Lake Pukaki, New Zealand

Lake Pukaki is located in the Mackenzie Region of the South Island of New Zealand. It is the largest of three alpine lakes along the northern edge of the Mackenzie Basin. The other lakes are Lake Tekapo and Lake Ōhau. Visit Ohau Ski Fields. Its stunning turquoise waters make it one of the country’s most picturesque lakes.

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All three lakes were formed when the terminal moraines of receding glaciers blocked their respective valleys, forming moraine-dammed lakes.

For those interested, A moraine is the material left behind by a moving glacier. This material is usually soil and rock. 

As the lake originates from the Tasman & Hooker Glaciers. The blue-turquoise colour of the water is due to fine silt particles or glacial flour. The silt is so fine it does not settle to the bottom quickly, remaining suspended in the lake water.

This phenomenon occurs as the melting Tasman Glacier, the largest in New Zealand, grinds rocks into a fine powder that reflects sunlight to create a vibrant azure hue. Seeing the lake against snow-capped mountains is one of New Zealand’s great attractions.

Gateway to Aoraki/Mount Cook

Lake Pukaki is a gateway to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, home to New Zealand’s highest peak, Aoraki or Mount Cook. The lake is approx 180 square kilometres and has a depth of 70m

When you travel through the South Island, stop and experience Lake Pukaki; it is worth it! There are many vantage points to get great pictures.

Hopefully, you get a day like we did.

Unusual swirl in Lake Pukaki

Pilot Chris Rudge was flying over Lake Pukaki in South Canterbury last week when he saw a “swirl” in the lake. He took a photo of the unusual pattern near Ferintosh Station on State Highway 80 and said it was unlike anything he’d seen in over 20 years of flying over the lake.

It would have been caused by “glacial flour” coming into the lake from the Tasman River after recent rain, which is pushed into a circular pattern by a backflow going north on the lake’s western side.

Our Rating

If you see Lake Pukaki in good weather like we did, the lake is truly spectacular. Try visiting at dusk.

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