Built in 1935 as a memorial to the pioneers of Mackenzie County, the Church of the Good Shepherd is set on the scenic shores of Lake Tekapo, framed by snow-capped mountain peaks. In addition to being a popular tourist attraction, this heritage building continues to serve as a place of worship.
The church interior features a large altar window with views of the majestic Southern Alps. Personal photography is prohibited inside, but you don’t have to be a photographer to appreciate its picturesque qualities. The Church of the Good Shepherd is nondenominational; Catholic Mass and Protestant services are conducted here. However, access is usually given to tourists during opening hours. Many guided excursions from Christchurch stop here on their way to Queenstown or Mt. Cook.
Things to Know Before You Go
- While photography is not allowed inside the church, the landmark itself makes for a great photo op.
- Please respect the tranquility of the sacred site, especially when services are in progress.
- It is prohibited to climb the closed gates or wall to the church and grounds.
- The nearest public toilets are located on the village side of the footbridge.
- Outdoor walkways are generally wheelchair accessible, but there are steps to the narrow entryway.
- There is no fee to visit, but donations are welcome.
How to Get There
The Church of the Good Shepherd is located on Pioneer Drive at Lake Tekapo. Although there is a parking lot on-site, visitors are encouraged to park in Tekapo village on the other side of the footbridge, and walk to the church from there. Buses, shuttles, and private tour vehicles are available from Christchurch, often en route to nearby destinations.
When to Get There
The church is open in summer from 9am to 5pm, and in winter 10am–4pm. Docents are usually on hand during opening hours. Services are held regularly throughout the year. When funerals or weddings take place, the church is closed to the public, and gates are closed at dusk to protect the heritage area.
When the church was constructed, builders were given a very specific set of rules to follow. The site had to be undisturbed. No plants or rocks could be removed. All stones used to build the church walls had to come from within 5 miles (8 kilometers) of the construction site and could not be chipped or altered. Visitors can help protect the church’s historical integrity by keeping to designated pathways.