Mount John via Lakeshore

Mount John via Lakeshore

Lake Tekapo Walkway



50 Rankers Reviews

45 Face-to-Face

182 Walking

6 Lake Tekapo



View from the top of Mt John
Mt John Observatory
Lake Tekapo


7 km return | 3 hours return

A sign at the top of Mount John, where there is also an observatory, states: “Probably the best place on the planet for a cafe.” It’s also a viewpoint worth climbing for.


Mount John Walkway is signposted from near the Tekapo Springs complex in Tekapo. Follow the lakeshore road 1 km, passing the campground, to the parking area on the left.


It’s a steady ascent of over 300 metres to Mount John. At first you are passing through coniferous forests, with a dusty sparse understorey. Breaking out of the vegetation near the summit is the start of the breathtaking views over the vast expanse of McKenzie Country and New Zealand highest peaks in the distance.

Stop for a coffee.

The Summit Circuit continues in a direction looking up the lake as it starts it’s descent through the sheep grazed paddocks. The track is signposted, but can be difficult to decipher. There are occasional orange topped poles and stiles.

The track eventually doubles back on itself, skirting above the turquoise lake waters, re-entering forest before arriving back near the hot springs complex.

Stop for a soak.


The McKenzie country is a moonscape. This elevated plateau was infilled by the outwash of glaciations. During Ice Ages, glaciers forming in the high peaks of the Southern Alps, disgorged vast quantities of material during their retreat. These meltwater rivers carried gravels, sands and silts, dumping their load in the natural contours and flattening them out.

Lying at altitude of over 600 metres and being in the rainshadow of the mountains, the dry, cold country around Lake Tekapo experiences a continental climate similar to Siberia. Summers are very hot, winters are very cold and there is little rainfall. This is why the area is so arid and dusty.


Introduced lupins flower in December and January creating foreground for the enviable photos collected by international travellers.

Polynesian History

Maori rarely venture into these isolated parts, although it is likely they would have chased moa, who browsed the totara colonising the area.

European History

James McKenzie is one of those characters who has become larger that life over the course of time. So much has embellished the facts, that it is difficult to separate fact from fiction when recounting stories of his eventful life.

It is known he was imprisoned in 1855 on the charge of stealing sheep from Level Station. He travelled Canterbury and Otago with his bullock and dog, Friday. He was known for his cunning, strength and rebellious spirit - qualities that endeared him to the many other sheep drovers and farm workers, resentful of the rules and regulation imposed by wealthy landowners.

It is said McKenzie ‘discovered’ the area that now bear his name on one of his forays with sheep he was either droving or stealing.


Feature Value Info


South IslandMount Cook - MacKenzieLake Tekapo


  • Walking
  • Free



Showing 13 reviews of 46.

Liz's avatar


Ranking: 9/10

Quite steep 35 minute walk to summit. Wonderful views and good coffee

Reviewed 6 months ago

Mike Fricker's avatar

Mike Fricker

Ranking: 10/10

29Oct18. We love this walk especially as there is the cafe at the top. The walk is not too strenuous and includes the forest element and the open areas near the top. Great views.
Great cafe.
A longer walk down if the weather is ok.

Reviewed 11 months ago

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Fredrik Lundberg's avatar

Fredrik Lundberg

New Zealand

Ranking: 10/10

Beautiful views and a nice intermediate hike.

Reviewed over 2 years ago and experienced in February 2017

Nolwen's avatar



Ranking: 7/10

Nice view up there of the lake and Southern Alps - very windy!! Easy walk along the shore on the way back.

Reviewed over 2 years ago and experienced in November 2016

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Anthony Terry's avatar

Anthony Terry

New Zealand

Ranking: 7/10

Fabulous walk with diverse views but could have been better sign posted. Amazing at the top!

Reviewed over 2 years ago and experienced in November 2016

Celine's avatar



Ranking: 9/10

Awesome place, it was our first place to visit, beautiful view of the water, a lot of wind - but really nice view. Nice spot for a swim, even at 15 degrees.

Reviewed over 2 years ago and experienced in March 2016

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Michael L's avatar

Michael L


Ranking: 9/10

We have done a very nice walk at this beautiful lake. The view is amazing. The lake is cold for a swim but impossible not to go.

Reviewed over 2 years ago and experienced in March 2016

Jean-Pierre Guillon's avatar

Jean-Pierre Guillon


Ranking: 9/10

Very nice walk in a beautiful area with an amazing view of the Remarkable Lake. It is also great that they have a cafe at the top to enjoy coffee/tea etc.

Reviewed about 3 years ago and experienced in March 2016

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Coralie Dhenin's avatar

Coralie Dhenin


Ranking: 8/10

One of the best views in New Zealand, 360 degree view, different landscape in the same place. Don't hestitate, do not miss this.

Reviewed about 3 years ago and experienced in March 2016

Marie's avatar



Ranking: 10/10

This is the best track I have ever walked. Stunning was the 360 degree view from Mt Jon and an interesting observatory.

Reviewed about 3 years ago and experienced in March 2016

Award-1-24px Congratulations Mount John via Lakeshore - Lake Tekapo Walkway

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Ivan Dupont's avatar

Ivan Dupont


Ranking: 8/10

So windy but really beautiful, an amazing view of Tekapo Lake!

Reviewed over 3 years ago and experienced in January 2016

Lucy Mulvin's avatar

Lucy Mulvin

United Kingdom

Ranking: 9/10

Stunning walk, the view is beautiful.

Reviewed over 3 years ago

Mark's avatar



Ranking: 9/10

Nice views, good climb.

Reviewed almost 5 years ago and experienced in March 2014

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Nick Morrison's avatar

Nick Morrison

Rankers owner