Seeing the lupins at Lake Tekapo is high on many people’s bucket list when they come to New Zealand. These beautiful flowers only bloom for a few weeks of the year, but where and when exactly to find them? Here’s all you need to know about the Lake Tekapo lupins!
When is peak lupin season at Lake Tekapo?
If you want to see lupins at Lake Tekapo make sure you plan your New Zealand South Island trip during the spring/early summer season.
The lupins around Lake Tekapo are only in full bloom from the last two weeks of November to the first couple of days in January every year.
If you’re heading further south on the island, the lupins bloom a little bit later than at Lake Tekapo.
Bear in mind prices in New Zealand are a lot higher during the peak season (November to February).
Where can you find lupins in New Zealand?
The centre of New Zealand’s South Island is known as the MacKenzie Region, or MacKenzie country. This district is considered to be the best place to find lupins in New Zealand.
If you visit at the right time you’ll see lots of large groups of Russell lupins scattered around fields, lakes and along the road. The lupins are most commonly pink, lilac and purple although you will also see some white and yellow ones too!
Seeing so many fields along the road transformed with these beautiful colourful flowers is really something special.
Is Lake Tekapo the best place to see lupins in New Zealand?
Lake Tekapo is located in the centre of the MacKenzie region. This makes it the perfect places to go lupin spotting and get some perfect Instagrammable shots of lupins. The contrasting turquoise blue from the lake makes these flowers stand out even more and gives them the perfect backdrop.
As lupins are often found along the sides of the road (and it is not always sensible to stop on the side of the road here), around Lake Tekapo is the best place to park your car and walk amongst the lupins as there is a large car park here (free parking). There are also some restaurants and shops here so many people stop off for a couple of hours and enjoy the view and the lupins. There are pathways between the lupins, so stick to them so you don’t damage any lupins (see picture below left to see the paths).
Where else to spot lupins in New Zealand South Island?
Other great places in New Zealand that are great for lupin spotting includes along the Ahuriri River and along Crown Range Road. Crown Range Road is the road that goes from Wanaka to Queenstown. On the side of the road as you’re driving past you’ll find lots of yellow lupins, which I hadn’t seen near Lake Tekapo!
There aren’t many places to pull over and take pictures though, so do be careful as you are on a main road. Never pull over unless you see a designated lay-by as the road is quite twisted.
SAFETY AND ROAD SENSE
Please. Don’t just pull over without thinking whenever you see lupins. If you do want to stop your car and take a picture, make sure it is safe to do so and you only pull over in a designated lay-by or parking area. There are so many clusters of lupins all around the place that if you drive past some, you’re bound to find some more not too far off.
Lupin Field near Lake Tekapo
If coming to Lake Tekapo from the East coast (Christchurch/ Timaru etc) on the Fairlie-Tekapo road, just about 1 km before you reach Lake Tekapo you’ll see a beautiful field full of lupins on your right. It is just opposite the ‘Welcome to Lake Tekapo’ sign. Type in ‘Lupin field Fairlie-Tekapo Road’ into Google maps or click here to see the location.
I didn’t know about this field until I drove past and saw the thousands of lupins here. Lots of cars were parked in the lay-bys and quite a few people were inside the field so I decided to pull over too. The field is absolutely stunning and you can’t miss it as you’re driving past.
I took some pictures in the field (the field was so big that it was easy for me to get a picture without anyone in) and then as I was climbing back over the metal fence to get out I saw a very small faded sign saying ‘Private Property’. I felt awful I had trespassed on private property, even if it was unknowingly. I’m not sure if other tourists even saw this sign (or chose to ignore it) as there were so many people here.
Now I really don’t advise you to go on private property. But I’m pretty sure some of you reading this will want to go into this field to get a picture. That’s your choice. In which case, at least please always walk on the path between the lupins so as not to destroy them.
The Church of The Good Shepherd
The Church of The Good Shepherd is one of the most photographed spots in New Zealand. Located on the shores of Lake Tekapo, the Church is small but the setting is very beautiful and makes for some great photographs. Plus there are many lupins nearby!
You can park along the side of the road on the grass verge just next to The Church of The Good Shepherd. You can get some really nice pictures of the Church, however please only take pictures outside the Church, don’t take any inside. Even though the view from the window inside the Church looking out onto Lake Tekapo is absolutely stunning, there are signs clearly telling you not to take pictures inside. Also remember this is a place of worship and many people come here to pray.
All the tourists tend to stay around this area but it is easy enough to stroll a few metres along the lake and get away from the crowds and enjoy the views of the lake.
Best places to take photos of the lupins at Lake Tekapo
The majority of the tourists flock around The Church of the Good Shepherd part of Lake Tekapo for photographs. There are some lupins a few metres infront of the Church that you can use to frame the Church for some really nice pictures. However if you want lupins up close in your picture you probably won’t be able to also get Lake Tekapo in the picture.
I suggest a better spot to photograph the lupins, just 100 metres to the left of the Church (if you are standing facing the Church). There are hardly any tourists here and there is a beautiful public lupin field. You’ll also easily be able to get the waters of Lake Tekapo in your pictures too. To access this lupin field just cross the footbridge (or drive across which will take less than 3 minutes). Here is the Google maps location, alternatively type ‘Lake Tekapo Picnic Bench’ into Google maps and the lupin field is just to the left of the picnic bench.
There are walkways amongst the lupins so you can get pictures and it looks like you are right in the middle of them but without damaging the lupins. Some of the lupins can reach as tall as 1.5 metres so you won’t need to bend down in your pictures! Also you won’t need to get here early to get the perfect Instagram shot without other people in! I was there on a Sunday at midday during peak season and there was hardly anyone around!
How to get to Lake Tekapo
Lake Tekapo is roughly a 3 hour drive from both Christchurch and Queenstown. It is best reached by car/campervan (click here for car/campervan rental), although you can also visit on a day trip with an organised tour. Click here to see day trip tours available to Lake Tekapo.
The State Highway 8 runs right next to the shores of Lake Tekapo for a couple of kilometres. Like the majority of highways in New Zealand it is a single carriage highway and there are several great viewpoints and places to pull over and turn off the road.
You cannot drive all the way around Lake Tekapo. The main road only goes along the bottom corner of the lake for a couple of kilometres (Fairlie-Tekapo Road, then turning into the Tekapo-Twizel Road).
What can you do at Lake Tekapo?
On the shores of Lake Tekapo is Lake Tekapo Village where you can easily spend a few hours or even a couple of days. All parking is free at Lake Tekapo Village and there are plenty parking spaces in the car park. There are a few restaurants, a couple of bars and a supermarket (4 Square Supermarket: closes at 8pm!) and some souvenir shops.
There is also a really cool playground for children and lots of picnic tables. Many people buy food from the supermarket and have picnics here whilst enjoying the view.
Dark Sky Reserve
The MacKenzie region (encompassing Mount Cook National Park and Lake Tekapo) is the world’s largest Dark Sky Reserve at 4,300 kilometres. It is known as the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve and is known worldwide as having one of the clearest, darkest and busiest night skies in the world. It is also the only Dark Sky Reserve in the Southern Hemisphere.
You can visit the Dark Sky Project at Lake Tekapo Village whilst you are here. If you are staying overnight and want to go on the dark sky trip it is quite expensive but for sure it is worth it! Click here for some options. I didn’t do the trip, I just saw the stars with my naked eye and it was incredible. There were literally millions of stars and they felt so close to you, it was so incredible!
The Dark Sky Project Centre has a gift shop and a cafe you can visit without having to do the Dark Sky Experience. They have free wifi here and pretty nice toilets – much nicer than the public toilets outside! Plus the public toilets outside often a big queue. When standing with your back against the Dark Sky Centre looking out to the lake, the lupin field is just in front of you, down the hill a little.
Where to eat at Lake Tekapo
There is a pub called Our Dog Friday that serves really nice burgers at a reasonable price. MacKenzie’s Cafe Bar just opposite is also popular. There is also a Chinese restaurant, a Japanese restaurant and the pub Lake Tekapo Tavern all very close to each other.
There are really nice vibe here in Lake Tekapo Village in the evening. However make sure to wrap up warm as it gets very cold!
Staying overnight and accommodation at Lake Tekapo
There are several accommodation options along the shores of Lake Tekapo, ranging from hostels to motels to self-contained small apartments.
Budget: YHA Lake Tekapo hostel, located right in the heart of Lake Tekapo village.
Treat yourself: Lakeview Cottage incredible views and beautiful interior.
There are also several homestays at Lake Tekapo. Click here to see the range of options on Booking.com .
Campervan spots and overnight camping:
Freedom camping is not permitted around Lake Tekapo. The nearest paid campsite is Lake Tekapo Motels & Holiday Park along the shores of Lake Tekapo. It has excellent facilities including a kitchen, wifi, showers, laundry services and a TV lounge.
If you are looking for a freedom camping spot where you can camp for free (donations are suggested though), the nearest one is at Lake Pukaki Reserve. This is about a 40 minute drive from Lake Tekapo. Click here to read more on Campermate – a great website and app that helps you find places to camp overnight if travelling around New Zealand in a camper van. Alternatively click here to read a really useful guide to campervanning in New Zealand.
There is a petrol station at Lake Tekapo Village so before you leave make sure to refuel as fuel stations are few and far between around here.
Driving in the dark near Lake Tekapo
Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki are both located along The Starlight Highway (the road that connects Mount Cook to Fairlie). The highway is aplty named so as at night the stars here are incredible, even with the naked eye. The Starlight Highway is inside the Aoraki MacKenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. This is one of the best places in the world to stargaze.
There is absolute minimal light pollution in this area. Meaning that if you stay here till dark it will be pitch black when driving at night. Be very careful – there are no street lights and often no barriers on the side of the road. You could easily fall straight into the lake or off the edge if you weren’t concentrating as it is a long winding road. The only thing to guide you is the cats eyes and reflectors by the road. Also at night time several trucks drive along the road, though they are lit up very well and drive at a good speed.
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