Lake Tekapo and Its Church

One of the highlights of travelling in South Island, driving from Queenstown to Christchurch, is undoubtedly Lake Tekapo. Fed by four main rivers – the Godley, Macauley, Mistake and Cass – it has a catchment area of over five hundred square miles.  The lake itself is one of the largest on South Island, covering an area of 32 square miles, but it is its setting rather than its scale that makes it a popular stopping off point for tourists, as the lake offers a spectacular view of the Southern Alps from its shore.

Church of the Good Shepherd Lake Tekapo Attractions
Lake Tekapo

Church of the Good Shepherd Lake Tekapo Attractions

Architecture with a wild side

Most visitors park up near the Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Tekapo which stands right on the lake’s shore. It dates from 1935 and was constructed as a place of worship for the pioneer families of the Mackenzie Country.  The Church of the Good Shepherd was designed by an architect from Christchurch by the name of R. S. D. Harman who based his plans on sketches by a local artist called Esther Hope.  Its foundation stone was laid by HRH the Duke of Gloucester and dedicated by the Bishop of Christchurch eight months later.  The outside of the church, with its solid, chunky stonework, is a reflection of the instruction given to the builders that the site on which the church stands was to be left intact.  No rocks were to be removed and the matagouri bushes shouldn’t be pulled up.  The stones themselves were all found locally and were used in their natural condition.

Church of the Good Shepherd Lake Tekapo
Church of the Good Shepherd

A church with a view

The building, in this raw and wild state, is attractive, but it is inside that the Church of the Good Shepherd really becomes something special. The altar stands in front of a window that perfectly frames the Southern Alps across Lake Tekapo.  Not surprisingly, it is one of the most photographed altars  in the country and is popular for weddings.

Lake Tekapo Attractions: View from Church of the Good Shepherd
View from Church of the Good Shepherd

Haig the collie

Just by the Church of the Good Shepherd is a bronze statue of a collie. To this day, these working dogs are invaluable in assisting local farmers herd their sheep.  Almost fifty years ago, the local residents of Mackenzie Country decided to recognise the role these dogs play by commissioning a statue.  They chose a sculptor from Kaikoura to create a suitable work, modelled on a neighbour’s dog called Haig.  In 1966, a plaster cast of the clay model was made and sent to London, where it was cast in bronze ready to be returned to New Zealand.

Church of the Good Shepherd Lake Tekapo Attractions: Haig the Collie Sheep dog statue
Haig the Collie Sheep Dog Statue

You can also explore Lake Tekapo when planning a trip to Mt. Cook National Park. There are several tours in and around the area.

About JuliaHammond


Julia Hammond is a Geography teacher turned travel writer with a passion for places. Winning Mail Travel's Deep South competition was the catalyst to write for a diverse range of publications including Bradt's Bus Pass Britain Rides Again. She’s written Kindle guides to Cape Town, Peru and London for Unanchor and advice on Savannah for Wanderlust. When not travelling, she can be found at home in Essex planning her next trip, her two golden retrievers curled up at her feet.

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