Lake Pukaki’s freedom camping site has to be one of the most visually spectacular areas in New Zealand. Pukaki is a stunning blue lake, located at the foot of Aoraki Mount Cook.
The Mackenzie Basin is a large, sparsely populated area expanse of farming land. Along with Aoraki Mount Cook, it has three spectacular lakes, including Pukaki, along with Ohau and Tekapo.
The area attracts a lot of visitors for the clear nights where stargazing is a popular activity. There’s also salmon and trout fishing available, and of course kayaking or boating. In winter, you can ski or snowboard at the nearby Roundhill Ski Area.
If you want to stay in the area and are in a self-contained campervan, you’re in luck! There’s a number of locations you can freedom camp, run by the Mackenzie District Council. You will find all of them in your CamperMate app.
Lake Pukaki Freedom Camping Site
My favourite out of all of them is the Lake Pukaki Reserve at the southern end of the lake. It takes approximately 3.5 hours to drive from Christchurch or 2.5 hours if you’re coming from Queenstown. Driving from either end you’ll encounter long roads, often with lots of impatient traffic, so take care when you’re driving there.
If you’re driving toward Tekapo from Queenstown, you’ll pass an information centre and about another kilometre past that you’ll see a small turnoff to the left. The easiest way to navigate is using your CamperMate app. Keep driving down the gravel/stone road and you’ll get to the large parking area next to the lake.
It’s difficult to describe how astounding this campsite really is. Not only do you have a site right next to the lake, but you also have amazing views of Aoraki Mount Cook just 70 kilometres away!
There is no drinking water here, however, you will find two long drop toilets here, complete with toilet paper. This is a popular site in the evening, so make sure to get in early and find the best position.
You must be self-contained in order to stay here. There’s also a one-night maximum stay.
If you can manage it, be sure to catch both the sunset, and the sunrise. If you get good weather, you won’t forget this view.
For the amazing scenery, ease of access from the main highway and toilet facilities, Lake Pukaki gets 5 stars, so put it on your list!