While the circuit breaker has us cooped up at home for the moment, take comfort in knowing that this too shall pass. When travel restrictions are finally lifted, that might be the perfect time to embark on a journey of rest and relaxation to a different land, with a newfound appreciation for the world around us.
And what better place to journey to than New Zealand? The land of the Kiwis is undoubtedly one of the most magical places to visit in the world. Home to an abundance of idyllic landscapes, rich cultural sites, and the filming locations of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, this country seems to never run out of places to explore.
In this article, we’re focusing on the scenic Christchurch to Lake Tekapo road trip pilgrimage that South Islander locals swear by. We’re sharing how to get to this magnificent town, as well as what you can do once you get there.
The Scenic Route from Christchurch
First of all, “haere mai”, or welcome! Lake Tekapo, which in the native language of te reo Maori is actually “Takapo”, meaning “to leave in haste at night”, is a quiet South Island town with gorgeous alpine scenery and the crystal clear glacier lake which gives it its name.
To get there from Christchurch, the oldest established city in New Zealand, our recommended scenic route through Darfield on State Highway 77 takes about 3.5 hours. We recommend you start this road trip early in the day though, as it’s one you really want to enjoy slowly: stopping to enjoy the abundance of scenic photo opportunities and places to visit can take up a good portion of the day.
You’ll first start your scenic route from Canterbury Plains, a seemingly-endless patchwork of wheat fields and grazing pastures stretching from the coast all the way to the west. This charming landscape is quintessentially Christchurch, with its distinct English style.
Image source: CycleblazeLord of the Rings fans, this one’s for you. As you leave Canterbury Plains you’ll begin to see lush forest scenery reminiscent of middle earth, with ample photo-ops worth taking a stop for. It’s here that you really start to see the alpine lands that make this route so special.
Your next stop from Glentunnel will be Rakaia Gorge – a photographer’s dream come true. Be sure to take a rest stop here to take in the sights and enjoy the scenery. The Rakaia River’s milky-green colour is actually a result of glacial sediment, which makes for some truly unique and memorable photos.
The cosy town of Geraldine is your next stop. Birthplace of the famous family-owned Barker’s Store brand, the original family farm is just down the road from its Geraldine store.
Barker’s is a local favourite brand that sells a variety of jams, sauces, and other homemade preserves and goodies. If you’re looking for local souvenirs, Barker’s is a great place to stop by.
In addition to a local supermarket, Geraldine also has a number of cafes, eateries, and even an artisanal cheese shop! Be sure to stock up on groceries and food here if you’re planning on camping out at Lake Tekapo.
What to do in Lake Tekapo
And you’ve made it to Lake Tekapo! Your adventure’s far from over, though. Apart from camping out and taking in the breathtaking sight of the deep blue glacial lake and the Southern alps, there are a ton of activities and places to check out while you’re in town. Here are some of our top picks:
Stargazing & Astronomy Tours
One of the best parts about the small population and rural location of Lake Tekapo is the lack of light pollution, which results in some of the most mesmerizing night sky views. Head down to either Dark Sky Project or Mt John Observatory for their extremely popular stargazing and astronomy tours. Expect to find yourself in awe at viewing constellations and stars lightyears away.
If some outdoors exploration is your cup of tea, Lake Tekapo offers several hiking trails to suit any level of intensity. Mt John Summit Track is a particularly popular one that allows visitors a 360 degree view of the lake, Mt John Observatory, Lakes McGregor and Alexandrina, the Mackenzie Basin and the Southern Alps.
Lake Tekapo Regional Park is another great place to explore if you prefer to take leisurely strolls at your own pace and really soak in the atmosphere.
During the winter, you can go skiing at Mt Dobson Ski Area or the Roundhill Ski Area, or snow shoe hiking on the Lake Tekapo High Country Snow Shoe Hike. When you’re done, you can visit the Lake Tekapo Springs to warm your body and pamper yourself at the spa.
Be sure to check out the Church of the Good Shepherd, a rustic stone church full of history that was built in 1935 to commemorate early settlers, and is one of the most photographed places in the country.
The nearby bronze sheepdog statue memorial is another iconic monument, as Lake Tekapo’s adorable ode to the importance of border collies in the region’s agricultural industry.
Lake Tekapo is not only one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand to visit, the journey there is just as unforgettable an experience. We hope we’ve been able to convince you as to why you need to try this road trip out for yourselves, and some inspiration for what to do when you get there! Ka kite (see you soon)!