Lake Tekapo

There are head-turning locations and then there are simply jaw-dropping locations… take Haka House Lake Tekapo, standing mere steps away from the shore of the legendary ice-blue lake from which it takes its name… and a legend in its own right among the hostels in Lake Tekapo.

Around three hours’ drive southwest of Christchurch and just over an hour southeast of Aoraki Mount Cook Village, in the Mackenzie Basin, Lake Tekapo is famous for its incredible turquoise-coloured water that contrasts so beautifully with the pastel green and brown of the surrounding landscape, and the dramatic backdrop of the majestic Southern Alps mountains.

The lake gets its mesmerizing colour from the fine rock-flour, ground by glaciers, suspended in the water. It really is a challenge not to fill an entire SD card with photo after photo of this breathtaking location. Even more so, considering that just a short distance along the lake shoreline from Haka House Lake Tekapo stands one of the most iconic churches in Australasia, perhaps the southern hemisphere.

The Church of the Good Shepherd was built in 1935 for the pioneering families of the Mackenzie district, and today is a must-visit spot for visitors the world over with the beauty of the building and surrounding landscape making for unforgettable photos.

Activities-wise, there’s a great choice of things to do in Lake Tekapo. In and around the friendly Tekapo backpackers lakefront lodge that is Haka House Lake Tekapo – with its choice of private and shared room accommodation and facilities that include a fully equipped kitchen, dining room, living room, movie room, outdoor terrace and award-winning burger joint 25 Degrees – there are awesome activities to enjoy, on the ground, in the air and on the water.
A few minutes’ drive from Haka House Lake Tekapo, the lakefront hostel in Lake Tekapo for those in the know, is the Tekapo Springs complex offering hot pools, a glacial day spa, steam sauna, mini golf, kids aqua play area and – depending on the season – a 150 m water slide or snow tube slope. During the winter months, the complex boasts an ice-skating rink offering hockey games, figure skating and curling.

Also minutes’ away is The Cairns Alpine Resort petting zoo, great for those with kids who’ll love getting up close with the resident cows, sheep and alpacas. Mackenzie Alpine Horses, meanwhile, offers horse treks through the surrounding countryside ranging from a half hour for children and beginners to several hours for the more adventurous.

One of the other main Lake Tekapo activities on offer is skiing and other snow sports, perfect for adrenaline lovers. Within an hour’s drive are the Mount Dobson and Roundhill ski areas, which operate between July and October (September for Roundhill). Remote backcountry skiing and snowboarding in the Two Thumb Range is also possible July to September, as is snowshoeing in the Southern Alps from June to September.

While Lake Tekapo is picturesque and full of fun during the day, it’s stunning and awe-inspiring at night. The town is blessed with a unique location within the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. Known for its clear nights and lack of light pollution, it’s a fantastic spot for gazing beyond the Earth into star-studded evening skies that never fail to amaze.

This can be done alongside the lakefront, just a short stroll from Haka House Lake Tekapo, not forgetting a blanket and a hot drink of course. There are also various guided tour options available, some that will have you stargazing from local observatories, others from open farmland, and others from a floating hammock in a hot pool (yes, you read that right!).

Best seen between April and September, Lake Tekapo is also one of the top spots in New Zealand from which to view the spectacular Southern Lights, a spellbinding spectacle of colours which – just like their name suggests – are the southern hemisphere’s equivalent of the Northern Lights.