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Make Lake Tekapo a ‘must do’ in the South Island

Destinations

Lake Tekapo covers a massive 83km2 and sits at the heart of the Mackenzie District on New Zealand’s South Island. The lake is known for its turquoise appearance, which occurs due to finely ground rock in the water. It’s a popular area for tourists for many reasons but the weather is definitely a draw. Lake Tekapo is protected from cold winds by mountainous regions to each side and the average sunshine hours are longer than most in the country. The landscape is certainly one of a kind – witnessing stunning snowy mountains reflected off the top of turquoise water is a sight to behold.

Things to do in Tekapo

The activities in the area are just as fascinating and varied as the scenery. In fact, there’s not much the adventurous can’t do at Lake Tekapo. One of the most adrenaline pumping of all of them is heli-skiing, where a helicopter flies you up to the top of the mountain and you ski right back down again! Don’t be fooled by thinking this is just for the experts, people at intermediate level get involved too. Heliski Tekapo is the company to use as they have several options available for different experience levels. Of all the activities that you can get involved with across the country, heliskiing is definitely one of the most memorable.

Image of a snowboarder carving up the snow on the ski fields above Queenstown New Zealand

Water activities

If you prefer to keep your thrills on the water you’ll be pleased to hear that not only can you jet boat across Lake Tekapo but you can do it in a vintage vehicle! The owners of The Original Jet Boat offer rides on their restored Hamilton jet boat. The views of the landscape while speeding across the water are not to be missed. It is one of the most spectacular ways to see the area.

Another great way to take in the views from the water is by going on a cruise. Cruise Tekapo offers four options to suit your time frame and interests. Cruise Tekapo may not be as fast as a Hamilton Jet Boat but it’s certainly a more relaxed way of spending an afternoon. Cruise times range from just 25 minutes to 1.5 hours – if you’re a fishing fanatic then don’t worry, you’re catered for too – fishing trips can be organised by arrangement.

Hot Springs

After a day adventuring around the area head to Lake John, specifically to Alice Springs and take a dip in the hot pools. They close at 9pm so it’s the perfect way to relax while the sun sets. This is what is so loved about Lake Tekapo – not only are you in a place of incredible beauty but you have all the adventure and relaxation you need at your fingertips.

Where to stay in Lake Tekapo

Field of lupin wildflowers on the shore of lake Tekapo in New Zealand

Field of lupin wildflowers on the shore of lake Tekapo in New Zealand

There are a wide range of accommodation options in the Tekapo area from motels and resorts to the humble (or not so humble in some cases!) Kiwi bach. It’s also a great place for backpackers to head across all seasons with a wide range of activities and some good accommodation options.

Getting there and away

Lake Tekapo is approximately 3 hours’ drive from Christchurch and a similar distance from Queenstown, making it a great place to stop off if you are traveling between the two cities. Use our Trip Planner tool to plan out your road trip itineraries – many of our South Island adventures includes stop offs in Tekapo and it is well worth allocating a day here if your schedule allows.

GO Play activities in this area

  • 10% Off

    Helicopter Scenic Flight

    Fly around Mt Cook and see the unbelievable scenery that unfolds from the top of New Zealand’s highest peak. Combine this with landing on the Tasman Glacier and experiencing the "natural silence" of this very special place with so much to offer. You’ll find hanging glaciers, rivers of ice and views of the incredible West Coast and Tasman Sea, then fly over calved icebergs on your return flight. It doesn’t get any better than this!

    Departs Makarora near Wanaka. Tel : 0800 345 666

  • 5% Off

    Scenic Flight

    Experience a touch of adventure with Mount Cook Ski Planes. Join them on a spectacular Ski Plane or Helicopter flight in Mt Cook and Westland National Parks. You will then fly across the Main Divide of the Southern Alps to view the sweeping coastline and stunning alpine vistas of the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. Experience the thrill of a Ski Plane glacier landing with 10-15 minutes on the snow to enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Southern Alps.

    Mount Cook Airport. Tel : 03 435 1460