Lake Tekapo Lupins Photography Guide

Lake tekapo lupins sunset

Every year, thousands of lupins encircle the shores of Lake Tekapo for the ultimate display of stunning flowers against a backdrop of breath taking mountains.

These colourful lupin flowers create a summer snapshot that every Lake Tekapo local and tourist craves on their social media pages. This guide aims to tell you everything you need to know.

You’ll find out where to go, when to go, and how to get the perfect lupin photography snaps in Tekapo that you will be proud to share.

Russell lupins are an imported species of lupin found in the vicinity of Lake Tekapo and the neighbouring Mackenzie area of New Zealand. Despite their beauty, lupins are considered an invasive plant, and considerable effort is made to keep lupin populations under control across New Zealand. 

However, there are a few locations where, despite being a pest, these flowers are significant tourism drivers. Therefore, lupins are allowed to grow freely to enhance the tourism industry of these towns.

Of course, being an invasive species, lupins can sometimes find their way to locations outside of these tourism hotspots, and at the correct time of year, you may discover them in a variety of places!

The most well-known lupin photography hotspot location is Lake Tekapo, where they seem to compliment the blue hues of the lake perfectly. The colours of lupin flowers found at Lake Tekapo are a range of pinks and purples, but there are also white and yellow varieties too!

Wedding photography is especially popular during lupin season in New Zealand, and you’ll frequently find newlywed couples taking gorgeous photos together in a field of lupins!

Here is a summary of what this article covers in terms of what you need to know about the lupins in Lake Tekapo. (Click a link to skip ahead)

Can’t wait to find out everything there is to know about lupin photography? Let’s get to it!

When is the best time to visit the lupins at Lake Tekapo?

If you want to see lupins at Lake Tekapo, make sure you plan your visit during the early summertime. This is the best time to see lupins at Lake Tekapo.

In particular, early December is when they are in full bloom. However, the NZ lupin season normally begins in late November, and some late flowers can be found until late December at Lake Tekapo.

Ⓒ Sean Michael Pritchard

Getting there – directions to Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo is located in the Mackenzie district on New Zealand’s South Island, roughly halfway between Queenstown and Christchurch. Here are some helpful directions:

  1. Driving from Christchurch, use Highway 1 south. Exit at Geraldine and continue on Highway 79 to Fairlie. At Fairlie, take Highway 8 south for another 30 minutes to Lake Tekapo. Estimated travel time: 2 hours, 40 minutes
  2. From Queenstown, take Highway 6 north to Cromwell. Highway 8a will take you past Cromwell township and over Lake Dunstan to Highway 8. Highway 8 will take you past Omarama and Twizel to Lake Tekapo. Estimated travel time: 3 hours
  3. From Dunedin, take Highway 1 north towards Saint Andrews, and turn left onto Pareora River Road (Between Saint Andrews and Pareora). Continue to Pareora Gorge Rd then turn left again onto State Highway 8 (signs for Fairlie/Route 8). Estimated travel time: 3 hours, 30 minutes

Where are the lupins at Lake Tekapo?

Here’s where it gets a little tough since every year is a little different. Having visited the lupins a few times, the best fields tend to differ each year. So, you will need to be prepared to explore when you arrive to see where they’re blooming at their finest.

Don’t worry, if it’s lupin season at Lake Tekapo, you won’t be able to miss them! They grow almost everywhere. However, as a general rule, these are the locations to visit in Lake Tekapo if you want to view some excellent displays.

Usually, the most densely populated area for lupin flowers is a field on the Fairlie-Tekapo road on the way into Lake Tekapo township from the east coast (Christchurch/ Timaru). This is roughly 1 kilometre before you reach Lake Tekapo on your right. Please keep in mind that this field is private property, and you should not access it without permission.

Otherwise, there are abundance of lupins on the Lake Tekapo shoreline, particularly in front of the Lake Tekapo holiday park. Another favourite location is the area around the Church of the Good Shepherd.

It is worth spending some time going along back roads in the surrounding areas of Lake Tekapo for unique photos as lupins grow in different locations each year. In particular the road out to Lake Alexandrina can have some fabulous photo opportunities of lupins.

Ⓒ Sean Michael Pritchard

Where do you park for the lupins at Lake Tekapo?

There is plenty of car parking in Tekapo, and it is free! There is a public car park on the foreshore of the lake, close to Tekapo Springs. As well as a smaller car park next to the Church of the Good Shepherd.

It is normally easy to find a free place to park in Tekapo, especially on a weekday; weekends can be a bit busier, and you’ll find public holidays are when the car parks are busiest.

It is critical to remember your road safety in Tekapo. When you notice lupins, don’t automatically pull over without thinking. If you must pull over to snap a photo of the lupins, make sure it is safe to do so and that you do so only at an authorised lay-by or parking place.

You don’t need to stop in a hazardous location because there are so many lupins in the area. If you drive past some lupins, you’ll undoubtedly find another bunch nearby with a safer parking location. Accidents on the route to Lake Tekapo are common due to reckless drivers, so even if you are driving safely, please keep an eye out for others.

Is there Public Transport to the lupins at Lake Tekapo?

InterCity runs daily buses from Christchurch to Tekapo, and the trip takes around 3 hours and 45 minutes. Buses to Tekapo leave from outside the Canterbury Museum on Rolleston Avenue in Christchurch and arrive at the parking lot next to the Lake Tekapo Tavern.

(Be sure to make a stop at the New Brighton Pier, Christchurch)

What facilities are near the lupins at Lake Tekapo?

The township of Lake Tekapo contains a variety of shops, cafés, pubs, and restaurants. There is also a Four Square supermarket, which has everything you could possibly need. It closes at 8 p.m.

There are public toilets near the car park, and plenty of picnic tables scattered around the town. Many visitors choose some treats from the supermarket and have picnics while admiring the scenery.

There’s a fun playground in the town centre for the kids to enjoy. As well as the Tekapo Springs complex with three hot pools and an Aqua Play Area which would keep them entertained for hours. It also has Steam and sauna rooms  for the adults to enjoy too! 

Are dogs allowed at Lake Tekapo?

It’s difficult to discover dog-friendly places in New Zealand. Dogs are often restricted from most tourist attractions due to the significance of protecting rare local birds.

However, Lake Tekapo is a dog-friendly place, and there are numerous holiday homes and baches that welcome dogs! 

Although please be cautious if you bring your dog during Lupin season. Lupins contain alkaloids, which are harmful to both humans and animals. Though toxicity has primarily been observed in cattle, canine poisoning is a possibility.

Ⓒ Sean Michael Pritchard

Top tips for taking photos of the lupins at Lake Tekapo

The lupins at Lake Tekapo are in a particularly photogenic area of New Zealand due to the scenic backdrop of the lake and mountains in the distance. To make the most of your visit, here are a few photography tips for getting the best shots of the lupins.

  1. Get up for sunrise! Usually, the Lake Tekapo flowers are calmer in the early mornings which is when you’ll be able to shoot amazing reflections of the lupins. If the wind is calm, you may be able to use long exposure too.
  2. Try to be creative, use different angles and take in your surroundings to find an image that is distinctive with your own photography style
  3. Use a zoom lens to create more depth in your image and make the mountain range appear more prominent in your shot.
  4. Add a subject in your image to enhance the story telling of your photography 

It is certainly possible to capture some excellent shots of the lupins at Lake Tekapo on one of the top phones for photography or one of the best compact travel cameras.

However, if you want to acquire amazing detail and sharp photographs that you can print larger and hang as wall art in your home, you’ll need to invest in a full frame camera.

New Zealand Lupin photography gear recommendations:

  • A DSLR or Mirrorless Camera. There are several wonderful full frame cameras, both DSLR and mirrorless, which are well-suited to the task.
  • A wide-angle lens for landscape lupin photography.
  • A macro photography lens for capturing the fine details of the lupins.
  • A good camera bag with adequate room for multiple lenses.
  • Camera cover that is waterproof. This is New Zealand, and rain showers are not uncommon throughout the summer. Always be prepared to protect your valuable equipment.
  • Keep spare batteries well charged so you are not caught off guard by a low battery.
  • Spare memory cards. You’ll be shocked at how many images you snap and how rapidly your memory card fills up!

What accommodation is near to visit the lupins at Lake Tekapo?

This magnificent part of New Zealand can be explored in a few hours. However, if you want to travel slowly and make the most of lupin season, you should stay a couple of days.

Lake Tekapo itself has a great selection of accommodation options and is a great base to not only see the lupins but explore the wider Mackenzie district.

Here are some awesome accommodation options in Lake Tekapo to consider:

Budget: Lakefront Lodge Backpackers

The Lakefront Lodge Backpackers was designed specifically for backpackers. It is contemporary in style yet mixes well with the alpine setting and is located directly across the road from the stunning Lake Tekapo. It has a large lounge and dining room, as well as a BBQ area, which is ideal for socialising, networking, and interacting with new people. The dorm rooms are very affordable, and there are also private rooms with shared bathrooms available.

Mid-Range: Lake Tekapo Motels & Holiday Park

Lake Tekapo Holiday Park is situated on the picturesque shores of Lake Tekapo. During lupin season, lupins bloom just in front of this park. The accommodation options here provide spectacular views of the turquoise lake, neighbouring mountains, and the starry night sky. There is something for every budget, from modest cabins to two-bedroom apartments perfect for families.

Splurge: Galaxy Boutique Hotel

Galaxy Boutique Hotel is one of the best boutique hotels in the Mackenzie Region, offering a one-of-a-kind high-quality lodging experience. The deluxe lake view rooms are located on the upper floor and have wonderful views of Lake Tekapo and the surrounding mountains. A super king bed and a magnificent bathroom with a bathtub are provided. On a clear night, you can lie in bed and gaze out the skylight at the dazzling starry sky and the galaxy.

Where else do lupins grow in New Zealand?

Lupins flourish in a variety of locations around New Zealand, and while they are most commonly seen on the South Island, they can also be found on the North Island if you’re lucky! 

The Mackenzie Basin on the South Island is unquestionably the most prevalent location for lupins. So, if lupins are on your bucket-list trip to New Zealand, plan to spend some time in this gorgeous section of the country during the early summer.

Even though the locations where these pretty flowers thrive varies from year to year, in addition to Lake Tekapo, these are the most common locations for lupin photography in New Zealand:

  • State Highway 8 – the road between Tekapo and Twizel
  • Braemar Road – the alternative road between Tekapo and Lake Pukaki
  • Crown Range Road – the road that travels from Wanaka to Queenstown
  • Along the banks of the Twizel Canals
  • The east shore of Lake Pukaki
  • Ahuriri River
  • Omarama Clay Cliffs
  • South of Lindis Pass
  • Kaikoura – yellow lupins only!

 Final thoughts

There is no doubt that the lupins at Lake Tekapo are delightful to see.

Whether you’re a local seeking out photography inspiration or a tourist who has had this destination on their bucket list for years, I hope this guide has been helpful in planning your journey to Lake Tekapo during lupin season.  

Remember, there are plenty of lupins for everyone to admire and there are some beautiful photo opportunities here.

Ultimately though, don’t forget to enjoy yourself! It’s a terrific trip for individuals, couples, and the entire family to enjoy; the most important thing is to have fun and build lasting memories together!

Dont forget to leave time for some New Zealand waterfall photography and long exposure photography!

DISCLOSURE: I may earn a small commission from some of the links above. For the benefit of the doubt, please assume all links might be affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

NZ purple lupin field under blue sky

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