Eye popping views of the Southern Alps.
Dramatic green hills in the distance.
If you want some of the best the South Island of New Zealand has to offer, book a trip to Lake Tekapo.
Or rent a car and drive their yourself. Easy enough to do.
Or house sit, and graciously accept the invite to use the homeowner’s car. As Kelli and I did.
After spending a delightful day at Lake Tekapo recently I want to share how to best prep for your trip.
How to Prepare for a Day at Lake Tekapo
Lake Tekapo sits in a remote region of the South Island, about 1 hour from the city of Timaru.
We visited during mid fall, meaning temperatures in the 60s, ample sunshine and crystal clear skies much of the time.
- book a tour through an operator in Timaru
- rent a car
- house sit and use the homeowner’s car (rarest but super duper viable option)
We cruised through the 1 hour 15 minute trip in a small, fuel efficient little number. Easy driving, the majority of which is Route 8 out of Timaru. Be alert; the road winds a bit. Some hilly driving required.
I fueled up in Timaru but ample gas stations dot the journey. We burned a 1/4 tank of gas for the entire trip in a fuel efficient vehicle.
Have your camera ready. Half way through the trek you will enjoy eye-popping views of the Southern Alps.
What to Bring
Pack yourself a little picnic to enjoy a lake side view of the surrounding mountains, Southern Alps a darn cute little town.
Kelli and I enjoyed apples, bananas, crackers and bottled water to pass some time while refueling. Slather on sunscreen pre-trip. Carry it along too. Deceiving cooler temps do not mask the pollution-free, uber high UV rays accompanying the ample sunshine in the region. Minus the pine forest beside one side of the lake you’ve no cover from the sun.
Consider wearing a hat. Protect your shoulders too.
No admission fee is required but bring along cash for snacks or other goodies.
What to Do
Stroll by the lake for a bit of cardio and a bunch of mind-boggling views. While most tourists gravitate toward the church I found that scene to be a bit lame compared to the lake side experience.
We parked our car in Lake Tekapo Regional Park and enjoyed a tiny picnic at the table set up beside the water. After taking a stroll by the lake – and 15 eye-popping pictures later – we wandered toward the other end of the water, by the Church of the Good Shepherd. I do appreciate the gorgeous online pictures but the in person experience is a wee bit different. Namely, the photographs online are snapped from a high vantage point to include the church in the image.
The church is also overrun with tourists. I too am a tourist yet prefer the 4 fellow tourists and 5 locals on the other side of Lake Tekapo versus the 100 plus tourists snapping selfies and chatting loudly by the church.
The verdict: skip the church, and simply snap shots from the park and from a higher vantage point, right when you first cruise into town from the East.
Stick around until night time if you want to visit the University of Canterbury Saint John Observatory. Check the forecast though to ensure you have a clear night. This is one of the best places on earth to enjoy a starry evening, and certainly the best spot in New Zealand for star-gazing.
We are house sitting at a ranch in Timaru. I advise you find yourself a rocking house sit in the area.
But hotels, motels and apartments can be had in Tiramu, the surrounding area or in Lake Tekapo itself. Note; most motels I saw in Tekapo were filled when I visited the lake. Consider booking weeks in advance as this is one of the most popular tourist spots on the South Island and in New Zealand.
Other Places to Visit in the Area
If you’re traveling on a tight schedule and want to see as many places as possible visit Mount Cook about 1 hour to the north west of Lake Tekapo.
Twizel – aka Gondor for Lord of the Rings fans – is not too far up the road. Definitely worth a visit for more eye-popping scenery.
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