New Zealand is a country with most of the cities being rather small in size that they would qualify as towns. Lake Tekapo is one such city or town depending on what you’d prefer calling it. To get to Lake Tekapo you’ll have to fly to Queenstown, pick up a rental car and drive for 3 hours and then you shall have arrived. But mind you, there are so many scenic lookouts along the way, that it might just take you longer than previously anticipated. Driving in the South Island of New Zealand is the best possible way to get around. It gives you a chance to capture and absorb the scenic beauty this Country has to offer.
As such when going on road trips in New Zealand, no one really stays in Hotels. Well at least the locals don’t. The best thing to do is to rent a holiday home for the duration of your stay. There are several websites you can go on to make a booking:
- Holiday homes
These are the two that I’ve used in the past. Based on my experience I’d be inclined on recommending Holiday Homes as we didn’t particularly have the best experience with Bachcare. But that’s a topic for another blog. The other option, which a lot of travellers love to do is to hire out a campervan and stay at campervan parks or camping grounds. I personally am way too much of a city girl to do that, oh and the new and improved version, glamping, which is not necessarily available everywhere. Furthermore, if you’re someone who likes to stay connected (to the Internet), you will have to be on a roaming data plan or pick up a local New Zealand SIM that offers a plan, which includes data. It is quite common to not have Wi-Fi connectivity whilst travelling through New Zealand.
There’s not a lot to do in Lake Tekapo, no sir there isn’t. There are only a select few spots to check out. But I will say this much, that if you’re wanting to get away from your busy daily life and the stress that comes with it, this is where you want to go. There is a very small I-site in what is referred to as the town centre. I would recommend that you head there to get an insight into the weather forecast. Lake Tekapo is known to be one of the best places for stargazing. Unfortunately for us, the entire duration that we were there, we had cloudy periods, which isn’t ideal for stargazing. I suppose there’s always next time right? A short walk from the I-site and across the bridge is an old church, which is a very popular tourist attraction. Whilst walking across this bridge you will notice the unusual blue shad of the lake. This is caused by the rock flour.
For obvious reasons there are no photographs allowed in the Church. This is, however, a place where tourists often take a moment of their time and sit for a while in the church, whether it is to say a prayer or to just take a minute and appreciate the beautiful view. The Church is quite close to the shores of the lake. Following on from the Church, you may want to spend some time by the shores. Visiting the Church is probably the best way you can end your first day in Lake Tekapo after the long drive from Queenstown as well. Now, for dinner you have two options, either you go to Four Square and purchase food to cook or to bar-be-que or seat yourself at Mackenzies, which is a pub restaurant in the town centre. The third option is, to buy yourself some Salmon on your way into Lake Tekapo. There is a Salmon store that sells fresh Salmon and you could purchase this on your way into Lake Tekapo.
The following day, get into your car and drive to Mount John Summit. It is a 30 minutes drive and there’s a toll cost of $5. If you do get motion sickness on mountainous roads (especially steep mountains) make sure you’ve taken your medication or at least have chewing gum or mint handy. Once you’ve reached the top and parked your car, my suggestion is to make your way to the café and get some breakfast, whilst enjoying the view. Mount John Summit also has observatories set up that monitor the movement of the stars. There are tours that run giving insight into the various telescopes. Whilst I didn’t do this tour, my father and brother did, who highly recommend it, especially if astronomy is something you’re interested in. It really depends on how long you want to spend up here.
Depending on how long you want to spend up at Mount John Summit, you may decide to drive to Mount Cook on that day or the next day. It takes roughly an hour and a half from Lake Tekapo to drive to Mount Cook, which is in Aoraki. This is another popular destination to stay at and there are more choices for hotels and/or motels here. Continuing on, there’s also a camping ground right by where the walking/hiking trails to Mount Cook are. As you’ve guessed, the activity to do here is the walking trail. There are various trails that you can do. The one we did was the duration of an hour and a half. This walk is mostly on flat ground but it does tire you out. Here’s a video of the walking trail that we did.
Overall, I would say that spending 2-3 nights in Lake Tekapo is probably the best. There’s not a lot to do here, but is a good escape from reality. It gives you a chance to rejuvenate from the daily madness of life. Whatever I have suggested in this blog, is what I did on a summer trip. It would be safe to assume a winter trip would be more focused on Mount Cook rather than Lake Tekapo.
Have you been here in the winter? What was your experience like?
Until next time,