Best Things to Do in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand: Top 12 Attractions to Visit

by Jen
Best Things to Do in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand
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Are you looking to visit Lake Tekapo in the near future? Here are some of the most fun and unique things to do in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand. These serene sights, activities, and attractions are sure to make for a memorable vacation experience.

Lake Tekapo—a slice of paradise tucked away in New Zealand’s South Island. Imagine a place where the sky kisses the earth, where the stars seem almost within reach, and where the water is a surreal shade of turquoise. Welcome to Lake Tekapo.

Nestled in the heart of the Mackenzie Basin, this awe-inspiring lake is more than just a pretty face. It’s a haven for adventurers, romantics, and anyone yearning to escape the mundane. From soaking in hot springs with a mountainous backdrop to stargazing in one of the world’s clearest skies, Lake Tekapo offers a unique blend of natural beauty and exhilarating activities.

This gem also serves as a gateway to the Southern Alps, making it a perfect base for exploring nearby wonders like Mount Cook and the Church of the Good Shepherd. Whether you’re an adrenaline enthusiast or a nature lover, Lake Tekapo has something for everyone.

So, pack your bags and your sense of wonder, because we’re about to embark on a journey through the best things to do in Lake Tekapo. Trust me, you’ll want to add this dreamy locale to your travel bucket list ASAP! Here’s everything you need to know about these fun things to do in Lake Tekapo.

The top places to visit in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand right now
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Best Places to Visit in Lake Tekapo

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in Lake Tekapo? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this enchanting vacation spot. So keep reading to discover all these unique Lake Tekapo places to visit.

Are you looking to engage in outdoor adventures like stargazing in a pristine dark sky reserve and hiking in the surrounding landscapes? Or would you prefer to unwind by the tranquil lake, taking in its beauty, or savoring local cuisine in charming eateries? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees in Lake Tekapo can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in Lake Tekapo that you should know about.

1. Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve

If you’ve ever wondered what the night sky looked like before city lights drowned out the stars, then you’re in for a treat. Lake Tekapo is part of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, one of the best places in the world to stargaze.

Imagine laying on a blanket, the crisp air tingling your skin, as you gaze upwards into a sky filled with stars, planets, and constellations. It’s not just about looking up; it’s about feeling small in the grand scheme of things, yet infinitely connected to the universe.

Wondering what to do in Lake Tekapo at night, you ask? Well, you can opt for a guided tour that will provide telescopes and expert knowledge, or go it alone and let the sky be your guide. Either way, the experience is transformative. The Milky Way, Southern Cross, and even occasional meteor showers are just some of the celestial wonders you’ll encounter.

And if you’re lucky enough to visit between April and September, you might even catch the ethereal beauty of the Southern Lights, also known as the Aurora Australis. It’s a must-see in Lake Tekapo and a memory you’ll cherish forever.

Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve is one of the best things to do in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.
Lake Tekapo offers a stellar stargazing experience in the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve.

2. Alpine Springs

Ah, the Alpine Springs! If you’re wondering about the best things to do in Lake Tekapo to unwind, this is your answer. Nestled amidst the stunning Southern Alps, these hot pools offer a wellness experience that’s second to none. Picture this: you’re submerged in warm, soothing waters, with snow-capped mountains as your backdrop. It’s not just a dip; it’s a full-on sensory experience.

The pools range in temperature, allowing you to find the perfect soak for your comfort level. And if you’re in the mood for a little pampering, why not indulge in a massage or a facial at the adjoining spa?

But the Alpine Springs aren’t just about relaxation. For the more adventurous, there’s a winter ice-skating rink and a summer waterslide. Talk about the coolest activities in Lake Tekapo! Whether you’re looking to chill out or get your heart rate up, this place has got you covered.

So, if you’re compiling your Lake Tekapo bucket list, make sure the Alpine Springs are right at the top. It’s where wellness meets natural beauty, and trust us, you don’t want to miss it.

Alpine Springs: Unwind in hot pools with mountain views for a unique wellness experience.
Alpine Springs in Lake Tekapo: Unwind in hot pools with mountain views for a unique wellness experience. | Source: https://tekapospringsnz.wordpress.com/

3. Mount John Observatory

If you’re a fan of jaw-dropping vistas, then hiking up to the Mount John Observatory is among the cool destinations in Lake Tekapo. Situated at an altitude of 1,029 meters, this observatory offers a bird’s-eye view of the lake, the Southern Alps, and the Mackenzie Basin. It’s not just a hike; it’s a journey into the heavens.

The trail starts near the lake’s shore and winds its way up through lush forests and open meadows. As you ascend, you’ll be greeted by the sweet scent of wild thyme and the distant sound of rushing water. It’s one of those unique places in Lake Tekapo where you can truly connect with nature.

Once you reach the summit, you’ll understand why it’s an essential destination. The observatory itself is a hub of astronomical research, but the real star of the show is the panoramic view. From here, you can see for miles in every direction, making it a perfect spot for photography or simply soaking in the grandeur.

Whether you’re an avid hiker or just someone who appreciates a good view, this is a destination that delivers on all fronts. Is this among the top things to do on Lake Tekapo? You bet

Hike to Mount John Observatory for breathtaking Lake Tekapo views.
Hike to Mount John Observatory for breathtaking Lake Tekapo views.

4. Lake Tekapo’s Turquoise Waters

Kayaking on Lake Tekapo’s mesmerizing turquoise waters is an experience you won’t want to miss. Imagine gliding through the water, paddle in hand, with the Southern Alps providing a majestic backdrop. It’s not just a water sport; it’s a communion with nature at its finest.

As you paddle along, you’ll discover secluded coves and hidden beaches that are inaccessible by land. These are the views that only a few get to see. The lake’s color, a result of finely ground rock particles from glaciers, makes the experience even more surreal.

Thinking about Lake Tekapo things to do if you’re not an experienced kayaker? Don’t worry! There are guided tours available that cater to all skill levels. They’ll even take you to the finest spots for a quick swim or a lakeside picnic.

Whether you’re a seasoned paddler or a complete novice, this is one of those activities that captures the essence of Lake Tekapo’s natural beauty.

Kayak on turquoise waters for a nature-filled experience.
Kayak on Lake Tekapo’s turquoise waters for a nature-filled experience.

5. Church of the Good Shepherd

If you’re wondering what to add to your list of Lake Tekapo attractions, look no further than the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd. Built in 1935, this quaint stone church offers a serene spiritual experience against the backdrop of the stunning lake and mountains. But that’s not all; it’s also a photographer’s paradise.

The church captures the essence of the area’s natural beauty. Whether it’s the golden hues of sunrise or the tranquil blues of twilight, the church provides a picture-perfect setting. And let’s not forget the lupins! These colorful flowers bloom around the church, adding a vibrant touch to your photos.

For those interested in architecture, the church itself is a marvel. Its rustic charm and simple design are a testament to the early pioneers of the region. Inside, a small window behind the altar frames a perfect view of the Southern Alps.

Grab your camera and head to this iconic spot. Whether you’re a photography enthusiast or simply appreciate beautiful places, the Church of the Good Shepherd should be high on your list of Lake Tekapo places to visit.

Visit the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd for a serene and picturesque experience.
Visit the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd for a serene and picturesque experience in Lake Tekapo.

6. Tekapo Springs

Tekapo Springs is not just another spot on your itinerary; it’s an experience that transcends seasons. Imagine soaking in hot pools while snowflakes gently kiss your face, or taking a refreshing dip in the summer as the sun casts its golden glow on the surrounding mountains. This is what Tekapo Springs offers, and it’s nothing short of magical.

In winter, the springs transform into a snowy wonderland, complete with an ice-skating rink and snow tube park. It’s one of the coolest activities in Lake Tekapo, literally and figuratively! Come summer, the focus shifts to water slides and outdoor pools, making it a family-friendly destination that’s hard to beat.

For the wellness aficionados, the spa treatments here are a dream come true. From massages to facials, it’s the perfect place to unwind and rejuvenate. And let’s not forget the stargazing opportunities. Although not as famous as the Dark Sky Reserve, the springs offer a distinctive perspective of the night sky, making it a unique place in Lake Tekapo for astronomy lovers.

If you’re crafting your Lake Tekapo itinerary, don’t miss Tekapo Springs is on it. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker or a relaxation guru, this place has something for everyone.

Tekapo Springs offers a magical year-round experience with hot pools and stunning views.
Tekapo Springs offers a magical year-round experience with hot pools and stunning views.

7. Cowan’s Hill Walkway

Are you on the hunt for Lake Tekapo destination that offers a blend of natural beauty and tranquility? Look no further than Cowan’s Hill Walkway. This scenic trail is a hidden gem in New Zealand that promises an intimate encounter with Lake Tekapo’s stunning landscapes. The walkway is a moderate 2-hour round trip, making it accessible for hikers of all levels.

As you ascend the trail, you’ll be greeted by a rich tapestry of native flora and fauna. It’s a must-see in Lake Tekapo for anyone who appreciates the subtle artistry of nature. The higher you go, the more breathtaking the views become. From the summit, you’ll have panoramic vistas of the lake, the Southern Alps, and the Mackenzie Basin. It’s a sight that will leave you speechless.

But the Cowan’s Hill Walkway is not just about the destination; the journey itself is equally rewarding. The trail offers several vantage points where you can pause and soak in the beauty around you. It’s one of those unique things to do in Lake Tekapo that allows you to connect with nature on a deeper level.

Curious about what to do in Lake Tekapo that’s a bit off the beaten path? Cowan’s Hill Walkway is your answer. It’s an experience that will stay with you long after you’ve left the shores of Lake Tekapo.

Discover Cowan's Hill Walkway for a tranquil hike with stunning landscapes.
Discover Cowan’s Hill Walkway for a tranquil Lake Tekapo hike with stunning landscapes. | Source: https://www.alltrails.com/

8. Lake Alexandrina

If you’re looking for getaways that are a bit more secluded, Lake Alexandrina is your go-to spot. Just a short drive from Lake Tekapo, this smaller, freshwater lake offers a serene escape from the more touristy areas. It’s a haven for those who love fishing, bird-watching, or simply soaking up the natural beauty.

Lake Alexandrina is surrounded by native bush and mountain ranges, making it a picture-perfect setting for relaxation. It’s one of those best places in Lake Tekapo—well, near Lake Tekapo—that you’ll want to keep all to yourself. The lake is teeming with brown and rainbow trout, making it a paradise for anglers. But even if fishing isn’t your thing, the lake’s tranquil waters and the surrounding scenery offer plenty of photo ops.

Do you want a break from the crowds? Head to Lake Alexandrina. Whether you’re picnicking on its shores or exploring the nearby walking trails, you’ll find this spot to be a refreshing change of pace. And as the sun sets over the lake, you’ll realize that some of the most beautiful spots in Lake Tekapo aren’t even in Lake Tekapo at all!

Escape to the serene Lake Alexandrina for a secluded retreat near Lake Tekapo.
Escape to the serene Lake Alexandrina for a secluded retreat near Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

9. Godley Valley

A visit to Godley Valley is one of those coolest things to do in Lake Tekapo that often flies under the radar, but it’s a must-see for anyone with a love for the great outdoors. Nestled between towering mountain ranges and sprawling meadows, this valley offers a plethora of activities that will make your trip unforgettable.

From hiking and mountain biking to horseback riding, the options are endless. The valley is home to some of the most scenic trails in the region, each offering a distinct perspective of New Zealand’s stunning landscapes.

The valley also offers opportunities for mountaineering and ice climbing. The glaciers here are a sight to behold, and the experience of scaling them is nothing short of exhilarating. And let’s not forget the rivers that meander through the valley, perfect for kayaking or a refreshing dip.

Godley Valley offers a different kind of magic. It’s a place where you can disconnect from the world and immerse yourself in nature. So, when you’re considering where to visit in Lake Tekapo, make sure Godley Valley is on your list. It’s an adventure you won’t want to miss!

Explore the underrated beauty of Godley Valley for an unforgettable outdoor experience near Lake Tekapo.
Explore the underrated beauty of Godley Valley for an unforgettable outdoor experience near Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

10. Southern Alps

Taking a scenic flight over the Southern Alps is among the Lake Tekapo attractions you shouldn’t miss. Imagine soaring above the jagged peaks, glacial valleys, and pristine lakes that make up this awe-inspiring landscape. It’s an experience that will leave you speechless, guaranteed.

The view from above the lake is unparalleled. Companies like Air Safaris offer various flight options, ranging from quick 20-minute jaunts to comprehensive tours that cover the entire region. The flights are not just about the view; they’re educational experiences, complete with pilot commentary about the geological history and cultural significance of the land below.

Those things to do in Lake Tekapo rarely get more thrilling than this. As your plane ascends, you’ll feel a rush of excitement, quickly replaced by a sense of peace as you take in the grandeur below. The Southern Alps are home to some of New Zealand’s most iconic peaks, including Aoraki/Mount Cook, the country’s tallest mountain.

Looking for the best places to go in Lake Tekapo? Add the sky to that list. Whether you’re a photography enthusiast looking to capture the perfect shot or someone who simply wants to marvel at nature’s grandeur, a scenic flight over the Southern Alps is a must-see.

Southern Alps is one of the best things to do in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.
Don’t miss a scenic flight over the Southern Alps for a breathtaking adventure in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

11. Local Farmer’s Market

The local Farmer’s Market is a delightful surprise that often goes unnoticed. Nestled in the heart of the town, this bustling market is a feast for the senses. From the aroma of freshly baked goods to the vibrant colors of locally grown produce, it’s a slice of authentic New Zealand life that shouldn’t be missed.

It’s a place where you can interact with locals, learn about regional produce, and even pick up some uncommon souvenirs. Handmade crafts, artisanal cheeses, and organic skincare products are just a few of the treasures you’ll find here.

The market is also a fantastic spot for foodies. Whether you’re craving some homemade jams, freshly caught fish, or a hearty meat pie, you’ll find it all here. And let’s not forget the local wines and craft beers that make for a perfect end to your market exploration.

Immersing yourself in the local culture is a great way to experience the beauty of Lake Tekapo. So, if you’re wondering what to do in Lake Tekapo, make sure to carve out some time for a visit to this enchanting market.

Discover the hidden gem of Lake Tekapo's bustling Farmer's Market for an authentic taste of New Zealand.
Discover the hidden gem of Lake Tekapo’s bustling Farmer’s Market for an authentic taste of New Zealand. | Source: https://www.mackenzienz.com/

12. Local Eateries

If you’re wondering where to go in Lake Tekapo for a gastronomic adventure, look no further than the town’s local eateries. Forget the tourist traps; this is where you’ll find the heart and soul of New Zealand cuisine. From farm-to-table restaurants to cozy cafés, Lake Tekapo offers a culinary landscape as diverse as its natural scenery.

Lake Tekapo places to visit often include outdoor spots, but let’s not overlook the indoor havens where chefs work their magic. Imagine savoring a succulent lamb roast, seasoned with local herbs, or biting into a seafood pie that tastes like the ocean in the most exquisite way possible. These are the flavors that define this charming town.

Most of the unique things to do in Lake Tekapo definitely include diving into its food scene. Whether you’re a fan of traditional Kiwi dishes or looking to try something new, the local eateries won’t disappoint. And for those with a sweet tooth? The homemade pastries and desserts are to die for.

Some coolest activities in Lake Tekapo aren’t just about hiking trails and lakes; they’re also about exploring the town’s culinary delights. So, if you find yourself in Lake Tekapo, don’t just feast your eyes on the landscape—let your taste buds have an adventure too!

Explore Lake Tekapo's local eateries for an authentic taste of diverse New Zealand cuisine.
Explore Lake Tekapo’s local eateries for an authentic taste of diverse New Zealand cuisine.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in Lake Tekapo

Looking for more content on the top things to do in Lake Tekapo? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to Lake Tekapo:

What is the best time to visit Lake Tekapo?

The best time to visit Lake Tekapo is during the spring and summer months, from October to March. This period offers pleasant weather for outdoor activities, clear skies for stargazing, and vibrant blooming of the famous lupine flowers around the lake, enhancing its scenic beauty.

How long should I spend at Lake Tekapo?

The duration of your stay at Lake Tekapo in New Zealand’s South Island depends on your interests and the activities you wish to pursue. Here’s a general guideline:

1 Day:

  • Enjoy the stunning turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo.
  • Visit the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd.
  • Stargaze at the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve if you’re staying overnight.

2 Days:

  • All of the above, plus:
  • Take a dip in the Tekapo Springs hot pools.
  • Explore the local walking and hiking trails, such as the Mt. John Observatory walk.
  • Visit the Mount John Observatory during the day.

3 Days or More:

  • All of the above, plus:
  • Take scenic flights or helicopter tours for aerial views of the Southern Alps and glaciers.
  • Explore more distant hiking trails and enjoy the natural beauty of the region.
  • Visit nearby attractions like the Godley Valley.
  • Engage in seasonal activities, such as skiing in the winter or lupin flower viewing in early summer.

For most visitors, 1-2 days is sufficient to experience the main attractions of Lake Tekapo. However, if you’re looking for relaxation and want to fully immerse yourself in the natural beauty and tranquility of the area, consider staying longer.

How do I get to Lake Tekapo?

To reach Lake Tekapo, you can fly into Christchurch International Airport and then drive for approximately three hours to the lake. Alternatively, you can take a scenic bus ride from Christchurch. It’s also accessible via intercity buses or private car if you’re traveling within New Zealand.

Are there accommodation options near Lake Tekapo?

Absolutely! Lake Tekapo offers a range of accommodation options. You can find hotels, motels, holiday parks, and lodges, many with stunning lake views. Additionally, there are cabins and campgrounds for those seeking a more budget-friendly stay. Booking in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons, is advisable.

Snow-capped mountain overlooking Lake Tekapo.
Snow-capped mountain overlooking Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

Is Lake Tekapo family-friendly?

Yes, Lake Tekapo is a family-friendly destination. It offers a tranquil environment with opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking, stargazing, and picnicking, suitable for all ages. The lake’s clear waters and surrounding landscapes provide a beautiful backdrop for family vacations, making it an ideal spot to spend quality time together.

What is Lake Tekapo best known for?

Lake Tekapo is best known for its stunning turquoise waters, framed by the Southern Alps and vibrant lupin fields. It’s a popular destination for both relaxation and adventure, offering activities like stargazing in the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve and soaking in the Alpine Springs. The iconic Church of the Good Shepherd adds a historical touch to this natural paradise.

Is it better to stay in Twizel or Lake Tekapo?

Whether to stay in Twizel or Lake Tekapo depends on your preferences and what you’re looking to get out of your visit. Here’s a comparison to help you decide:

Lake Tekapo:

  1. Scenic Beauty: Lake Tekapo is renowned for its stunning turquoise waters and the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd. The views of the Southern Alps in the backdrop are breathtaking.
  2. Stargazing: It’s part of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, making it one of the best places in the world for stargazing.
  3. Activities: You can enjoy the Tekapo Springs hot pools, scenic flights, and hiking trails like the Mt. John Observatory walk.
  4. Accommodation: There’s a range of accommodation options, from luxury lodges to budget stays.
  5. Tourist Popularity: Being a major attraction, it can get quite busy, especially during peak seasons.

Twizel:

  1. Proximity to Mount Cook: Twizel is closer to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, making it a convenient base for those planning to explore the park.
  2. Less Touristy: It’s generally less crowded than Lake Tekapo, offering a quieter experience.
  3. Activities: Twizel is a good spot for fishing, especially salmon and trout. It’s also close to several Lord of the Rings filming locations.
  4. Accommodation: While there are accommodation options in Twizel, they might be less varied than in Lake Tekapo.

Is it worth visiting Lake Tekapo?

Absolutely, visiting Lake Tekapo is a must for anyone exploring New Zealand’s South Island. Its mesmerizing turquoise waters, outdoor activities, and world-class stargazing opportunities make it a unique destination. Whether you’re an adventure seeker or looking for serene landscapes, Lake Tekapo offers something for everyone, making it well worth the trip.

Closing Thoughts in Exploring Lake Tekapo

If you’ve been searching for cool destinations in Lake Tekapo, I hope this guide has not only answered your questions but also ignited that wanderlust flame. From the towering peaks to the tranquil waters, Lake Tekapo is more than just a pretty face—it’s a destination that speaks to the soul. Whether you’re an adventure-seeker, a foodie, or someone who just wants to take in the breathtaking scenery, Lake Tekapo offers something for everyone.

So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready to explore one of the best places in Lake Tekapo. Trust me, this is one journey you won’t want to miss.

The top things to do in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand for all types of travelers
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