For those looking for an off-the-beaten-path excursion in New Zealand, I’d recommend visiting Lake Tekapo, in the center of the country's South Island. The small town is a cluster of homes and motels at the south end of the striking, sapphire blue glacier-fed lake.
At an elevation of 2,300 feet and bordering the Southern Alps, it's a dry, barren place ideal for biking or hiking.
Although the large lake offers ample space for swimming, kayaking and boating, few people venture in due to the frigid temperature of the water. Instead, I'd suggest hiking the scenic Mt. John Walkway.
The full trail is a three-hour loop; however, following the trail in a clockwise direction gets you to the summit in about an hour. At the top, you're rewarded with 360-degree views of Lake Tekapo, the majestic Southern Alps and the expansive Mackenzie Basin flats. Due to the lack of trees and shrubs, you can see every valley and peak the terrain has to offer. Look carefully and you may be able to see Mt. Cook, the highest peak in the Southern Hemisphere.
If you've reached the top and found yourself lacking in nourishment, have no worries. Perched at the top of the peak is the Astro Cafe, run in conjunction with the Mt. John Observatory. With only windows for walls, the cafe offers one of the best views you may ever find yourself dining to.
And if hiking up in the heat of the day is not your thing, venture up at night when the Mt. John Observatory is open and works with the local Earth & Sky tour company. Lake Tekapo is located in the heart of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve and offers unparalleled views of the southern night sky. Check out a more majestic Milky Way than you'll find in the Northern Hemisphere or the Southern Cross, visible only when "down under."
New Zealand is known for its adventure sports, and Lake Tekapo is no exception. Before you journey to the tourist hotspots, check out this less-crowded alternative to enjoy the majestic beauty that is Aotearoa, New Zealand.