A glacial lake on New Zealand’s South Island, Lake Tekapo is an adventurer’s playground by day—and a stargazer’s heaven at night. On a clear night, southern hemisphere constellations, plus the Milky Way and the southern lights, shine spectacularly in the UNESCO-listed Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. The Basics
Lake Tekapo’s stellar scenery is best visible from the Mount John University Observatory. Look skyward to see the Southern Cross, Milky Way, Magellanic Clouds, and southern lights (aurora australis). The area is not just for stargazers: The nearby stone-built Church of the Good Shepherd is also stunning, views of Mount John and the fields of purple lupines are lovely, and outdoor activities abound. If it gets too chilly, warm up at Tekapo Springs and enjoy fantastic views of land and sky while you soak.
Many small-group and private Mount Cook day tours from Christchurch include Lake Tekapo, the Church of the Good Shepherd, lunch, and hotel pickup and drop-off. Things to Know Before You Go
How to Get There
- Lake Tekapo is a must for outdoors lovers and stargazers.
- If walking or hiking the popular Summit Circuit Trek, wear sturdy shoes. And wear warm clothes in all seasons—it can get very cold at night.
- Bring your swimsuit for a soak at Tekapo Springs.
- Don’t forget your camera!
Lake Tekapo is a 3-hour drive from Christchurch, Dunedin, or Queenstown. Buses and shuttles regularly travel past the lake from several South Island locations.
When to Get There
Lake Tekapo’s personality changes seasonally. In summer (December to February/March), days are longer and average highs are around 68°F (20°C). In winter (May/June to August), the trees have shed their leaves and the surrounding mountains have snow; average nighttime lows are below 36°F (2°C). Skiing, ice skating, and alpine trekking happen until around mid-spring. Adventure Activities
There is a huge array of activities available around the lake. In addition to stargazing tours and hikes, there’s everything on offer from horse treks, kayaking, and biking in summer to skiing, snowboarding, and mountain trekking in winter. Don’t miss the geothermal Tekapo Springs, hot pools, and spas—especially when the temperature drops.