Lake Tekapo in autumn on the South Island

Lake Tekapo in autumn on the South Island

Get info about and see photos of yellow fall foliage on trees next to the turquoise blue water of Lake Tekapo on the South Island of New Zealand.

What and where is Lake Tekapo?

Lake Tekapo is one of the 10 largest lakes in New Zealand.

It is about 88 square km (34 square mi) large and has a depth of about 120 m (394 ft).

Lake Tekapo is a glacial lake, meaning that it was created by the melting of a glacier, and has characteristically turquoise blue water.

The lake is located in the center of the South Island of New Zealand in what is called Mackenzie Country, which is part of Canterbury; the same region in which Christchurch is located.

How to get to Lake Tekapo

South of Lake Tekapo lies the small town of Tekapo. Tekapo rises 720 meters above sea level, which is why this area is called High Country.

Tekapo can only be reached by road or by air. There are no train services to/from Tekapo.

To get to Tekapo by road, you could, for example, rent a car in Christchurch and then drive or catch a bus from Christchurch.

Note however that bus service is limited to perhaps once or twice daily; so if you miss the bus, it is highly likely you’ll have to wait until the next day to try to catch one again.

Unfortunately, the no car travel options to Lake Tekapo are very limited.

You can drive from Christchurch to Tekapo in 2.5 – 3 hours. Or if you are approaching Tekapo from the South, it takes about 20 – 30 minutes to drive from Lake Pukaki to Lake Tekapo, and about 40 – 60 minutes to drive from Mount Cook National Park to Tekapo.

To get to Tekapo by air, you have to charter a flight, since commercial airlines do not service Tekapo and Tekapo does not have a large enough airport for such airplanes to land there.

But nothing beats the freedom of renting a car.

Why visit Lake Tekapo?

Lake Tekapo is well-known for its turquoise blue water just like Lake Pukaki near Mount Cook is.

Many tourists visit Tekapo and Lake Tekapo every year, mainly to:

  • Enjoy the blue color of the lake and photograph it.
  • Visit the Church of the Good Shepherd.
  • See the statue of the dog on the shore of Lake Tekapo.
  • Enjoy impressive mountain views as those seen from Mount John on the Mt John Walkway.
  • Stargaze, since the sky above Tekapo is unpolluted.

Autumn is a magical time in the entire Mackenzie Country. The lakes are dotted with yellow trees, there might be a dusting of snow on the mountain tops, and there is a sharp contrast between yellow and blue everywhere.

And there are two other semi-hidden lakes near Lake Tekapo you can also visit to see fall foliage around them.

You can access these two lakes – Lake Alexandrina and Lake McGregor – by driving on the Godley Peaks Road, which is the same road you have to drive on to get to the Mount John Observatory. It is a minor road running West of Lake Tekapo.

While the weather may be a bit unpredictable and unstable in autumn, it is still worthwhile to visit Lake Tekapo, Mount Cook National Park, and the rest of the Mackenzie Country at this time of the year.

In my opinion, autumn is one of the best times to visit New Zealand, and in particular this area.

However, other seasons offer a lot of photo opportunities too!

In summer you can use lupins (flowers) as foreground interest for Lake Tekapo and the surrounding mountains, and in winter you can use snow-capped or snow-covered mountains as the background for Lake Tekapo.

This article falls under Places to Visit.

Note: Places can change and/or become inaccessible. The information presented here was accurate when it was gathered.

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