- 1hr 40min from Christchurch
- Take the Ashburton Gorge Road from Mt Somers township in central Canterbury and follow this to the lake
Lake Camp, Canterbury
Aptly named Lake Camp in Canterbury’s Rangitata Basin is one of those perennially sought-after lakeside locales that entices campers of every persuasion to sample the simple pleasures of a night out under a huge high country sky.
It’s a breeze to reach this destination, inland from Mt Somers in central Canterbury, and as the main road passes along the length of the western shoreline, various options are possible for setting up camp with the choice locations being at either the eastern or western end. Both locations have advantages: the western end is more sheltered with exotic pines shielding against the ubiquitous nor’wester which blows here with monotonous regularity, while the eastern end, though exposed to the wind, has the views and if the weather is benevolent for your visit this is the end you should choose. The vista over the lake to the distant Southern Alps with Mt D’Archiac resplendent is not to be missed, especially at sunset.
The lake is popular with boaties and water skiers, so if you take a trip here in mid-summer chances are you will find plenty of activity, though come dusk all that ceases and you can fully enjoy the beauty, space and peace of the lake. This calm is repeated again at dawn and well into the morning before sleepy boaties awake for another crack at the lake.
Nearby Lake Clearwater is just one of the numerous other lakes in the area free from motorised craft that have kilometres of walkable shoreline and of course opportunity for canoeing. Lakes with names like Spider, Emma and Donne are just a few of the options.
If you need some decent exercise then you can try your luck on Mt Harper/Mahaanui (1829m) immediately south of Lake Camp and directly accessible from the lake shore. The rounded summit is a magnificent viewpoint and can be done as a round trip in about six hours.
Fishing is possible in all the neighbouring lakes, though the presence of boats will put paid to that option at Lake Camp. I really like to relax here at the lakeside and enjoy the view of the Alps out west at dusk, it’s manifestly beautiful and pregnant with all the allure and mystery of the high country.
Speaking of mystery, this lake lies directly in the panther-zone; an area where there have been innumerable sightings of large, black, stealthy cats over many years. Some believe there may well be a transient population of the felines living in the hills, having escaped from a circus or private collection decades ago when controls on imported wild animals were not as stringent as they are today.
My last trip to Lake Camp was made in late summer on a somnolent evening with little wind and with bright sunlight flooding the lake basin. I camped under the sparse silver birch at the eastern end with one of my daughters and we enjoyed a long, peaceful afternoon and evening lazing in the grass, observing the passage of clouds and later the rich tones of dusk writing their signature on the deepening sky.
The stars were another bonus of our camp here, they were an arresting sight from the door of the tent as we read and watched campfires springing up around the shores.