Waking up at Lake Pukaki was one of our best experiences of road tripping through New Zealand – what a freedom camping gem. We could have enjoyed our breakfast with a million dollar view for hours – and we did! 😊 We found another highlight our way to Queenstown when we stumbled across some bizarre land formations – the “Clay Cliffs”!


We woke up early the next morning and to our surprise all the clouds had passed. The sun was just getting up as well and we had the most stunning sunrise views right from our cosy and warm campervan bed. Can it get any better? If we weren’t sold 100% on this freedom camping spot the day before – now we definitely were. 😊

new zealand road trip lake pukaki sunrise morning

Lake Pukaki with beautiful sunrise

It was still very quiet and only a few others joined us to watch this amazing morning spectacle. So once the sun was up we fell asleep again (actually a wonder that we had woken up at all 😊).

When we woke up again all our fellow camper friends were already busy running around, having breakfast, taking pictures (now??? too late buddy!) and getting ready to leave.

Seeing the buzzing camp site made us eventually get up as well. As usual we prepared us our warm porridge and some hot coffee (although the sun was shining bright it was still freezing cold). We got the chairs out and had once again an exceptionally scenic breakfast here in New Zealand.

new zealand road trip lake pukaki breakfast

Breakfast with a view at Lake Pukaki

By the time we were finished almost all campers had already left. Seems like their agenda for the day was a bit more packed than ours. 😊 There is tons to explore around if you like the great outdoors such as the beautiful Mt. Cook area just 35km from the Lake Pukaki car park. You can take beautiful walks or hikes here, eg. the Kea Point Track which is about 2hrs return or the Aoraki/Mt. Cook Village Tramping Track which is 3-4 hours return – if your fitness levels are up for it 😊.

On a sunny day like this it probably would have been amazing and I bet those views are well worth it but as we were planning our days according to the weather PREDICTIONS we were aiming to get to Queenstown and Milford Sound as quickly as possible.

The forecast predicted sunshine for the next two days in the Queenstown area and we definitely didn’t want to miss out on this extremely rare opportunity to potentially see Milford Sound at sunshine. We had read that Milford Sound is known for its bad and rainy weather. In fact it rains around 300 days a year in this area! So if the forecast says it’s supposed to be sunny, you better show up! 😊

So instead of unpacking our hiking boots (as if we have any 🙂 ) we enjoyed having Lake Pukaki almost to ourselves, took some more pictures, packed up and left around noon with course towards Queenstown.

lake pukaki new zealand escape camper van

What a morning at Lake Pukaki

We were super optimistic to make it to Queenstown today and although we had quite some hours ahead of us we didn’t worry, after all there wasn’t much to see along the way anyway….or so we thought. 😊 In New Zealand, there is AWALYS something to see!!!

OMARAMA CLAY CLIFFS – welcome to a massive sandcastle!

About 15 minutes after Twizel we saw a sign pointing to the right that said OMARAMA CLAY CLIFFS. We suddenly remembered having heard about these spectacular natural land forms before and decided spontaneously to go for it.

What we didn’t pay attention to was how much of a detour this would actually be. Although not that far off the main road it still took our ninja turtle van quite some time to get there as the road quickly turned into a dusty, bumpy gravel path. We however kept going as we were really keen on seeing the Clay Cliffs – now that we were here! 😊

new zealand road trip omarama clay cliffs

The Clay Cliffs are just down that road 🙂

We eventually got to a gate with an honesty box where you’ll be asked to pay 5 NZD per vehicle. The money goes towards the upkeep of the road as the Cliffs are on private land.
We can however assure you that paying 5 NZD is totally worth it. Once you get to the Clay Cliffs you know you’ll be in for something special. These formations of tall pinnacles look spectacular!!!

new zealand road trip clay cliffs pinnacles

The mighty pinnacles of Omarama Clay Cliffs

You can park your car not far from the cliffs from where a little path leads you right to it.

These bizarre looking formations are apparently made up of layers of gravel and silt, originally formed by the flow from ancient glaciers over a million years ago. Some even call it a geological wonder.

We were definitely impressed. The sharp pinnacles and ridges are separated by steep and narrow ravines and it’s just amazing to walk right through it. It was like this massive sandcastle and we were standing right in the middle!

new zealand road trip clay cliffs exploring pinnacles

Exploring the Clay Cliffs

We can highly recommend paying a visit to the Clay Cliffs if you are in the area but a word of warning though:

First: Make sure to plan enough time for your visit! We totally forgot the time while playing in the sandcastle which would change our travel plans once again
Second: WEAR THE RIGHT SHOOES!! The path through the pinnacles gets VERY steep and slippery and we saw quite a few people trying – AND FAILING – to go up in flip flops! 😊 Not a good idea!


So after having spent waaaay to much time at the Clay Cliffs we knew we were not gonna make it to Queenstown today, at least not while still having daylight. Luckily having our home right with us makes us pretty flexible and we can easily adapt to little miss-planning such as today. 😊 So we decided to look for a campground close to Queenstown from where we could start our exploration tomorrow.

We ended up finding a reasonable priced one in Arrowtown – the Arrowtown Holiday Park. It was already getting dark once we got there so we didn’t realize what a cute little town it was until the next morning. Queenstown had to wait just a little bit longer to be graced with our presence! 😊

Next Day: DAY SIX – Arrowtown – Queenstown

Previous Day: DAY FOUR – Timaru – Lake Tekapo – Lake Pukaki

Start at the beginning: DAY ONE – Christchurch to Akaroa

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