Church of the Good Shepherd and Lake Tekapō. © Swiss Media Vision

The Church of the Good Shepherd: the most photographed church with the best views


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In case you hadn’t noticed, New Zealand owes much to its sheep farmers. Especially in the South Island, where the high country is ideal for these little jersey producers.

The Church of the Good Shepherd honours those early musterers and paddock merchants who settled this particularly famous and unforgiving sheep-country region.

Is this New Zealand’s most photographed church? Most likely. But don’t go all ‘I’m an off the beaten track kinda guy’ on us, or you’ll miss out on something truly spectacular. The building alone – tiny, iconic – is a must see: its setting is unparalleled. The view through the altar window as it frames the Southern Alps is profoundly moving and, in this happy snappy age, one you’ll need to commit to memory. There is no photography permitted inside the church.

The surrounding area is known as the Mackenzie Country, and it’s real pioneering territory.

The church, completed in 1935, was built as a memorial to those hardy souls who settled and made a life here and, as befits their carving a life from the land around them, the church is constructed solely from local materials.

The stones were gathered from within an 8km radius and left in their natural condition. Bushes on the site were left undisturbed: the building couldn’t be more ‘of’ the landscape than that.

Nearby is a bronze sculpture of Haig, a New Zealand collie sheepdog. These guys did as much to turn the land to awesome grazing territory as their owners, and he probably gets as many snaps as the church. Woof!

Overall, this is a quiet, reflective place. But it’s also damnably popular, so you might want to arrive outside regular visiting hours if you want to grab a moment. You should. It’s life-changing.

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