5 Experiences You Can’t Miss in Lake Tekapo New Zealand

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo is one of the most beautiful and unique towns to visit on the South Island of New Zealand! Travelers come from all over the world to not only take in the icy blue water and mountains, but to see the stunning wildflowers. We went to Lake Tekapo in late spring and had the perfect trip filled with lupins, stargazing, and much more. Here’s 5 of our favorite things to do in Lake Tekapo!

Our Road Trip to Lake Tekapo

Our journey to Lake Tekapo actually started from another popular New Zealand destination. After picking up our van in Queenstown we traveled though the Central Otago wine region, freedom camped overlooking the Southern Alps, and hiked our way through Mount Cook National Park.

The route leaving Mount Cook to Lake Tekapo is absolutely gorgeous. We traveled around the lake and cruised through the countryside, taking in all the jaw dropping mountain peaks.

It was only on the way into Lake Tekapo New Zealand that we got our first look at the famous lupins. The blooming flowers lined the road, and we could feel the full excitement of spring in the air!

→ South Island New Zealand Itinerary: 4 Amazing One Week Routes

Lake Tekapo in New Zealand

5 Best Things to do in Lake Tekapo New Zealand

1. Search for the Lake Tekapo Lupins

Now we will let you in on a not-so-little secret… We found the BEST parking spot in Lake Tekapo! After visiting the small lake side town twice it has become our favorite place to pull over in our van, pop out our chairs, and enjoy the beauty of this special town.

This area also happens to be where a massive grouping of Lake Tekapo lupins bloom every year. If you’re coming to see the Lake Tekapo lupins you’ll have to time it correctly as they only appear for one month in late November.

This magical plant is technically a wheat, but it certainly is gorgeous enough to compete with any wildflower! People travel from all over to see the purple, pink, and orange colors bloom around Lake Tekapo. 

Lake Tekapo Lupins Location & Lakeside Van Spot

Lake Tekapo Lupins

2. Visit the Church of the Good Shepherd

Just across from where we parked and spent the afternoon is the Church of the Good Shepherd. Unfortunately, the church is often packed from morning to night with tourists.

For that reason, the best view in our opinion is actually right across the river. From our chairs we had an amazing view of the historic building and were setup perfectly for stargazing above Lake Tekapo at night!

Just a quick 10 minute walk over the bridge and you can leave a small donation to explore the church. Its history is quite fascinating as it was built in 1935 as an ode to the first settlers. It is easily the most famous church in New Zealand, and also one of the most photographed places in the country.

Lake Tekapo Church

3. Stargaze at the Mt John Observatory

Another one of the best things to do in Lake Tekapo New Zealand is to go stargazing. After an afternoon hiking and enjoying views of the lake we couldn’t wait to see the stars! Once it got dark we couldn’t believe our eyes as the sky lit up. Honestly, the only other time we’ve seen the stars so clearly was on our trip to the Bolivian Salt Flats.

We visited the Mount John Observatory during the day where you can pay a small fee to drive up the steep mountainside. At night there’s a Lake Tekapo stargazing cafe, and even tours to get the whole experience.

In addition to having a clear night, it’s also smart to visit when there is limited moonlight to maximize your vision. It’s easy to see how this would be known as a top place in the world for stargazing! 

Mt John Observatory

4. Spend the Morning on Lake Tekapo

The second time we visited Lake Tekapo was in summertime and we had a campervan rental! Even though you’re not allowed to park overnight on the lake, the freedom camping site is just minutes away. There’s also a great paid campsite steps from the water.

That means we woke up as soon as it was light, and were the first to set up our chairs right on Lake Tekapo. We had picked up some local salmon the day before so we enjoyed a very delicious breakfast. What a magical morning on the lake and once place we will truly never forget!

Lake Tekapo Camping

New Zealand Lake Tekapo

Things to do in Lake Tekapo

5. Take a Tekapo Polar Plunge (If You Dare!)

Well this is one of those things to do in Lake Tekapo that we had to do… It was time to jump right in! It may not sound like anything crazy, but the water gets its light blue color from being a glacier lake.

Yes, this means the water is freezing cold year round! You can only stay in for a few minutes and we were even told that you can get hypothermia in the summer swimming here. This was quite the way to end our time in Lake Tekapo!

→ 10 Easy & Helpful Tips For Traveling in New Zealand

Lake Tekapo Water

Have any questions about this article or want to share your own favorite things to do in Lake Tekapo New Zealand? Let us know in the comments below!

Safe Travels,
Brigitte & Jake

Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar

Where To Stay In Tekapo New Zealand

Ultra Luxury – Lake Tekapo Lodge – Not far from the village center is the beautiful Tekapo Lodge. Enjoy the stunning lake and mountain views from your heated room, with fresh cooked breakfast every day.

Fun VacationThe Mackenzie Suites –  The Mackenzie Suites are another luxurious option near town. Each room comes with a gorgeous terrace view, full kitchen, and everything else you’ll need to enjoy your stay. 

Hostel Life – YHA Lake Tekapo – The YHA in Lake Tekapo isn’t your average hostel! The property features a bar, restaurant, shared lounge and even a barbecue area for grilling. This is the perfect spot to take on all the great adventure activities from. 

For more places to stay around Lake Tekapo New Zealand you can explore the latest prices here!



New Zealand Travel Planning 

Jucy Van: The best way to explore New Zealand is with a Jucy camper! We spent over six weeks driving around the North and South Islands in a van and loved every moment.

 Rental Car: If you’re not renting a van you’ll still need a vehicle to get around. We use Discover Cars when traveling and enjoy having the freedom to get around.

 Flights: It’s easy to find cheap flight deals using Skyscanner and Kayak. That’s how we got flights from Auckland to Queenstown for $40 USD, and New Zealand to Fiji for less than $150! 

 Accommodation: Compare multiple sites for the best deal such as Booking.com and Agoda! Also,  Hostelworld should be your go-to source if you’re traveling on a budget. 

 Tours: Check out Get Your Guide to find activities all over New Zealand! They have everything from a Milford Sound cruise with underwater observatory, to a Otago wine tour with gourmet wine & lunch, and even a Kaikoura whale watching cruise

 Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered. We’ve been using SafetyWing for insurance the last few years and they are always there when we need them.

 Packing Lists: Find all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including our electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials

South Island New Zealand

Travel Tips & Guides:  10 Helpful NZ Travel TipsNorth Island Itinerary25 Beautiful BeachesWellington to Picton Ferry15 Freedom Camping Tips27 Delicious Food & Drinks7 Milford Sound Tips

Queenstown: Ben Lomond TrackFergburger (Is it Worth It?)Tiki Trail HikeQueenstown Hill Hike18 Fun Queenstown Things to DoQueenstown RestaurantsArrowtown NZ

North Coast: Abel Tasman Day HikeWharariki Beach & Archway Islands6 Picton Things to Do 

East Coast: Banks PeninsulaFrench Town of AkaroaTunnel Beach DunedinHanmer SpringsKaikoura

Mt. Cook: Hooker Valley Track

Explore all our North Island New Zealand Travel Tips & Guides

South Island New Zealand

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