Lake Tekapo is the second largest lake and highest lake in New Zealand . It is at an altitude of 710 meters in the Mackenzie region. and the turquoise color is truly beckoning. We were driving across the South Island in November 2016, when we came upon this sight. The wild Russell Lupines in full bloom in spring along the banks of the cerulean waters of the lake with a back drop of the snow topped mountains.
Along with Debarshi & me, was our travel pal Dr. Asok Majumder. We were driving that morning from a cloudy Christchurch. Once we crossed the vast Canterbury Plains into the heart of the South Island, the sun had shone out. New Zealand is covered with rolling hills and dotted with sheep which really makes a pretty picture .We drove on State Highway 1 continuing into State Highway 79 from Geraldine. Once we crossed the Burkes Pass at 709 m, we could see the azure waters beckoning us. And then came the Lake in full view!
Why is the the water turquoise?
Most of the water in Lake Tekapo originates from rivers systems in the Southern Alps. There are also the large glaciers from the snow on the mountain plateaus of the Alps. As the glacier moves down the valley, it rips off the rocks. The glacier’s mega force grinds these rocks to a fine powder called glacial flour. This glacial flour travels in the waters of rivers Godley, Cass and Macaulay and reaches Lake Tekapo.
These fine rock particles or glacial flour are suspended in the glacier fed waters and reflect the sunlight. Thus the unusual turquoise colour of the water.
A photographer’s delight
To add to this jaw dropping image, were the violet, pink, blue flowers of the Russell Lupine in full bloom. It is truly a glorious spectacle. These flowers had been introduced sometime in the 50’s by Connie Scott of Godley Peaks. She had scattered the seeds along the open flanks of the highways. And thus, we the future generations from across the world are always grateful to her for making this drive so pretty.
There is another great photo location – the Church of the Good Shepherd . The views from the windows of the church are unparalleled.
You will also see a large bronze statue of the New Zealand Collie sheepdog. As we travelled across New Zealand , we realised the crucial role of the sheep and sheepdogs in the lives of New Zealanders. This statue was commissioned by the locals residents in 1968.
Where to refuel
The Run 76 Café is a must cappuccino stop on the way to Aoraki Mount Cook. You will enjoy the delicious homemade meat pies and pastries. You can also fill up on petrol or diesel at the gas station here.
There are a host of restaurants for various cuisines– Reflections Café, Jade Palace, Kohan Restaurant.
Where to Stay
There are several lake view options on Lake Tekapo. You will find Cottages , Holiday homes, Bed & Breakfast inns, Hotels , Boutique resorts, backpacker huts and long terms options like apartments as well.
Lake Tekapo Activities
Do drive to the nearby Mount John Observatory about 10 km uphill at 1,029 meters. It was established in 1965 . There are 5 large telescopes that are in regular use among which the Earth and Sky Telescope is for tourists.
Outdoor activities in Summer
Lake Tekapo is truly for the outdoorsy people. You have the lush greenCairns Club for a round of golf. There are other activities like horse treks , off-road Alps to ocean mountain cycling trail , scenic flight over the Mackenzie basin and Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.
You can check out their websites for more details on the activities.
Outdoor activities in Winter
Lake Tekapo transforms into a winter wonderland in the months of July to September . You can go snowshoeing , skiing or wilderness walking in the Alps. For leisure , you can take a dip in the hot springs or indulge yourself in the spa.
We visited Lake Tekapo in November in summer. I have posted a video of a brave soul parasailing in the icy cold waters.
I will soon write on Aoraki Mount Cook and the Glaciers Explorer Tour. Sir Edmund Hillary ascended Mount Cook in January 1948.