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20 FUN Things to do in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

20 FUN Things to do in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

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Seeking an epic adventure here in gorgeous Lake Tekapo? Let me tell you, you’re in for such a treat!

I have to admit, although I’m a Queenstown local, I’ve visited Lake Tekapo more times than I can count. There are so many beautiful hotels, yummy restaurants, and of course, incredible activities (sorry not sorry!).

Over the years, Lake Tekapo has grown to be a pretty popular vacation spot, so there’s now a ton of choices on what to do here. To help new visitors discover the best of the best activities, I wanted to put together a guide that will help you do just that, and here we are!

So feel free to have a flick through and check out some of the activities I’ve mentioned below – I’m sure there will be something you love.

About Lake Tekapo

The Lupins at Lake Tekapo
The stunning lupins!

Lake Tekapo is located almost smack bang in the middle of New Zealand’s South Island on the eastern side of the Southern Alps. It’s conveniently located only 1 hour from Mount Cook Village and from the popular town of Queenstown, you can reach Lake Tekapo in around 3 hours.

For many, it’s either one of their first or last stops on a South Island road trip, with the majority of visitors either flying in or out of Christchurch (which is conveniently under 3 hours away).

The town of Tekapo sits on the shore of what is known as the bluest lake in New Zealand and is home to an extremely small local population. Despite this, Tekapo sees plenty of visitors and is easily one of the most popular lake destinations in NZ.

You’ll find lots of restaurants and cafes in Tekapo, as well as a small supermarket, some great hotels, and even a local hot springs.

You can visit Lake Tekapo year-round, however, it is most popular in the summer months (December to February) when it’s warm enough to swim in the lake. Another very popular time to visit Lake Tekapo is in mid-November when the lupins that grow around the lake are in full bloom. This bloom usually lasts until the end of December but mid to end of November is my favorite time to visit.

Because Lake Tekapo is so popular, it’s very important to book your accommodation during the summer months well in advance. The best value options certainly book up fast as well as holiday parks for campervans and motorhomes. In the winter you can usually book hotels last minute without any worries.

After countless visits to Lake Tekapo, I still haven’t had enough. For me, relaxing by the lake and enjoying the views with a coffee in hand is still one of my favorite pastimes. The best part is, it will likely be yours too!

Related Read: Visiting Lake Tekapo from Wanaka? Check out all the best stops between Wanaka and Christchurch, which includes the best stops between Wanaka and Lake Tekapo.

Lake Tekapo FAQs

Views from Mt John at Lake Tekapo
Views from Mt John looking down at the blue Lake Tekapo!

Things to do in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

1. Go stargazing

The Milky Way over Lake Tekapo while stargazing
You can see the stars and Milky Way so well in Lake Tekapo!

Lake Tekapo’s famed night sky is phenomenal and offers the perfect opportunity to spot the stars and the wonders of the night sky. The area is, in fact, one of the few Dark Sky Reserves in New Zealand and is the largest one in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s also named the Aoraki/Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve.

So, Tekapo is without a doubt one of the best places to go stargazing in New Zealand!

The Mount John Observatory is also located in Tekapo, and it is also where this 2-hour mountaintop stargazing experience is held. Run by the University of Canterbury, it’s the best place to indulge in the science and stories of the night sky with your charming and knowledgeable guide.

One of my favorite parts about this tour (aside from all of the mind-blowing facts) was using their 16″ optical telescope, which made the stars appear crystal clear! In the case of bad weather, you’ll be tucked away cozily inside, where you’ll still be able to use their instruments to get an incredible view of the night sky.

As the Mount John Observatory is pretty popular, it’s super important to grab your tickets in advance. Tickets cost $190 NZD per person and can be booked online here.

Another fun stargazing experience is this guided hot pool and stargazing tour, which is the only one of its kind in New Zealand! Imagine that – soaking in a 37.5-degree Celsius (99.5 degrees Fahrenheit) hot pool while gazing up at the dark sky reserve with a loved one. Tickets for this tour start from $119 NZD per adult and if by any chance there’s poor weather, you can still experience an indoor virtual reality tour of the Tekapo Dark Sky Reserve.

If you don’t want to do a tour, then you can simply head out to the lake after dark and stare up at the night sky. Once your eyes adjust, you’ll be able to see the galaxy with the naked eye. With that said, it helps to go on a day with no light from the moon, and in winter, the Milky Way is much easier to see.

Stargazing is easily one of the best things to do in Lake Tekapo, so don’t miss it!

2. Visit the Tekapo Springs

The Tekapo Springs, Lake Tekapo
The views from the springs are breathtaking! Photo credit: Tekapo Springs

At Tekapo Springs you can indulge in 3 different hot pools, which, interestingly, are shaped and named after popular areas in the region. Firstly, there’s Ohau at 36.5 °C (97.5 °F), followed by Pukaki at 37.5 °C (99.5 °F), and finally Tekapo, which is adults-only at 38 °C (100.4 °F).

There’s also an Aqua Play Area with two cooler pools that are great for kids. I also really enjoyed lounging in their steam and sauna room before giving myself a (very brief!) dip in the cold plunge pool. Tekapo Springs really is the perfect place to relax for a couple of hours.

But let’s not forget about the stunning views of Lake Tekapo and the surrounding mountains that you can enjoy from every part of the springs. There’s a day spa on site too if you’re after a facial, massage, or one of many other treatments on offer there – the staff here are so lovely!

Tekapo Springs is open from 11 am to 7 pm Monday to Friday and opens an hour earlier on the weekend. For a unique experience, I’d actually recommend going after dark. Although you’ll miss the views of the lake, you’ll be able to stare up and see the stars.

Access to the pools and Aqua Play area costs $37 NZD per adult (16+) with discounts available for children and families. You can also add on access to the steam room, sauna, and plunge pool for $10 NZD Per person.

In winter, the area undergoes a big transformation, and you can enjoy ice skating on their outdoor rink or ride on a snow tube!

Hot Tip: At Tekapo Springs you’ll also find Altitude 720 Café, one of the best restaurants in Lake Tekapo and a great place to eat breakfast or lunch.

3. Photograph the Church of Good Shepherd

The Church of the Good Shepard at night with the Milky Way
Getting this classic shot is a bucket list photo for photographers!

This adorable little church is one of my favorite places to photograph on the South Island. The Church of the Good Shepherd is incredibly scenic with a backdrop of Lake Tekapo, and on a clear day, Mount Cook. It is for this reason that this church is incredibly popular with tourists.

My advice is to get here early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid the crowds. Even better if you can manage to get here for sunrise or sunset or after dark for the best photo opp.

It’s also important to note that you cannot take photos inside the church. And of course, seeing as it is a place of worship, please be respectful. In the right weather conditions, it’s also a great spot to watch the starry skies at night.

4. Enjoy the colorful lupins

Bailey from My Queenstown Diary sits on a rock at Lake Tekapo during Lupin season
Lupin season is one of my favorite times to visit Lake Tekapo!

Lupin season in New Zealand is a huge tourism booster to many areas of the country, and one of the most famous spots to photograph the lupins is on the shores of Lake Tekapo! Thanks to the popularity of social media, thousands of tourists flock to Lake Tekapo in lupin season just to photograph these gorgeously colorful flowers.

Thousands of lupins grow all along the shore of Lake Tekapo, so this is a great place to photograph them. However, a great secret spot is a lupin field that’s just a 2-minute drive from Tekapo town on the road to Christchurch. You can’t miss it as there’s likely to be lots of cars parked on the road next to this field.

Lupin season in Tekapo runs from November to the beginning of February, however, the best time to see them is from mid-November to the end of December. If you’re coming for flowers, the best time to visit New Zealand (and Lake Tekapo) is late spring/early summer.

Little known fact – Lupins are considered an invasive species in New Zealand and need to be kept under control, otherwise they take over!

5. Join a 4WD Tour

Tekapo Adventures 4wds on the edge of Lake Pukaki on a tour
If you want to be guided around, the 4WD tour is a great way to see the sights without the hassle of planning. Photo credit: Tekapo Adventures

While traveling around by yourself makes for a great adventure (especially with scenery as gorgeous as this!), without a doubt, one of the best and hassle-free ways to explore is by joining a guided tour. For getting around on the ground, you really can’t beat a 4WD tour, which can get you pretty much anywhere, plus you won’t be the one driving – yippee!

This half-day scenic 4WD tour in Lake Tekapo will have you exploring the heart of Mackenzie Country, joined by your local guide. You’ll be driven through the high country surrounding Tekapo, spotting sheep stations, all kinds of wildlife, and the pure wilderness of the backcountry as you go. All from the comfort of a luxurious Land Rover 4WD vehicle.

My favorite part about this tour has to be the stop lineup – every place we went seemed significant, whether it was because that stop had epic views of the lake, or because it showcased some interesting history of the area! Speaking of stops, you’ll visit several viewpoints over Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki, Mt Cook, Mt Tasman, and the surrounding mountain ranges.

It’s safe to say that this is the only tour of its kind in the Tekapo area and definitely one of the must-do things to do in Lake Tekapo.

Tickets for this 3-hour 4WD tour cost $299 NZD per person, with the tour departing at 9 am. It also has a maximum of 6 people, making this a super personalized tour! You can check availability and book your spot on this experience online here.

6. Visit Lake Alexandrina

Lake Alexandrina near Lake tekapo
I loved camping here!

Considered a hidden gem by Tekapo locals, Lake Alexandrina is a high country lake about a 12-km (7.4-mile) drive from the center of town. The lake is spring-fed with stunningly gorgeous scenery all around.

If you’re into high-country fishing, then there’s no better place for you, as the lake is filled to the brim with brown trout and salmon. It’s a considerably deep lake too, with a maximum depth of 27 meters (89 ft), so it’s also popular for fly-fishing. There are also no motorized boats allowed, making the lake a nice and quiet place to spend the day or the weekend fishing.

You can spend the night here at the Lake Alexandrina Campground, which is relatively basic but is located right on the shores of the lake. The campground is operated by the Department of Conservation and has a long-drop toilet, but doesn’t have any shower or running water facilities.

It costs about $20 NZD per vehicle per night, which is to be paid into the box at the entrance. There is also a campground at Lake Mcgregor nearby, which is run by the DOC.

7. Check out the Mackenzie Sheepdog Statue

Mackenzie Sheepdog Statue
A short but cool stop!

Located about 100 meters (328 feet) from the Church of the Good Shepherd, this bronze statue was erected in 1968 as a tribute to Tekapo’s founding father. In 1855, James Mackenzie, a Scottish shepherd found the area with the help of his dog “Friday”. So this statue is here to pay homage to Friday and his good work.

Just a short walk from the statue is a gorgeous vantage point over the milky blue waters of Lake Tekapo and the mountains beyond. More photo opportunities incoming!

Although only a short stop, visiting is considered one of the best things to do in Lake Tekapo, and with the stunning views, why wouldn’t you?

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8. Hit the slopes

Roundhill Ski Area near Lake Tekapo
It’s not the largest in the country, but it’s still a cool place to ski!

If you’re visiting Lake Tekapo in the winter, then one of the best winter activities is going skiing. Although most tend to think skiing can only be done in Queenstown and Wanaka, Lake Tekapo actually offers two nearby ski resorts you can visit!

The closest ski field to Tekapo is Roundhill or “Tekapo Ski Field” at just 32 kilometers (20 miles) away. It’s ideal for families or beginners thanks to the large beginner’s area which features 3 surface lifts and two rope tows.

The recently introduced mega rope tow (the longest and steepest in the world) makes Roundhill very attractive to advanced skiers too. Australasia’s biggest vertical drop (783m) is a huge selling point for this family-run ski resort. There are also plenty of super wide, perfectly groomed intermediate trails here.

An all-day complete lift pass at Roundhill costs $109 NZD per adult and $51 NZD per child, with the lifts operating between 9 am and 4 pm. If you’d just like to stick to the learner lifts, an all-day lift pass is cheaper at $68 NZD for adults and $36 NZD for kids. Rentals are also available here!

Ohau Ski Area is also not too far from Tekapo, just 94 kilometers (54.4 miles) to the entrance at Lake Ohau Lodge and then a further 9.6 km (6 miles) to the ski area. Ohau is known as a mountain for all abilities, and my favorite part is that once you’re all wrapped up with skiing, it’s just a 20-minute drive back to the lodge for some tasty glühwein and snacks!

You can hike from the top of the resort to more difficult off-piste runs that are great for powder lovers or experienced skiers. There’s a chair lift to access the wide flat slopes at the top where you can really test your skills.

Speaking of chair lifts, you can nab an all-day complete lift pass here at the Ohau Ski Area for $125 NZD per adult and $51 NZD per child. If sticking to the beginner’s lifts is your thing, you can grab a lift pass for these for a very reasonable $56 NZD for adults and $27 NZD for kids.

Note: The skiing season runs between June and September/October, however different ski resorts have different opening and closing dates, so don’t forget to check this on their websites before you go!

9. Check out the blue water at Lake Pukaki

Bailey at Lake Pukaki Lookout, New Zealand
On a clear day, you’ll be blown away by the view!

Over an hour’s drive in the direction of Queenstown will take you to the Gatorade-blue waters of Lake Pukaki. Unlike Tekapo, there is no town and no facilities (just toilets) here at the lake.

While you’re here, this is a great opportunity to explore the lake’s shore and take lots of photos. On a fine day, you can spot Mount Cook in the distance. In lupin season (late November to early February) you can spot thousands of these gorgeous flowers along the edge of the lake.

If you want to stretch your legs, I’d suggest taking a relaxing walk along the short Lake Pukaki Shoreline Walk. This beautiful trail takes you to a viewpoint over the lake which is perfect for viewing the water and Mount Cook.

Another really cool thing about this spot is the freedom camping area on the lake. Here, you can camp completely free in a self-contained campervan or motorhome. It’s first come, first served, so be sure to arrive early to secure a spot!

10. Drink coffee at Jack Rabbit

Jack Rabbit Cafe, Lake Tekapo
Yum! Photo credit: Jack Rabbit

Those who know me, know that I love coffee. There are so many cafés in Queenstown that I visit almost every week! Lake Tekapo also offers its fair share of beautiful and delicious cafés.

Situated at the Northern end of the lake on Neil Anderson Way is another favorite of mine called Jack Rabbit. At the café, there’s a large outdoor patio to enjoy views of the lake. Serving up excellent coffee, a yummy breakfast, and lunch menu as well as smaller items from the cabinet. I love their tasty pies!

This is a great spot to refuel after indulging in one of the many fantastic activities in Tekapo. You’ll find Jack Rabbit open daily from 7:30 am through to 4 pm, but make your way down there early to have your pick of their delicious pastries!

11. Hike Mount John Summit

Views from Mt John Summit looking down at Lake Alexandrina
The views from Mt John on a clear day are out of this world!

Considered a moderate hike, the Mount John Summit Hike is accessible directly from Tekapo town. The track starts just before Tekapo Springs and is well posted. There are two routes to get to the top, with the fastest route being the circuit track which takes you steeply up through mostly forested areas. I’d allow around 1.5 hours to complete the circuit track.

The second route, and my favorite, is the Mount John Track via Lakeshore Track. This is a looped track that can be done either clockwise or anti-clockwise. I personally prefer to start with the short track to the summit of Mount John and then return via the lakeshore track (which is well signposted at the top). This will take about 3 hours but offers much better views.

Once you reach the top, you will be treated to 360-degree views of the Mackenzie Basin and Lake Tekapo. You will also find the popular Astro Cafe, a viewing platform, and the Mount John Star Gazing Observatory at the summit.

12. Dinner and sunset drinks at Dark Sky Diner

Dark Sky Diner at sunset
A snack or dinner with this view is a must! Photo credit Dark Sky Diner

Located at the Dark Sky Project on Motuariki Lane, this is the perfect place to sit back, relax, and enjoy the breathtaking lakeside views. It opens from 3 pm to 9 pm from Thursday to Monday and has an excellent food menu serving up everything from toasties to fajitas to cheese boards.

Make sure to get here for sunset and try to get a seat by the window as it’s the perfect vantage point to watch the sunset over the lake!

If you head there after sunset, you can also view the stars from the comfort of a heated building. In winter, this will certainly save your fingers and toes from Lake Tekapo’s cold weather.

That said, you can also view the stars during the daytime here at the Dark Sky Project! This daytime dark sky experience lasts for 45 minutes and is a wonderful addition to your Lake Tekapo itinerary. The tour blends traditional Maori folklore with the latest science to create an experience which I think is perfect for the whole family. Tickets are just $51 NZD too, so this is also a great cheap experience in Lake Tekapo!

13. Walk the Peninsula Walkway

Views from the Peninsula Walkway
Sometimes it’s hard to believe Lake Tekapo is that blue!

Just a couple of minutes drive from town is the easy Peninsula Walkway Track, which should take you 2.5 hours return. From the parking lot, the track follows the shoreline around the peninsula, where you can then return via Godley Peaks Road. Don’t forget to take plenty of time to enjoy the lovely views of the lake, Mt John, and the surrounding mountains!

For me, the views here of Lake Tekapo are among some of my all-time favorite. From a slightly higher elevation, the lake’s color really pops, and the above photo is not edited to make the lake appear blue – it really is that blue!

To get here – head west on State Highway 8 and take a right turn onto Godley Peaks Road. A few minutes down this road and you will come to the Peninsula Walkway parking lot. It’s really easy to find and the trail’s easy difficulty makes it perfect for the entire family.

14. SUP and kayaking on the lake

Operating during the summer months, this is your chance to get out onto the lake for a whole new kind of view! Paddle Tekapo rents out kayaks and paddleboards from just $30 NZD per hour, so you can experience New Zealand’s bluest lake up close and personal. The Lake is typically quite calm, so it’s a pretty easy introduction to paddleboarding or kayaking if it’s your first time.

You can choose to take a course with an experienced guide or just go out on your own, provided you’re confident in the water. There’s a good range of quality paddleboards on offer as well as single and double kayaks. Operating hours are typically from 10 am to 6 pm on clear days.

I do have to warn you though, that even in the summer Lake Tekapo is freezing, and I have yet to take a full dip in the lake. Crazy, I know! Next time I’ll jump in (although, I’m not making any promises…)

15. Enjoy a scenic flight

Views of the Southern Alps on a scenic flight
Flying high on my scenic flight above the Southern Alps in Mount Cook!

This bucket-list-worthy activity isn’t the cheapest thing to do in Lake Tekapo, but it sure is amazing. Nothing quite compares to the views you get while soaring high above the ground, so definitely don’t forget your camera!

This Mackenzie Explorer Flight is one of the most popular scenic flight routes in the area. On this 30-minute flight, you’ll get epic views of Mt John Observatory, Mt Hay, Lake Alexandrina, and more. It even includes a stop at a remote sheep station with stunning views – where you’ll be treated to a snow landing!

I must admit I have never done a scenic flight from Lake Tekapo, but I have done one from Mount Cook Village. It’s still one of the most amazing activities I’ve had in my life and the picture above was from the tour. Flying high above the mountains in a helicopter is such a surreal experience that I really believe everyone should have at least once.

Tickets for this experience cost $375 NZD for adults, which I think is a pretty good deal for a scenic flight like this! You can book this tour here on their website.

16. Visit Farlie and Lake Opuha

the beef steak pie from Fairlie Bakehouse
One reason to stop in Fairlie is for a delicious, award-winning meat pie! Photo Credit: Fairlie Bakehouse

The small town of Fairlie is just over a 30-minute drive from Lake Tekapo. It’s home to the “best pies in New Zealand” which can be purchased from the super popular Fairlie Bakehouse on Main Street. Given its fame, it is very popular, especially at lunchtime, so expect to queue.

My favorite pies here are the pork belly or smoked chicken options, but there are many more options, and they’re all baked fresh daily. There are also yummy cakes and coffee on offer! Fairlie Bakehouse is open daily from 6 am to 4:30 pm.

Also worth visiting in town is the Fairlie Heritage Museum (currently closed for renovations, but tours can be arranged on their website), and the Mabel Binney Cottage, which features furnishings from the early 20th century!

Boating and fishing are also popular activities in Lake Opuha – a 45-minute drive from Tekapo and just 15 minutes from Fairlie. The lake is a 700-hectare (1,730 acre) man-made lake with an abundance of brown and rainbow trout as well as salmon. You will often see small powerboats, kayaks, water skis, and jet skis on the lake. There’s also a campground, several picnic areas, and toilets.

This part of NZ remains off the typical tourist trail, so it’s a great thing to do in Lake Tekapo for those looking for a more local experience.

17. Step back in time at Burkes Pass

Burkes Pass
Photo credit: Brians101 Depositphotos

As you drive from Lake Tekapo to Christchurch via State Highway 8, you can’t miss this colorful collection of buildings. Just a 15-minute drive from Lake Tekapo, Burkes Pass mimics a small New Zealand town from the 1950s. You can easily spend an hour or more getting lost among the treasures and snapping photos.

The quirky St Patrick’s Church (the oldest union church in New Zealand) was the catalyst for the local residents to turn this tiny town into a tourist destination. Realizing the town’s potential in 2000, they purchased the church and set about restoring it and all the old buildings in the area into what they are today.

The Burkes Pass Heritage Walk is the best way to get an insight into the area’s rich history. The walk takes you past the church, gallery, musterer’s hut, the many stone houses and cob cottages, and the old schoolhouse. You can purchase some quirky souvenirs at the Three Creeks Arts and Craft Store before returning to Lake Tekapo.

18. Golf

This one is for the golfers out there! The Cairns Golf Course on Sibbald Drive is one to add to your list of things to do while in Lake Tekapo. It’s designed in a similar way to old Scottish golf courses – where golf is said to have originated.

You’ll be treated to stunning views of the Mackenzie Basin and Lake Tekapo from almost every hole. All that’s left is to pay your green fees and off you go – 9 holes is a very reasonable $20 NZD and 18 holes just $30 NZD. They also have club and gear rentals if you need them.

Another option is to head to Mackenzie Golf Club, which is located 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) from Tekapo town on SH8. It’s actually the highest elevation 9-hole course golf course in New Zealand and stands at 795 meters (2,608 feet) above sea level! The scenery surrounding the course is spectacular, and you may even spot Mt Cook in the distance on a clear day.

I’m not going to lie, I’m not a golfer and have never been able to hit a ball straight in my short career. For that reason, you should check reviews of both courses before going to get a golfer’s opinion!

19. Go mountain biking

the Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail sign with a view of Mount Cook in the background
This cycle route is famous…and stunning!

With the surrounding mountain landscape and more trails than you can shake a stick at, Lake Tekapo is a great place to go mountain biking. The famous Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail also passes through Tekapo!

The Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail is one of the most beautiful cycle trails in the world, and cyclists can choose to start this trail at either Mount Cook or Tekapo. The route incorporates Lake Pukaki, Twizel, Lake Ohau, Omarama, through the Waitaki Valley, and eventually into Oamaru – which is your finishing point.

As you can imagine, it’s quite a long trail at over 300 kilometers (186 miles) so I’d allow 5 to 7 days to complete the entire trail. Of course, you may choose to just complete a small section of the trail, e.g. Tekapo to Lake Pukaki which is 54 km (33.5 miles) each way. The trail is graded as easy to intermediate and is suitable for all ages.

Other highly recommended cycle trails near Tekapo includes those in Lake Tekapo Regional Park, which has over 24 kilometers (15 miles) of cycle tracks, all of varying grades. The 13-kilometer-long (8.1-mile) Richmond Trail is very popular with mountain bikers and begins from the car park on Roundhill Ski Road.

Cowans Hill starts from the Northern end of town and boasts stunning scenery like glacial features and tarns. This trail is just 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) and is classed as easy – intermediate. You can also walk both these trails so even trampers (what we call hikers in New Zealand) can enjoy them!

If you haven’t brought your bike with you, no problem! There are a few places in town where you can rent out bikes, including Bespoke Bike Tours and Outside Sports. Rental starts from around $30 NZD per day, however you can get some good deals for long-term rental too if you’re planning an epic bike adventure!

20. Visit Mount Cook National Park

Bailey on Lake Pukaki Lookout on Mount Cook road with the famous view of the winding road with Mount Cook in the background
The road to Mount Cook from Lake Tekapo is a gorgeous drive.
Bailey in the Muller Hut area stands on a rock with Mount Cook in the background
The Mueller Hut hike in Mount Cook is one of my favs!

The road from Tekapo to Mount Cook is worth the journey in itself. It’s a one-hour and 15-minute drive and is considered one of the most beautiful drives in the world.

On a clear day, this winding road reveals the majestic Mount Cook in the distance. The road follows the shoreline of Lake Pukaki and there are some great photo ops along this road. Just make sure to pull in safely if you wish to snap some photos.

Not only is Mount Cook the tallest mountain in New Zealand, but there’s so much to do here. There’s a huge variety of hikes in Mount Cook with my personal favorite being the Hooker Valley Track – which is 10 km (6.2 mi) return.

It’s an easy, flat track with stunning views of the Hooker Valley and Hooker River as well as three picturesque suspension bridges. Some other scenic and relatively short walks in Mount Cook include Sealy Tarns (4.5 km/2.8 mi return) and Tasman Glacier Lookout (1 km/0.6 mi return).

If you want a real adventure, consider hiking to the Mueller Hut and spending the night. In the summer, the hut must be booked in advance but in the winter it’s first come, first served. I will note that it is a technical climb in winter and crampons and an ice axe are required.

I hiked the trail in winter and had a fantastic time. You do have to be aware of weather conditions though and check the avalanche risk before you go.

If you’re an adventurer at heart like I am, this helicopter ride over Mount Cook is a must! This tour includes a landing on Tasman Glacier, and from the air, you’ll spot Mount Cook (how can you miss it!), as well as Franz Josef, and Fox Glacier. Tickets for this experience cost $337 NZD per person and with the tour lasting around 20 minutes in total, it’s a breeze to fit into any busy schedule.

In the small town of Mount Cook (Mount Cook Village), there are a number of restaurants and accommodation options, making it the ideal place to spend the night. For those with a larger budget, The Hermitage Hotel Mt Cook is beautiful. If you do stay here, get a room with a view, you won’t regret it! There are only six hotels in Mount Cook Village, so be sure to book in advance.

Where to Stay in Lake Tekapo

an outdoor pool with patio furniture and apartments around it at the Matra hotel in Lake Tekapo
This pool is perfect in the summer! Photo Credit: Mantra Lake Tekapo

When it comes to picking a place to stay in Lake Tekapo you really are spoiled for choice – if you book in advance that is. Lake Tekapo is another place in NZ where accommodation is hot property, especially in summer. For that reason, try to book as far in advance as you can!

Here are some of my favorite places to stay in Lake Tekapo:

Lakes Edge Lodge – $

One place I always love to stay is the Lakes Edge Lodge. It’s perfect for budget travelers, and it’s also conveniently located just a 3-minute drive from the town center. If you’re feeling hungry, they also have BBQ facilities – honestly, whipping up some tasty meals is one of the best ways to make new friends if you ask me!

There are also shared laundry services, perfect for if you’re combining multiple New Zealand South Island road trips. A bed in a dorm here starts at around $48 NZD per night. You can browse availability and reserve your bed here on Booking.com.

Mantra Lake Tekapo – $$

If you have a higher budget, then consider staying at the Mantra Lake Tekapo. The great reviews here really do speak for themselves – and these apartments also enjoy outdoor pool and hot tub access! With one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments available, this is a great option no matter the size of your group.

Apartments here start at around $284 NZD in the low season, but this does rise come high season! You can check which apartments are available and book your room online here.

The Mackenzie Suites – $$$

Just 600 meters (1,969 feet) from Lake Tekapo, The Mackenzie Suites offers luxurious accommodation options with stunning lakeside views. If you’re looking to splash out a little, or simply can’t get enough of those views, then these suites are well worth considering. Every luxury suite features a kitchenette, with many also offering balcony access as well as a fireplace to keep you warm and toasty in the winter.

Accommodation at the Mackenzie Suites starts at around $400 NZD per night in the low season, however this is a super popular place to stay, often booking out months in advance. For the best deals and dates, I recommend checking online and reserving your room early.

Holiday home rentals are also popular in Lake Tekapo and there are many you can choose from. Holiday homes are perfect for groups or families who all want to stay together.

Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand

Bailey stands in front of a right green JUCY campervan
JUCY is one of my favorite campervan rental companies (read below for a discount code!)
Bailey stands behind her Mad Campers campervan cooking in the kitchen at Piha Beach
I also really like Mad Campers!

Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!

You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:

  • Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
  • Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It’s what most budget travelers use for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping…and be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime! My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY because they have a huge selection of campervans to choose from, plus multiple pick-up/drop-off locations. You can browse JUCY’s campervan selection online here. Alternatively, you can easily compare all campervans available in NZ on Motorhome Republic here.

EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve managed to snag a discount code for 5% off for my readers if you book your campervan or motorhome through JUCY or Star RV! Simply click here to select your JUCY campervan, or click here to select your Star RV motorhome, and then use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off – it’s that easy!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey from My Queenstown Diary sits on a rock on her way to the Mueller Hut and smiles at the camera
Thanks for reading!

There’s certainly no shortage of amazing things to do in Lake Tekapo. From the lake to the sky, you’re spoiled for choice. It’s no wonder Lake Tekapo is such a bucket-list place to visit in NZ.

I certainly hope this guide helped inspire your upcoming trip. If it did, then you don’t have to say goodbye just yet. Stay and browse around I have many more in-depth blogs like these about Queenstown and other destinations around NZ! You will probably find my detailed guide about where to stay in Tekapo helpful too! Here are a few others to get you started:

7 Day Hikes on the Routeburn Track

17 Absolute BEST Things to do in Te Anau, New Zealand

One Week Queenstown Itinerary: How to Spend 7 Days in Queenstown

michael schecter

Sunday 10th of December 2023

Hi, we are a canadian family with 3 kids. we have rented a motorhome and are driving around the south island. your blogs are amazing and i am using them as a guide. we are starting dec 15th. i need to start figuring out where to park/stay each night. do you have any specific suggestions near lake tepako, queenstown, milford sound? thank you

Bailey

Sunday 17th of December 2023

Hey Michael,

Glad you like the blog!

A great way to find spots is to download Camper Mate. It has updated places to camp, freedom camp and even holiday parks to stay at.

Queenstown is very hard and you are best booking at one of the holiday parks in town. Otherwise you need to drive out of Queenstown and even then it's very limited.

For Milford Sound you can stay at any of these places on the road to Milford Sound - https://myqueenstowndiary.com/where-to-stay-milford-sound-hotels-campgrounds/

In Lake Tekapo, you can freedom camp anywhere outside the towns perimeter (there are maps in Lake Tekapo telling where that is.) I personally always stay at Lake Alexandrina Campground. It's only $10 per person per night.

Like I said above though, Campermate is the best option to find others as it has up to date reviews etc. The reason this is important is places are always moving and opening / closing due to new council regulations. So this will give you the best info and up to date.

I hope this helps

Bailey

Ranish

Thursday 30th of November 2023

Very insightful blogs. It really helped me plan better. Thanks a ton.

Luani

Tuesday 23rd of May 2023

Hi Bailey. When you said 1.5 hours for the fastest track for Mount John Summit Hike, was that return already? And how would you consider the track? Is it doable with us having a 1 yr old? Thanks

Bailey

Tuesday 23rd of May 2023

Hey Luani,

1.5 hours is the entire loop and that is allowing lots of time. I personally do it much quicker but I do a ton of hiking.

There is a decent elevation gain of around 400 meters. That's the only issue with having a 1 year old. I assume you have a baby carrier, so it all depends on your level of fitness and if you can carry your little one that long. If you consider yourself reasonably fit, you will be fine. Take your time, take breaks and enjoy the scenery.

I hope this helps Bailey

sharon

Saturday 29th of April 2023

Your blogs have been so insightful! I couldn't have planned my 14 day trip zig zagging through the south Island without your helpful and inspiring info. Your restarants picks are right on and your advise is top notch. I know I wont want to ever leave. A million thank you's. PS Dark Sky project is closed in October when we arrive on the 16th - any suggestions how to get to the top and star gaze outside, another tour...?