Tekapo © Hollie Woodhouse

About Lake Tekapo/Takapō - Mackenzie Country

The stunning Lake Tekapo area is renowned for its spectacular night sky, stunning alpine scenery and unbeatable climate!

Located high in the centre of the South Island of New Zealand, this alpine lake and settlement lies in the heart of the stunning Mackenzie District, surrounded by a vast basin of golden tussock grass. Elevated at 710 metres (2300 feet) above sea level, finely ground rock in the melted glacial waters give Lake Tekapo a beautiful turquoise colour.

Lake Tekapo © Hollie Woodhouse

Māori were the first to venture into the Mackenzie, the lakes of which were part of an extensive Māori food gathering area renowned tribally for weka and eels.  The traditional Māori name given to the lake is Takapō, meaning “to leave in haste at night”.  Māori legend tells of two chiefs who were leaving the lake under cover of darkness when they were caught out by the rising sun and became the two pillars now marking the entrance to the Lindis Pass.

Lake Tekapo © Hollie Woodhouse

In 1855 Scottish settler James McKenzie was captured while being “in the company of a thousand stolen sheep” as he rustled them with his dog through a remote alpine pass into “a plain of immense extent”. His exploits were written in legend, and his name, albeit with a spelling change, has applied to these highlands ever since.  His faithful sheep dog ‘Friday’ is immortalised in a lakefront monument.

Tekapo mountains © Hollie Woodhouse

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 such an alpine location to enjoy some of New Zealand’s highest sunshine hours, and lowest average wind speeds. Rainfall is just 575 millimeters (23 inches) annually.   Summer or winter, snow-covered or golden-yellow, the surrounding mountains and turquoise lake make a spectacular backdrop for the village nestled on the waters edge.

View and download maps of the area here!

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