Lake Tekapo Lupins, New Zealand

The Coolest Things to Do in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

Last Updated: 17th September, 2023

Lake Tekapo is a small town nestled in the heart of the Mackenzie Country in Canterbury, in New Zealand’s South Island. It is a popular tourist destination, renowned for its stunning turquoise water, vivid fields of lupins, and magnificent alpine surroundings! There is heaps of cool stuff to do while you’re here, whether you are into outdoor adventures, stargazing, or just relaxing in the hot pools with a good book. Here is the ultimate guide on the best Things to Do in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand!

Church of the Good Shepherd, Things to Do in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

Where is Lake Tekapo?

Lake Tekapo is located in New Zealand’s South Island, in the heart of the Mackenzie Basin within the Canterbury region. It’s situated roughly halfway between Christchurch (approximately 226 kilometers or 140 miles to the east) and Queenstown (approximately 256 kilometers or 159 miles to the southwest). On the southern shores of Lake Tekapo is the township, which is the main village in the area. This township is easily accessible by road, and is a popular stop for travelers exploring the South Island!

Map of Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

How to get to Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo is a popular tourist destination, and so is pretty easy and accessible to get to from any of the major nearby cities! Here are the best ways to travel from Queenstown and Christchurch to Tekapo:


One of the most popular road trips around the South Island of New Zealand will travel from Christchurch to Queenstown, taking you through the beautiful Lake Tekapo on the way!

  • From Christchurch: From the major city of Christchurch, the drive will take around 3.5 hours along either the SH1 or the Inland Scenic Route (SH72) via Geraldine.
  • From Queenstown: If you are driving from Queenstown to Tekapo, the journey typically takes around 3.5 – 4 hours. This drive is very scenic, with incredible views of Lake Pukaki and the Southern Alps along the way!

Public Transport

If you don’t drive or are looking at exploring the South Island using public transport, there is a number of bus and shuttle services that operate between Lake Tekapo and Christchurch or Queenstown! One of the most common is the InterCity Bus Service, which takes around 4 hours to reach Lake Tekapo from Christchurch.

Driving, Things to Do in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

When is the best time to visit Lake Tekapo?

Lake Tekapo is beautiful to visit year-round, and depends solely on your preferences and what kind of experience you are looking for! In summer, you can enjoy hiking, water activities, and gorgeous warm weather (plus a chance to see the vivid lupins!). In winter, Lake Tekapo becomes a winter wonderland, surrounded by snow-capped mountains with excellent ski fields, as well as opportunities for hot pools and ice skating!

Summer (December to February)

Autumn (March to May)

Winter (June to August)

Spring (September to November)

Views from Mount John, Things to Do in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

Keep in mind that Lake Tekapo is a popular destination, so accommodations may fill up quickly during peak tourist seasons. It’s a good idea to book your accommodations well in advance if you plan to visit during the summer or winter holidays.

The 10 Best Things to Do in Lake Tekapo!

Lake Tekapo is one of the most stunning and popular tourist destinations on New Zealand’s South Island. It is part of the Mackenzie Basin and is known for its remarkable turquoise-blue waters, surrounded by the Southern Alps and the Southern Lakes region. Here’s a guide to the best things to do in Lake Tekapo:

1. Go Stargazing in a Dark Sky Reserve!

Stargazing in Lake Tekapo is a truly unique and extraordinary experience, as it is located smack bang in the middle of the largest Dark Sky Reserve in the Southern Hemisphere! The area around and including Lake Tekapo has minimal light pollution, creating some of the clearest night skies in the world!

Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve: Fun Facts

  • This Reserve comprises of the Mt Cook National Park and the surrounding Mackenzie Basin, including Mt John and Lake Tekapo.
  • This region is almost completely free of light pollution due to a restriction on night lights, which has resulted in some of the clearest skies in the world!
  • It is the second largest dark sky reserve in the world at 4,367 square kilometers!


Whether you’re an amateur or a professional photographer, Lake Tekapo provides an ideal backdrop for astrophotography. You can capture stunning images of the night sky, stars reflected in the lake, and the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd.

Aurora Australis

Lake Tekapo occasionally offers views of the Southern Lights, also known as the Aurora Australis, especially during periods of high solar activity. Witnessing this natural phenomenon is a rare and mesmerizing experience!

Southern Hemisphere Views

Lake Tekapo is situated in the Southern Hemisphere, which means you have the opportunity to observe stars, constellations, and celestial objects not visible in the Northern Hemisphere. This includes the iconic Southern Cross and the Magellanic Clouds!

Mt John Observatory, Things to Do in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

Stargazing Tours

The Mount John Observatory, located near Lake Tekapo, is a major hub for stargazing activities. It offers guided tours and public stargazing sessions conducted by knowledgeable astronomers. The observatory has several telescopes, including powerful ones for observing far away planets, stars, and galaxies! The region has relatively dry and clear weather patterns, which also contribute to the amazing stargazing conditions.

2. Explore the gorgeous Lake Tekapo Village

Lake Tekapo Village is the charming town nestled on the southern shores of Lake Tekapo. While it’s relatively small, it is lovely to have a look around the different boutique shops and art galleries, before stopping off into one of the many cafes or restaurants for a coffee or a bite to eat while looking over the incredible scenery!

Dark Sky Diner | © Ngāi Tahu Tourism 2023

3. Hike up to the Summit of Mt John

Mount John is the prominent hill nestled at the south-western edge of the lake, which offers stunning panoramic views over Lake Tekapo, the snow-capped Southern Alps, and the surrounding Mackenzie Basin.

Hike mt John, things to do in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

One of my favourite things to do in Lake Tekapo is to walk up to the summit of Mount John, before sitting at the Astro Cafe and enjoying a delicious coffee while soaking up the incredible views. Honestly. If you have the time, this is the best way to experience the sheer astounding beauty of the Lake Tekapo region!

There are a couple of different walkways that take you up to the summit of Mt John, so you can choose depending on your preference! Choose from the shorter Mt John Summit Walkway, or enjoy the longer half-day Mt John Lakefront Walkway that follows the stunning Lake Tekapo foreshore before heading up to the summit of Mt John.

Mt John Summit Walkway

  • Walking Time: 1 hour
  • Walking Distance: 2.2 km
  • Trail Difficulty: A easy hike with a steady climb up to Mt John Summit

Mt John Lakefront Walkway

  • Walking Time: 2 hours to summit
  • Walking Distance: 6 km
  • Trail Difficulty: A easy hike along the western lakefront, before zig-zagging up the northern slopes of Mt John

4. Take a day-trip to Mt Cook!

One of the coolest day-trips to do from Lake Tekapo is to visit the iconic Mount Cook (Aoraki), the tallest mountain in New Zealand! The famous mountain is nestled in the Aoraki National Park, and is only an hours drive (99km) away from Lake Tekapo!

This awesome road-trip takes you through some of the most incredible natural scenery in the South Island of New Zealand, and offers plenty of opportunities for exploration and photography along the way!

Day trip to mt cook, things to do in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

Highlights of Mount Cook Day-Trip

  1. Lake Pukaki Lookout
    Lake Pukaki is another incredible glacial lake only 30-minutes drive west of Lake Tekapo. This lake is a beautiful place for a picnic, as well as offering incredible views over the alpine surroundings at Mt Cook. Remember to bring your camera for the iconic shot!
  2. Mt Cook Village
    At the base of Mt Cook is Mt Cook Village. This small settlement includes the visitors center, as well as a number of cafes and restaurants to stop at and enjoy a delicious coffee with an incredible view!
  3. Hiking Trails
    There are a number of incredible walks around Mt Cook, which go through gorgeous alpine terrain to views over the glacier or alpine lakes. The Hooker Valley Track, Kea Point Track, and Mueller Hut Route are some of the most popular options, offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains and glaciers.
  4. Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre
    In Mount Cook Village, you can visit the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, where you can learn about the history of mountaineering in the region, watch informative 3D movies, and explore interactive exhibits.
Day trip to mt cook, things to do in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

Location: 1 Larch Grove, Canterbury 7999, New Zealand

5. Relax in the fabulous Tekapo Springs

There is nothing better than relaxing in a beautiful natural hot springs after a day of adventuring in the mountains (especially during the winter months!). Tekapo Springs is the perfect place to wind down after a day of exploring Lake Tekapo. This complex is nestled at the base of Mt John, and offers a variety of services:

  • Hot Pools
    One of the main attractions at Tekapo Springs is its natural hot pools. There are 3 pools at various temperatures, where you can relax and soak while looking out over the stunning lake.
  • Water Play Area
    Tekapo Springs also features an aqua play area, which is a series of shallow pools and water features suitable for families and children. The area includes fountains, water slides, and a lazy river, making it a fun place for kids to splash around.
  • Snow Tube Park and Ice Skating
    In the winter months, Tekapo Springs offers a snow tube park and ice skating rink! It’s a great place for snow tubing, where you can slide down groomed slopes on inflatable tubes.
  • Stargazing Tours
    Tekapo Springs has partnered with the Dark Sky Project to offer the most incredible and unique stargazing experience! You explore the night sky with your knowledgeable guide, while enjoying private use of the hot springs after dark. Incredible!

Location: 300 Lakeside Drive, Lake Tekapo

6. Frolick in the Colourful Lupins!

Some of the most iconic and recognisable photos of Lake Tekapo show the lakefront covered in vivid pink and purple flowers, contrasting brightly with the brilliant turquoise water. Its an incredible sight, and makes for an stunning insta-photo!

Lupins on foreshore by Church of the Good Shepherd, things to do in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

Best time to see the Lupins in Lake Tekapo

The lupins around Lake Tekapo bloom in late spring, and stay in flower until mid-summer (between November – February). Within this time, the flowers are at their peak roughly between mid-November and late December or early January!

Where to see the Lupins in Lake Tekapo

During summer, you can see lupins blooming all around Lake Tekapo and the surrounding areas! Every year is a little bit different – however here are the fields where you can almost guarentee an incredible display of lupins!

Best Lupin Fields in Lake Tekapo

Lupin field, Things to do in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

7. Take a Scenic Flight over the Southern Alps

This is one of the most memorable and astounding things to do in Lake Tekapo! Just outside of Lake Tekapo township is a small airfield, where you will find Lake Tekapo Air Safaris. With their scenic flights over the Southern Alps, you’ll be treated to magnificent views of snow-capped peaks, vivid turquoise lakes, and rugged glaciers.

They have a number of different flight options available, so whether you are looking for a relaxing scenic flight over the Mackenzie Basin or an exhilarating snow landing in the Mount Cook National Park, there is something to make this trip special!

Location: Lake Tekapo Airport, State Highway 8, Lake Tekapo

8. Photograph the Church of the Good Shepherd

One of the most iconic landmarks in Lake Tekapo is the charming Church of the Good Shepherd, and so it’s a must-see when visiting the area! Nestled right on the shores of the lake, this church is one of the most photographed churches in New Zealand. The magnificent Southern Alps and vivid turquoise waters create a stunning backdrop during the day, while the clear night sky creates a magical night-time shot!

For more information on the Church of the Good Shepherd, including the best times to visit, check out my guide here!

9. Get out the Skis and hit the Slopes!

If you are visiting Lake Tekapo in winter, then one of the coolest things to do is to grab your skis and hit the slopes! Lake Tekapo is near to a couple of awesome ski resorts, perfect for a day on the snow.

Roundhill Ski Area

Located about a 45-minute drive from Lake Tekapo, Roundhill Ski Area is one of the nearest options for downhill skiing. It offers excellent views of Lake Tekapo and Aoraki/Mount Cook and has a range of slopes, making it perfect for families and beginners! My favourite things about this ski area is that it is much less busy, meaning less time in lines and more time skiing!

Mount Dobson Ski Area

Mount Dobson is approximately a one-hour drive from Lake Tekapo. It’s a family-friendly ski area with a mix of beginner, intermediate, and advanced slopes. The ski area typically operated during the winter season (June to October), and boasts all-day sun, for an awesome quintessential kiwi experience!

10. Go on a gorgeous Horse Trek around Lake Tekapo

Another incredible way to experience the natural beauty of Lake Tekapo is from in a saddle! Mackenzie Alpine Horses offers a number of treks that travel throughout the region, from short and easy rides through the pine forest to longer half-day treks around Mount John and Lake Tekapo. They cater for all skill levels, so no matter if you are a nervous beginner or an advanced rider, you are guaranteed to have an incredible experience!

Location: Godley Peaks Road, Lake Tekapo

FAQS: Things to Do in Lake Tekapo

Is it worth visiting Lake Tekapo?

How long should I spend at Lake Tekapo?

What is Lake Tekapo best known for?

Is Lake Tekapo worth visiting in winter?

Is it better to stay in Twizel or Lake Tekapo?

Is Lake Tekapo swimmable?

What is a fun fact about Lake Tekapo?

Why is Lake Tekapo so blue?

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *