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Lake Tekapo: Tips for one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand

The cozy town of Tekapo on the lake of the same name is one of our favorite places on the South Island of New Zealand. The combination of the deep blue glacial lake and the majestic mountain scenery in the background has already 2013, on our first trip through New Zealand, enthusiastically. Lake Tekapo is located in a barely populated area, but that’s what makes the place so attractive for us, because there’s a lot to discover in terms of nature.

1. This is what awaits you at Lake Tekapo Lake Tekapo is located pretty much in the center of the South Island and is on the route between Christchurch and Queenstown. The region around the glacial lake is very sparsely populated. The focus here is clearly on nature.

Tekapo itself is the only place on the lake of the same name. Although Tekapo officially only has a few hundred inhabitants , there is a lot going on in the center during the high season. Tekapo should probably become more and more popular and we can (compared to our trip 2013) also confirm. During our last visit in January 2018 Above all, there were an unusually large number of Asian tour groups on site.

But don’t worry: Tekapo is still a tranquil place – especially when you compare it to Queenstown. And best of all, as soon as you leave the place behind you, you are completely alone. Our favorite thing to do in Tekapo was to explore cool spots with a view of the lake in our little speedster.

2. Getting to Lake Tekapo: fantastic photo spots on every corner “The journey is the goal” – it sounds SO banal, but here at Lake Tekapo it’s really true. The lake is so idyllic that just getting there is an incredible experience.

Coming from the North If you are driving to Lake Tekapo from Christchurch, be sure to choose the inland route. These routes called “Inland Scenic Route” take a good half hour longer, but believe us: the detour is worth it. Maybe you even want to make a detour at Castle Hill? In this article you will find our tips for: A weekend in Christchurch.

The “Inland Scenic Route” first takes you along the State Highway 73 and 79. This route takes you right past the impressive Rakaia Gorge. We found it a bit of a shame that we didn’t have enough time for the hike here (“Rakaia Gorge Walkway”). Instead, we only stopped briefly and enjoyed the impressive view from the bridge.

It then continues on the highway 72 to Geraldine. The small town is ideal for a short coffee stop. At the deli “Barker’s of Geraldine” we got some local products for the next few weeks. You will find jams, syrups and other delicacies here.

The State Highway takes you to Geraldine 79 directly to Tekapo. We needed another hour for the route. Altogether you have to plan at least 4 hours for the journey from Christchurch if you want to make a few stops. If you also want to visit Castle Hill, you should leave Christchurch early. Because the additional distance alone “costs” you an hour’s driving time.

Coming from the South (Queenstown) If you are traveling to Lake Tekapo from the south, you will probably start in Wanaka or Queenstown. This route is incredibly scenic. From Queenstown you can either take State Highway 6 or the Crown Range Road. The latter route takes a little longer, but totally impressed us. There we flew our drone again to capture the famous hairpin bends from above.

Wanaka itself is also definitely worth a stay of several days. From Wanaka State Highway 8 takes you to Tekapo in about 2.5 hours. We can recommend a stopover in Twizel. The place is known for its salmon farms. At “High Country Salmon” we had a delicious lunch and also took a piece of fish for dinner. (Our recommendation: Hot Smoked Salmon!)

Arriving from the South (Dunedin) Tue The route from Dunedin to Tekapo is not quite as scenic, but there are worthwhile stops here too. The route first takes you along State Highway 1. Here you can stop at the Moeraki Boulders, the famous spherical rock formations. A short walk from the parking lot leads directly to the beach with the Moeraki Boulders. Small warning: you will not be alone. But if you’re passing by, you can definitely stop for a moment.

Just before the Moeraki Boulders is Katiki Point. If you have a little more time available, a stopover here is very worthwhile. A about 03-minute walk takes you along the rough coast. You can almost certainly admire countless seals here and, if you’re lucky, even penguins.

Shortly before Oamaru, the route now leads inland (State Highway
) Towards Lake Pukaki. The lake is so scenically beautiful that we preferred the inland route to the one that runs towards Timaru. At Twizel, a stopover at “High Country Salmon” is worthwhile. At this well-known salmon farm you can have lunch and also take away fresh fish.

Our rental car As you can probably already read, we would definitely recommend that you travel to New Zealand with your own car or camper. We booked our rental car through Sunny Cars. Sunny Cars acts as an intermediary, ie you are assigned a local rental company (e.g. Hertz, Europcar etc.). The great thing about Sunny Cars is that in the event of damage, the deductible will be taken over.

The thing is this: If, for example, you make a Get your car scratched (as happened to us in a car park in New Zealand a few years ago) and there is no one to blame, then you will have to pay the excess. However, if you book a car where the excess is reimbursed (which is the case with Sunny Cars), then you will not incur any costs. You can find all our tips for renting a car in New Zealand in one of our next articles on our blog.

3. Activities and sights in and around Tekapo Mount John Observatory When we travel we are always looking for cool photo spots, so we wanted to Don’t miss the Mount John Observatory. It is located on the southern west side of Lake Tekapos.

Actually, as the name suggests, you can watch the stars here. Due to the fact that the region is so sparsely populated, it is pitch black in the evening and the stars just twinkle from the sky. If you are interested in stargazing, you can book a tour in advance here: Dark Sky Projekt.

We decided to visit the place during the day instead. That’s when the Astro Café is open and you can enjoy the breathtaking view of the lake with a flat white and a piece of cake. A little tip: the café gets busy when the weather is nice, but if you only walk a few minutes, you’ll have the view all to yourself.

More info on Mount John Observatory Directions: From the center of Tekpo it is about 15 minutes drive by car via Godley Peaks Road. Access to the mountain is via a private road which costs NZ$8 to use. Attention: The route is only passable during the opening times of the café. Alternatively, you can climb Mount John on foot . The starting point of the track (“Mount John Summin Circuit Track”) is the Tekapo Springs complex.

Opening hours Astro Café: daily 9 am to 18 pm (summer), 9 to 15 Clock (Winter)

Observing the starry sky Do you know that when you – without expecting it – spontaneously recognize how impressive our earth actually is? In Tekapo we had such a moment. When we sat on the balcony of our apartment in the evening and looked up, we could hardly believe our eyes. We hadn’t seen such an imposing starry sky in a long time.

Only then did we realize: Because Tekapo is so sparsely populated, there is sparkle here when the sky is clear, the stars compete. Spontaneously we packed up our camera equipment and went around 23 driven to the town center.

Our destination was the church called “Church of the Good Shepard”. Every night on a clear day, a few dozen people gather in front of the church to take the famous photo opportunity with the church and the glittering to shoot the starry sky.

We also tried our luck. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the large tripod with us on our 3-month trip. It would have been worth it for moments like this. But even without the perfect equipment, we managed to get a pretty picture.

Stargazing at the ” Church of the Good Shepard” Address: Pioneer Drive, Tekapo

Notice: Be prepared to be surrounded by countless people – during our visit it was mainly Asian tour groups. We were against 18 o’clock there.

Explore the area What is our favorite thing to do when we are in spectacular places? Just get in the car and explore the area! In Tekapo this works perfectly. There are numerous deserted spots with impressive views of the lake. We found one of our favorite spots on the west side along Godley Peaks Road. We were here in the late afternoon and the lighting was just a dream.

Mount Cook National Park Tekapo is a perfect starting point for a hike through Mount Cook National Park. From Tekapo it is about an hour and 20 Minutes drive to Mount Cook Village. Numerous tracks start from here. Of course you can also stay directly in Mount Cook Village, but the options are very limited and we prefer to stay in one place for several days instead of moving every day. So we decided to explore Mount Cook from Tekapo.

Hooker Valley Track The most popular day hike through Mount Cook National Park is called Hooker Valley Track and can easily be done in one day (including travel time to Tekapo). The hike leads almost exclusively on level paths and takes just three hours in total. It is therefore also ideal for families with children or older people.

Nevertheless, the Hooker Valley Track is incredibly varied: You come to several suspension bridges past, cross raging rivers, have gigantic views of the mountain peaks and you will also find one of the most popular photo motifs here: the mountain and the wooden footbridge. At the end of the hike you will reach the glacial lake, in which ice floes are usually floating.

The fact that this hike is so easily accessible has its price: On nice days, the Hooker Valley Track resembles a Trail. Another catch: You have to walk the route twice – so the hike is not a “circular route”. However, we can highly recommend the track for the great photo motifs alone.

4. Accommodation in Tekapo: our tip The beautiful town of Tekapo has one disadvantage: the price level for accommodation is excessively high. New Zealand is generally not very cheap, but in Tekapo the prices are well above the average.

We therefore turned a blind eye and booked a Really great apartment that we can highly recommend. (And we say that despite the price: For two nights we have almost 88 paid in euros – just crazy!)

The accommodation is called Starview 83 Apartment and is located a bit away from the town center on a hill. The apartment was during our visit (January ) brand new. The apartment is very bright and modern, but was still very comfortable. The kitchen is perfectly equipped, so we hardly have any restaurant tips for you in Tekapo, because most of the time we catered for ourselves.

From the terrace you can see the lake, but the view is somewhat clouded by other houses. By the way, the bed was super comfortable (and we are very demanding there).

You can book the apartment here: Star View 88 Apartment

5. Our travel guide for New Zealand During our road trip through New Zealand we used these two travel guides for research.

Lonely Planet New Zealand The classic Lonely Planet Travel Guide New Zealand (English) covers both the North and South Islands of New Zealand. We can recommend this guide if you are looking for a guide that is not supposed to be that difficult, but still covers everything important. Of course we would have liked a little more detail in some places, but all in all we were very satisfied.

By the way, you can also buy the guide in German: Lonely Planet Guide New Zealand

Lonely Planet Best of New Zealand As the name suggests, the Lonely Planet Best of New Zealand is all about the big highlights in New Zealand. The travel guide is also from Lonely Planet, but the concept is different. Some places are not represented at all, but the presentation of the travel guide is a bit more individual and appealing. Unfortunately, Tekapo is not mentioned in this travel guide, so we had to trust the travel guide mentioned above.

6. More travel reports from New Zealand Christchurch: Our tips & sights Our Route through New Zealand Hiking in New Zealand: Our most beautiful day hikes Tongariro Alpine Crossing – perhaps the most spectacular hike in New Zealand Transparency: Affiliate Links This blog article contains our personal recommendations in form of so-called affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, we will receive a small commission. For you, this does not change the price at all. cool thing right? We got a discount from Sunny Cars for our rental car in New Zealand – thank you very much! Nothing changes in our opinion at all. We have booked privately with Sunny Cars several times (i.e. paid the full price) and have always had good experiences.

Have you ever been to Lake Tekapo and do you have any other tips? Or are you traveling to New Zealand soon and still have questions? We look forward to your comment!