Lake Tekapo is the second largest of the three parallel lakes, along with Lake Pukaki and Lake Ohau, running north to south along the northern edge of the Mackenzie Basin.
Located on the South Island, Lake Tekapo covers an area of around 83 square kilometres. The lake has a very distinctive milky-turquoise color that is the result of rock flour that has been ground over the course of thousands of years being suspended in the water.
The braided Godley River, which is sourced from somewhere in the Southern Alps, feeds the lake at its northern end. Today, Lake Tekapo is a major tourist attraction.
It southern end, upon which sits the Lake Tekapo Township, is bordered by a number of resort hotels that are popular for visitors, especially in the summer months.
The southern portion of the lake is also home to the Lake Tekapo Regional Park. Also at the southern bank of the river is a very impressive hydroelectricity plant. First implemented in the 1940s, the plant remains today, albeit in a much renovated state when compared to the original one, and produces over 160 GWh annually.
What to Do – Lake Tekapo
On of the major attractions at Lake Tekapo is the observatory at the summit of Mount John. Regarded by some as one of the best stargazing sites on Earth, the Mt. John Observatory is home to the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve. Visitors can tour the facility either by day or by night with the night tour being the more well-renown.
The tour provides transport to and from the observatory, as well as equipment and guidance regarding what it is exactly you are looking it.
Visitors can take a look through a number of telescopes that allow for viewing of plants and large, dense star clusters.
On nights when the conditions are not right for stargazing, or during the day tour, visitors can look at and learn about the largest telescopes in all of New Zealand.
Walkers and trekkers will also enjoy a trip to Lake Tekapo.
During the summer, walkers can trek high into the foothills of the Southern Alps. From these elevations, visitors can be treated to stunning views out over the surrounding fields of golden tussock, snow-capped peaks, and the unique milky-turquoise water of Lake Tekapo. In the winter, visitors can enjoy a stunning snowshoe walk through those same Southern Alp foothills.
Adventurers can enjoy a peaceful three hour walk up to a warm and cosy cabin right at the snowline. The cabin makes for an ideal home base for visitors hoping to tramp around in the snow with some snowshoes and explore the beautiful winter wonderland that Lake Tekapo becomes in the winter. Those who want to experience the area on foot via snowshoe should plan to spend 2-3 days in the area in order to take it all in.
The winter also provides for a variety of ski tours as well. Lake Tekapo sits right up against both the Southern Alps and the Two Thumb Range. The Two Thumb Range became a centre for ski touring during the 1980s as the area ticked a number of the essential boxes for a ski destination:
it has a variety of terrain, a series of parallel valleys allowing for different tours, a number of alternatives for marginal weather and avalanche conditions, and it has easy foot access from the road-end to the Rex Simpson Hut.
No matter what the season, the Tekapo Springs are a wonderful place to relax after a day out and about. The springs offer visitors a choice of three pools filled with relaxing, warm water. The temperature range from 36-40 degrees Celsius and they all boast stunning views of both the lake, and the mountains beyond.
The water is heated by a pretty cool system that diverts the heat produced by the operation of the ice-rink to the springs, using that heat to heat up the water. The springs are accompanied by a spa where guests can enjoy a variety of massage treatments in addition to a beautiful sauna and steam room.
If you want more of a thrill, there is a tube park, at which visitors can enjoy plunging down a 150m slope, or an ice rink that is ice in the winter and a TRIPPO inflatable water slider in the summer. Both the tube park and the rink are open year round.
Of course if walking is not for you and you still want to find a way to take in the stunning beauty of Lake Tekapo and its surrounding areas, then take one of the many different tours. There are breathtaking scenic flights, both by plane and by helicopter, which allow visitors to take in the gorgeous scenery from a bird’s eye view.
There are also horse treks that are a great way for visitors to take in the scenery in a more rustic manner. Of course, visitors that want to see the lake from the lake itself can book themselves a boat cruise. There are a variety of different boat cruise experiences for visitors to chose from.
Lake Tekapo is also home to a beautiful 9-hole golf course, the Cairns Golf Course at the stables, Le Stables, of the historic Mt. John Station. The wonderfully designed course follows the unmodified natural contours of the glacial moraine. It is a great place to just enjoy an afternoon with some friends in some beautiful scenery.
Accommodation – Lake Tekapo
Lake Tekapo and the surround area is home to a number of wonderful accommodation options.
There are five motel/resort options, three different bed and breakfasts, a backpackers hostel, a campground, and a number of different self-contained holiday rental options. No matter your budget or style, you are sure to find something at Lake Tekapo.
Travelling from Abroad?
It is serviced by a number of international destinations daily, thus making it the ideal hub for visitors hoping to travel to Lake Tekapo from abroad.