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Your guide to Lake Tekapo
All About Lake Tekapo
In the middle of New Zealand’s South Island, nestled in the Mackenzie Basin, is Lake Tekapo — a tiny town sitting on the shores of one of the country’s bluest lakes. The highlight of Lake Tekapo is, of course, the stunning glacier-fed lake with its eye-catching milky-turquoise hue. It’s a scene that becomes even more striking set against dense sage forest and the dramatic, often snow-capped Southern Alps.
Waterways and streams meander through town, providing fishing enthusiasts the chance to haul in trout and salmon. You can traverse Lake Tekapo’s diverse and spectacular terrain with a hike or bike ride on one of the town’s many trails, The Mount John Summit Track and Lake George Scott Track snake through pine forests and rolling hills, offering panoramic views of Lake Tekapo’s tranquil landscape. Lake Tekapo is also part of a UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve, making it an excellent spot for star-gazing. In the small village itself, you’ll find a supermarket, restaurants, cafes, and gift shops, where you can get local goods and wool knitwear.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Lake Tekapo
The summer months, between December and February, boast warm temperatures ideal for swimming in the lake. Mid-November is a popular time to visit Lake Tekapo, when the lupins adorn the fringes of the lake and surrounding fields in vibrant shades of pink, purple, and violet. These candy-colored blooms typically last until the end of December. During the winter months in June through August, the snow-capped mountains transform the town into a wintertime paradise. Lovers of the outdoors catch some runs on the slopes at one of many nearby ski areas, hit up an outdoor rink next to the lake for a glide on the ice, and warm up afterward with a dip in the hot pools at Tekapo Springs.
Top things to do in Lake Tekapo
Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve
Lake Tekapo is situated within the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. The pristine star-gazing conditions make it possible to simply hop in your car and pick a spot around town to admire the scintillating sky and stars. If you’d prefer a guided view of the constellations, the University of Canterbury Mt. John Observatory, Cowan’s Private Observatory, and Tekapo Springs all offer star-gazing experiences.
Church of Good Shepherd
Standing on the shores of Lake Tekapo is the Church of Good Shepherd, an iconic landmark with vistas of the Southern Alps. You can spend time perusing the grounds or, if you make arrangements beforehand, tour the interior. The church’s stone façade offers a beautiful contrast against the vibrant landscape.
Cowans Hill Walkway
Cowans Hill Walkway is a four-mile hiking and biking loop offering stunning vistas of the lake and mountains. The footpath will take you along the lakeshore, through hills blanketed in tussock, across a bridge, and through a forest plantation. The area also encompasses a few wetlands that provide opportunities for bird-watching.
Frequently Asked Questions
How is the weather in Lake Tekapo?
Lake Tekapo experiences a cool temperate climate. Summers, between December and February, are mild with temperatures around 64°F (18°C). Winters, between June and August, are cold with temperatures often dropping below 32°F (0°C), making it a popular time for snow activities.
What are some of the best things to do in Lake Tekapo?
Popular activities in Lake Tekapo include relaxing by the lake, hiking on local trails such as the Lake Tekapo Walkway, exploring the Church of the Good Shepherd, and viewing the Southern Lights. You might also enjoy a soak at Tekapo Springs, or stargazing at the Mount John Observatory.
What is the best time of year to visit Lake Tekapo?
The most popular time to visit Lake Tekapo is in the summer months, from December to February, when temperatures are around 64°F (18°C) and the lupin flowers are in full bloom. Winter, from June to August, is also popular for snow-based activities. The annual mid-winter star party in July is a notable event.
What are the best places to stay in Lake Tekapo?
Most visitors choose to stay in the Lake Tekapo village, which has a range of accommodation from holiday homes to lakeside lodges. Another popular area is near the Church of the Good Shepherd, offering close proximity to the lake and easy access to local attractions.
What are the best places to visit in Lake Tekapo?
The Church of the Good Shepherd, a historic stone chapel with stunning lake views, is a popular place to visit in Lake Tekapo. The Mount John Observatory is another frequently suggested spot, especially for its midnight stargazing tours. Don't forget to explore the Tekapo Springs for a day of family fun and relaxation.
What are some hiking trails in Lake Tekapo?
Hiking enthusiasts often recommend the Lake Tekapo Walkway, a 3-kilometer (1.9-mile) trail around the lake, and the Mount John Walkway, a slightly challenging 8-kilometer (5-mile) hike that rewards with panoramic views. The Two Thumb Track is another popular trail, taking you deep into the Southern Alps.
What are some family activities to do in Lake Tekapo?
In Lake Tekapo, you can explore the Tekapo Springs, where families can find hot pools, an ice skating rink, and a snow tube park. You may also enjoy the Mount John Observatory's stargazing tours, visit the local animal park, or take a scenic horse riding tour. Remember to spend time by the pristine lake, which is perfect for a family picnic.
What are some of the best day trip ideas in Lake Tekapo?
Day trips from Lake Tekapo often include a visit to the nearby town of Fairlie, known for its quaint shops and eateries, or exploring the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, which is just 104 kilometers (64 miles) away. Other suggestions include the Mackenzie Basin for its stunning landscapes and the Waitaki Valley for its historical Maori rock art.
Are there pet-friendly vacation rentals in Lake Tekapo?
Four-legged friends are welcome in Lake Tekapo. Choose from more than 30 vacation rentals for guests traveling with pets.
Are there vacation rentals with a dedicated workspace in Lake Tekapo?
Yes! Work meets play with ease at over 50 vacation rentals in Lake Tekapo featuring dedicated workspaces. Stay connected and productive in your home away from home.