When I saw a photo of Lake Tekapo, the Good Shepard church, with all the colorful lupins, and Mount Cook, I fell in love and I knew I had to visit it. So we did. We drove over 2 hours from Wanaka just to see it, and oh, was it worth it! Today I’ll tell you all about our visit to Lake Tekapo (NZ) and its lupin flowers.
We were in Wanaka in November 2017. We had 2 weeks there, which was time enough to do what we wanted in Wanaka and have a few extra days. After realizing that Lake Tekapo was a short (2 hours is short, right?) drive away, we decided we’d pay it a visit. Another beautiful lake, with a good looking tiny church, and some incredible flowers to top it up, yes, please.
To go or not to go
Little did we know, though, that lupins are pests here in NZ. They’re used to feed merino sheep because they are super resistant, and well, they ended up spreading everywhere. They push out native plants and birds away, and that’s why it’s a pest in New Zealand. A stunning one, but a pest nonetheless.
It left me a bit unsure of what to think or do, but we decided to go visit Lake Tekapo anyway.
The drive from Wanaka to Lake Tekapo
Our drive there was already gorgeous: the sun was shining, there were the incredible blue rivers, beautiful mountains, and the loose lupin flowers here and there. As we got closer, the lupins started showing up more and more until we could see fields of it all around. It’s breathtaking until you remind yourself of their negative impact on the native fauna and flora. Then I got sad for a bit and it was still beautiful.
In a lot of places, people stopped their cars to take photos of it – therefore be really careful when driving and if you’re going to stop, stop somewhere safe and don’t be a jerk. Seriously.
New Zealand does a great job in providing rest and viewing areas all around, so you don’t really have to stop in the middle of a narrow road or whatever. Wait for the viewing area.
But other than the few dangerous drivers, it was a windy but fine and beautiful drive. New Zealand roads never fail to impress.
After a bit over 2 hours, we have finally arrived at Tekapo area. It’s a super small town, really, and not much to do except for heli rides and lake watching. We wanted to see the lake, the flowers (oops), and the church. Well, we wanted to stay until late to watch the stars but to be really honest, waiting over 6 hours until dark didn’t sound too good so we let that go.
We stopped the car at the commercial center and had lunch at Mackenzie’s Café. Okay food, okay service, regular prices. Not worth visiting just for the food, but if you’re there, why not?
From there, we walked to the Lake, crossing the beautiful and colorful lupins. It took around 5~10 minutes walking slowly, stopping for photos, smelling the lupins, and all that. It’s an easy walk doable with strollers but you can take the car up to the lake too.
The color of the lake is incredible. From afar, it looked fake – the blue looked like pool blue. But then we got closer and it was so much more beautiful! We are pretty sure it’s fake. Someone must have poured bucket loads of blue pain there because otherwise how would it be so blue? Just stunning.
I almost completely ignored the lupins because the blue of Lake Tekapo is surreal. By the lake, there are fewer flowers and more pebbles. Stunning either way. Mount Cook at the back and Lake Tekapo in front made the picture perfect.
The water is glacier water so it’s FREEZING. It’s super cold, so you can’t probably swim. We managed to dip our feet in the water, but not for long.
After around an hour there, we decided to go see the Church of Good Shepard. The good thing is that we arrived when it had fewer people but the bad thing is that we had to cross a bridge. I hate bridges, but that one wasn’t so bad. It didn’t shake much and I didn’t feel like it’d be such a terrible death to die in those blue waters.
The church is super tiny, beautiful, and crowded. It’s nearly impossible to get a good photo of it with less than 20 people around. So we just went around, to see the lake (again) and the Lupins. It’s still stunning and the back of the church, mind you, is nearly always empty. That’s why we don’t have any of the classic shots.
And then it was over. We stopped by the Four Square at the village parking lot to buy something for the trip back to Wanaka and left.
Things to beware around Lake Tekapo
- The flowers are… plants and people who are allergic will find it hard to keep sneezes in.
- It’s very common to have poison for rabbits, possums, and rats all around parks and natural reserves. Watch little kids and watch the path because there are dead animals and poison around. We crossed 2 dead bunnies. We nearly stepped on them. Not pleasant.
- If you’re not willing to pay a lot, don’t think you’ll be able to do much there – everything is very expensive.
- Accommodation in the area is hard to get. If you want to spend a night there, book way ahead of time. Find if there’s something available here! (affiliate link)
- We found more lupins on the road than near the lake. It just makes a prettier photo there.
- The water is super cold, not good for a swim.
- It’s crowded. If you want to take a photo without too many people in it, you’ll need to either Photoshop them out (something I can’t do properly) or wait a long long long time and never miss those few seconds you get sometimes. We gave up and stuck to the back of the church.
Our ending table…
- City / Country
- Minimun Stay
- $ ~ $$$
- Best local transport option
- Do we recommend it?
- Tekapo / New Zealand
- a few hours
- $$$ if doing something and $ if just watching the Lake
- It’s okay for everyone, but you need to ponder if it’s worth the trip
- Car to get there and then walk
- Super safe
- Not really sure. It’s beautiful, but there isn’t much for budget travelers.
So, it’s stunning – and it must be stunning with or without the flowers, but there isn’t much to do around unless you’re willing to spend big buck. The kids said it’s pretty but not worth the drive. Haha.
If you want to find where to stay in Tekapo region, click here to find one! (Affiliate link)