Set in the heart of the Mackenzie District, Lake Pukaki is a true natural wonder. Here, powder blue waters stretch for as far as the eye can see, surrounded by the backdrop of the Southern Alps. Although it’s often overlooked, and wrongly so, in favour of the neighbouring Lake Tekapo, Pukaki has a few things that make it truly unique. Not only does it have New Zealand’s highest mountain, Mount Cook, on its northern shore, but it’s also the largest lake in the Mackenzie District, these are the top things to do at Lake Pukaki.The top things to do at Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki View Point

This popular viewpoint lies on the southern banks of Lake Pukaki and offers sweeping views up the lake. On a clear day, you can even see Aoraki/Mount Cook on the opposite shore in the far distance. There are a car park, toilets and access down to the pebbly beach, making it a great place to stop for lunch.

Lake Pukaki, Mackenzie District

Walks around Lake Pukaki

There are a few different hiking trails around Lake Pukaki where you can take in the stunning scenery. For a shorter walk, the Pukaki Kettle Bowl Track or Markers Bay Track both take less than an hour. Whilst the more challenging 13km Lake Pukaki Track leads you to beautiful views of the lake and Mackenzie Basin beyond.

Walks around Pukaki

Route 80 to Aoraki/Mount Cook Village

This is hands down one of the best drives New Zealand’s South Island has to offer. Starting at the southern end of Lake Pukaki, this scenic road takes you all along the lake’s western shore and up to Aoraki/Mount Cook itself before winding further into the mountainous national park. There’s plenty of places to safely stop along the way to take in the views and some photos, so make sure your camera is at hand and your memory card is empty. The route ends at the Aoraki/Mount Cook village where I would recommend staying for a few days to explore the area.

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Peter’s Lookout

Peter’s Lookout is partway down Route 80 and offers a beautiful view of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Lake Pukaki from the western shores. From here you can also see Route 80 winding into the distance parallel to the water, making it a particularly dreamy spot for landscape photographers.

Driving to Twisel, Mackenzie District

Mount Cook Alpine Salmon

Sat on the southern bank of Lake Pukaki, Mount Cook Alpine Salmon is the place to go for the best freshwater salmon on the South Island. At the farm’s lakefront shop/cafe, you can buy fresh Salmon Sashimi to eat in or to go as well as other salmon portions to take away too. They also sell a selection of soft drinks to accompany your sashimi, and not forgetting a stunning view of the lake that’s 100% free.

Mount Cook Alpine Salmon
Image credit: Mount Cook Alpine Salmon

NZ Alpine Lavender

NZ Alpine Lavender Farm is the largest organic lavender farm in the Southern Hemisphere. The farm is best visited when the lavender is in bloom (summer months). It costs $5 to enter the fields and take some great photos of the lavender with the Southern Alps in the background. There’s also a shop there that sells oils and soaps as well as some lovely lavender flavoured ice cream! As it’s also on Route 80, it’s well worth stopping by on your way to Aoraki/Mount Cook.

NZ Alpine Lavender

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