Lake Pukaki, New Zealand
New Zealand Oceania South Island

New Zealand’s southern lakes: Wanaka to Christchurch

I recently visited the South Island of New Zealand again and experienced for the third time what must be one of New Zealand’s most spectacular driving routes – the road from Wanaka to Christchurch.

The little lake-side holiday town of Wanaka is one of my favourite places in New Zealand – both in winter for skiing and other snow activities, and in summer for hiking and rock climbing. Give me chilled-out Wanaka over the glitz of New Zealand’s so-called ‘adventure capital’ Queenstown any day.

This is a land of clear mountain water, snowy mountain ranges and, at the end of winter, many variations on the colour brown. Heading north-east from Wanaka the road follows the Clutha River, through the Lindis Pass and the cute little town of Omarama.

Lindis Pass, New Zealand

Not far after Omarama and off to the left is Clay Cliffs, where two million years of silt and gravel erosion has revealed a strange landscape of variegated and jagged cliffs. If you drive 10 kilometres down a dirt road you can walk around amongst the Clay Cliffs.

Clay Cliffs, Otago, New Zealand

The next stop I generally make on this classic New Zealand drive is at the Kelland Station Lakes. Here clumps of deciduous trees surrounding the lakes display bright orange branches in spring and the reflections of trees and mountains are wonderful.

Kelland Station Lakes, New Zealand

On a clear day the views from the head of Lake Pukaki are nothing short of heart-stoppingly beautiful. Boulders, still water, trees and mountains combine in the sunshine and all lead the eye unerringly to New Zealand’s tallest mountain – Aoraki Mt Cook.

Lake Pukaki and Mt Cook, New Zealand

There are more viewpoints as you travel along the shores of Pukaki, including of some of New Zealand’s extensive hydro-electric infrastructure. The canals beside the road reflect the mountains in a kind of surreal landscape that is half man-made, half nature.

Lake Pukaki and Mt Cook, New Zealand

Next stop is to take in the view of Lake Tekapo behind the Church of the Good Shepherd, which has become one of the iconic images of New Zealand; and for good reason.

Church of the Good Shepherd, Tekapo, New Zealand

As you descend into the province of Canterbury the grass gets greener and on the gentle plains there are sheep stations with lambs tottering in the fields.

Certainly enough to remind me how much I love New Zealand

By Natasha von Geldern


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  1. Gorgeous pictures, I’d love to visit New Zealand xxx

  2. Italian Notes

    Majestic landscape. And those photos look so quiet, it’s like pictures of sound.

  3. It looks so beautiful and almost unreal in its serenity!

  4. I just love the scenery in New Zealand! We travelled around by bus but each drive was so different. Amazing how varied the landscapes are in such a small country.

  5. Stunning photos – going straight to pinterest :)! Hoping to head to NZ next year, been on my to do list for years now and every time I see a post on it I ask myself “why I still havent been there”. Great post!

  6. Wow what a beautiful drive!

  7. The clay cliffs looks amazing – no idea how I managed to miss those when I was there!

  8. I was in New Zealand a few years back an loved it. These photos remind me of how beautiful it was. I really should get back there again and explore more.

  9. These photos are lovely- the third one especially is amazing! New Zealand is so beautiful. Thank-you for the commentary too, reminds me of my time there. 🙂

  10. Pingback: Lord of the Rings film locations in New Zealand - Book Film Travel

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