find it hard not to audibly gasp at the beauty of the alpine lakes region of New Zealand's South Island.
You can easily see the dramatic, changing landscape of the alpine lakes in a short space of time with a drive from Christchurch to Wanaka and Queenstown via Lake Tekapo and the Mackenzie region. Encounter the Southern Alps standing like sentinels and growing larger as you enter alpine New Zealand. Admire lake upon lake of emerald and brilliant blue waters as you drive south through the Canterbury plains and farmland. Discover the vineyards and waterfalls and walks at varying length. The drive itself is beautiful and if you fancy yourself a photographer, allow time for (the many) scenic stops. There is so much to be seen, tasted and experienced on this journey, you really need some local knowledge to give you the full lowdown.
Read on to start planning and creating your own customised journey with our itinerary builder below.
Any time of year is beautiful in this region. Though, autumn — which runs March through to May — is particularly sensational. It has its own flavour with the rich golds and reds of the changing leaves tempting wannabe artists, especially at Arrowtown. The days are warm, full of sunshine, and conducive to getting out and about.
Christchurch is the gateway to the South Island and a charming experience in itself. There are 13 daily non-stop flights to Christchurch from Australia’s main airports. After taking time to explore the city, set out on your adventure southwest toward Wanaka and Queenstown via alpine sights and experiences at Lake Tekapo, Aoraki and the Mackenzie region.
Allow $100–$150 a day for petrol, worthy entertainment and cheap and cheerful eats, and if you tend to enjoy the finer things in life, give yourself upwards of $250 a day to take some bigger adventures, find some luxe ways to relax and eat some truly sensational food.
Lake Pukaki. The largest of the three roughly parallel alpine lakes (Tekapo and Ohau are the other two), Pukaki owes its distinct blue colour to very finely ground rock particles from the glaciers. Park at the southern end and look down the lake to see Mount Cook rising majestically up at the other end.
Plan Your Journey Through the Alpine Lakes
Track down the must-visit local haunts.
Venture Through the Alpine Lakes
Do as the locals do.
From sky-high cafes to authentic Indian fare, here's how to eat your way through the alpine lakes.
1. Minaret Station
2. Astro Cafe
3. The Spice Room
4. Francesca's Italian Kitchen
5. The Old Mountaineer's Cafe
Sample the goods at Cardrona Distillery or take a tour of Rippon Winery — wine or beer lover, we've got you covered.
1. Gin and Raspberry
2. Lalaland Lounge Bar Wanaka
3. Cardrona Distillery
4. Rhyme and Reason Brewery
5. Rippon Winery
With skydiving, canyoning and snowboarding more,get your heart pumping among some stunning nature.
1. Skydive Wanaka
2. Cowans Hill Walkway
3. Mount Dobson Ski Fields
4. Wildwire Wanaka
5. Glacier Explorers
Spend the day in a hot spring or recharge at an eco-friendly lakeside retreat — this list of things will keep you relaxed.
1. Hot Yoga Fusion
2. Tekapo Springs Hot Pools
3. Mt Cook Lakeside Retreat
4. Tekapo Springs Glacial Spa
5. Roy's Peak
Spend the night stargazing while soaking in hot springs or take a mountain hike and get back to nature.
1. Southern Alps Scenic Flight
2. Mount Iron Loop Track
3. Mount John Summit Circuit
4. Tekapo Springs Stargazing
5. Mount John Observatory
There’s a quirky thrift shop and a vintage car museum. Get your culture fix with these five activities.