Lake Tekapo is a popular stop-off point for those travelling around the Mackenzie Basin or exploring the beauty of the South Island. As well as its dramatic landscapes, turquoise lake water (thanks to surrounding glaciers), and mesmerising Southern Lights opportunities, it’s an area rich in history and well worth taking some time to experience.
Stargazing with a difference
Immerse your senses in the night sky at the Mt John Observatory, where some of New Zealand’s most powerful telescopes take you closer to the stars than ever before. Lake Tekapo is also one of the best places in New Zealand to see the Southern Lights and now is the perfect time of year, with clear nights adding to the spectacular natural light show.
Tekapo Mt John Walkway
This 8.9km loop is a steady climb but worth the effort, with stunning lakeshore scenery. Allow for three hours all up to soak it all in, and enjoy the Mt John viewing platform, offering a 360-degree panorama of the surrounding mountains, lakes, and Mackenzie Basin flats. If your legs don’t feel up to the climb, you can drive to the top of Mt John, park near the café, and walk the Summit Circuit Track which is approx. a 30-minute option.
Popular spot to worship
The iconic Church of the Good Shepherd (as featured on our front cover in this issue) is still used as a place to worship but has also become a sought-after spot for photographs due to its location on the shores of the lake, with the altar window framing a perfect view of the Southern Alps. Built in 1935, the church is still used for weddings and services, so keep this in mind when visiting with respect to those using it.
Ode to the Sheepdog
This one-of-a-kind bronze sculpture, known as the Mackenzie Sheepdog Statue, pays tribute to the border collie dogs who helped shape the farms of New Zealand. Created in 1968 by sculptor Innes Elliot, who modelled the statue on his neighbour’s dog Haig, it’s a hugely popular monument, standing proudly near the Church of the Good Shepherd and forming a dramatic foreground to the natural beauty of Lake Tekapo.
Park and view
Lake Tekapo arguably boasts some of the most visually delightful camping sites in New Zealand. Check out the NZMCA Park Tekapo (it’s worth joining to enjoy parks like this with jaw-dropping views and easy lake access), and also the Lake Tekapo Motels & Holiday Park and Mackenzie Waitaki RV Camping.