Lake Tekapo to Mount Cook


Begin in the tranquil town of Lake Tekapo, famous for its turquoise lake and the Church of the Good Shepherd. Enjoy stargazing in the International Dark Sky Reserve. Drive through the Mackenzie Basin’s starkly beautiful landscapes to reach Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. Here, you can embark on hikes to see glaciers, alpine lakes, and the highest peak in New Zealand, Aoraki/Mount Cook. This route is a must-do for nature lovers and photography enthusiasts.

Embark on a breathtaking journey from Lake Tekapo to Mount Cook, where the landscapes of New Zealand’s South Island unfold in an array of stunning vistas, crystal-clear skies, and towering peaks. This 4-day self-drive itinerary is designed to immerse you in the natural beauty and adventurous spirit of this remarkable region, with recommendations for activities, dining, and accommodation that promise an unforgettable experience.

Day 1: Arrival in Lake Tekapo – A Gateway to the Stars

Morning & Afternoon: Start your adventure in Lake Tekapo, a serene lake known for its vivid turquoise color, framed by the rugged Southern Alps. Begin with a visit to the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd, a picturesque stone chapel offering unparalleled views of the lake and mountains. Spend your afternoon hiking local trails such as the Mount John Walkway, which rewards you with panoramic views and the chance to visit the University of Canterbury Mount John Observatory. This area, part of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, offers some of the best stargazing opportunities in the world.

Lunch: Enjoy a casual lunch with stunning views at the Astro Café atop Mount John, known for its delicious food and coffee.

Dinner: Dine at Mackenzies Café Bar & Grill in Lake Tekapo village, where you can enjoy local cuisine with a view of the lake.

Accommodation: Stay at Peppers Bluewater Resort, offering luxurious accommodation with breathtaking views of Lake Tekapo and the surrounding mountains.

Day 2: Exploring Lake Tekapo and Surrounds

Morning: After breakfast, head out for a relaxing morning at the Tekapo Springs, where you can soak in hot pools overlooking the lake and mountains. For those seeking a bit more adventure, opt for a guided horse trek or mountain biking around the lake.

Afternoon: Visit the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve for a daytime tour to learn about the cosmos or plan for a night-time stargazing tour to witness the southern night sky in all its glory.

Lunch: Grab a bite at Kohan Restaurant, offering Japanese cuisine with views of the lake.

Dinner: Enjoy a meal at The Greedy Cow in Lake Tekapo, known for its hearty meals and cozy atmosphere.

Accommodation: Spend another night at Peppers Bluewater Resort, allowing for a restful evening under the stars.

Day 3: Lake Tekapo to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park – Journey to the Clouds

Destination: Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park Distance: Approximately 105 km

Morning: Depart Lake Tekapo and drive towards Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. The journey itself is a scenic delight, with the road winding through tussock land and along the shores of Lake Pukaki, renowned for its vibrant blue color caused by glacial flour.

Lunch: Stop at The Hermitage Hotel in the Aoraki/Mount Cook Village for lunch with a view. The hotel’s restaurant offers stunning vistas of the surrounding peaks.

Afternoon: Spend your afternoon exploring the national park. Short walks such as the Hooker Valley Track provide breathtaking views of Aoraki/Mount Cook and the Hooker Glacier. For those interested in the region’s history and geology, visit the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre.

Dinner: Dine at The Old Mountaineers’ Café, Bar & Restaurant, offering a range of dishes with organic and locally sourced ingredients, complemented by majestic mountain views.

Accommodation: Stay at Aoraki Court Motel, where the rooms offer direct views of the mountains, providing a serene backdrop to your adventure.

Day 4: Adventures in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park

Morning: Start your day with an adventure; options include scenic flights over the park, heli-hiking on a glacier, or even a boat tour on the Tasman Glacier Lake to see icebergs up close. Each activity offers a unique perspective of the park’s grandeur.

Lunch: Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy amidst the natural beauty of the park, or head back to The Hermitage Hotel for a quick bite.

Afternoon: Take the opportunity for one last hike or visit the Tasman Valley, offering short walks that lead to impressive views of the Tasman Glacier. The Blue Lakes and Tasman Lake viewpoint are particularly worthwhile.

Evening: As your journey comes to an end, reflect on the experiences of the past few days. The stark beauty of the Mackenzie Basin, the serene waters of Lake Tekapo, and the imposing grandeur of Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park create a tapestry of memories that encapsulate the best of New Zealand’s South Island.

Dinner: Enjoy a farewell dinner at The Hermitage Hotel, toasting to the adventures had and the memories made.