Lake Tekapo is renowned for it's stunning night sky, beautiful scenery and unbeatable climate!
In the centre of the South Island of New Zealand lies Lake Tekapo. This highland lake and settlement at 710 metres (2300 feet) is in the heart of the Mackenzie District and surrounded by a vast basin of golden tussock grass. The name Tekapo derives from Maori words Taka (sleeping mat) and Po (night). Finely ground rock in the glacial melted waters give Lake Tekapo a beautifully unique turquoise colour.
Lake Tekapo’s geographical and central location is protected from rough coastal weather by the Southern Alps in the west, and the Two Thumb Range to the east. This allows this highland location to enjoy some of New Zealand’s highest sunshine hours, and lowest average wind speeds. Rainfall is just 575 millimeters (23 inches) annually.
Maori were the first to venture into the Mackenzie Country, where they hunted moas, birds and eels before returning to the coast for food and trade. The capture of Scotsman, James McKenzie in 1855, for being “in the company of a thousand stolen sheep” as he rustled them with his dog Friday, through a remote alpine pass into “a plain of immense extent” resulted in his deeds being immortalized and his name, albeit with a spelling change, applied to these highlands ever since.
Summer or winter, snow-covered or golden-yellow, the surrounding mountains and turquoise lake make a spectacular backdrop for the Church of the Good Shepherd.
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The Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve was created in June 2012. It is recognized by the International Dark-Sky Association, based in Tucson Arizona, and its recognition as a Reserve followed a detailed application made by the Aoraki Mackenzie Starlight Working Party in January 2012.
The Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve is the first in the southern hemisphere and the first to be declared with gold tier status, the highest that can be accorded, and its formation is a recognition of the pristine skies of the Mackenzie which are essentially completely free of light pollution.
The goals of the reserve are to promote star-gazing and astrotourism, as well as to protect the astronomical research at Mt John University Observatory.
The observatory is the astronomical research station operated by the University of Canterbury and has four optical telescopes for observing variable and binary stars, for work on extrasolar planets, the Galactic Centre, the Magellanic Clouds, comets, near-Earth asteroids and the study of stellar spectra at high resolution. It is the world’s southernmost astronomical observatory at 44 degrees south.
There are three small communities inside the Reserve. They are Lake Tekapo Village (population about 300), Twizel population 1100) and Mt Cook Village (population 250). These are the permanent resident populations, but the figures in all three communities more than double with the tourist population in the summer months.