10 Best Things to Do in Lake Tekapo


The Must-Dos in Lake Tekapo!

Lake Tekapo is on almost everybody’s New Zealand bucket list. Many of New Zealand’s most stunning photos come out of Lake Tekapo, but after you’ve taken that photo of the vibrant blue lake and mountains, what do you do next? Well, in this list, we’ll suggest 10 awesome things to do in Lake Tekapo!

After you’ve gone through this list featuring scenic flights, a hot pool, ski areas, hikes, bike trails and more, you’ll realise that you’ll definitely want to book a few nights to make the most out of Lake Tekapo. Plus, if you still need more information, then head on over to our Lake Tekapo destination category. Now let’s go over our list of the must-dos in Tekapo.

1. Stargaze in a Dark Sky Reserve

Yep, Lake Tekapo is literally one of the best places in the world for stargazing. It’s part of the Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve which means it is recognised on an international scale for its pristine stargazing conditions. You can enjoy the stars by simply hopping into your car, getting out of town, finding a safe place to pull over, and stargazing away from artificial lights. Alternatively, join a tour to the Mt John Observatory with Dark Sky Project where you can use state-of-the-art telescopes to see galaxies like you’ve never seen before or combined your stargazing with hot pools on the Tekapo Springs Stargazing Tour. Find out more about the latter tour on Viator and Tripadvisor. For other awesome places to stargaze in New Zealand, see the 5 Best Stargazing Sites in New Zealand.

Location: Dark Sky Project – 1 Motuariki Lane. Tekapo Springs – 6 Lakeside Drive, Tekapo township.©

2. Get an Obligatory Photo with the Church of the Good Shepherd

Next on our list of the best things to do in Tekapo is a photo-op. The Church of the Good Shepherd is one of the most photographed buildings in New Zealand. That’s likely because it’s impossible to take a bad photo of this quaint church with the stunning backdrop of Lake Tekapo and the Southern Alps. Work on your people-deleting Photoshop skills though, because there’s a whole bunch of people wanting to take a photo at the same time as you!

Location: On Pioneer Drive on the eastern side of the road bridge.©

3. Frolic in Fields of Lupins

Apart from stargazing and its brilliant blue lake, Lake Tekapo is also famous for its shores and riverbanks of lupins. See the lupins bloom their purple and pink flowers during the summer season (usually late November to February) and get a ridiculous amount of photos of them! Wise up on your lupin knowledge with Where to Find Lupins in New Zealand.

Location: Along the shores of Lake Tekapo.©

4. Take a Scenic Flight Over the Southern Alps

That’s right, from Lake Tekapo Airport you can take scenic flights not only over Lake Tekapo itself but all the way to the Southern Alps. Fly around New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki Mt Cook, and see a whole lot of glaciers, glacier lakes, braided rivers and generally mind-blowing scenery. A favourite amongst all the Lake Tekapo activities. Tours are available with Air Safaris.

Location: Lake Tekapo Airport, approximately 3km (1.8 miles) from Tekapo township.©

5. Hike Up Mt John

If you’re visiting Lake Tekapo on the cheap, then don’t worry! There are a few walks to catch some great scenery while saving the cents. Walk up to Mt John on the Mt John Summit Circuit, where you’ll venture up through pine forest and out onto the open tussock fields. You’ll capture views of Lake Tekapo and the Southern Alps on this 1h30mins to 3-hour walk.

Location: Start the walk from next to Tekapo Springs, Lakeside Drive, approximately 3km (1.8 miles) from Tekapo township.

Jun on Wikipedia© Jun on Wikipedia

6. Relax in Some Hot Pools

Unwind at the Tekapo Springs hot pool complex with three large hot pools varying in temperatures and overlooking Lake Tekapo. In winter, the complex also features ice skating, while summertime means jumping on the giant water slide. This makes it one of the most popular Lake Tekapo activities in summer so book early.

Location: Lakeside Drive, approximately 3km (1.8 miles) from Tekapo township.©

7. Give the Dog Statue Some Attention

Another great photo-op on our list of the best things to do in Lake Tekapo is a dog! Standing in the shadow of the Church of the Good Shepherd, many tourists forget to give the dog monument the attention it craves. The Mackenzie sheepdog statue is a monument to the first permanent settler of the area, James Mackenzie and his dog, Friday.

Location: Next to the Church of the Good Shepherd on Pioneer Drive.©

8. Hike or Bike the Cowans Hill Walkway

If you can’t get enough of those Tekapo views, then there’s one last place to lap it all up. Take the Cowans Hill Walkway through exotic forest and up to tussock-covered hills. There are a few wetland areas to watch the birds. You can either hike or bike this trail which takes about an hour to complete one way. For bikers, it’s a grade 2 trail.

Location: The track is well signposted near the Tekapo road bridge, just outside of the Tekapo township.

pxhere© pxhere

9. Go Skiing or Snowboarding

One of the best things to do in Lake Tekapo is to hit the slopes. Lake Tekapo is home to not one but two ski fields! During the winter months (June to August) the Roundhill Ski Area and Mt Dobson Ski Fields crank on the tow bars and become a skiers’ paradise. Find out more in The 24 Ski Fields in New Zealand

Location: Roundhill is 32km (20 miles) from Tekapo on the eastern side of the lake. Mt Dobson is 43km (27 miles) from Tekapo with the alpine access road starting 18km (11 miles) east of Tekapo.

Pseudopanax at English Wikipedia© Pseudopanax at English Wikipedia

10. Do a Scenic Jet Boat Ride

Mix one of New Zealand’s most popular and thrilling ways to travel with the breathtaking scenery of Lake Tekapo. Tekapo Jet gives you the chance to get onto the glacial blue waters of Lake Tekapo itself stopping at highlights such as Moutariki Island and the Church of the Good Shepherd. Your guide will also give you insights into the local Maori legends and fascinating geography of the area. Find out more about Tekapo Jet on Viator and Tripadvisor.

Location: Tekapo Jet Booking Office, State Highway 8 (west side of the road bridge).

Tekapo Jet© Tekapo Jet

More Things to Do Near Lake Tekapo

That’s it for the best things to do in Lake Tekapo. Find more activities for your travels in the 51 Best Things to Do in the South Island.


Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in New Zealand over 10 years ago and with a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to travel New Zealand. She knows Aotearoa inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience New Zealand’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides and is the co-host of NZ Pocket Guide’s live New Zealand travel Q&As on YouTube.

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