Surrounded by mountains and far from the glare of city lights, Lake Tekapo's cloud free skies make it one of the best places in the Southern Hemisphere to see the night sky. Local light-pollution laws require all exterior night-time lighting to shine down onto the ground, rather than into the sky. World heritage status is currently being sought for the whole area as the world's first starlight preservation area.
Lake Tekapo with the Church of the Good Shepherd in the foreground
The Church of the Good Shepherd that was built to the glory of God as a memorial to the pioneers of the Mackenzie Country with the foundation stone being laid by H.R.H. the Duke of Gloucester, on 15 Jan 1935. There's an amazing view straight up the lake. ☎ +64 3 685-8389, Fax: +64 3 685-8185
Earth & Sky Observatory Tours, (Beside the Godley Hotel - opposite Caltex), ☎ +64 3 680-6960, . 10:00-late. Come on an Earth & Sky tour at one of either of two observatories - the famous Mt John Observatory (a research station run by the University of Canterbury, now also hosting night tours and a stunning cafe) or our smaller, more private observatory nearby at Cowan's Hill. On clear nights we can show you the wonders of the night sky. If it's cloudy, come and see areas of the observatory normally closed to the public, and learn about the scientific work done here. The stargazing tours are rapidly becoming one of the "must-do" activities for people coming to the South Island - both for locals and tourists alike. The weather is changeable here, so perhaps stay a few days to make sure you get a clear sky. To see the most stars, avoid the full moon: between five days after full moon and ten days before it will give the darkest skies. Check our website for more details!edit
Tekapo Springs, 6 Lakeside Drive, ☎ +64 03 680-6550, . 10am - 9pm daily. The Tekapo Springs complex includes a complex containing three inviting hot pools with bench-side seating, private nooks and crannies, and massage jets. The temperature of the pools ranges from 36-40°C. Next to the pools is a sauna and steam room. Four fully-functional spa rooms provide massages, facials, pedicures, manicures and total body care, and each treatment booked gives complimentary access to the sauna and steam room. In addition, there is an ice rink, that is operated over the winter months, over the summer months (October-March) there is an inflatable waterslide the Trippo. Finally, there is also a snow park that provides an ice ramp used with inflatable tubes. This operates as a Summer Tube over the warmer months on artificial matting.edit
Astro Cafe, Mt John Observatory (drive along Godley Peaks Rd (off the highway, just south of Tekapo Village) until you come to the gate), . Summer 09:00-18:00; Winter 10:00-17:00. Described in Lonely Planet as "possibly the best place on the planet for a coffee". Stunning views, lovely walks, and delicious coffee and food! If you're lucky, you may catch an astronomer floating about to give you a short tour of the observatory, or perhaps show you a star (or the sun!) in the daytime through special telescopes. Drive time from Tekapo is only 15 min, or you can walk up, starting by Alpine Springs Hot Pools (walks take between 45 min to 1.5 hr each way). This is definitely a spot not to be missed. Please note that the road is closed outside of cafe operating hours to protect the Observatory, so check the opening times first! Being up so high (1,000 m above sea level) the road occasionally closes due to high winds or snow. The narrow road cannot carry vehicles larger than 22-seater buses and, as the observatory is private-lease land, any commercial / tourist ventures must get permission from Earth & Sky before coming up.edit