Only one of the cosiest little villages to ever exist, Lake Tekapo is the perfect combination of glistening blue glacial waters and stunning snowcapped mountains. A must on any South Island New Zealand Road Trip itinerary.
Lake Tekapo sits almost perfectly in the middle of the South Island. It is commonly visited as apart of the classic South Island Road Trip route that is Christchurch to Queenstown. Only about 400 people live in the Lake Tekapo area, but the amount of tourists in the area is continuously increasing. When you go there, you’ll see why 😍
Lake Tekapo sits about 3 hours drive North of Queenstown and 3 hours drive South West of Christchurch. If the drive from Christchurch is anything as spectacular as the way from Queenstown, it’ll take you a littleeeee longer 📸.
Where to Stay
There is only a handful of places to stay in Lake Tekapo, which is unsurprising given the size of the town. It does mean that you need to plan well ahead in booking your accommodation here.
We stayed at Lake Tekapo Motels & Holiday Park, and it was perfect for us! They have a range of accommodations from budget backpacker shared dorms, private cabins with shared facilities or completely private studio cabins with kitchenette facilities. They also have plenty of powered and unpowered sites for camper vans or camping.
The best part is, it sits right on stunning Lake Tekapo – hello phenomenal breakfast views 😱😍.
Where to Eat
There is literally one main stretch of activity in Lake Tekapo, which covers the supermarket, cafes, restaurants and bars. It has everything that you really need and you can’t miss it. It is important to get in for dinner no later than 8pm though, as most things are shut with lights off by 9pm – and that was a Friday! 😬
We ate at two places in particular that we really enjoyed. The first was Reflections Cafe & Restaurant which offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. The coffee here was really nice, the dinner specials were incredibly homely and delicious, and they offer free unlimited WiFi. The staff were also super lovely and accommodating.
The second was Blue Lake Eatery & Bar, who I believe also offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, however we only ate dinner here. It was a little more pricey than Reflections, but the food was awesome and portion sizes huge! They also have free WiFi – you just have to ask for the password.
What to Do
I can only imagine that Lake Tekapo would be an absolute mecca of activity in the summertime, but I feel there is plenty to do no matter which season you visit.
Visit Mount Cook National Park
Mount Cook National Park, also known as Aoraki, is about 1.5 hours from Lake Tekapo. Spanning 772 square kilometres, the National Park is home to New Zealand’s highest mountain (Mount Cook) topping 3,724m above sea level.
If you’re even a little bit into the outdoors, you will love Mount Cook. There are so many different hikes to do ranging from easy hikes that take only a few hours, to full day or even overnight, challenging treks.
Aside from hiking, you can take a scenic helicopter ride, some of which also include a glacier landing. You can visit the Sir Edmund Hillary Visitor Centre and learn about how he used Mt Cook to train for his Mt Everest summit climb. You can also experience glacier kayaking, have an amazing dinner with a view or go star-gazing!
If you’d like to read more about my day in Mount Cook, check out my post, ‘One Perfect Day in Mount Cook National Park’.
See the Milky Way with your Bare Eyes
I have never ever seen so many stars in the night sky than what I saw in Lake Tekapo… ever! Lake Tekapo is apart of the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve which is the only Dark Sky Reserve in the Southern Hemisphere.
You’ll only need to drive 10 minutes out of town to get uninterrupted views of the Milky Way. Give your eyes about 20 minutes to adjust, and more and more stars will ‘appear’ in the sky. It’s incredible!
Hot Tip: This is also reportedly also the best place to get a shot at seeing the Southern Lights during the winter months (March to September).
Soak Your Weary Travelling Bones in Tekapo Springs
Tekapo Springs is located in the corner of Lake Tekapo, overlooking the stunning lake and mountain range.
They are most well known for their three thermal hot pools which range in temperature and have benched seating so you can sit back and relax… even doze in the warm water, with the sun on your face 😍😴. While the water is not geothermal, it is filled from a local underground source and is considered exceptionally pure.
Side Note: There are ‘Adult Only’ pools, which is great to steer clear of the kids splashing and playing if you are interested in relaxing. However don’t expect a completely serene adult only experience 😬
Tekapo Springs also offers other activities like ice skating, snow tubing, day spa-ing and star gazing! If you’re in Lake Tekapo for a few days, head to Tekapo Springs in the morning, as a ticket is valid for a whole day and multiple entries. This means you can snow tube in the morning and soak in the evening 👌🏼.
Check Out the Church of Good Shepherd
The Church of Good Shepherd is a Christian church which was built as a memorial to the pioneers of the Mackenzie Country. It sits peacefully on the shores of Lake Tekapo, surrounded by mountains.
You can even attend the regular Sunday service if you’re interested, or you can just pop by to marvel at its beauty.
That’s a wrap on Lake Tekapo guys, I hope you can see why this little town is worth a stop on your journey. If you’ve been to Lake Tekapo, and have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment below! ☺️