International travel enthusiast and expat from New Zealand, currently living in Germany. https://indie-road.com
Published March 24th 2017
Unbeatable Freedom Camping
As you are driving past the beautiful lakes on your journey between Queenstown and Christchurch you will surely be captivated by the natural beauty enough to stop on multiple occasions to take photos of the impossibly blue waters, and the peak of Mount Cook, if you're lucky enough to be travelling on a clear day. The most popular place to stop is Tekapo, but if you're looking to save some money and have the right equipment with you, there is a little known free camping site on the south side of Lake Pukaki.
If you are driving towards Tekapo and Christchurch the lake will pass you on your left. Once you have driven past the information centre with the large carpark, where everybody stops to take photos, there is a little gravel road which looks like it disappears into the trees. This will lead you onto a very large campsite which goes right up to the water's edge.
The campsite itself is very basic, only offering a long drop toilet in a little shack, hiding in the forest, but you can't expect too much when you're staying for free. What the campsite does excel in, however, is nature. On a clear night, you will have an uninterrupted view of the stars and the Milky Way, and even the possibility of auroras. During the day, you are greeted with the beautiful blue lake and the option of going for an icy dip. All around you are the mountains and hills that capture the hearts of many backpackers and travellers and very few signs of civilisation. It's truly remarkable.
This is an especially good place to spend the night if you plan on visiting Mount Cook, which is only a short and scenic drive away. There are some campsites in the Mount Cook Village, but they're not free as they are DOC operated, and none of them offer such a beautiful landscape to immerse yourself in. I highly recommend this spot, in the hope that not too many people discover it and ruin the peaceful, tranquil setting that makes it so special and memorable.