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When & Where to See Lupins in New Zealand (2023)

A patch of pink and purple lupins in front of Lake Tekapo during golden hour, with soft light and a glowing sunset over the mountains behind the lake.

Summary of post: Everything you need to know about when and where to see lupins in New Zealand, including lupin locations with Google Maps directions!

Between late November through early January, a magical sight appears around New Zealand’s South Island: bursts of wild lupins bloom in abundance, in a rainbow of colours that are simply amazing to see. 

To see these lupins in New Zealand, you should visit the South Island’s Mackenzie Basin between late November through early January.

There’s more you should know, though, and I’ll cover everything in this article!

I’ve written this guide because I live in New Zealand and love photographing the lupin bloom each year. I want to share everything I know with you to help you see lupins in New Zealand, too.

So let’s get to it—here’s how to see lupins in New Zealand!

*Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through the link provided, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I really appreciate your support!

Quick Guide to Lupins in New Zealand

🗓 When to see lupins in New Zealand: late November through the first week of January (late spring/early summer in NZ)

📍Where to see lupins in New Zealand: various South Island locations between Lake Tekapo and Milford Sound, with the Mackenzie Basin being the absolute best area

⭐️ Best lupin location in New Zealand: Lake Tekapo

Map of Lupin Locations in New Zealand

The Truth About Lupins in New Zealand

A patch of lupins in shades of pink, purple, blue, and yellow on a grassy hill in Lake Tekapo.

The truth is, these wildflowers—known as Russell lupins—are actually an invasive species in New Zealand. 

Conservationists are trying, for good reason, to remove Russell lupins from areas where they cause extensive damage, in an effort to protect the natural landscape. 

There’s no harm in seeing lupins in New Zealand while they’re around, but just know that they are being eradicated from some places due to legitimate environmental concerns. 

This, along with weather variations, means that the exact locations and timings of the lupins can change slightly from year to year. 

With this in mind, I’ve got lots of tips for you to help you spot some of these famous wildflowers in New Zealand. 

You just need to time things right and know where to go—and be aware of the fact that these wildflowers are actually noxious weeds (albeit extremely pretty weeds 😂).

When do Lupins Bloom in New Zealand? 

Pink and purple lupins growing on a small hillside along the shores of Lake Tekapo, with sunset lighting over mountains in the background.

New Zealand lupin season runs from late November through early January.

These months coincide with late spring and early summer in New Zealand, and you’ll have the best chance of spotting lupins then.

For the best time to see lupins at Lake Tekapo, visit between late November through early December

In particular, the last week in November and the first week in December is usually a great time to see lupins at Lake Tekapo.

As you go further south, lupins bloom a little later in the season, usually all the way up until early January. 

Where to See Lupins in New Zealand

A dense patch of purple lupins in front of turquoise-blue Lake Tekapo on New Zealand's South Island.

The South Island’s Mackenzie Basin is the best place to see lupins in New Zealand. 

The Mackenzie Basin is located between Christchurch and Queenstown and includes Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki, Twizel, and Omarama. 

Lake Tekapo is the most famous lupin-spotting location, and it’s your best bet for seeing lupins in New Zealand. 

However, you can also see lupins in other parts of the South Island in places south of the Mackenzie Basin.

In particular, you can usually spot lupins around Queenstown, Glenorchy, and the road between Te Anau and Milford Sound. They won’t be as prolific as the lupins in the Mackenzie Basin, though.

You won’t find purple Russell lupins in the wild on the North Island. So, if seeing lupins is your goal while you’re in New Zealand, focus on the South Island for your trip, and the Mackenzie Basin in particular. 

Below, I’ll list 14 of the best spots to see lupins in New Zealand, from Lake Tekapo down to the Te Anau-Milford Road!

Best Places to See Lupins in New Zealand

Note: I’ve included the approximate location on Google Maps where each of the below photos was taken. 

However, the exact locations and numbers of flowers can vary each year. So, use these directions as a rough guide but be prepared to do a bit of exploring on your own, too!

These locations are listed in order from north to south, assuming you’re driving from Christchurch to Queenstown. If you’re driving up from Queenstown, follow these locations in reverse order.

Some of these spots are well-known places, and others are hidden gems.

No matter the place, though, please ensure you leave no trace of your visit.

Lake Tekapo Lupins

1. Just North of Lake Tekapo

A large patch of lupins in shades of purple and pink growing along the Fairlie-Tekapo Road just before Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

📍Location: Google Maps

Right before you reach Lake Tekapo (when driving southbound from Christchurch or elsewhere), there’s a massive field of lupins on the righthand side of the Fairlie-Tekapo road.

This lupin patch is on private property and it’s fenced off. So, please be respectful and don’t trespass on private property. 

You can get some photos of this lupin patch from afar along the roadside (assuming you’ve pulled over safely!). 

You’ll have a chance to frolic amongst the lupins at the other spots near Tekapo, which I’ll cover below.

2. Lake Tekapo Foreshore near the Church of the Good Shepherd

Purple and pink lupins growing along the shores of Lake Tekapo, with softly-shaded mountains in the backdrop.

📍Location: Google Maps

Lake Tekapo is, without a doubt, the most famous and best place to see lupins in New Zealand.

The glacial turquoise blue of Lake Tekapo—backed by soaring snow-capped peaks—is already a stunning sight. But add some wildflowers into the mix, and you’ll experience the most dreamy display of vibrant colours.

In particular, the Lake Tekapo foreshore is a great place to spot lupins.

You’ll find lupins in patches all along the Lake Tekapo foreshore, so it’s best to wander around the lakeshore to look around.

I recommend heading down to the lake from the Church of the Good Shepherd, where you’ll usually find lots of lupins to admire. 

3. Lake Tekapo Foreshore near the Lakes Edge Holiday Park

A sparse patch of wild purple lupins and orange poppies growing amidst grasses in front of Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

📍 Location: Google Maps

Another excellent spot to see lupins in Lake Tekapo is close to the Lake Tekapo Holiday Park.

The lakefront area below the holiday park is usually jam-packed with lupin patches. They’re often mixed with orange poppies and the colour contrast is truly stunning!

Again, wander around the lakefront here to find the best lupin patches, because the exact spots can vary each year.

4. Cowan’s Hill Walkway

Purple lupins alongside a turquoise river flowing into Lake Tekapo, with snow-capped mountains in the background.

📍Location: Google Maps

For a slightly different view over Lake Tekapo, head a little ways up the Cowan’s Hill Walkway along the Tekapo River. You can access the trailhead right from the town of Tekapo.

The river is just as blue as the lake and looks stunning with lupins dotting its sides. 

You don’t have to walk far along the trail to get a view like the one in the photo above!

5. Godley Peaks Road between Lake Tekapo and Lake Alexandrina

Bright purple lupins in front of turquoise-blue Lake Tekapo, with snow-capped mountains in the background.

📍 Location: Google Maps

Drive from Lake Tekapo towards Lake Alexandrina and you’ll likely spot heaps of lupin patches dotting the sides of the road.

While you’re at it, I recommend driving up to the Astro Cafe at the top of Mount John. You’ll need to pay a road user fee of $8 per car, but it’s well worth it for the amazing 360-degree views over Lake Tekapo from the summit.

More South Island Lupin Locations

6. Lake Pukaki & the Road to Aoraki Mount Cook National Park 

A small patch of purple lupins growing above Lake Pukaki along the road to Aoraki Mount Cook National Park.

📍Location: Google Maps (and see below for other locations nearby)

The drive between Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook National Park takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes, without any stops.

However, you’re going to want to make lots of stops along the drive—especially once you see how many lupin patches there are! 

Along this drive, you’ll reach Lake Pukaki, another lake with a stunning glacial-blue colour. It looks even more gorgeous with bright lupins in the foreground.

There are scenic viewpoints in many locations around Lake Pukaki and the carparks at these viewpoints are the best places to pull over to see lupins.

Here are some of the best places to park for lupin (and lake!) viewing around Lake Pukaki:

📍 Lake Pukaki Viewpoint: Google Maps (there are usually some nice little lupin patches here, and it’s also just a great spot to see Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook on a clear day).

📍 Mt. Cook Alpine Salmon carpark: Google Maps (wander down to the lake after visiting the salmon shop, and see if you can spot some lupins)

📍 Peter’s Lookout: Google Maps (I’ve only ever seen a few lupins here, but it’s a must-see for the views of Lake Pukaki) 

> Tip: if you’re hiring a self-contained campervan for your road trip, you can freedom camp overnight at the Lake Pukaki freedom campsite. This freedom campsite is often an excellent place to see lupins along the lakeshore, too.

7. Omarama Clay Cliffs

A close-up image of vibrant pink and purple wild lupins on the South Island, New Zealand.

📍Location: Google Maps

The Omarama Clay Cliffs are a worthy detour along the drive between Twizel and the Lindis Pass. 

At the Clay Cliffs, you’ll see some really cool pinnacle-like rock formations that you can access via a short walking trail. 

During lupin season, this place looks even more spectacular, as there will be lupins around the rock formations! The bright colours add a nice contrast to the otherwise neutral colours of the terrain.

You do need to pay an entrance fee of $5 per vehicle, so arrive with cash to pay the fee.

8. The Ahuriri River 

A close-up image of pretty lupins in various shades of pink and purple on New Zealand's South Island.

📍Location: Google Maps

The Ahuriri River is an example of a place where lupins are causing extensive damage to the braided rivers of the Mackenzie Basin.

As you drive from Omarama towards the Lindis Pass, you’ll see swaths of bright lupins along the banks of the Ahuriri River. It’s both beautiful and concerning, knowing that the flowers are destructive to the native birdlife along rivers such as this one.

9. Between Lindis Pass and Tarras

A dense field of pink and puple lupins growing in front of green mountains near Lindis Pass, New Zealand.

📍Location: Google Maps

You’ll spot lupin fields along the roadside in several places south of the Lindis Pass. The field shown above is the largest one I’ve seen around this area, though!

The lupin fields along this stretch are mostly on private farmland, so if you’d like to admire them, make sure to do so from afar and don’t enter private property. 

I took the above photo from a roadside pullout without walking onto private land; please do the same if you visit this place.

10. The Crown Range Road

Purple lupins along the Crown Range Road between Queenstown and Wanaka.

📍Location: Google Maps

The Crown Range Road is the twisty, narrow, and steep road that connects Wanakā to Queenstown via Cardrona. 

It’s a stunning road in its own right, offering great views from the summit over Arrowtown and Queenstown. 

During lupin season, sections of the roadside are covered in wild lupins. 

When driving over the Crown Range Road, please take caution and make sure you only pull over at designated pullouts and lookouts. This road is no joke, so please don’t let the lupins distract you from safe driving! 

11. Queenstown – along the Frankton Track

Purple and pink lupins below a willow tree on the shores of Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand.

📍 Location: Google Maps

Lupins aren’t as prolific around Queenstown compared to Mackenzie Country, but there are still a few patches to find!

I’ve had the most luck seeing lupins along parts of the Frankton Track, one of my favourite easy trails around Queenstown. 

If you walk from town to the Frankton Track on the sidewalk along the lakeshore, you may spot some lupin patches by the lake just before the trail begins. 

I’ve also spotted lupins close to Frankton Beach, where you’ll also find Driftaway Campground, one of the best campsites in Queenstown.

12. Glenorchy – by the Glenorchy Wharf 

glenorchy-shed-and-mountains
You can sometimes see lupins near the Glenorchy Red Shed, which is worth visiting even if lupins aren’t around!

📍Location: Google Maps

The 45-minute drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy is one of the best scenic drives on the South Island. 

Glenorchy is well worth a visit, whether it’s lupin season or not! You can make a whole day out of this drive as a day trip from Queenstown, stopping at roadside lookouts and hikes along the way (don’t miss Bob’s Cove—it’s one of the best easy walks on the South Island!).

As with Queenstown, you won’t see heaps of lupins around Glenorchy. However, there are usually some lupins in bloom along the lakeshore near the Glenorchy Wharf. 

While in Glenorchy, I also recommend that you walk the Glenorchy Lagoon Walkway. You might see some patches of lupins around this walk, too.

13. Between Glenorchy and Paradise – Precipice Creek

A cluster of purple lupins growing in the wild at Precipice Creek along the Glenorchy-Paradise Road.

📍Location: Google Maps

After driving from Queenstown to Glenorchy, you can continue driving towards Paradise along the Glenorchy-Paradise road for additional jaw-dropping beauty in every direction.

Just a 5-minute drive past Glenorchy, you’ll find a big patch of lupins at Precipice Creek. Not many people know about this spot, so you might get it all to yourself for a bit!

14. The Road from Te Anau to Milford Sound

A patch of purple and pink lupins near the Eglinton River at Deer Flat Campsite in Fiordland National Park.

📍Location: Google Maps

One more drive you shouldn’t miss on the South Island is the road from Te Anau to Milford Sound

It’s a spectacular road filled with scenic viewpoints, hiking trails, mountains, and waterfalls.

Along this drive, I’ve seen Russell lupins at both the Deer Flat DOC Campsite and Cascade Creek DOC Campsite, which are two of the best campsites near Milford Sound. You don’t need to camp at either campground in order to visit them; you can just drive in for day use.

The above photo was taken at the Deer Flat Campsite, at the very far end of the campsite by the Eglinton River.

How to Get to the Lupins in New Zealand

The best way to see lupins in New Zealand is to hire a car or campervan, and go on a road trip between Christchurch and Queenstown.

This drive is one of the best road trips in New Zealand any time of year, but during lupin season, it’s particularly spectacular. 

🚙 For car hire, I recommend using Discover Cars. Just make sure you compare reviews on there with reviews on Google, too. Some of the car companies I recommend are Avis, Ezi, Go Rentals, and Snap Rentals. 

🚐 For campervan hire, I recommend Motorhome Republic. They compare prices for the top campervan companies in New Zealand so you don’t have to research them all yourself! Britz, Jucy, Travellers Autobarn, and Spaceships are all excellent companies to hire campervans from.

Where to Stay to See Lupins in New Zealand

lake-tekapo-holiday-park-cabin
This is a cabin at the Lake Tekapo Holiday Park, with its own patch of lupins!

Below, you’ll find the accommodation and campsites I recommend for each of the main destinations along a lupin-spotting road trip between Lake Tekapo and Queenstown.

You should book your accommodation well in advance because this is a really popular route and places book out early! 

Stay 1-2 nights in each of these places to truly enjoy them. 

Lake Tekapo 

🛌 Hotel: Skyblue Tekapo (for modern rooms with kitchenettes) or the Tekapo Village Motel (they have slightly dated rooms but are right in town)

⛺️ Camping: Lake’s Edge Holiday Park

📸 Tip: Definitely plan to stay a night in Lake Tekapo if you can—this will give you the best opportunity to photograph the lupins during golden hour just after sunrise or just before sunset; this is when the soft colours of the sky will make for the most gorgeous photo-ops.

Lake Pukaki & Mount Cook National Park 

🛌Hotel: Aoraki Court Motel

⛺️Camping: Either the Lake Pukaki freedom camping site (for self-contained vans only) OR White Horse Hill Campground (which is one of my top campsites on the South Island!)

Wanakā

🛌Hotel: The Lakeside Apartments (the pool is amazing!) or the Clearbrook Motel (it has an awesome location in the heart of town)

⛺️Camping: The Wanakā Top 10 Holiday Park

Queenstown 

🛌Hotel: Garden Court Apartments (a 10-minute walk from town with plenty of parking) or the Novotel (they have a prime location right in town, but parking is limited).

⛺️Camping: Driftaway Campground

Te Anau & Milford Sound

🛌Hotel: Lakeside Motel & Apartments (their lakefront location is excellent, and their rooms are modern and comfortable).

⛺️Camping: Tasman Holiday Parks Te Anau or the Cascade Creek DOC Campsite near Milford Sound (but note that sandflies at Cascade Creek will be prolific).

Tips for Seeing Lupins in New Zealand

  • Please drive safely when you’re out looking for lupins. Only park your car in designated pullouts or carparks, and keep your eyes on the road no matter how distracting the pretty lupins may be!
  • The weather in New Zealand can vary dramatically within the span of a day. Make sure you’re prepared with some warm layers, a waterproof jacket, and plenty of sunscreen for that strong New Zealand sun! 
  • Lupin season is a popular time for travel on the South Island. Make sure you book everything well in advance, including your car or campervan and any accommodation.

FAQs – Lupins in New Zealand

What are the purple flowers in New Zealand?

The purple flowers in New Zealand (the ones from all the instagram photos you’ve seen!) are Russell lupins. 

When do lupins bloom in Lake Tekapo?

Lupins bloom in Lake Tekapo from late November through early January each year. This coincides with late spring and early summer in New Zealand.

Are lupins native to New Zealand?

No, lupins are not native to New Zealand. In fact, wild lupins are considered an invasive species in New Zealand.

Can you see lupins in autumn in New Zealand?

No, you can’t see lupins in autumn in New Zealand. The lupin season runs from late spring to early summer, which is late November to early January.

Can you see lupins in winter in New Zealand?

No, you can’t see lupins in winter in New Zealand. You’ll need to visit New Zealand in late spring or early summer to see lupins.

Can you see lupins in October in New Zealand?

No, October is usually too early to see lupins in New Zealand. If seeing lupins is your goal, visit in late November or early December instead.

Are there any lupin flower fields on the North Island?

There aren’t any purple lupin flower fields on the North Island. You will, however, see yellow lupins in bloom in places like Taupō and in the dunes around some beaches on the North Island.

Thanks for Reading my Guide to Seeing Lupins in New Zealand!

Jac and Tyson from Weekend Path in front of a field of lupins near Lake Tekapo.

I hope this has helped you plan your lupin-spotting trip.


If you have any questions about seeing lupins in New Zealand, feel free to email me any time or leave a comment below, and I’ll reply as soon as I can!

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