If you’re travelling the Christchurch to Tekapo scenic route, here’s what you should do – go through Darfield on State Highway No 77. Sure, it might take a wee bit longer, but the scenery along this two-lane rural road is beautiful.

The Canterbury Plains

And what you will discover, is that the scenery changes quite frequently. You’ll start from the the Canterbury Plains – a flat patchwork quilt of wheat and grazing pastures.

Inland Scenic Route to Lake Tekapo

But before you know it, things get a lot greener. Seriously, all it takes, is a quick check of a map – and the minute you look up, you might think you’re in a different region. And here’s the thing, even in the busy season, you won’t be sharing the road with hordes of other travellers. We passed these cyclists this morning – they had the sun on their backs.  Little did they know, the weather was about to change.

Scenic route to Lake Tekapo and cyclists

The Rakaia Gorge

It’s such a neat experience when you first catch sight of the Southern Alps. And its at this stage, gently rolling hills appear – classic Lord of the Rings Country! Michael expects that I should be able to name each individual mountain (actually he can). After Glentunnel, its up and around to the beautiful sight of the Rakaia Gorge. This is a good place to rest.

Rakaia Gorge

The water of the Rakaia Gorge is typical of a New Zealand High Country river. It’s unusually milky green colour is the result of sediment released from the movement of the glaciers. Their are some great highlights on the Christchurch to Tekapo scenic route. Stop at the bridge or drive to the other side where there’s a camping ground with toilets. Isn’t this a sight for sore eyes!

Rakaia Gorge Bridge

The river meanders as far as those sore eyes can see. This is rugged, raw country people and if you’re a photographer, it’s heaven.

Rakaia Gorge river

Stopping at Geraldine

Next stop is the town of Geraldine. Do check out the family-owned Barker’s Store that sells quality preserves, sauces etc. This shop has been going for years and I like their products. My only gripe is that they’ve changed the recipe for their blackcurrant jam. Love their ice-cream toppings. Further down you’ll find a very good artisan cheese shop.

Barkers Shop Geraldine

Geraldine has an excellent Fresh Choice Supermarket off the main road just as you come in. If you’re staying in Lake Tekapo, you might want to stock up now. The cafes in Geraldine provide the generic white filled bread rolls and paninis – enough to keep the masses happy. However if you’re after something a bit special, you’ll probably be out of luck. To be fair though, the coffee we had at Plum Café was excellent.

To get a general idea on what you can do in the South Island…

view sample travel itineraries

The weather is turning and much needed rain is beginning to fall. I swear there are farmers doing cartwheels of joy, as I speak:

Geraldine cloudy skies

Lake Tekapo

It’s been four and a half hours in-between stops and we’ve arrived at Lake Tekapo, the surrounds of which remind me that I have arrived in another part of Paradise.

Lake Tekapo surrounds

The time has flown and the journey has been relaxing. That’s the beauty of The Christchurch to Tekapo scenic route. Check out other travel routes, such as Dunedin to Lake Tekapo, Wanaka to Fox Glacier and Nelson to Fox.

Happy travelling in the Canterbury & MacKenzie country!

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7 responses to “Christchurch to Tekapo scenic route”

  1. Oh gosh you are so right – that inland scenic route is a sight to behold. Coming down into the Rakaia Gorge and seeing the turquoise waters – magic! Wonderfully described drive Pam and Michael. Enjoy your time at Lake Tekapo – hope the weather co-operates for some star gazing, although I know they, like us are desperate for the rain.

    • GuestNZ says:

      Jan, I couldn’t believe the colour on the Rakaia and this morning the waters on Lake Tekapo were the brightest turquoise. Rediscovered the hot pools and the café there and went for a long walk around the lake. It’s really sunny here at the moment.

  2. Jane Smith says:

    What a great trip – and the promise of jam at the end! The water is such an amazing colour.
    Wishing you clear skies. J X

    • GuestNZ says:

      Hey Jane, we’re having very clear skies at the moment and holding our breath that it will last until tomorrow, because we’re doing the Mt John Conservatory tour. Hoping for some great stargazing moments (the Jam can wait).

  3. Murat says:

    I am going to fly from Auckland to Christchurch this Saturday then I am going to visit Lake Tekapo, I`ve just seen your this article and I want to use this scenic route. Thank you for sharing it with us 🙂 So I just want to know is this the same route?

    Thank you!

  4. Murat says:

    Thank you very much 🙂

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