Lake Tekapo Itinerary: 2 Days

Nestled in the heart of New Zealand’s South Island, Lake Tekapo stands as a shimmering jewel amidst the awe-inspiring landscapes of the Mackenzie region. Known for its crystal-clear turquoise waters, picturesque surroundings, and the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Tekapo beckons travelers seeking a serene escape into nature’s embrace.

Embarking on a Lake Tekapo itinerary for 2 days promises an immersive journey filled with breathtaking vistas, outdoor adventures, and a touch of cultural richness. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a photography buff, or simply yearning for a tranquil getaway, our carefully curated Lake Tekapo itinerary is designed to make the most of your time in this enchanting destination.

In this 2 day Lake Tekapo itinerary I will unveil the perfect blend of natural wonders and cultural treasures, ensuring that every moment of your 2 day Lake Tekapo adventure becomes a cherished memory.

From stargazing to exploring the charming town center and partaking in thrilling outdoor activities, this itinerary is your ticket to a rejuvenating retreat in one of New Zealand’s most captivating destinations. So, pack your bags, don your sense of wonder, and let Lake Tekapo weave its magic over two unforgettable days.

Best Time to Visit Lake Tekapo

The best time to visit the Lake Tekapo region is during the Southern Hemisphere’s spring (September to November) and autumn (March to May). During these months, the weather is mild, and the landscape comes alive with vibrant colors.

Spring showcases blooming wildflowers, while autumn transforms the surroundings into a stunning palette of reds and golds. The crisp air enhances visibility, offering breathtaking views of the turquoise lake and the Southern Alps.

Lake Tekapo Itinerary: 2 Days - The Trusted Traveller

Summer (December to February) attracts visitors for outdoor activities, but it can be crowded. Winter (June to August) turns the area into a winter wonderland, perfect for stargazing and enjoying snow-covered landscapes.

Car Hire in Lake Tekapo

Due to the fact that New Zealand is an island, most people visiting Lake Tekapo will need to hire a car when they arrive to help with getting around.

For all my car hire bookings I use and recommend Hertz. I’ve found they offer the most comparable prices, let you search and compare multiple vehicle types and they have a great customer service team who can help if you come into any unexpected troubles.

You will find Hertz in all major airports around New Zealand including Christchurch and Queenstown, meaning no matter where you fly into, you should be able to find a good deal on car hire for your trip to Lake Tekapo.

Accommodation in Lake Tekapo

This itinerary is for 2 full days spent in the Lake Tekapo region. So if you choose to follow it exactly, you will need a few nights accommodation.

There are plenty of different options for accommodation in Lake Tekapo. Here are three accommodation options in Lake Tekapo to suit all budgets that I recommend you check out. All are centrally located, highly rated and come with excellent facilities.

Budget – Tailor Made Tekapo Hotel

Mid-Range – Tekapo Lakefront Apartments

Luxury – Grand Suites Lake Tekapo

You can read all of my top picks for accommodation in Lake Tekapo here.

Lake Tekapo Itinerary: 2 Days

Day 1 – Explore the Lakes

When visiting Lake Tekapo, the first thing you absolutely have to do is explore the lakes!

There are actually seven lakes in the Mackenzie Basin region, not just Lake Tekapo. While you could go around and explore them all, on this short 2 day Lake Tekapo itinerary I suggest you explore just two, but not just and two, the two absolute best best possibly in all of New Zealand.

Start your day off at Lake Tekapo as you will most likely be staying in the village on the lake. Head to the perfectly positioned Church of the Good Shepherd that lies on the southern edge of the lake, you’ll know the one I am talking about, it is in all the photos!

Lake Tekapo Itinerary: 2 Days - The Trusted Traveller

Built in 1935, this tiny church features an altar window that frames stunning views of the lake and mountains. you’ll find many avid photographers trying to get that perfect shot of the church and the lake on a nice day.

Once you’ve had a look around this spot, jump in the car and take a drive along State Highway 8 to the second lake, Lake Pukaki.

Lake Pukaki is probably on of the most underrated of all the lakes on New Zealand’s South Island. As you drive over the rise on the road from Tekapo, Lake Pukaki appears out of nowhere and stuns drivers to instantly slow from travelling at 100km/h to 60km/h.

I found the colour of Pukaki to be more amazing than Tekapo but it’s not just the colour that makes this lake so impressive, at the far north of the lake is New Zealand’s tallest mountain, Mt Cook, in all its glory.

Lake Tekapo Itinerary: 2 Days - The Trusted Traveller

To really spend some time enjoying the views at Lake Pukaki, I recommend you turn off State Highway 8 just as the road meet the lake into Hayman Road. Just off the highway is a picnic area with parking and the start of the Lake Pukaki Track.

Take in the views here and then I recommend you take some time on this great walk which is perfect for everyone as you can walk as far as you like along the lake and then turn back when you’ve had enough. It offers stunning views of the lake and of Aoraki Mt Cook in the distance.

Salmon Farm

Once you have spent your time visiting the lakes, there is one last stop of the day which I recommend while you are in the Lake Pukaki area.

Just a few minutes drive on past Lake Pukaki is the tiny town of Twizel which is home to a salmon farm, one of the areas biggest exports.

Lake Tekapo Itinerary: 2 Days - The Trusted Traveller

Floating on glacier waters the High Country Salmon Farm is a great place to stop by to purchase the freshest salmon money can buy and a whole range of salmon products from pies, sushi, hot and cold smoked salmon, ready to cook salmon fillets or whole salmon.

For a small donation you can also feed the salmon who almost jump out of the water to catch the incoming pellets. You can also sit out on the deck and admire the views with a coffee and a some fresh salmon products from the cafe.

After the salmon farm, drive back to your accommodation for a rest and to get rugged up for the evenings adventure.

Stargazing in Lake Tekapo

The combination of its remote location, high altitude, and minimal light pollution in the Lake Tekapo area creates a celestial canvas like no other. Visitors can witness a breathtaking Dark Sky Reserve where you will see such features as the vivid Milky Way, countless constellations, and, if you’re lucky, the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis) that dance across the southern horizon.

The Milky Way above the Church of the Good Shepherd in Lake Tekapo - Things to Do in New Zealand's Mackenzie Basin - The Trusted Traveller

Therefore, tonight I recommend you join a 90 minute astronomy experience tour with tours leaving at 7.30pm and 9.30pm most nights. You’ll get to look through a telescope to spot deep sky objects and learn interesting facts about the night sky while sipping hot chocolate, toast marshmallows and getting cozy until a blanket in the comfortable provided seating.

The town of Lake Tekapo is a stargazer’s paradise, with multiple observatories and outdoor stargazing platforms, providing enthusiasts with a chance to explore the cosmos through powerful telescopes and expert-guided tours. Whether you’re a seasoned astronomer or a casual stargazer, Lake Tekapo’s pristine skies offer a remarkable opportunity to connect with the universe in a way that’s both awe-inspiring and humbling. This is an experience not to be missed.

Day 2 – Drive to Mount Cook

On day two, I recommend you make an early start and drive out to Aoraki Mt Cook Alpine Village to get an up close view of New Zealand’s tallest mountain, explore the village and take a glacier hike.

Just a 50 minute drive from the main highway at the southern end of Lake Pukaki, Aoraki Mt Cook Alpine Village, the most accessible point to New Zealand’s highest peak.

Lake Tekapo Itinerary: 2 Days - The Trusted Traveller

The drive out there is an attraction in itself with uninterrupted views of Mt Cook, the Southern Alps, glaciers and Lake Pukaki. There are plenty of safe spots to stop for photos along the way. Take your time to make the stops, get the photos and take in the awe inspiring views.

When you arrive at the village you can learn more about the impressive mountain at The Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre through a series of 2D, 3D and a Digital Dome Planetarium shows. The village itself is quaint and worth a short wander around.

Walks from Aoraki Mt Cook Village

There are two walks to choose from leaving from or right near the village. Both are relatively flat, one being significantly longer than the other. Depending on your level of fitness and the time you have left in the day, pick the walk that best suits you.

Hooker Valley Track – This four hour walk crosses three swing bridges, offers great views from the Alpine memorial and ends at the glacier lake with amazing views of Aoraki Mt Cook, the Hooker Glacier and the Southern Alps.

Lake Tekapo Itinerary: 2 Days - The Trusted Traveller

Tasman Glacier Lake – This one hour walk from the Tasman Valley carpark out near Aoraki Mt Cook Alpine Village takes you through the valley past the Blue Lake and and leads to a viewpoint of the glacier terminal lake. You’ll see icebergs floating in the lake in summer, and in winter the lake freezes over.

Alternate Ways to Visit Mount Cook

If you feel like letting someone else guide you around for the day, then a small group tour from Lake Tekapo may be a great option for you.

Lake Tekapo Itinerary: 2 Days - The Trusted Traveller

On this 7.5 hour small group (max. 9 guests) tour, you’ll get to stop at many incredible view points as you drive along Lake Pukaki with your expert guide, including the famous Peter’s Lookout.

Once the tour reaches the Mount Cook Village you have two choices, you can hop off the bus in the village and spend a few hours exploring the planetarium and museum or you can continue on with the guide to the Tasman Glacier for a short walk and then onto the Hooker Track where you can take a self-guided walk until it is time to return to Lake Tekapo in the afternoon.

Over to you!

Which part of this Lake Tekapo Itinerary are you most keen to do? Have you been before? What did you love most about it?

Let me know using the comments section below or join me on social media to start a conversation.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post.

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