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An Alpine Playground

An Alpine Playground

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Simon Mullinger takes a trip to Tekapo Springs to discover late-night stargazing in the hot pools and see what else this winter retreat has on offer.

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After an eclectic Spotify playlist, two chicken wraps, a discussion on toilet training and a brief restroom stop, my wife and I arrived at a sunny, snow-dusted Tekapo just three hours after setting off from Christchurch. Tekapo has grown since we last stayed here, but it certainly hasn’t lost any of its natural beauty in the process. A quick drive through the town revealed the new residential developments, consisting mainly of holiday homes with a sprinkling of residents; the extended retail/ hospitality strip; a new footpath connecting the town to the area where the Church of the Good Shepherd can be found; and Tekapo Springs.

We stayed at Peppers Bluewater Resort, which is a great option for those who like the independence of a self-contained home but with the convenience of an excellent restaurant, bar and even staff at your disposal. Our lake-view apartment was on two levels, with the upstairs offering a generous living area, full kitchen and a balcony with a superb view of the lake and shuttle buses to Tekapo Springs. Finding ourselves child-free for the night we headed out in the evening to Tekapo Springs to relax and indulge in some romantic stargazing. Who knew? Practically naked stargazing is a thing, and I for one am glad.

Stargazing is a recent addition to Tekapo Springs’s offerings and why not? Who wouldn’t like lying in steaming hot pools, looking up at the Milky Way above snow-capped mountains with knowledgeable staff on hand to guide you through your aquatic astronomical journey. The experience took over two hours; we had a clear night allowing us to experience astronomy through the three telescopes (we saw Saturn, Jupiter and the Omega Nebula). After our education we entered the pools on special floating hammocks to drink in the night sky. I have no other benchmark to judge this style of stargazing on as this was my first experience, however, it is an experience not to be missed.

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For the more adventurous, Tekapo and the surrounding area is an alpine playground with mountaineering, kayaking, scenic flights, three ski fields, fishing, cycling and even glacier tours. We, however, wanted to channel our inner child and plumbed for ice skating at Tekapo Springs. I was a little apprehensive; my wife, however, was more intrepid – until she rather unceremoniously fell flat on her behind, arms flapping, legs skyward. We haven’t laughed so much in a long
time. Ice skating is just pure, simple fun and a great activity as long as you don’t take yourself too seriously. For some, Tekapo is the place to refill the car, stretch those tired legs or indulge in a bite to eat before pressing on to somewhere else. Tekapo, today, is a destination in its own right, anchored by the burgeoning Tekapo Springs. If the continued growth is managed tastefully this has the potential to become a mini Wanaka and a great weekend or overnight escape from Christchurch. I for one am bringing my family back over the winter.
TIPS / RECOMMENDATIONS
1. For families: take advantage of the babysitting services available to guests at the Peppers Bluewater Resort.
2. Kohan Restaurant is a must for Japanese food lovers. Their aptly named sushi – ‘The Tekapo Roll’ – has the potential to be a local delicacy.
3. Second only to mulled wine in alpine regions, hot chocolate in an eatery with an open fire is a nice respite from the potential sub-zero temperatures. Make the pilgrimage to the Tin Plate Kitchen and Bar for salvation.
4. If you are a fan of fine fare then try the Rakinui at Peppers Bluewater Resort. The tangy cheese salad and the Angus eye fillet are to die for, and they
even have their own beer on tap!