Visited April 2012
Day 2: Mackenzie, Lake Pukaki & Lake Tekapo
Mention New Zealand South Island and most seasoned traveler will respond ‘Lake Tekapo’. Our second day saw us driving around the Mackenzie region, in search of blue skies and snow-capped mountains. Thankfully this time round, the weather was kind enough to give us what we wanted. But, I had to spoil it all my forgetting to bring my comfy shoes along, and instead wore my strappy heels.
Nonetheless, that did not stop me from enjoying the wondrous sights Mackenzie had to offer.And thanks to my Boy and the crew, I moved around the gravel path as best as I could, while spotting more interesting sights.Choosing to drive around the region also gave us some new angles of the usual Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo views.
Midway through our exploration, we decided to head back for a quick rest, especially when I woke up at 4 plus in the morning to start my make-up and styling. Our last stop for the day was Lake Tekapo, a popular sightseeing destination where I had to endure the cold for some lovely shots with the church and the stars… But then, it was all worth it.
Side note: While the Church of the Good Shepherd and the Bronze Sheepdog are regular points of attraction, the lake and its surrounding region has much more to offer for those who are able to stay longer.
Lake Tekapo has a few lovely treks for travelers who would like to combine some exercise with breathtaking views. The easiest is the 1-hour Lake Tekapo Walkway, which starts from the eastern end of the town.
Stargazing and Astronomy
Lake Tekapo is known for its dark skies free from light pollution. Declared as a gold-level International Dark Sky Reserve in 2012, it’s one of the best places for astronomy lovers.
Earth & Sky provides night stargazing tours to Mount John and its observatory. If you are lucky, you might be able to get some help with astrophotography too! For the more adventurous, try visiting in winter, and you might just be rewarded with views of the Aurora Australis, aka Southern Lights, as seen in Earth and Sky’s Flickr page.
Mount Cook Alpine Salmon Farm
Most tours will make a temporary stop at this salmon farm in Lake Pukaki, where you can learn more about king salmon and its eco-friendly farming practices. You may take a self-guided tour and even feed the fishes. Don’t forget to buy some fresh sashimi for sumptuous savouring!
Further up north towards Mount Cook lies the Tasman Glacier and its terminal lake. Departing daily from Mid-September to Late-May from The Hermitage Hotel, travelers will get to visit New Zealand’s longest glacier. Do remember to pack some warm clothing because it can get pretty cold with the 500-year-old ice.
So, do stay on in Lake Tekapo for at least 1-2 nights. This was something that I regretted not being able to do so due to the nature of the first part of our trip. While we were there, we chose to stay in Fox Chalet though Holiday Home. Other options would be the Hermitage Hotel at in the midst of Mount Cook, or Peppers Blue Waters Resort.