I have to admit, during our six months road trip in New Zealand, most of the days were fantastic -but here's the recipe to a PERFECT day in the South Island. On the schedule today: a couple of scenic hikes, a deliiicious coffee with a view, an incredibly relaxing moment in a spa and a few stunning views. Ready? It's time to hit the road!
Nestled in the heart of New Zealand's southern island, Lake Tekapo is a picturesque stop you can't miss on your road trip. It lies at the foot of the Southern Alps, with Mt Cook (Aoraki) -the country's highest mountain- rising to 3,753m just a short drive away. This is one of these places that stole our heart in NZ. Not only the lake is beautiful, but the region around offers some incredible hiking opportunities. We arrived there with no plans, to end up spending one of the best days of our trip. Here's how.
on the road to lake tekapo
There's something magic in Tekapo. Surrounded by mountains, no matter the weather in the rest of South Island, Tekapo has its own. Which means after hours driving under the rain, when get to Tekapo, it clears up. Suddenly it's all blue sky and sunshine -we couldn't have dreamt better! It's been months since we're on the road, we've been blessed with some incredible drives -such as this one-, but Tekapo remains one of the most incredible. Crossing the flat Canterbury Plains then green lands, to finally get to spot the magnificent Southern Alps. Then there's this last hill, and BOOM: a giant sparkling turquoise lake stands right here, in the middle of nowhere. Tekapo Lake, there we are.
To make the most of our short stay in Lake Tekapo, we decide to try our luck and find a place to stay on the waterfront. Lakefront Lodge Backpackers is cheap and cosy, that'll do.
6:30 am the next day : breakfast by lake tekapo
As usual in New Zealand, we wake up early to avoid the crowd -and take our breakfast by the lake. It's pretty cold, but totally worth it. The place is astonishing, and surprisingly quiet. According the the locals we meet, most of the tourists are happy with just a quick stop by the stone church for their selfie. And they're off. Good for us! The lake is ridiculously blue. Vibrant. We've got the view for ourselves -well, if I'm being 100% honest with you, we do have to share it. With a couple of rabbits.
Our love for New Zealand grows even deeper -if that's even possible.
7 am : up to mt john summit for a hot chocolate & muffin with a view
The Mt John Walkway is a 3 hours (or less) loop track up to the summit of Mt John at 1,301m. It offers panoramic views of Lake Tekapo, the Southern Alps, the Mackenzie Basin flats and beyond. Cherry on the cake: on the top stands a cafe with all kind of homemade delicacies. That's when we decide to order one of the most delicious muffin of our life -fluffy, covered with raspberry coulis, served with a delicious hot chocolate and a view -see photo above. That's how paradise must taste. That's what I call a motivation to climb!
The start of this track starts next to Tekapo Springs. It's a pretty easy hike, but if you're short on time or energy, you can also drive to the top of Mt John and walk the summit circuit track which will take about 40 minutes.
11 Am : a relaxing interlude in tekapo springs
With such a good start of the day, we decide to continue along that path with a relaxing break in Tekapo Springs. Located right on the edge of Lake Tekapo, it has a bit of everything for everyone, from hot pools to steam rooms and sauna. The view is breathtaking in both summer and winter, with the snow-capped mountains on the background.
I don't know how we always manage to be alone in all this fantastic places. We got the pools for ourselves. This luxurious break will definitely leave us feeling better than ever.
1 pm : on the road again, off to mt cook
Only 50 kms from Tekapo Lake is Mount Cook National Park -we can't resist to the temptation to hit the road and make this day even better. The scenic drive first takes us to another impressive glacial lake: Lake Pukaki. Its milky blue color looks unreal, and with Mount Cook as the foreground, the spot is mesmerizing.
2 pm : hiking the Hooker Valley track
We soon arrive in Mount Cook National Park, where a beautiful trail awaits. It takes us about 2 hours to reach Hooker Lake, crossing some impressive swing bridges, walking on cliff paths, following bubbling rivers and enjoying some great lookout points that give us a grant sight of the mountains.
As is so often the case when hiking in New Zealand, the landscape is ever-changing, making us feel like true explorers.
And here's Mount Cook, standing deeper in the valley, with, in the foreground, the lake and its multiple icebergs. These look like magnificent ice sculptures. It feels like we're far remote in the mountains, even though that was an easy hike.
We get back to the car, to enjoy a gorgeous sunset on the mountains on our way back. This is what I call a perfect day. Or, you know, routine in New Zealand.