Lake Tekapo is one of the most famous and popular tourist attractions in New Zealand. While that means it’s been photographed many times by everyone from tourists to professional photographers, it didn’t stop me spending a few days there on my last trip to try and get some of my own shots.
Where is it?
The lake is in the South Island, about half way between Christchurch and Queenstown. It’s about a 3 hour drive from either airport.
How to Get There
From Christchurch, take State Highway 1 (SH1) to Geraldine. From there it’s a short drive on SH79 to Fairlie and then SH8 to Lake Tekapo.
From Queenstown, take the Crown Range Road to Lake Wanaka, and then follow SH8 to Lake Tekapo. The drive is a bit longer than from Christchurch, and also allow extra time for stopping at other popular locations such as Lake Wanaka, Lindis Pass, and Twizel.
There’s a small township in Lake Tekapo that has several motels and also a fairly luxurious hotel, all within walking distance to the lake itself. Right next to the lake is Lake Tekapo Village which is a small group of shops, cafes, restaurants and even accommodation.
Conditions vary depending on what time of year you visit. I’ve only been there during autumn, when you can catch some beautiful golden colours as the leaves change, but it’s really a location you can shoot all year round. During winter expect snow-covered mountains, and in summer you can catch the colourful lupins dotted around the lakeside.
Lake Tekapo is also renown for its low light pollution which allows for amazing star gazing on clear nights. Unfortunately when I visited there was a full moon which meant the sky was too bright to view stars but if you time your visit right and you get clear skies, then the opportunities for starry night shows can be spectacular as you can see from this shot by a fellow kiwi photographer, Anthony Ko.
Places to Shoot
The most obvious place is right beside the lake, with the famous Church of the Good Shepherd in the background. While this location isn’t going to win any awards for originality, you can still get some unique shots depending on the conditions you get to shoot in.
Dotted around the lake are also some interesting rocks which make an ideal foreground, while the surrounding mountains look beautiful in the background.
There’s also Lake Alexandrina, a smaller lake within 15 minutes drive. It’s an idyllic little lake and a popular holiday spot, especially during the warmer months. You can expect to see little rowboats, jetties, and quite a few ducks at this lake. There are two ways to access the lake, one on the eastern side, and the other more popular one is on the southern side (where my photos were taken from).
Mount John is also nearby and offers some beautiful views over lakes Tekapo and Alexandrina. The only downside is that you can only drive up between the hours of 9am to 5pm which aren’t the ideal times for photography. However if you’re feeling fit (unlike me!) you can always park outside the gates walk up at any time.
Twizel is a small town about 30 mins drive from Lake Tekapo and has some great little lakes and ponds dotted around it. The best time to visit Twizel is autumn when the trees have beautiful golden leaves.
Lake Pukaki is on the way to Twizel and offers some views of Mt Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain. You can also drive to the mountain itself although the accommodation there is not cheap.
All in all Lake Tekapo is a great place for photographers as it offers so much variety within a small distance.