We went on a 10-day vacation last December. Not including the time when we went home for our wedding, this was the first time I flew out of Auckland. I was really excited then. We were supposed to do a South Island tour but decided to just visit Lake Tekapo and Queenstown. We can always go back anyway.
Lake Tekapo is about three hours away from Queenstown. It took us around four hours via Intercity bus including a few stopovers. We booked the 8am trip from Queenstown and got there by 12nn, we paid $80/person return. We spent three days in Lake Tekapo and we were able to do quite a lot.
The trip was a visual feast. The sceneries were amazing even from the bus. TIP: Sit at the left side to enjoy the unobstructed view.
When we got to Lake Tekapo, we went immediately to our hostel, YHA Lake Tekapo. We chose this because of the location and the amazing view from the lounge. We booked the twin room because it was the cheaper option when we booked. It has two single beds and a private bathroom. The room has no air conditioning but it was fine. We borrowed an electric fan, just in case we needed it! The hostel has communal lounge and dining area. They also have laundry service and luggage storage.
Church of the Good Shepherd
After we had lunch, we went directly to the Church of the Good Shepherd which is only a few minutes walk away from the hostel. It gives off an intimate vibe and would really make a great wedding location. It has a magnificent view as it’s situated on the shores of Lake Tekapo. We also spotted some lupins which really look good in photos but currently pose a risk to the native ecosystem. Pretty, but these are weeds!
We were supposed to go up the Mt John Observatory but decided against it because we were already pretty tired then. We went to Tekapo Springs instead which is just beside the entrance going to Mt John Walkway. Well, Tekapo Springs offers hot pools, sauna and stargazing activities. We didn’t do any of those but went instead to their bar and cafe, Altitude 720 Cafe, for the ice-creamed coffee.
Dark Sky Project
We went in to the Dark Sky Project in front of the Lake Tekapo but the diner was still closed then. The husband bought a nice sweater from them.
Mt John Walkway
We wanted to visit the Astro Cafe but it was still closed. It was right around the Mt John Observatory. We still went the following day because of the 360 degrees view of the Mackenzie basin from the summit. It was quite a struggle for us because there were few steep bits. It took us more than two hours to reach the observatory with constant stops to rest along the way. We should start to exercise again, I know!
After a bit more push, we finally reached Astro Cafe. We sat by the bench to eat our sandwiches, and stayed a bit longer to rest and enjoy the view. These photos didn’t do the magnificent views justice!
We didn’t want to go the same route back so we tried the other route. Unfortunately, we took a wrong turn and almost ended up in the main road. Good thing, someone from the Dark Sky Project stopped us and drove us back to our hostel. This was after more than an hour of walk already but it could have been twice that if not for their help. We weren’t also sure if pedestrians are allowed along the main road. Thanks again to you!
Where to Eat in Lake Tekapo
We packed some bacon sandwiches for this trip, hehe! So we were only able to try a few restaurants but these are the ones that we definitely would recommend:
Altitude 720 Cafe
We only had the ice-creamed coffee here, and we liked it.
This was highly recommended by our Intercity bus driver and the staff at Dark Sky Diner so had an early dinner here after we went to Mt John Walkway. We ordered the all-day breakfast meals and iced coffee which were good. The servings were huge, too. Service was excellent.
We went here for brunch before we went back to Queenstown. The husband had the all-day breakfast meal, and I had a Fairlie pie and coffee! I was really surprised to find them there as I’ve read in the forum that pies from Fairlie Bakehouse are delish. Well, that was true!
I knew we should go to Lake Tekapo and I was right. It’s such a beautiful place! Going to Mt John Observatory was tiring but worth it, and the Church of the Good Shepherd is an absolute gem. I felt at peace looking at the clear sky and the turquoise water. Lake Tekapo is a must, don’t forget to include it in your itinerary.