Canterbury’s Hidden Gem – Lake Tennyson


Ahhh New Zealand, in all it’s natural splendor. Mountains and lakes and unbelievable scenery at every turn are what make this gorgeous country such a destination on everyone’s bucket list, but being on everyone’s bucket list comes with a price. Finding secluded areas is becoming far and few, especially in the busy summer months from December to February.

I present to you Canterbury’s hidden gem – Lake Tennyson. Keep reading below for directions, where to hike and what to bring!


How to get there:

Lake Tennyson is located in the Northern most part of Canterbury in the St. James Range near the boarder of Malbourough and Canterbury/ Canterbury and Tasman. From Hanmer Springs take Jacks Pass Road to Clarence Valley Road up the mountain until you hit a fork. From there you’ll see a sign directing you to turn to the left and drive 40 Km, past Molesworth Station, the St. James Cycle Trail and through 4 gates. Pay attention to the signs.

Where to camp:

If you’re looking for a quick and easy over night stay there is a free camping spot right where you pull in next to the lake shore, equip with toilets. In this camping area you generally won’t be alone, but if you’re up for a little hike and are looking to have the entire North end of the lake to yourself throw your tent on your back and walk a little further. Roughly 40 minutes to be exact. You’ll get a bit wet but it’s definitely worth the trek. To get to this secluded paradise just walk the lake shore to the right (the Eastern side). There will be a few spots with trails jutting into the woods to keep you out of the deep water.

The second secluded area is on the Western side of the lake. If you have a four wheel drive vehicle and the gates are open you can drive to this area, but the road is not for low riding vehicles and be warned that the gate is closed in very wet months. In that case you can also trek there, but you’ll need to cross a small river.

Where to hike:

My favorite part about Lake Tennyson is that there are so many opions on places to hike. Around the lake, up a variety of mountains, the choice is yours. If you walk across the river to the left and along the Western side of the lake you’ll find a trail leading through a fairytale forest and up the mountians. Be aware a lot of the trail has grown over, so you’ll need to use a bit of detective work. The entire lake can be hiked and takes about 2.5 hours depending on how many stops you take. None of the mountains in the area have direct trails to the summit, but most are easy to free climb and relatively safe.

What to bring:

If you want to stay at the normal campsite a camper van or tent will do with the normal supplies for living out of your vehicle (gas burner, food, camping chairs, sleeping bag, etc.). If you’re looking to trek to the more remote spots then you’ll want:

  • light weight tent
  • sleeping bag
  • food and water
  • waterproof boots and extra socks
  • rain jacket, basically all weather gear
  • your camera
  • sunscreen
  • bug spray

*Keep in mind, South Island temperatures can drastically change day to day. Make sure you have both warm and cold gear.