New Zealand Backpacking – Lake Tekapo

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Following the quite urban city of Christchurch, our next stop on our backpacking tour of New Zealand was the gorgeously quiet Lake Tekapo.

On arrival, we quickly noted that it was a bit chillier than we’d experienced before, and quite foggy. Interesting.

We then somehow (using my very tenuous internet connection) found our way from the bus stop, down the lake side to out hostel. (Have I mentioned, along with every other visitor to NZ who has probably said it, their internet is CRAP!)

We stayed at the lovely Lakefront Lodge Backpackers, which as the name describes, was right on the waters edge. The place also doubled as a holiday Park, so had sort of camping and caravan feel. We ended up staying in an odd little sort of static caravan outside the main building, which was big enough for a double bed and not much else. I actually quite liked it, it was cute and cosy! (A bit of a squeeze for a 6’3” Ian though.) And the midnight run across the grass to get to the loo in the main building was a bit different.

Lake TekapoLake Tekapo Views

After dumping our stuff we headed out to explore, and were immediately struck. While we’d been faffing around with checking in the fog had lifted, sky had darkened and we were met by a gorgeous view like this right on our doorstep.

After playing around with a little body weight workout on the lake side (because backpackers need to keep fit!) we went for a stroll. And then, quite wonderfully, it started to snow. And Lake Tekapo became this absolutely spectacular colour. Shining a glorious blue – apparently it’s from the glacial flour in the water caused by glacial erosion.

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

How gorgeous is that!

Church of the Good Shepherd

Lake Tekapo
Church of the Good Shepherd, on the shore of Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

After a wander around we thought we’d aim for the supermarket to gather food supplies and check out the Church of the Good Shepherd. The church is a lovely little church on the shore of the lake and has possibly the most stunning view from a church I’ve ever seen. (Or would have been if the weather had been a little clearer, but we got the gist of it!) One end of the church features a clear glass window, rather than the traditional stained glass, that overlooks the water. It’s a very thoughtful touch. Nearby there is also a bronze sheepdog statue to commemorate the hardy dogs who helped the local shepherds to graze in the harsh mountain conditions, which I thought was a lovely tribute. The statue stands proudly above the scrub around it, so it stands out well, very sweet!

Lake Tekapo
Bronze Sheepdog statue by Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

That evening we had a snugly night in. As our room was so small we opted to settle in the shared common room and bizarrely had the whole place to ourselves. So we stoked the fire with wood, (romantic!) covered ourselves with blankets and watched the sun go down over the lake. This was one of the hostels that didn’t provide wifi so we were internet-less for a few days. Which was a bit different, and quite refreshing.

I’d also like to add that as there is little/no light pollution, we also got to see THEΒ brightest stars. I was absolutely gobsmacked at how clear and bright they were. Quite extraordinary.

Mt John

The following day the sky had cleared and we were met with views like this:

Lake Tekapo

I mean check that out!

Not only was it stunning, being as we were backpacking in a shoulder season we also had the place to ourselves. It was so wonderfully quiet and picturesque. Probably one of my favorite days on our trip. I think if we returned in high season, when there is all the summer water sports and holiday makers… I’m not sure I’d enjoy it as much.

Our plan for the day was to climb Mt John. (See the steep rise on the left hand side of the picture above? Up there!) Which overlooks Lake Tekapo. It was a bit of a steep climb (for me and my unfit lungs anyway) but was actually not as far as we’d anticipated.

At the top is a viewing station and stargazing observatory which you can visit. (And a car park, most people drive up to it apparently!) And a cafe which we swiftly made use of. The views of the lake and surrounding mountains are breathtaking, and the blue glacial water looked even more spectacular.

I found it fascinating that you could see the line of snow where each mountain reached a certain altitude. Almost like someone had come along and drawn it on.

Lake Tekapo
Rachel On Route on Mt John, Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

Return by lake shore

Lake TekapoFollowing our photo sesh, Ian marking his territory with a stick and a cheeky sausage roll in the Astro cafe, we started our descent. Instead of backtracking we followed a track around the other side of the observatory and walked down to the lake shore. Then back around Lake Tekapo till we reached the town again. We had a wonderful time gambling down the mountain, this time taking our time (and remembering to top up on sunscreen, New Zealand is burn central!) And I discovered a knack for pistol squats.

On our way back around we discovered a small (probably children’s) zip-line thing which we childishly played on. Till some actual children came and then we scarpered.

We did around 11 miles walking that day, which for me was VERY good, and spent very little money. In terms of food we were pretty much eating out of the supermarket to keep costs down – with the exception of the coffee and sausage roll at the top of Mt John. Which we did because it was just too beautiful not to sit there and indulge. And as our activity for the day was just walking, we had a pretty healthy/active stay in Lake Tekapo – and I loved every moment. Look at the smile on my face.

Lake Tekapo


But – the beauty of the area only fed my enthusiasm for our next stop. The infamous Mount Cook. Please subscribe, so you don’t miss the update on this incredible destination!

Rachel On Route.


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45 thoughts to “New Zealand Backpacking – Lake Tekapo”

  1. Such a gorgeous setting for any visit, but backpacking affords so many awesome views! Eleven miles is impressive! Funny how when a zipline appears, it must be tried, lol.

    1. Yes 11 miles is quite good for me! I’m getting fitter though, I love long walks/hikes, and i couldn’t recommend this one enough! And very true, the zip-line had to be tested!

  2. What a great trip. Loved seeing all your photos. I haven’t backpacked in awhile and would love to put some backpacking trips on my schedule. that is great you had the hostel to yourself and got to see all the stars at night. That is one of the things I always loved about camping were the starry nights.

    1. thank you, yes the stars were astonishingly beautiful – I don’t think I’ve seen them as brightly or clearly anywhere else before.

    1. Thank you – the credit must go to the stunning landscapes, New Zealand is so so beautiful. Lots more to come so please do follow/subscribe to keep in touch πŸ™‚

  3. We did North Island and Auckland on our last trip to NZ. We should do the South Island and Christchurch next. Your photos are fabulous!

    1. Thank you, youre very kind. Yes I would hugely recommend the South Island – Mt Cook and the Milford Sound are probably my top visits (I’ll get to writing about those soon!)

  4. Looks like a gorgeous place, I love the color of the water! Looks like I’ll have to add this to my ever growing list of things to see in New Zealand!

  5. I loved spending time next to the Tekapo lake. First day I was a little bit disappointment, the weather was bad and lake was grey. But next day I couldn’t believe how turquoise can it become.

  6. That looks like gorgeous part of the world! I adore that sheepdog statue, probably makes more sense than another famous general on a horse! The more I read posts about New Zealand, the more I want to visit.

    1. It’s a lovely touch, I must say the sheep dog statue really appealed to me too. A very classy way to memorialize all their hard work.

  7. Bummer about the bad internet but oh wow are your photos beautiful. New Zealand is meant to be a gorgeous place and you did a great job capturing that beauty. Thanks for sharing!

    1. It was very much worth it, quite breathtaking! I did take a little paddle to dip my toes in (it has to be done!) but it was pretty cold so just got my toes wet and ran out again πŸ˜›

  8. New Zealand has been on my bucket list, but now I think I’ll have to look into backpacking there! Your photos are absolutely stunning. Looks like a wonderful place to explore.

  9. Very nice photos. I am reminded of our own road trip in NZ but of course Lake Tekapo was not part of it unfortunately. I think I need to plan a trip soon πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ .

  10. I remember that we stopped on this gorgeous spot before going ahead to Mount Cook. It was one of those rank occasions when my mind was completely blank because I was staring at that landscape with all my concentration. Thinking…heaven must be something like this.

  11. I am not sure what ‘shoulder season’ means but it is great that you were able to enjoy the tranquil views of MT John without a huge hustle and bustle of tourists! Also I would love to visit the Stargazing Observatory as well! x

  12. Wow what a beautiful hiking trail and seeing he lake! The scenic is absolutely beautiful! Me and my husband do alround 11 miles a day if we do backpacking. This hiking trip is on my bucket list!

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