Things to Do in Tekapo for a Mindful Getaway
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Few spots on Earth can sweep you off your feet quite like Tekapo does. Picture this: A hypnotic turquoise lake cradled by the Southern Alps, where rugged beauty meets tranquil vibes. Despite its jaw-dropping landscape, this gem of a town keeps it humble with a local populace of around 500—a number that sees a bit of a spike when tourists swarm in during peak season.
Sounds like a dream, right? Trust me, it’s a reality, and there are a multitude of experiences to have in Tekapo to ensure you leave more rejuvenated than ever.
Between Pit Stops: Why Tekapo?
Tekapo isn’t just a pretty face on the travel brochure between Christchurch and Queenstown; it’s a legit go-to spot, and there’s a multitude of reasons why. Imagine soaking in jaw-dropping vistas, posing next to age-old buildings that scream ‘Instagram me!’, chilling in serene hot springs, or strolling down idyllic paths. Up for a little action? Kayak your heart out in the summer or get your ice-skate groove on when winter rolls around.
During a clear day, let your eyes feast on the glacial, turquoise waters set against New Zealand’s towering peaks. Come winter, the place turns into a snowy paradise, while summer splashes the shorelines with vibrant hues of wild lupins. And let’s not forget the nights. Ah, the nights! With skies so clear and dark, you’d feel like you’re walking through a blanket of stars.
How to Get There and Get Around
Located in the legendary Mackenzie District at the core of South Island, Tekapo is roughly a three-hour drive from either Christchurch, Dunedin, or Queenstown. Trust me, the ride is as scenic as they come, regardless of your starting point. Need a rental car to hire? Check out our friends at snap rentals with ahuge range, including ecofriendly options. Prefer kicking back in a bus seat? No worries!
From major South Island hubs, you can hop on coaches or buses like Intercity and Great Sights, or go for a more cozy ride with mini-bus services such as Atomic Shuttles, Cook Connection, Southern Link Coaches, and Wanaka Connexions.
Once you’re in Tekapo, getting around is a piece of cake. Most attractions are a pleasant walk away. If you’re itching to cover more ground, bike rentals are your best bet.
When Should You Go?
Honestly, there’s no bad time to make Tekapo your playground. Visit Lake Tekapo in summer, to witness the area buzzing with life, blooming wildflowers, and endless sunshine—perfect for taking a dip in that picture-postcard lake and rubbing elbows with locals on holiday mode.
If we had to pick, we’d say the sweet spot is between late spring (that’s November for ya) and early autumn (around March). This is when the climate is most inviting, and the iconic lupins make their grand appearance. But, don’t discount winter; it’s a magical time when snow-kissed peaks set the stage for a range of frosty fun. Plus, the clearer, darker nights make for epic stargazing.
One heads-up: If you’re gunning for some peace and quiet, steer clear of school holiday periods. They tend to crank up the demand for places to stay and things to do. So, if you’re all about that chill vibe, do yourself a favour and plan around those dates.
Where to stay
For a range of stay experiences, heres’ our handy stay finder –
Memorable Things to Do in Tekapo
Embarking on an adventure to Lake Tekapo in South Island, New Zealand isn’t just about ticking off a bucket list destination. Nah, it’s way more than that. It’s a journey through a captivating blend of natural beauty, adrenaline-pumping activities, and moments of zen that’ll stick with you for a lifetime.
You might have heard about scenic flights that offer bird’s-eye views or the famous Church of the Good Shepherd or taking photos by the iconic Mackenzie Sheepdog Statue, but let’s dive into some other, equally memorable yet soul-enriching things you can’t miss in Tekapo.
Hit The Slopes in Tekapo: Skiing or Snowboarding
For many, the words “mindful escape” might paint pictures of hushed meditation getaways or doing yoga on a hidden beach. But hey, don’t underestimate the pure zen that comes from diving deep into physical sports. Trust me, skiing or snowboarding can get you right there, in that mindful moment.
If you’re visiting Lake Tekapo from June to August, skilled skiers are in for a blast! Just a stone’s throw away are two bucket-list-worthy ski spots—Roundhill Ski Area and Mt. Dobson Ski Fields.
Over at Roundhill Ski Area, get ready for views that’ll take your breath away. I’m talking about vistas of Aoraki Mt. Cook and the Southern Alps that make you go, “Wow!” while you’re carving your way down. This is where you’ll find friends and families coming together, basking in the vibe, and savoring a day of pure, unfiltered joy.
Now, Mt. Dobson Ski Fields is a different beast altogether. Tucked away in the Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park, this place has the charm of a hidden treasure. Newbie to skiing or snowboarding? Relax, Mt. Dobson’s got your back. With sprawling learning zones and empty trails, it’s a cozy haven for both rookies and veterans.
Image credit: Elizabeth Pitcorn
Take a Lakeside Stroll Along the Lake Tekapo
When it comes to must-dos in Lake Tekapo, sometimes the simplest activities are the most rewarding. Ever considered a leisurely walk as your daily dose of mindfulness? Strolling along Lake Tekapo is like stepping into a dreamy tranquility you’d wish you could bottle up.
It’s more than just a walk—it’s a time for peace and reflection. Each step lets you soak up Earth’s beauty, while your mind gets a minute to just breathe and think things over.
Pay A Visit to Lake Tekapo Springs
And then there’s Lake Tekapo Springs—a must-do on your South Island adventure. Whether you’re winding down from an action-packed day or just recharging your batteries, this is where you gotta be. Nestled just a hop away from the beautiful Church of the Good Shepherd, this sweet spot boasts three large outdoor hot pools. Each pool’s got its own temp, perfectly dialing in your comfort zone.
But, what’s unique about these hot pools is the source—the water’s soft and ultra-clean, promising that you’ll step out feeling like a new you. Now, if you can aim for a sunset dip, you’re in for a show! Picture the sky setting itself on fire in hues of orange, pink, and gold, while you’re chilling in a hot pool and gazing at snow-topped mountains. Unreal, right?
Image credit: Tekapo Springs
Don’t Forget Stargazing!
But hold up, you haven’t really seen Lake Tekapo until you’ve checked out its stunning Dark Sky Reserve. This isn’t just another night sky, people. You’re looking at the Aoraki/Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve—the biggest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere!
When nighttime falls and the world’s lights dim, Lake Tekapo becomes your personal doorway to the heavens. The light pollution is almost non-existent here.
Stargazing here is kinda transformative. It’s like each twinkling star grabs a bit of your daily stress, leaving room for awe, imagination, and a night of good night’s sleep.
Image Credit: Rachel Gillespie
Best Spots to Stargaze in Lake Tekapo Regional Park
Perched at 1,029 meters, this vantage point offers panoramic views of the Mackenzie Basin and the twinkling cosmos. The Dark Sky Project here provides a riveting guided tour peppered with Maori astronomy tales. From planets and star clusters to galaxies, you’ll see it all.
Mount John Observatory options –
We talked about soaking in its hot pools, but did you know it’s also one of the best places to enjoy star gazing? Picture this: you, in a 37.5-degree Celsius hot pool, a velvet sky littered with stars above. Sounds dreamy, right?
Image Credit: Elizabeth Pitcorn
Tucked away along the Cowans Hill Walkway, Pines Beach is an under-the-radar stargazing gem. If you find yourself hiking around and the sky starts to darken, this is your cue to stick around.
Nestled in the Mackenzie Region, this pristine lake offers a tranquil backdrop for stargazing. The mountains circling the lake seem to hold the sky like a jewelled crown.
Image Credit: Rachel Gillespie
Hike the Mount John Summit
Why settle for just looking up at the sky when you can get closer? Enter the Mount John Summit Hike, your stairway to heavenly views, accessible from Tekapo township itself.
There are two routes to pick from. If time is ticking, opt for the Circuit Trail— a 1.5-hour trek through lush forests leading you straight to awe-inspiring 360-degree vistas. The other option is the Mount John Observatory via Lakeshore Trail, a 3-hour round trip filled with breathtaking scenery.
Either way, you reach the Mt John Observatory, and it’s a spiritual experience without any of the New Age jargon. You’re surrounded by the expansive Mackenzie Basin and the Lake Tekapo. The hiking process itself is like a tonic for the soul; each step you take relieves you of the invisible weight you carry. Fresh mountain air fills your lungs, and suddenly life’s worries seem insignificant.
Kayaking and Paddle-Boarding on Lake Tekapo
When sun rays grace Lake Tekapo with its warm embrace, there’s nothing quite like gliding across the water on a kayak or paddle board. You can easily rent kayaks and paddle boards near the shores of Lake Tekapo and get a quick briefing, so even beginners will feel comfortable venturing out.
Kayaking and paddle-boarding have a rhythm to them—a repetitive, almost meditative motion that blends seamlessly with the rustling of the water. Mix that with some fresh air and Lake Tekapo’s captivating scenery, and you’ll find a kind of solace that reaches far beyond mere physical activity. You’ll be nurturing your mind, body, and soul in one go.
Take A Dip and Explore Lake Tekapo
Ever fantasized about diving into water as icy as a glacier? Lake Tekapo’s got you covered. Its water sports a milky-turquoise tint that you’d struggle to spot anywhere else.
The moment your toes hit the water, you’re greeted by an electrifying coolness. Okay, it’s not your run-of-the-mill swim spot, but it delivers that zap you need to feel fully alive with a fantastic hit of dopamine.
Test Your Ice-Skating Skills at Lake Tekapo
When winter comes around, Lake Tekapo doesn’t just get chilly—it turns downright magical! And if you want to put your skating skills to the test, Tekapo Springs is your go-to spot.
They have an international-sized ice-skating rink that operates from April to September. You can have loads of fun enjoying ice skating, figure skating, ice discos, curling, and even a bit of ice hockey.
Image Credit: Tekapo Springs
Play A Round of Golf
Ah, golf—it’s a classic, right? Well, Tekapo offers you not one but two top-notch golf courses to soak in that classic vibe. First up, Cairns Golf Course—a cozy 9-hole course with an extra set of tees if you’re game for going the full 18.
But if you’re looking for a bit of a challenge with a sprinkle of wow factor, you should head to Mackenzie Golf Club. Why? It’s perched at a breathtaking 2,608 feet above sea level, making it the New Zealand’s highest mountain 9-hole course.
Image Credit: Hollie Woodhouse
Go Horseback Riding
What better way to soak up those drop-dead-gorgeous views of the lake and the Southern Alps than on horseback? Picture yourself trotting along scenic trails with Mackenzie Alpine Horse Trekking. Whether you’ve got a tight half-hour or a leisurely four hours to spare, they’ve got you covered. Experience level? Not an issue. With horses as friendly as they are fit, you’ll feel right at home, even if you’re a total newbie.
But hold your horses, it’s not just the ride that’s the kicker here. Ever heard the saying, ‘Horses are good for the soul’? Well, it’s spot on. These four-legged therapists have a knack for zapping away stress and sprinkling some good vibes onto your day. Be it riding, brushing their manes, or simply kicking back to watch them, it’s a session with nature.
Tours From Christchurch
Want to see the glory of Lake Tekapo, but a tour would be better for time and ease? No worries, we’ve got you covered –
- The ultimate tour of the Mackenzie basin, Lake Tekapo and Aoraki Mount Cook plus glaciers – scenic flight
- Full-Day Mount Cook National Park & Lake Tekapo Tour plus gourmet lunch
- A Small Group tour of Mount Cook, Lake Tekapo & Tasman Glacier
The Magic of Lake Tekapo and the Mackenzie Basin
And that’s the scoop—Tekapo is more than just picture-perfect scenery and a slew of activities. Forget the typical tourist to-do list; this is an open invite to lose and find yourself in the same breath, in a locale that’s as soulfully enriching as it is visually dazzling. So, what’s holding you back? Tekapo isn’t merely a dot on the map; it’s an unwritten chapter in your life’s journey, begging to be penned.
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