Be amazed by the color of the lake against the snowy backdrop of Aoraki/Mount Cook as you hike, drive or ride through this incredibly picturesque landscape.
Lake Pukaki sits below New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki/Mount Cook. Combined the lake and mountain create one of the country’s most awe-inspiring vistas. When you see the ethereal, turquoise color of the water, which turns milky when the clouds roll in, you may want to pinch yourself to check if you aren’t dreaming.
The lake covers approximately 69 square miles (178 square kilometers) and was formed when a moraine, leftover rubble from melting glaciers, dammed the valley below. Lake Pukaki is fed by the Tasman River, which flows from the Tasman and Hooker glaciers to the west.
Drop into the visitor center at the base of the lake to get information and learn about the geology and history of the area. While here, try locally farmed salmon at Mount Cook Alpine Salmon in the same building.
The lake’s spellbinding color is caused by the finely ground minerals from the glaciers’ melt waters. Marvel at the contrast between the blue waters and the white peaks of Aoraki/Mount Cook. It won’t come as a surprise to movie fans that scenes from The Hobbit series were filmed on the shores of Lake Pukaki, at nearby Tasman Downs Station.
Walk, ride or hike around the lake and take in the different moods of the lake as the skies change. Cherish the feeling of solitude in this vast landscape by spending the night at The Pines camping area.
Lake Pukaki is situated between the towns of Twizel and Mount Cook Village, which offer the closest amenities and accommodation if you’re not camping. To get to Mount Cook, which is known Aoraki by Māori, follow the lake shore up to the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.
Stop at the viewing area about halfway along the scenic road to look back down over the lake and then up at the vastness of the mountains in the other direction. Take the short hike up from the Blue Lakes Shelter to see the Tasman Glacier to the west and the lake to the east. This rapidly retreating glacier feeds Lake Pukaki its special mix of icy water and minerals, the source of its stunning colors.