The Godley and Cass rivers feed into the 83-square-kilometre Lake Tekapo which spills into the Tekapo River then wends its way across the Mackenzie Basin.
On Lake Tekapo’s southern shore, the burgeoning village of TEKAPO revolves around a roadside ribbon of cafés and gift shops surrounded by new housing developments. Its name derives from the Maori taka (“sleeping mat”) and po (“night”), suggesting that this place has long been used as a stopover. It still is, with visitors keen to spend a sunny afternoon picnicking on the lakeshore, enjoying the sunset from a hot pool then stargazing after dark.
Minimal light pollution presents perfect conditions for observing the night skies, and the 1000m summit of Mount John, 9km northwest of Tekapo, has sprouted telescope domes operated by the University of Canterbury and astronomical institutions around the world. There’s an excellent hike up here and great reward in the form of Astro Café, though the star attraction is the range of observatory and night sky tours.