Spanning New Zealand’s south island, the Christchurch to Lake Tekapo road trip is one of the most popular journeys for those looking to discover what this fantastic country has to offer.

However, with so much on offer, deciding what to do can become tricky! So, to help make things easier, we’ve put together a collection of the 10 best sightseeing stops you’ll find from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo, with something for everyone to enjoy.

What is the Driving Distance from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo?

There are two different routes available when travelling from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo. The direct route will take 3 hours to complete and covers 266km, while the scenic route takes a little longer at 3 hours and 30 minutes and covers 275km.

As you can see, neither takes very long, but we highly recommend making a weekend out of this journey so you’re able to fully experience everything the road has to offer and visit as many incredible sightseeing stops as possible.

Where Can You Stop on the Way to Lake Tekapo from Christchurch?

There are loads of things to see and do on the road trip from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo, from incredibly scenic vistas to tranquil lakes. Below, you’ll find ten sightseeing stops that cannot be missed as you make your way along the road, and with having something different to offer, you’ll be glad you took the extra time.

Quick stats

275km trip distance

day roadtrip

Campervan recommended

road trip map

Sightseeing #1: Rakaia Gorge Walkway

Rakaia Gorge Walkway

The ideal place to get out, stretch your legs, and start exploring the incredible scenery between Christchurch and Lake Tekapo, Rakaia Gorge Walkway runs for 10km along a single track and takes around 3-4 hours to complete. Along the way, you’ll see lava flows, beautiful forest canopies, and the famous Snowdon coal mines, adding some historical interest to a scenic walk.

This is also a fantastic place to stop and take some photographs at this leg of your journey, whether you’re a budding photographer or simply want to keep your Instagram feed updated throughout your trip!

Sightseeing #2: Washpen Falls

Washpen Falls

Another of New Zealand’s most beautiful sights, Washpen Falls lies at the end of an easy 4km looped walking trail. It’s not just the incredible falls that you’ll find as you make your way along the trail, though. You’ll also encounter caves, native wildlife and birdlife, and even old WWII targets.

It is worth noting that you do have to pay to take the Adventure Walk to Washpen Falls, but for the amazing things you’ll encounter along the way, it’s worth every penny.

Sightseeing #3: Trotts Garden

Trotts Garden

Whether you’re a plant lover or you simply want to get in as many different walking opportunities as possible on your road trip, Trotts Garden is the perfect place to stop. You’re free to roam to gardens at your leisure, or if you want to learn more about the planting and design, garden tours are available.

You’re also able to enjoy afternoon tea here, which is the perfect way to refuel surrounded by beautiful plants and trees before heading back on the road.

Sightseeing #4: Mt Hutt Ski Resort

Mt Hutt Ski Resort

The perfect stop for the super adventurous or extreme sports lover, Mt Hutt Ski Resort offers you the opportunity to strap on your skis or snowboard and hit the slopes! Don’t worry; you don’t have to be an expert skier, and the multiple terrains available mean there’s something for all skill levels to enjoy.

You don’t necessarily have to ski or snowboard to enjoy Mt Hutt either, as there are several sightseeing tours and snow play events that are fun for the whole family to enjoy. Similarly, if you want to keep your children occupied while you enjoy a day’s skiing, the onsite Early Learning Centre and Playgroup allow you to adventure freely while your little ones are taken care of.

Sightseeing #5: Geraldine


A small town around 140k south of Christchurch, Geraldine has something to offer every need. Peel Forest, Pioneer Park, and Talbot Forest are the perfect places to go for a hike through native bushland and spot wildlife, while the Academy of Performance & Arts offers you the opportunity to see live music, singing, dancing, and theatrical performances.

With so much to do, Geraldine is a good place to spend a full day if you’ve budgeted the time to do so. You’ll also be able to take advantage of the local shops and amenities to pick up supplies before you head out on the road again.

Sightseeing #6: Ashburton Lakes

Ashburton Lakes

Spread across the Hakatere Conservation Park and one of the few remaining areas of natural biodiversity in mid-Canterbury, Ashburton Lakes offers a beautifully scenic place to walk, relax, and unwind.

As you may have guessed from their name, this isn’t one lake but a collection of many, including Lake Camp, Lake Clearwater, and Lake Heron, making it a great place to get out and about and start exploring.

Sightseeing #7: Gem Alpaca Stud

Gem Alpaca Stud

Located in Fairlie, Gem Alpaca Stud is a great place for families and animal lovers to spend the day. Here, you’ll be able to feed, touch, meet, and walk alpacas, llamas, and sheep. You can also take photographs with the animals and, thanks to the large covered veranda, you’re still able to take part in the fun regardless of what the weather is doing!

There’s also a farm shop at Gem Alpaca Stud serving coffee, cold drinks, and all manner of delicious treats, making it possible to rest and refuel after a day getting to know your new furry friends.

Sightseeing #8: Peel Forest

Peel Forest

Named after British Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel and another picturesque hiking spot, Peel Forest is Geraldine’s largest reserve and features a variety of walking trails ranging in length and difficulty. There’s also an old church on one of the walking trails to explore, dating back to 1886, and a mural by Austen Deans, who live in Peel Forest. So, not only is there nature to explore, but lots of other interesting points along the way.

Once you’re done exploring, you can head to the ‘Green Man at Peel Forest’ cafe to grab a bite to eat or, if you’re not planning on driving again that day, perhaps something a little stronger!

Sightseeing #9: Three Creek Gallery

Three Creek Gallery

Located in Burkes Pass, Three Creek Gallery is a combination of an art gallery and a gift shop housed inside a 1950s service station. As quirky inside as it sounds when described, you can find vintage tin signs, giftware, antiques, and even outdoor furniture for sale here, scattered amongst artwork by local painters and sculptors.

This is a great place to visit if you want a really unique memento of your trip or you simply want to visit one of the most interesting places in all of New Zealand.

Sightseeing #10: Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve

Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve

Whether you’re interested in stargazing or not, there’s no denying that the Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve offers you some of the most incredible views of the night sky you’ll find on Earth. Depending on the time of year, you’ll be treated to super-clear views of the planets in the solar system, amazing star constellations, and the Milky Way.

This is an amazing place to stay overnight on your road trip from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo, and as well as offering some fantastic photo opportunities, it presents the perfect way to unwind in awe at the end of the day.

Final Thoughts

Campervan driving next to lake in New Zealand

The road from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo is truly filled with some of the most beautiful sights in New Zealand’s south island, and whether you take the scenic route or the direct route, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. With so much to see, it is worth taking a few days to complete this road trip, and one of the best ways of doing this is by campervan.

Talk to the team of experts at Travellers Autobarn today about hiring a campervan in Christchurch, and you’ll be one step closer to hitting the road. Or, if you’d like to learn more about south island road trips, look here.

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