New Zealand {Lake Tekapo, Pukaki & Mt. Cook}

The first stop on our road trip of the South Island was Lake Tekapo! We spent about 36 hours in the area, which was the perfect amount of time. Near the southern end of the lake, there is a small town (less than 500 residents!) where we stayed for two nights. One of my favorite discoveries in New Zealand was a flower called lupines (pictured below). 

We arrived to Lake Tekapo in the evening and on the first night went to the Church of the Good Shepard. The church was built in the early 1900s and is one of the most photographed sights in New Zealand. The area is also great for star gazing but it was cloudy most of the time we were there.

On the second day we set out to Lake Pukaki, which was about 45 minutes away. Lake Tekapo was gorgeous, but I have never seen anything like what we saw when we arrived at Lake Pukaki. The color of the water is so blue and pristine. The glaciers in the surrounding area feed into the lake which is why the color is so distinctive. 

After standing in awe of the lake for several minutes, we drove to Mt. Cook National Park to walk/hike Hooker Valley Track. The track is one of the most popular routes in New Zealand offering incredible views of Mt. Cook (the highest mountain in NZ - pictured above). The total distance is 5 kilometers and it took us about 3 hours roundtrip. I'd say this is an easy walking route and we saw people of all ages. We started the walk in the morning and noticed it got visibly more crowded towards the end. I recommend starting early if your schedule allows. The track includes a few swing bridges, which made me a bit nervous but also provided great photo ops! We started off the walk with light rain and we had overcast weather throughout most of our journey. While the clouds shifted some during the walk, we didn't get the unobstructed view of Mt. Cook like we were hoping for. Again, the weather is unpredictable! So, bring a poncho and make the best of it!

After our hike we enjoyed lunch in Mt. Cook Village at Old Mountaineers' Cafe and then drove back to Lake Tekapo. I'm so glad we visited the lakes and Mt. Cook National Park even though it was a bit of trek from the major cities (3-4 hours from both Christchurch and Queenstown). The area epitomized the natural beauty we saw all over the country!

Accommodation

We stayed at Three Rivers Lodge in Lake Tekapo. It is a small town so all of the accommodations are B&B's or rentals. We were quite pleased with the lodge. We had a beautiful view of the lake, the room was clean and modern, and the owners were friendly and helpful. 

Restaurants

Lesson learned here... you must make reservations in advance even during the off season! We enjoyed two dinners at Mackenzie's. The restaurants offers a wide selection of options but the speciality is New Zealand style which means meat cooked on a hot stone. Reflections also looked good but without a reservation we were unable to eat there either night. Our favorite find was Run 76 Cafe! The coffee, breakfast, and atmosphere was delightful! I'm still thinking about the pancakes topped with caramelized bananas!