A Travel Price Comparison for New Zealand Wellington vs. Lake Tekapo for Food, Hiking, Families, and Backpackers

Should you visit Wellington or Lake Tekapo?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Should I visit Wellington or Lake Tekapo? This is a common question asked by many travelers. By figuring out which city has activities that align with your interests along with knowing which is more affordable, you'll understand where you can get more bang for your buck. So, let's dive into the details and the data, which all comes from actual travelers.

Wellington

Wellington is a laid-back, funky, and compact city. Other popular activities here include beaches, hiking, and shopping.

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo is a small, remote, and basic town. This is a charming small with plenty of activities, too. The beauty of this spot is also one of the main reasons why visitors come. Visitors also love the hiking.

Wellington and Lake Tekapo: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Popular for food and cuisine
  • Active nightlife
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Fun shopping
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Good for students
  • Good public transit
Pros
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Impressive beauty
Things to Consider
  • Less popular for food
  • Less popular for nightlife
  • Less popular for shopping
  • Public transit not as usable


Is there more to do in Wellington or Lake Tekapo?

Tourists will generally find more to do in Wellington. Although Wellington and Lake Tekapo are both popular with visitors, Wellington has more sights, activities, and attractions for travelers. Wellington is more popular for its museums, food, nightlife, beaches, and shopping, while Lake Tekapo is known for its hiking, small town charm, and impressive beauty. Wellington is more touristy than Lake Tekapo and is popular for its waterfront promenade, quirky cafe culture, and relaxing beaches. It is also home to Zealandia Ecosanctuary. Lake Tekapo is popular for its hot springs, remote location, and beautiful night sky.

How is Wellington different from Lake Tekapo?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Lake Tekapo and Wellington. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Wellington or Lake Tekapo?

Wellington
Lake Tekapo

Wellington is a good destination for its museums and landmarks. However, Lake Tekapo does not have museums and landmarks.

If you're looking for an educational opportunity, there are a decent number of museums and historical sights around Wellington. As the capital city, you'll find a number of museums and sights around town. Check out the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, the Beehive, the Wellington Museum, and the City Gallery.

Lake Tekapo does not have museums and landmarks.


Is the Food Better in Wellington or Lake Tekapo? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Wellington
Lake Tekapo

Wellington is a great destination for its restaurant scene. However, Lake Tekapo is a town with minimal options for its local flavors and cuisine.

Dining out in Wellington is an experience not to be missed. There are waterfront restaurants and a vibrant cafe scene around town. You'll also find local markets and many diverse eateries that you can explore.

Lake Tekapo offers some easy restaurants to choose from. The town is very small with just a couple of restaurants and fast food joints.

Is Wellington or Lake Tekapo Better for Nightlife?

Wellington
Lake Tekapo

Wellington is a great destination for its evening party scene. However, Lake Tekapo is a town with minimal options for nightlife.

The people in Wellington know how to have a good time. The best nightlife scene is found along Courtenay Place. There you'll find nightclubs, pubs, and cocktail bars. Cuba Street is another fun area with a bit more of a local vibe, and the waterfront is another great nightlife district in the city.

The nightlife scene is quiet in Lake Tekapo This is a very small town and there isn't a real nightlife scene. The night sky is incredible though, and you should absolutely do some stargazing.

Is Wellington or Lake Tekapo Better for Beaches?

Wellington
Lake Tekapo

Wellington is a great destination for the beach. However, Lake Tekapo is not a beach destination.

Many people visit Wellington for it's beautiful beaches. There are nice beaches within walking distance of the city center. There are also beaches that are well worth the drive if you're looking to get a bit out of town. In the summer months, there are swimming beaches, and year around they have nice views and a good atmosphere.

Lake Tekapo is not a beach destination.


Is Wellington or Lake Tekapo Better for Hiking?

Wellington
Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo is a very popular place for its hiking trails. Also, Wellington is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its hiking experiences.

Many visitors explore the nearby hiking trails while visiting Lake Tekapo. There are many beautiful hikes in the area with some of the most popular being the Mount John Summit Track, the Richmond Trail, and Cowan's Hill Walkway.

Many people include a hike when visiting Wellington. The area has rolling hills and beautiful coastlines that are filled with walking trails and scenic views. Some of the more popular trails in the area are the Red Rocks walk and the City-to-Sea walk.

Is the Shopping Better in Wellington or Lake Tekapo?

Wellington
Lake Tekapo

Wellington is a great destination for its shopping areas. However, Lake Tekapo is a town with minimal options for shopping.

Browsing through shops is a popular activity in Wellington. For the city's best shopping, head to the "Golden Mile". This is the area defined by Lambton Quay, Willis Street, Manners Street and Courtenay Place. There are boutique designers and high end fashion outlets throughout the area. The city also has many great markets and local shopping areas.

Shopping in Lake Tekapo can be found for those interested. There are a couple of shops where you can pick up basic necessities.

Is Wellington or Lake Tekapo Better for Families?

Wellington
Lake Tekapo

Kids will enjoy a visit to either Wellington or Lake Tekapo.

Because of its large number of kid-friendly activities, Wellington is very family-friendly. There's the Wellington Zoo as well as Island Bay Marine Education Centre, both of which are great for animal-lovers. Waitangi Park is a nice park where kids can run around and play, and if you're looking for something indoors, head to the Space Place at Carter Observatory. If everyone needs some down time, there's always the beach with is fun to hang out at.

Lake Tekapo is known to be a very family-friendly place to visit. Kids will enjoy a visit to Tekapo Springs, which is particularly fun in the winter months. There's snow tubing, ice skating, and, of course, the hot pools. There are also short hikes in the area like the Mount John Summit Walk. Biking, paddleboarding, and kayaking are also popular in the area.


Is Wellington or Lake Tekapo Better for Couples?

Wellington
Lake Tekapo

With fun activities for couples, both Wellington and Lake Tekapo make for a good place to visit.

Wellington makes for a fun place to visit for a couple. The botanical gardens are beautiful to explore, and there is also a bird sanctuary in the area as well. Couple's will also enjoy the many nice restaurants and beautiful outdoor space around town.

Lake Tekapo is a good city for couples to visit. Couples will enjoy the stunning scenery, beautiful hikes, and the romantic hot springs. Stargazing is another popular activity in the area.

Is Wellington or Lake Tekapo Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Wellington
Lake Tekapo

Wellington is a great destination for backpackers. Also, Lake Tekapo is still popular, but not quite as popular for backpackers and budget travelers.

Wellington is a very popular city for backpackers and budget travelers. Located on the south side of the North Island, many backpackers use this city as a gateway to the South Island. There are many hostels around town and other fellow backpackers to hang out with.

Plenty of budget travelers visit Lake Tekapo. It's a small town with a couple of cheap places to stay that backpackers will appreciate.

Is Wellington or Lake Tekapo Better for Students?

Wellington
Lake Tekapo

Wellington is a good destination for students. However, Lake Tekapo is not popular with students.

Wellington is popular with students. The locals are friendly and welcoming, and the atmosphere is a nice setting for students.

Lake Tekapo is not popular with students.


Is Wellington or Lake Tekapo Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Wellington
Lake Tekapo

Wellington is a great destination for its public transit. However, Lake Tekapo is a town with minimal options for times when you don't have a car.

Many visitors use the public transit system in Wellington. There are city buses, trains, and ferries that are popular with tourists and locals alike.

Public transit is quite limited in Lake Tekapo. Public transportation in the area is very limited. If you don't have a car, you'll want to arrange tours to get out and about.

Is Wellington or Lake Tekapo a more walkable city?

Wellington
Lake Tekapo

Wellington is a great destination for its ease of walking around. Also, Lake Tekapo is still popular, but not quite as popular for its walkability.

Wellington is a very walkable destination. This is one of New Zealand's most walkable cities and it has a compact city center.

Lake Tekapo is somewhat walkable. The town is small enough to get around on foot, and you can hire a tour to get out into the region.

For even more information, also check out Is Wellington Worth Visiting? and Is Lake Tekapo Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Lake Tekapo or Wellington?

How long in Wellington or Lake Tekapo?

You'll be able to find lots of things to do in Wellington or Lake Tekapo to fill your time. Many travelers usually spend more of their time in Wellington than Lake Tekapo because of the number of activities and things to do in the area. Usually, 2-3 days is a good amount of time for Wellington, and 1-2 days is enough time in Lake Tekapo.

Families should spend more time in Wellington than Lake Tekapo. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in Wellington, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

Couples should spend more time in Wellington than Lake Tekapo. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in Wellington that are great for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Wellington than Lake Tekapo if your budget allows for it. With a larger number of budget-friendly sights, good nightlife, and active things to do, anyone traveling on a budget would have a good time in Wellington.


  • How many days in Wellington or Lake Tekapo? Ideal Length of Stay
    Wellington 2-3 
    Lake Tekapo 1-2

One day in Wellington or Lake Tekapo?

Visitors enjoy the nightlife and food when visiting the funky city of Wellington. It's also a great beach destination, too. One day is usually not enough time for a trip here as there is plenty to do. The entire region has so many activities, and you'll want time to do everything.

With around the remote town of Lake Tekapo, there's plenty to do. Anyone can find something fun to do here. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. While some people choose to spend more or less time in Lake Tekapo, one day is sufficent for most.


A weekend in Wellington or Lake Tekapo?

Visitors enjoy the food and shopping when visiting the compact destination of Wellington. It's a great spot for a beach vacation. This city offers something for everyone. Plenty of people spend a weekend in the area when traveling. If you enjoy all that's offered here, then a weekend is just the right amount of time to spend here.

With around the destination of Lake Tekapo, there's plenty to do. Many travelers plan to spend time hiking while in the area. It offers something for everyone. Many people spend a weekend here. In a weekend, you should have a good grasp of this town.

Five days in Wellington or Lake Tekapo?

The laid-back city of Wellington offers shopping and museums. You'll find plenty of activities on the beach. Five days may feel like too much time unless you plan to do a lot of relaxing. The length of your trip often depends on your style of travel.

Lake Tekapo, a popular town, is full of activities for travelers. Hiking can easily take up a good amount of your time here, too. Most people find that five days is more than enough time to see everything. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

A week in Wellington or Lake Tekapo?

Many people enjoy the museums and nightlife when visiting Wellington. Anyone can find something fun to do here. Most people come for the beaches. Most people find that one week is more than enough time to see everything.

Lake Tekapo is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. One week is plenty of time to see everything, even with extra days to spare. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do.


For some great organized tour ideas, see Tours for Outdoor and Nature Lovers in New Zealand, The Best Adventure Tours to New Zealand, The Best Eco Tours in New Zealand, and The Best Thrill-Seeking Tours in New Zealand.


Which place is cheaper, Lake Tekapo or Wellington?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Wellington is $104, while the average daily cost in Lake Tekapo is $76. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Wellington and Lake Tekapo in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Wellington $61
    Lake Tekapo $60
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Wellington $122
    Lake Tekapo $120
Compare Hotels in Wellington and Lake Tekapo

Looking for a hotel in Wellington or Lake Tekapo? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Wellington


Hotels in Lake Tekapo


Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.


Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Wellington Hotel Prices and Lake Tekapo Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Wellington $12
    Lake Tekapo -

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Wellington

Also for Wellington, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • Arrival Transfer: Wellington Airport to Central Wellington City Centre Hotels: $14
  • Departure Transfer: Wellington Central City Centre Hotels to Wellington Airport: $14
  • Private Airport Transfer: $81
  • Private Transfer from Wellington Cruise Port to Wellington Hotels: $26
  • Private Transfer from Wellington hotels to Wellington Cruise Port: $26
  • Private Transfer with Wellington Dial a Driver: $75
  • Wellington Airport (WLG) to Wellington - Arrival Private Transfer: $29
  • Wellington Airport Transfer to Wellington Hotels and Vice versa: $78
  • Wētā Workshop Experience with Guided Transfers: $63

Is it cheaper to fly into Wellington or Lake Tekapo?

Prices for flights to both Lake Tekapo and Wellington change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Food
  • Food Meals for one day
    Wellington $30
    Lake Tekapo $13
Typical Food Prices in Wellington

For Wellington, here are some examples of average food and meal prices for travelers:


  • Dinner
    $9.02

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Wellington

For Wellington, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • Walking Food Tour Of Wellington: $156
  • A Taste Of Wellington Food Tour (half Day): $192

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Wellington $16
    Lake Tekapo -

Tours and Activities in Wellington

For Wellington, here are a few prices for actual activities, tours, and tickets provided by various companies:

  • Museum of New Zealand Te Papa: Mana Māori Tour: $14
  • Museum of New Zealand Te Papa: Small Group Guided Tour: $14
  • Skip the Line: Staglands Wildlife Reserve Entry Ticket: $16
  • Return Ferry Ticket from Queens Wharf, Wellington to Days Bay: $18
  • Private Group Puzzle-Solving Adventure Game: Temple: $28
  • Private Group Puzzle-Solving Adventure Game: Spaceship: $28
  • Wētā Workshop Experience in Wellington: $34
  • Small Group Daytime 2-Hour Eco Wildlife Tour at Zealandia: $37
  • Wellington Commentated Harbour Explorer tour: $43
  • Guided Small Group Walking Tour in Wellington: $47
  • Zealandia Small Group Eco Wildlife Night Tour: $59
  • Half Day Tour of Wellington: $80

Tours and Activities in Lake Tekapo

Here are a few actual costs in Lake Tekapo for available activities, ticket prices, and tours:

  • Lake Tekapo Tour Scenic 4WD Mountains & Glaciers: $187
  • 45 Minutes Virtual Stargazing Experience in Lake Tekapo: $44
  • Chameleon Stargazing Shared Tour: $62
  • Crater Experience at Cowan's Observatory: $88
  • Dark Sky Indoor Cultural Astronomy Experience: $32
  • Mt Cook Day Tour From Tekapo (Small Group, Carbon Neutral): $156
  • Scenic 4WD Tour Lake Tekapo Backcountry: $187
  • Summit Experience - University of Canterbury Mt John Observatory: $119

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Wellington $12
    Lake Tekapo -

Sample the Local Flavors in Wellington

Also in Wellington, these are the prices for nightlife and alcohol related activities from various tour providers:

  • Wellington Craft Brewery Half Day Tour: $96
  • 1/2 day Martinborough Chefs Wine Tour with lunch from Wellington: $156
  • Martinborough Full Day Wine Tour: $175


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Wellington and Lake Tekapo, we can see that Wellington is more expensive. And not only is Lake Tekapo much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Lake Tekapo would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Lake Tekapo and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in Wellington would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Wellington than you might in Lake Tekapo.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Wellington Expensive? and Is Lake Tekapo Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Wellington or Lake Tekapo?

Wellington has a larger population, and is about 1160 times larger than the population of Lake Tekapo. When comparing the sizes of Wellington and Lake Tekapo, keep in mind that a larger population does not always imply the destination has more attractions or better activities. So, always research the type of place that you want to visit along with the activities and attractions that interest you.