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About Lake Tekapo

Glacial Valley

Lake Tekapo is set in the vast Mackenzie Basin midway between Christchurch and Queenstown. The gorgeous turquoise lake is glacier fed from the Godley River valley and it is the fine glacial silt suspended in alpine water that gives the lake its stunning colour.


Tekapo was first discovered by the Maori who came to hunt Moa birds (now extinct) and fish for eels. The name was originally "Takapo" meaning "to leave in haste at night".

The Mackenzie

The first Europeans made their way to the high country in the tracks of a Scottish sheep rustler named James Mackenzie. Mackenzie and his sheep dog Friday are a popular local legend and of course the region now bears his name. 

Hardy pioneering families from Scotland and England settled the inhospitable landscape from the 1850's creating the iconic sheep stations that are now the heart and soul of the Mackenzie. 

The Hydro Scheme

Over the twentieth century progress came by way of the construction of a visionary hydroelectric project that powers much of New Zealand. Beginning at Lake Tekapo (the highest lake) a series of power stations are linked by canals from the mountains to the sea at Oamaru.  The canals have become an extraordinary sport fishery with salmon and trout growing to massive sizes. 

The Village

The village remains very small with a population of around 390 permanent residents. Numbers swell during the winter for the ski season when the landscape is transformed into a snowy wonderland. In summer tourists flock to see the gorgeous coloured lupin flowers and enjoy water sports on the lake.

The Dark Sky

All year round the Mackenzie is blessed by the clearest darkest skies in the world and it has become a mecca for stargazers and astronomers. The Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve was awarded the first ever Gold-level dark sky status in 2012.

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