If you’re looking for hustle and bustle, move right along, because Lake Tekapo is where you will find refreshing serenity and undisturbed natural beauty. Only three hours from both Christchurch and Queenstown, this little gem is an excellent road trip stopover, and a superb destination in its own right.
Nearby Roundhill and Mt Dobson ski fields are among the least crowded in the country, and feature excellent terrain for all ages and abilities. Roundhill claims the world’s longest and steepest rope tow that takes you to the top of Australasia’s biggest vertical descent – a thrilling 783m ride for adventurous folks.
Lake Tekapo (the name of both the village and the turquoise lake) sits in the heart of Mackenzie Country, and the landscape is one of stark contrasts – golden hills, vibrant blue water, and snowy mountain ranges. First settled by Māori, the region is named for a Scottish shepherd-turned-sheep-stealer, and the high country has been farmed by hardy souls and their dogs since 1857. It now draws visitors who appreciate the dramatic alpine scenery and outdoor activities on offer.
If you fly into Christchurch, you can create an unforgettable road trip featuring first-rate snow experiences on your journey through the heart of Te Waipounamu (South Island). Make your first stop Methven/Mt Hutt, then hit Tekapo/Roundhill, and end with the ski fields of Wanaka and Queenstown.
5 More Reasons to Choose Lake Tekapo
1. Stargazing – part of a UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve, clear nights and lack of light pollution make Lake Tekapo the perfect location for contemplating the universe. As luck would have it, winter is also the best time to view the Southern Lights, so head up to Mt John Observatory for the best seat in the house.
2. Ice skating – another fun cold-weather activity for those that can’t get enough of the winter sports, take a glide around the international-sized outdoor rink. Open late some nights, so you can skate under the stars.
3. Hot pools – enjoy some relaxing downtime in a stunning alpine setting. Take in the views while having a quiet soak, play in the family area, or steam yourself in one of the saunas (followed by a refreshing dip in the plunge pool, if you dare!).
4. Historic monuments – Church of the Good Shepherd is a popular visitor spot, a modest stone building sitting quietly on the shores of the lake. Perfectly befitting the landscape, it was constructed in 1935 as a memorial to the pioneers of the area, and is still used for services and weddings. Nearby, the border collie statue pays homage to the indispensible sheep dogs that helped farm the steep hill country.
5. Aoraki Mt Cook – our highest peak rises prominently above the ranges in the Southern Alps and makes for a breathtaking spectacle. A scenic flight is a memorable experience, and many on offer include snow landings. Other ways to enjoy the mountain include a guided climb, heli hike, or short walk.
Where to Eat
For a small town, you get a mighty big range of options for filling your belly. We recommend Kohan Restaurant (Japanese cuisine), Astro Cafe, Run 76 Cafe, Reflections Restaurant, and Pepes Pizza & Pasta.