Lake Tekapo- 2 days
Lake Tekapo is about a 3 hour drive from the ChristChurch airport. This gorgeous lake with mountainous backdrop is a beautiful turqoise color surrounded in the spring by the purple colored lupins. The season to visit this area is definitely when the lupins are in full bloom fields lining the lake and both sides of the road leading into the lakefront area. There are many places to stop the car, pull over and take pictures. There is a small stone church on the edge of the lake that is picturesque. There is also an observatory in the town and lots of star gazing opportunities!
Star Gazing Tours
The area near lake tekapo is known for its star gazing night tours that leave at 11 pm from their downtown office. They load you up on a bus and take you about 30 minutes outside the light pollution city to a base star camp they have with telescopes and star guides showing and telling you the differnt constallations you can observe. This was such a wild and fun experience!
What if it’s cloudy? ( Tour Cancellations Policy)
If the weather is too cloudy the tours are normally not cancelled. The weather is unpredictable and the tour guides are not held responsible for the condition of the night. There is still the University of Canterbury Mt John Observatory that can be visited. Normally this facility is not accessible to guests except for the astronomers. Night time is their research time. On cloudy nights the facility is opened to share to the public and see and learn more about stars.
Tours will be cancelled if there are high winds, rain, ice or snow.
What to Wear
Dress very warmly with lots of layers! The temperatures at night are freezing especially at the peak time of the night for the tours around 11pm-midnight. You will need a hat, gloves, warm base layers as well as an outer heavy shell coat layer. For more information about proper layering and what to wear click here. Also check with the company you are interested in using. Some of the companies supply arctic coat gear and flashlights for you to use on the tour as a part of your package.
There is a clothes video the tour companies have put together here on how to dress.
Earth and Sky Star Gazing
This company has some of the widest variety of tour options with different seasons, times of day and types of star tours. They also have two different lake locations as well. Current astronomy students work at the center and give very knowledgable guides and experience in talking about all the different types of stars. All the star tours are 2 hours long and normally meet at the office where you are bussed to an on location observatory in nature without light pollution around 30 minutes outside of the city. This company is the top rated tour for Trip Advisor in the Lake Tekapo area for star gazing.
Earth & Sky Office
Western car park beside the 4 Square supermarket
Summer: 09:00am to last tour departs
Winter: 10:00am to last tour departs
+64 3 680 6960
Mt. John Observatory Tour
- Duration: approx. 2 hours
- Price: Adult $175 + Child $94 Family packages available
- click here for a more detailed overview of this tour from their site
Church of the Good Shepherd tour
- Duration: 75 minute long tour
- Price: Free (walking tours meeting at the office have donations to upkeep the church)
- click here for more tour details on their website
Cowan’s Observatory Tour (summer)
- Duration: 1 hour 15 minutes
- Price: adult $99, child $59 ( has to be 5 years old)
- Click here for more tour details
Twilight Tour (summer)
- Duration: 2 hours
- Price: not listed
- click here for more tour details
Little Star Tour (winter) Tour info
- Duration : approx. 1.5 hours
- Price : Adult $135 + Child $78
- click here for more tour details
There are many different star gazing tour opportunities and its a must do while you are staying in Lake Tekapo. The tour is late at night but it is so worth the experience!
Hot Springs & Star Gazing
This company is the only hot springs star tour in New Zealand. It is very cold at night and depending on what time of year you are there. This would have been amazing to have a view without light pollution in warm hot springs to enjoy the star view out of the bitter cold.
Adults(16+ years) $99 , seniors (60+) $79, child (6-15 years) $49, family (2 adults, 3 children) $299
TOUR CHECK IN
Where to eat: Mackenzie’s Cafe Bar & Grill
This place serves delicious New Zealand meat cooked over steak stones. This is one of hottest culinary trends in New Zealand to cook many types of meat. The stone is heated up to 400 degrees celcius and sears the meat in a few minutes. This is a must try on a visit. See their trip advisor ratings and reviews here.
SPECIAL DIETS: Vegetarian Friendly, Gluten Free Options
MEALS: Lunch, Dinner, Brunch, Late Night
CUISINES: Bar, European, New Zealand
FEATURES: Reservations, Outdoor Seating, Seating, Waitstaff, Parking Available, Highchairs Available, Wheelchair Accessible, Serves Alcohol, Full Bar
Te Anau: gateway to the fjords (2 days)
The fjordland national park area in the south is about an 8.5 hour drive from Lake Tekapo area. Te Anau is a great stop point on your trip to stop at this quiet cute town on the lake with the best meat pies! Pictured below, “Miles better Pies” is a must eat at restaurant in this small town. This city is only about 5 hours away from Lake Tekapo. This is a better launch base into fjordland that is close and has tours that pick you up on busses to get to the fjordland to kayak for the day.
where to stay
Te Anau :TOP 10 Holiday Park
This place is perfect walking distance to the downtown cool area restaurants, shops and coffee shops. The place is overlooking Te Anau lake for walks and swims on the path. There is also hot tubs that you can use and rent that overlook the lake area and are the perfect sunset viewpoint. There is a children’s playground, BBQ facilities and a shared kitchen for the campers. There is wifi, flat screen tvs in all accommodations and free on site parking. There is self service laundry as well on site.
Cost: There are camping sites at this location, family cabins, as well as studio apartments or 2-3 room apartments. The cost per night ranges from $50-$600 depending on your accomodations. For more detailed information click here. The more budget backpacker options can be found here.
where to eat
Miles Better Pies
This small run family business is known for its Venison pies. Their lamb pies were to die for as well. The meat pies are in a flaky golden crusted hand pie. This place is cash only! They are delicious and the reviews on Trip Advisor speak for themselves here. They cost about $7USD a pie and are 100 percent worth it in my review and experience. They are also pretty large pies filling for one person.
Open from about 6am to about 6pm, October to May
The Fat Duck Restaurant
This is a classy gastropub in the heart of Te Anu’s adorable downtown area at the far end of the mainstreet from the lake. This place had delicious venison! This is a top Trip Advisor rated restaurant in town that won an award recently. The website and full menu can be found here. They are known for their lamb salad, venison, fish and chips, burgers and beers.
PRICE RANGE: $7 – $27
Open 7 days:
9.00am – until late
Closed on 24th & 25th December
Closed on 24th & 25th December
Day trips from Te Anau
Glow worm caves
This is one of the best places in New Zealand to see the famous glow worm caves. They are gorgeous and glow blue and brilliant lighting up the cave as you go through on a boat. The limestone caves underground in the water channels under the canopy of glowing glowworms is magical. You must be quiet to not scare the worms and it is a magnificent experience. This tour is top rated on Trip advisor and offers 20% discount on 2 or more tours booked for groups. You can find our more information about their tours here.
Real Journeys Tour
Te Anau Glowworm Caves, Real Journeys, Real Journeys Visitor Centre, 85 Lakefront Drive, Te Anau, Fiordland, New Zealand.
Business hours:Real Journeys Visitor Centre, 85 Lakefront Drive, Te Anau. Open 7 days. Daily departures.Months of operation:All months of the year
(14 year(s) and under)
Fjordland National park
This is the highlight of the southern island of New Zealand! The kayaking was the most beautiful I have ever done in my life. All along the doubtful sound (which is the one we kayaked) there are waterfalls and rocky green lush jungle fjords. These are so different than the rocky barren gorgeous fjords of Norway. The fjords of New Zealand felt like a tropical lush cover over the rocky hills of the fjords.
What to Bring
- Swimwear/underwear (for under the wetsuit)
- Spare soft shoes & warm socks (to use in the kayak)
- Raincoat plus warm jacket or fleece
- Change of clothes
- Sunblock, sunglasses & sunhat
- Insect repellent
- Water bottle or drink
- Lunch and snacks
- Camera with memory-card
- In a small day pack or small carry bag to keep your gear together
Duration:2 days / 1 nightDeparts:6.15am (day 1)Returns:4pm (day 2)Season:Nov – Apr
Price: NZD: $439 (adult)
This is a one night kayaking overnight trip. This is a two day camping experience in nature in the famous NZ wilderness. This is a top rated Trip Advisor company (Go Orange). We went day kayaking with them and had an amazing experience. The fjords were gorgeous and I would have loved to get the opportunity to stay the night and camp. They provide all of the gear, transportation, medical support and food for your trip as well as equipment that you will need.
- Includes cruise across beautiful Lake Manapouri and coach over Wilmot Pass
- Small groups – maximum of 8 people per guide
- High quality sea kayaking and camping gear – view the full list of what we provide
- Experienced kayak guides – who carry all the safety and emergency equipment, make all safety decisions, provide helpful paddling instruction, comprehensive safety briefing and tell you about Doubtful Sound
- Competence in water and moderate fitness required
- Minimum age 16 years
- No paddling experience needed although drive, a can-do attitude and positive outlook help
- Complimentary coach transfers available from Te Anau (FREE pick-ups from most accommodation)
- (Trip previously called Doubtful Sound Overnighter)
- Operated by Go Orange.
- For more trip information and scheduling check here
The day trip kayaking for several hours is the tour trip that we did over the Doubtful Sound rather than the more popular Milford Sound. This one is way less crowded and filled with people, boats and tours. I would recommend doing Milford Sound because it is gorgeous and quiet and less populated. They pick you up from your accomodations in Te Anu and bring you back as well by bus. All the transportation is provided as well as gear.
- Includes a cruise across beautiful Lake Manapouri and coach over Wilmot Pass
- Personable and experienced guides
- Maximum of 8 kayakers per guide
- Hot drinks provided
- Bring your own Lunch
- Comprehensive safety and paddling techniques briefing provided
- For more information and scheduling for day kayaking adventures click here
If kayaking is not possible due to the weather we may substitute for a 3 hour inner fiord cruise experience.
NZD: $265 (adult)
- Overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound
- 3-course buffet dinner
- Continental or cooked breakfast
- Duration: 2 days
- For more information on the cruise or booking click here
Te AnauOvernight cruise with round-trip coach from Te Anau. Single, twin, triple or quad-share cabins. 1 cabin will be allocated per booking. $230.26
All the same tours and packages are available for Milford sound. It is the greater known and most tourist visited of the sounds. It is way more crowded and touristy. I would highly recommend doing Milford Sound which is just as gorgeous and way more private and serene.