The drive from Queenstown to Lake Tekapo is beautiful. Being the nominated driver my eyes should have been firmly planted on the road but with spectacular scenery around every turn it’s hard to do so whilst navigating the winding contours of the road. I kept pulling over for that photo that I ‘Just can’t miss out on’, only to feel compelled to pull over yet again 10 minutes later. What should have taken 3.5 hours actually took us a lot longer due to my keen interest in photography and demands of my ‘photographic eye’, much to the chagrin of my partner and passenger.
The scenery here is different from other drives in New Zealand’s south island and as we passed through central Otago from dense forest lined roads, vistas morphed to streaming vineyards and wineries which were strategically placed in order to tempt even the most sober of drivers (I didn’t dabble I swear). The scenery opened up and what paved our journey for a large section of the drive until arriving at Lake Tekapo, were sweeping parched plains with dry tussock grass, flanked by colourful mountains that create a magnificent out-of-this-world backdrop.
There is no way around a long drive day – at the end of the day it just needs to be done and New Zealand as always delivered. Is there no end to the unparalleled beauty of this country!
Lake Tekapo Guide
Arriving to Lake Tekapo where we were only spending one night it was refreshing to see the town curving around the lake, a huge expanse of glaciated water with that deep rich turquoise hue that makes everything look like a Photoshop work space. The turquoise intensity of the lake is due to glacial dust particles suspended in the water, reflecting light. Hard to imagine why New Zealand is the setting for so many films, right?
We stayed at the Lake Tekapo Cottages which are just at the edge of town and tucked a short distance from the main highway down a quiet side street. We had our own self-contained weatherboard cottage surrounded by lupins, ferns and accompanied by a chorus of birds. Sitting out on the veranda with a glass of wine to the sound of nothing but birds with the late afternoon sun on bouncing off my legs is nothing short of paradise. Inside is a cooking area, double bed, separate bathroom and television. My only critique being that the mattress wasn’t great but apart from that I could have happily stayed a week. It’s attached to a family home and the owners could not have been nicer.
So what does one do at Lake Tekapo with a free afternoon when heading off first thing in the morning? Well, first up we visited the Church of the Good Shepherd, built in 1935 and only 3 minutes’ walk from the cottage. It is a tiny stone Church set on the edge of the lake which makes for dramatic pictures and sunset viewing. My advice is to arrive as early in the morning or close to sunset as possible to avoid the crowds.
The obvious thing to do when faced with such immense scenery is to hit the trails and strangely enough a trail which follows the contours of the lake and platforms the magnificence which is Lake Tekapo. Again we walked to a chorus of birds and as the views opened up I really felt like a tiny spec on God’s earth. I realise this may sound a little melodramatic but how do you really put these things into words? I know us bloggers like to over punctuate experiences and set the scene in the ‘best case scenario’ but sometimes it just happens naturally and when it does, can it really be put properly into words? I’m not sure.
The Mt John Observatory is not to be missed. There are night tours to guide you through the constellations and universe but at NZ$150 per person this was a bit rich for my blood. One thing I can say is at night the stars and milky way will appear anywhere due to the lack of light radiation so get outside with a bottle of wine, the essential bug spray and just look up. Whatever you do, make sure that you drive up to the observatory before 5pm when the gates are locked so you can benefit from the magnificent views across Lake Tekapo and surrounding mountains. It took my breath away, honestly it did and that isn’t just blogger spiel. The tussock grass-laden hills and land as far as the eye can see were parched yellow from a warm summer and stood in perfect contrast to the glaciated lake. There is a café on top to whet your pallet but make sure you head up for 4pm and spend an hour, it is well worth the trip and was probably my highlight if truth be told.
In the evening the Tekapo Springs are a great way to wind down after a long drive and as you ease into one of the spring fed, three temperature regulated pools and stare up at the pine trees it’s hard not to have a cheeky smirk of satisfaction. And there is an adults only pool!
Sometimes we travel all around the world before we find that heaven is actually in our own back yard. At least that’s what I found during my time at Lake Tekapo. Having travelled to over 90 countries and found my way home it’s as if I never left; yet have been gone too long. Ladies and gentlemen, this is called perfection!
Happy travelling folks.