Things to do in Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo | Apollo NZ
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Alyssa Tresider
/ Categories: NZ blog

Things to do in Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo.

Thinking about booking a campervan hire to explore Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo? These iconic New Zealand d destinations are a paradise for motorhome travellers, offering stunning scenery, unique activities, and unforgettable memories.  

To help you make the most of everything on offer in these South Island stunners, we’ve put together this helpful guide to some of the best things to do in Mt Cook From scenic Mt Cook hikes to the relaxing Tekapo hot springs, there's an adventure for every traveller. 


Why you should visit Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo

Travelling to Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo in a campervan offers an unparalleled experience of New Zealand's natural beauty. These destinations are not just about the places you visit; they're about the journey itself. The flexibility of a campervan hire means you can take in the breathtaking views at your own pace, stopping wherever and whenever you wish (which will be often!).

Mount Cook, also known as Mount Aoraki, is a haven for those who love the outdoors. With its stunning alpine scenery and a range of trails, it's perfect for both casual walkers and serious hikers. 

Lake Tekapo, on the other hand, is a photographer's dream. The lake's vivid turquoise waters, framed by the Southern Alps, create a picturesque setting. At night, the Dark Sky Reserve offers some of the best stargazing opportunities in the world. Both destinations provide a unique blend of relaxation and adventure, making them ideal for a New Zealand road trip by camper.


What to pack when visiting Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo

Heading to Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo for your next campervan adventure? To make the most of your trip, packing smart is key. These stunning spots offer a mix of outdoor fun and relaxation, and the right gear will help you enjoy every moment, whether you're hiking up a trail or chilling by the lake. Here's a handy list of essentials to help you get started

  • Comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots

  • Warm layers – think jumpers or fleeces

  • Waterproof jacket – just in case!

  • Sunscreen – the sun can be strong, even in cooler weather

  • Sunglasses – for those bright days

  • Hat – to protect you from the sun

  • Camera – you'll want to capture the scenery

  • Binoculars – great for wildlife and stargazing

  • Swimsuit – for a dip in the hot springs or lakes

  • Reusable water bottle – stay hydrated on your adventures

Don't forget to check the weather before you head out each day. It can change quickly, so it's good to be prepared. 


What you need to know about Mount Cook

The Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park is part of the UNESCO World Heritage area, boasting some of the most breathtaking scenery and finest hiking trails in the country. And its centrepiece is Mount Cook / Mount Aoraki, New Zealand's highest mountain. This majestic peak offers a range of experiences for all types of adventurers, whether you're an experienced climber or someone who prefers leisurely walks.

For those looking to scale new heights, Mount Cook’s hiking options present a challenging yet rewarding experience. However, if a climb seems daunting, there are plenty of walking tracks at the base of the mountain suitable for beginners. These trails offer stunning views of the mountain and surrounding landscapes, allowing you to immerse yourself in the beauty of the area without the need for advanced climbing skills.

It's important to remember that the weather in alpine regions can be unpredictable. Before starting any hike or climb, it's crucial to do your research and be prepared. Ensure you have the right hiking gear, including appropriate clothing and footwear, and always check the weather forecast. By being well-prepared, you can safely enjoy all that Mount Cook has to offer, from its breathtaking vistas to its diverse range of flora and fauna. 

Image: Tourism New Zealand


What you need to know about Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo is more than just a stunning body of water. It's also part of the UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve, making it an ideal spot for stargazing. The lake's remarkable turquoise colour, a result of finely ground rock in the water, is a sight to behold during the day.

The area offers a range of activities, from relaxing in the Tekapo hot pools to exploring the local trails. One of the most well-known Lake Tekapo attractions, the Church of the Good Shepherd, is a must-visit for its historical significance and picturesque location. Lake Tekapo also serves as a gateway to the Mackenzie Basin's other attractions, making it a perfect stop in your travel itinerary.


The best things to do in Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo

Exploring Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo by camper offers a range of activities that cater to all interests, from serene stargazing to exhilarating hikes.


1. Take a stargazing tour with Silver River

Experience the magic of the night sky with a Silver River stargazing tour. Located in the heart of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, this tour offers an unparalleled view of the stars. You'll be guided through a celestial journey, viewing constellations and galaxies far beyond our own. 

Knowledgeable guides enhance the experience, sharing insights about the cosmos. It's not just about looking up; it's about understanding what you're seeing, making it a truly educational and awe-inspiring experience.


2. Walk Hooker Valley Track

For those who love nature walks, the Hooker Valley Track is a must-do. This well-maintained track offers stunning views of Mount Cook, glaciers, and alpine rivers. It's a relatively easy walk, suitable for most fitness levels, and takes about 3 to 4 hours to complete. 

Along the way, you'll cross swing bridges, encounter native flora and fauna, and be treated to the spectacular sight of the Hooker Glacier. The track culminates at the Hooker Lake, a perfect spot for a picnic with a view.


3. Grab a treat at Fairlie Bakehouse

A visit to the Fairlie Bakehouse makes for a tasty stop on your campervan journey. Located in the quaint town of Fairlie, this bakery is famous for its delicious pies and pastries – a perfect treat to fuel your road trip adventures. 

The bakehouse offers a range of mouth-watering options, from classic meat pies to sweet treats. It's not just about the food; it's about experiencing local flavours and the warm, welcoming atmosphere of a small-town bakery. Make sure to stop by and grab a bite; it's a culinary highlight worth adding to your travel itinerary.


4. Visit Geraldine Vintage Car & Machinery Museum

For a step back in time, the Geraldine Vintage Car & Machinery Museum is a must-visit. Situated in the charming town of Geraldine, the museum is a treasure trove of vintage cars and machinery. It's an ideal spot for those interested in the history of automobiles and engineering. The collection showcases a range of beautifully preserved vehicles and machinery, offering a glimpse into the past. 

This museum is more than just a display; it's a journey through the evolution of automotive and mechanical technology, making it a unique and informative stop on your campervan hire adventure.


5. Discover NZ Alpine Lavender

Immerse yourself in the fragrant world of NZ Alpine Lavender, the largest organic lavender farm in the Southern Hemisphere. Located in the breathtaking Mackenzie Basin, this farm offers a unique experience amidst rows of vibrant lavender. 

Visitors can stroll through the fields, enjoy the stunning mountain views, and learn about the process of growing and harvesting lavender. Don't miss the chance to try their unique lavender ice cream, a refreshing treat that perfectly captures the essence of the farm. The on-site shop also features a variety of lavender products, from essential oils to handcrafted souvenirs, making it an ideal spot to find a special memento of your visit. This experience at NZ Alpine Lavender adds a touch of aromatic charm to your campervan adventure.


6. Relax at Tekapo Springs

For a relaxing and rejuvenating experience, Tekapo Springs is a destination not to be missed. Situated in the heart of Lake Tekapo, this fantastic attraction offers hot pools, a day spa, and stunning views of the surrounding landscapes. 

The hot pools, with varying temperatures, provide a perfect way to unwind after a day of exploring. In addition to the thermal experience, Tekapo Hot Springs also offers ice skating, snow tubing, and a café. Whether you're looking to relax in the hot pools or seeking a bit of fun, Tekapo Springs adds a touch of leisure and relaxation to your travel itinerary.


7. Kayak on Lake Tekapo

For an unforgettable experience on the water, consider kayaking on Lake Tekapo. With Paddle Tekapo, you can hire a kayak and explore the unrivalled beauty of the lake at your own pace. 

As you paddle, you'll be surrounded by stunning views of the Southern Alps and the vibrant blue waters of the lake. This activity offers a peaceful yet invigorating way to connect with nature. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced kayaker, the calm waters of Lake Tekapo provide an ideal setting for an enjoyable day out on your campervan adventure.


8. See the Lake Tekapo lupin flowers

A visit to Lake Tekapo isn't complete without witnessing the spectacular display of lupin flowers. These vibrant blooms create a stunning contrast against the backdrop of the lake and mountains. 

The best time to see the Lake Tekapo lupins is from late November to January when they are in full bloom. Strolling through fields of lupins is not just a visual treat; it's a chance to capture some of the most picturesque scenes in the region, making it a highlight for photographers and nature lovers on their travel itinerary.

Image: Tourism New Zealand


Where to stay in Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo

Finding the perfect spot to park your campervan is an essential part of your road trip experience. Here are some great options in Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo that offer excellent facilities and stunning locations.


Lake Tekapo Motels and Holiday Park

Situated in the heart of Lake Tekapo, Lake Tekapo Motels and Holiday Park provides an ideal base for exploring the area. This holiday park offers powered and non-powered sites for campervans, allowing you to choose the option that best suits your needs. The park is equipped with essential facilities such as kitchen and laundry amenities, making your stay comfortable and hassle-free. Its prime location means you're just a short walk away from the lake's edge, perfect for those early morning views or stargazing at night.


Glentanner Park

Glentanner Park, located near the shores of Lake Pukaki and a short drive from Mount Cook, is a fantastic choice for campervan travellers. The park offers spacious powered sites with incredible views of the surrounding mountains. Facilities include a communal kitchen, bathrooms, and a barbecue area, ensuring a pleasant and convenient stay. Glentanner Park is also a great starting point for various local activities, including scenic flights and hiking trails.


White Horse Hill Campground

For those venturing closer to Mount Cook, the White Horse Hill Campground is an excellent option. Managed by the Department of Conservation, this campground offers a more natural setting. It's located just a short drive from the Mount Cook Village and provides basic facilities such as toilets and running water. The campground is an ideal spot for those looking to immerse themselves in nature and is a great base for exploring nearby hiking trails, including the Hooker Valley Track.


Looking for more South Island travel inspiration?

If you're eager to explore more of what the South Island has to offer, Apollo has plenty of resources to spark your wanderlust. 

For more ideas and travel tips, check out these handy guides packed with insights and suggestions to help you plan an unforgettable South Island adventure:


Explore more of the South Island with Apollo

Whether you're seeking thrilling adventures or peaceful escapes, a campervan hire with Apollo is your ticket to an unforgettable journey. 

Ready to explore these wonders for yourself? Book your Apollo campervan online today and start planning the road trip of a lifetime.

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