Our research is editorially independent but we may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Lake Tekapo is a nature lover’s haven, whether it be the allure of the scenery in December or white powder which dusts the trees in June, intensifying the blue hues of the glacial waters. Residing on the South Island, New Zealand’s top natural wonder sits within the beloved surroundings of Mackenzie Country. With sweeping views of the Southern Alps, this destination is enhanced further by a striking night sky, extensive hiking trails, intriguing bike routes and scenic hilltops. There’s always a reason to be outside, even in the winter, in which you’ll find skiing and ice skating. Read on to discover more nature-focused experiences near one of New Zealand’s prettiest locations.
There’s so much to be seen beyond the roads that surround the electric blue lake, so much, in fact, it would be impossible to do it all on foot. Thank goodness for four-wheel drive Jeeps, that will take passengers over rugged hills and exciting terrain. It’s not all adrenaline, as there will be stops at high country farms to greet the horses and sheep.
Mount John Summit Circuit Track is a hiking route that grazes by the lake and reaches amazing heights for incredible views of Mackenzie Basin. Hiking can be a rewarding challenge, but there’s a drivable road to the top as well, where you can visit Mount John Observatory. A little cafe offers coffee and really good, rich hot chocolate. So however you decide to reach the top, it’s a must spot to see the surroundings.
Mackenzie Country houses gorgeous mountains, a rainbow of foliage and serene forests. Mackenzie Alpine Horse Trekking takes guests on scenic trots atop their beloved horses, through the natural wonderland. Different options are available, from winding amongst pines, or around Mount John’s base. Each stop is a breathtaking photo op, with picturesque backgrounds and majestic animals.
Whether renting and going solo or booking a tour, traveling the surrounding lake roads via bike is a sustainable way to explore its beauty. Bespoke Bike Tours can provide everything one needs for a successful cycling trip through the area, including pick up from your endpoint to jelly beans and water. The owners are amazing and are happy to provide info on the area.
From the Milky Way to brightly displayed constellations, Lake Tekapo is Home to the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve and is well known for being a top destination for viewing the stars. Appropriately named, Tekapo Stargazing uses storytelling and visual aids to round out a night sky tour like you have never experienced. Myths and legends enhance the engagement, and astronomy enthusiasts can enjoy gazing from hot springs as well.
That brings us to our next natural experience—hot spring soaking at Tekapo Springs. While the pools are not geothermally heated, the pristine water is sourced, naturally, from underground. The water is untainted and virtually flawless, as are the views of the lake and mountains. Tekapo Springs offers more recreational experiences too, like waterslides, cool pools and a bouncy obstacle course. There is also a decent selection of great things to eat on site. It’s a place where one could spend an entire day or several.
Roundhill Ski Area is locally owned and operated, so the atmosphere is certainly close-knit and family-oriented. While skiing is a ton of fun, the hills offer some of the best lake and mountain glimpses —just don’t get distracted! Roundhill is excellent for beginners, with its gentle sloping ski field and easy to use rope lifts (although record-breaking in length). So if you’re looking to learn, Lake Tekapo awaits.
Being near such an impressive body of water, it’s presumed one would want to get up close. At Pines Beach, the land gradually meets the glacial lake, and trees pierce through the water dramatically. Folks come here to browse the trail, kayak, have a picnic or even take a chilly dip. The park is peaceful, and little ducks may march by. Whether in the height of the summer or after a winter snowfall, Pines Beach is a phenomenal way to experience the natural surroundings of Lake Tekapo.