The annual Manju-family Christmas road trip around New Zealand has officially begun! First stop: Lake Tekapo 🇳🇿
As many of you know, I moved to New Zealand in November with nothing but 3 suitcases and a 2 year visa in hand. My Dad already lives out here though, so it made sense to hang around with him in Dunedin for a little while (free rent, eh?) before moving to Auckland to start work in January. My Mom has flown over for Christmas/New Year again too, so we’ve packed up the car (like we always do) and set off for a multi-city adventure around the South Island.
Lake Tekapo is a 4 hour drive away from Dunedin but we made a few stops along the way to eat lunch/stretch our legs a bit so it took us about 6 hours in total. Here’s a summary of what we got up to, for any of you that might be interested:
Where did we stay?
Peppers Bluewater Lodge
Right on the lakefront, this place was seriously ideal location-wise. We could see the lake from our balconies and all the main tourist spots were within walkable distance.The reason why I loved this place so much wasn’t just because of that though… It was mainly to do with the fact that it was the swankiest hotel suite I’ve ever had. I’m used to bagsying my own room (#onlychildprobz) but somehow I ended up with my own 2 story apartment! This was a new level of luxury for me, especially after 3 months of backpacking. I actually filmed a video of it because I was so excited:
Obviously, we didn’t spend much time in the hotel because we were always out exploring but it was still a real treat to wake up in that bed every morning! You will be missed, Peppers!
What did we do?
Obviously this lake is what draws so many tourists to Tekapo year after year. I can see why… it’s stunning. The water is bluer than anything I’ve ever witnessed before and it is surrounded by snowcapped mountains and fields of lupin/lupine flowers. It’s one of those rare places in the world that looks exactly like the professional pictures in travel brochures. Absolutely perfect.
Tekapo Village Centre
So, there really isn’t much going on in Tekapo. It’s a quiet, slow-moving town that lets it’s landscapes do the talking. It’s mainly a residential area but there is a small road with about 10 shops and restaurants. Amongst these was a supermarket for us to stock up on breakfast essentials, a travel agency to book tours/transport and a souvenir shop. Despite being so tiny, there was a restaurant called ‘The Godley’ with an entire vegan menu. Not just an option…. a MENU! Happy tummies all around.Mount John Hike
My Dad mentioned a hike that he wanted to do to the Mount John summit but didn’t know how difficult or how far it was… Useful, eh? We stumbled across it accidentally one day and decided to give it a go – completely unaware of what we were getting ourselves into. It turned out to be a 2 hour uphill trek on quite difficult terrain… 👍 I loved it, it was a challenge suited to my fitness level but my parents found it a bit tougher. They did it though, so props to them! None of us were prepared for the weather at the top of the mountain, however – there were gale force winds and it was so, so cold. Probably didn’t help that I was wearing a denim jacket and shorts.
I’ll admit… the windburn was worth it for the views! 360 degree scenes of Lake Tekapo and the surrounding mountain range – it was pretty breathtaking and so rewarding to see how far up we had hiked.
There is a cafe and an observatory at the top of the mountain. There are also some university buildings (can you imagine studying up there?!?!!) and a ton of picnic areas. I’m gonna throw this out there and say that this is THE must-do activity in Lake Tekapo. (For all you lazy bums out there, there is the option to drive up if you hate hiking and just want to see the view).
Tekapo Hot Springs
This was the perfect way to relax after our hike to the Mount John summit! The walking track is actually directly next to the hot springs, so it makes sense to do them both on the same day.
It’s not the cheapest activity – ranging from NZ$20-60 per adult depending on whether you just want to use the springs or if you want to add use of the sauna/waterslides/spa onto your ticket. Your ticket is valid all day, so you’re free to use the facilities in the morning, leave for lunch/to do a hike and then return in the evening for more pampering.
The giant inflatable waterslides did look ridiculously tempting (pretty sure I’d have chosen this option if I was still travelling with Alice and Abbie) but we decided to opt for the ‘Hot Springs + Sauna and Steam’ package because that was more family-friendly.
There are 5 different pools that vary in temperature – from roughly 24 to 38 degrees celcius. They’re really clean, the atmosphere is calm and the lake and the mountains make for an incredible backdrop. We spent hours here and I would highly reccommend it to anyone! Backpackers, families, couples – there’s something to please everyone.
Watching the sunsets/Stargazing
I know you can see amazing sunsets all over the world but they are extra magical here. The sun actually sets on the opposite side of Lake Tekapo but the skies transform beautifully no matter where you are – one day it’ll be burning orange, other days you’ll see dark purple undertones and sometimes there’ll just be a few pastely pinks and blues swirling amongst the clouds. We spent most evenings down by the lake but one day we decided to go for a drive and pull up somewhere a bit more remote. There are no cars on the roads at this time and I’d like to think this is because everyone’s too busy watching the sunset to be driving. My skateboard was lying around in the boot of the car so I made the most of the empty roads, whilst my ‘rents watched the sun go down in a field of flowers. It was literally as picture-perfect as it sounds…
We think it would be amazing to watch the sunset from the Mt John observatory but obviously they’ve capitalised on that idea and close the vehicle gates at 6pm – meaning you have no choice but to pay an obscene amount of money for a ‘guided experience’. I reckon if you hiked up the walking track at about 5pm and were prepared to wait it out until sunset you’d be able to avoid paying. The only problems with that are 1) having to do a ton of walking and 2) having to do half of that ton of walking in the pitch black afterwards…
There is no light pollution in Tekapo, so it’s an incredible place to stargaze. You can stand pretty much anywhere after 10pm and just look up – you don’t need to pay for one of the fancy tours. My favourite spot is down by the lake, where you can see the moon’s reflection on the water and the faint outline of the mountain backdrop amongst hundreds of twinkling stars. Sadly, I haven’t got the camera equipment to capture the night skies here – I wish there was a way to share what I could see with you guys! You’ll just have to use your imagination. (Or just come and visit me…. 😁)
We were lucky to have such good weather while we were in Tekapo – a bit of wind, sure, but it’s hard to complain when the sun is permanently shining! We also drove to Mount Cook National Park for the day, which I think I’ll write about in a separate post…
Thanks for reading, guys! I hope your build-ups to Christmas are equally as exciting no matter where you are in the world ✌️❤️