Visiting Lake Tekapo is a must-do while travelling through the South Island of New Zealand. Whether you are unsure of what to do in Lake Tekapo, looking at trying one of the many activities on offer or are simply wanting to enjoy the glacier-fed lake view and stunning mountain ranges this article has you covered. Below you will find some of the best Lake Tekapo activities on offer.
Where is Lake Tekapo?
Lake Tekapo is located at the foot of the Southern Alps in the Mackenzie country in the Canterbury region of New Zealand. It is about a 1 hour 15 minutes drive from Aoraki Mount Cook village along State Highway 8.
Below are a few driving times to nearby popular locations:
Geraldine to Tekapo: 1 hour
Christchurch to Lake Tekapo: 3 hours
Tekapo to Queenstown: 3 hours
Twizel to Tekapo: 40 minutes
Where to stay in Lake Tekapo
There are many incredible Lake Tekapo accommodation options you will be spoilt for choice. My favourite way of finding accommodation is always on Airbnb. Sign up to Airbnb here to grab $69 NZD off your first trip! But there are some awesome motels and apartments to choose from.
Lake Tekapo Hotels- Peppers Bluewater Resort has to be the best place to stay in Lake Tekapo. With breathtaking views overlooking Lake Tekapo and stunning apartments to choose from you will enjoy a luxury stay like no other! Just a 10-minute walk from the town centre.
Hostels Lake Tekapo- The top dog of hostels is the brand new state of the art YHA hostel on the Tekapo lakefront. Spacious modern and they have a burger bar! Definitely one of the best budget accommodation in Lake Tekapo and arguably the best new accommodation in Lake Tekapo!
Lake Tekapo Motel- Lake Tekapo Village Motel is a perfect option for location. Centred right in the Lake Tekapo village. They have Studios, Two-Bedroom Apartments and a Penthouse Suite option.
Tekapo Camping – There is no freedom camping around Lake Tekapo but an awesome option is Lake Tekapo Motels and Holiday Park. Camp within minutes from the lake and enjoy stunning views of the pine forest above or the lake below. An unpowered site is $46 for 2 adults.
What to do in Lake Tekapo
Alright. Now you know how to get to Lake Tekapo and have found a place to stay let’s delve into what to do in Lake Tekapo!
Visit Mount John for a walk, or the Astro Cafe
Mount John is an iconic location you must visit while exploring Lake Tekapo. The mountain overlooks the lake so you can’t miss it when you drive into the town from either direction. Mount John is a multi-purpose location. You can enjoy one of the best Lake Tekapo walks in between pine trees up to a beautiful vista of the lake, alpine landscape and surrounding mountains.
You can also drive to the top and enjoy a stop at the Astro cafe! As well as the ever-popular star gazing at the Mount John observatory (described below).
The walk to Mount John starts next to the Tekapo Springs complex (described below). It begins in a pine forest and then opens up to tussocks and incredible 360-degree view. Once you’re at the top enjoy another walk along the Summit View track (roughly 30 minutes). This is also a good option if you drive up. The entire walk up and down Mount John takes around 1.5 hours.
The Astro Cafe is located at the top of Mount John and looks out to views of the Mackenzie Basin, Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo. Plus they have amazing food and drink and the carrot cake is very popular! At the time of writing this Astro Cafe is temporarily closed. I will update this article as soon as they are open!
Access Mount John Astro cafe or the car park on Godley Peaks Road which is off the main state highway 8 between Tekapo and Lake Pukaki.
The cost to drive up the mountain is $8 and this goes to ongoing maintenance of the road.
Stargazing in Lake Tekapo
Keen for some astro-tourism in some of the clearest darkest skies in the world? Stargazing in Tekapo is for you! Lake Tekapo is home to the largest sky reserve in the southern hemisphere. See millions of stars and planets and marvel at the wonders above us.
When visiting Lake Tekapo it is an iconic experience to witness the International Dark Sky Reserve from Mount John. The observatory is operated by the University of Canterbury and has 6 telescopes including the country’s biggest which can observe 50 million stars each night!
There are few different companies to go with for an epic stargazing experience but the most well known and who has opened a popular new complex in the Tekapo township is the Dark Sky Project. They have a few different tour options. If you would like to enjoy stargazing at Mount John then the Sumit experience is for you (currently closed).
They also have a crater experience at Cowans observatory. It is a private observatory in a purpose-built crater that provides maximum wind protection and minimum light pollution. (They are running limited tours at the moment check out their website here for more details.)
Lastly, the epic new complex that has just been built in Lake Tekapo village is a world-first day time stargazing experience. Learn about Maori astronomy and stars and planets on a guided multi-media voyage through space and time. (*Currently not running.)
Check out Dark Sky Project website here for more details on Lake Tekapo stargazing including pricing.
Lake Tekapo Hot Springs
If you are looking for what to do in Lake Tekapo look no further. A visit to Tekapo Hot Springs is a must-do experience while in the Mackenzie country. Sit back and relax in one of three incredible soaking options. Temperatures range from 36.5 to 38.5 degrees Celsius. The pools are designed and shaped after the nearby lakes Ohau, Pukaki and Tekapo. Not only are the pools exquisite but so are the views of Lake Tekapo, pine forest and surrounding mountain ranges.
They also have an aqua play area and a deep cold pool. The aqua play area is a lot of fun with interactive water jets, fountains and showers and temperatures range from 28 to 32 degrees Celsius. The deep cold pool is called Godley pool and is 1.8 metres at its deepest point. It is a perfect place to freshen up in summer!
Not only do they offer water activities there is also the option of a day spa with massage and facial options and… a cafe! As well as Tekapo Star Gazing!
Tekapo Star Gazing is the only guided hot pools and stargazing experience in New Zealand. The tour takes 2 hours and starts out with an informative experience with telescopes then a relaxing time in a 37.5-degree hot pool on a floating hammock. Uh, sign me up!
Check out the Tekapo Springs website here for more details.
In the same complex as the hot pools in winter, you can try an ice skating experience! Situated underneath pine trees in a cosy atmosphere that makes you feel like you are in Canada. They have an international-sized rink and around the rink are wooden tables and an open fire.
$14 child (3-15 years)
Ice Skating Family (2 adults + 4 children) – $69
Senior pass (60 or older) – $17
Skates and a helmet are included in the ticket price.
Check out the Tekapo Springs website here for more details.
Run by Tekapo Springs in the same complex as the hot pools and skating rink is snow tubing! It really is the king daddy of complexes. Snow tubing looks like a lot of fun and is basically a 150m downhill slide. In summer it is called the Aqua drop and is a water slide!
They advise on not wearing hard boots/shoes with buckles but recommend wearing good shoes and warm clothes. Also, children must be at least 1 meter tall to use it.
They are now open 11 am – 7 pm Monday to Friday and 10 am – 7 pm Saturday and Sunday.
Check out the Tekapo Springs website here for more details.
Church of the Good Shepherd
Another iconic spot you may have seen on Instagram is the Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Tekapo. It is a memorial to the pioneers of the Mackenzie Country situated in an absolutely remarkable setting on the shores of Lake Tekapo. Thousands of people get hitched here every year and it is an extremely popular photo spot. However, you are unable to take photos in the church and please be respectful if there are weddings on.
If you manage to get a photo without a person in the way you’re doing remarkable! Even though it is usually quite overcrowded it is worth a visit.
Located 8km from Lake Tekapo village is a stunning walk on the way to lake McGregor. The peninsula walk is a great option for a different perspective of Lake Tekapo and the surrounding area in a short amount of time. Including spotting Motuariki Island in the middle of Lake Tekapo.
You will find a pullover spot directly off Godley Peaks Road that is not very well marked but if you’re looking for it you should be able to spot it!
The walk takes around 1.5 hours and is easy to do for all fitness levels and relatively easy to follow.
How to get there:
Park at a small car park off Godley Peaks Road not far from the Mount John Turn off.
The track is closed for lambing season from September – October.
Cowans Hill is another walking option in Lake Tekapo. The walk takes you next to a riverbank, through an exotic forest, open tussock and small tarns to a stunning vista looking down on Lake Tekapo. The track starts near the township by the Tekapo Road Bridge. Park your vehicle in the car park off SH8 near Hamilton Drive.
The walk takes 1-2 hours and dogs must be on a leash.
The cousin of Lake Tekapo except not as well known and perhaps not as beautiful. However, Lake Alex is an awesome high country stop I recommend for a classic kiwi holiday vibe. There are cute little cribs in the village and a camping ground. It is a very peaceful setting. The lake is spring-fed and surrounded by mountain peaks and tussock. It is also within a protected wildlife area.
A couple of things to do at Lake Alex apart from lazing around the lake is fishing or walking. The lake is a popular fishing spot and you can catch brown and rainbow trout and salmon. A walking track goes around the lake however it is not officially a track but just follow your nose. There is also a 4WD track that takes you up to the top of a hill where you are greeted with a panoramic view of the area. Access is from the main carpark.
How to get to Lake Alexandrina:
Follow Godley Peaks Road (past Mount John turn off) to a sign pointing left down a gravel road to Lake Alexandrina. Keep driving and you will arrive!
Horse trekking in the Mackenzie country through tussocks and rivers with stunning mountain backdrops? Yes, please! Mackenzie Alpine Horse Trekking looks like a great option to explore the region by horseback. They open on October 1 and have a range of trekking options from ½ hour to 3.5 hours through the best of the Mackenzie country. Be sure to bring your camera!
Skiing – Roundhill
Roundhill is the closest ski field to Lake Tekapo at roughly a 30 minutes drive. Enjoy views of Aoraki Mount Cook, Lake Tekapo and the Southern Alps. It is a family-friendly slope and a great one at that.
They have an awesome beginners slope that you could spend all day on if just starting out. They also have intermediate and advanced options. Intermediate include the T-Bars and awesome groomed trails with lots of natural dips and curves. For advanced they are now home to Australasia’s biggest vertical drop (783m!) which is actually the worlds longest and steepest rope tow!
The ski field has basic facilities with everything you need including a licenced cafe.
Check out the prices on their website here
Located at 2544 Lilybank Road. Offf State Highway 8 on the eastern side of Lake Tekapo Village. For more directions click here.
Walk around Lake Tekapo
Nothing beats a free and scenic walk around Lake Tekapo. There is no specific walk as such you just follow your nose to the paths around the lake and stop when you please at one of the many picnic benches along the way. Around the Southern end of the lake, lupins come out in summer which is particularly beautiful.
I recommend parking at the Church of the Good Shepherd area or Tekapo Springs and then going for a walk up and back and grabbing a bite to eat in the town centre. But honestly anywhere you go will be breathtaking.
Right next to the dog park (if you have a dog they will love it!) is the Disc Golf course. You will need to bring your own discs and find information on the course at the disc golf app – UDisc. It’s quite a wild course through tussock but it is worth a go and has lovely views of the lake!
Hopefully, this article has helped you decide what to do in Lake Tekapo!
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