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Six ‘Must See’ Lakes on New Zealand’s South Island

The South Island of New Zealand is world famous for its dazzling lakes. Here’s a few stunners you really should see!

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Lake Emma

Located in Hakatere Conservation Park between two beautiful braided rivers (the Rangitata & Rakaia), Lake Emma offers a surreal alpine setting with a huge mountain backdrop. Winter brings a blanket of snow and the landscape becomes a picturesque winter wonderland. Access is by unsealed road and care is required in icy conditions. Don’t forget your camera. This is shutterbug heaven!
Image credit; Sabine Osthorst

Lake Quill

Lake Quill is a ‘hanging lake’ located in Fiordland National Park, one of New Zealand’s most iconic landscapes. Feeding the magnificent Sutherland Falls, this natural beauty offers plenty of ‘wow factor’. Getting to Lake Quill on foot is impossible unless you have the climbing ability of a seasoned mountain goat! This is a ‘fly in’ or ‘fly over’ location. There are several aviation companies operating in or near Milford Sound that will get you up there. Try Air Milford as a fly over option or Milford Helicopters who can land near Lake Quill so you get the best scenery & photo ops.
Image credit; Don Startzell


Lake Poerua

Trout, trout and more trout! In fact, legend has it that trout die of old age in Lake Poerua! It’s a little off the beaten path for those who don’t know their way around but the road is sealed and easily accessible. Lake Poerua is located 13 kilometres southeast of Lake Brunner on Lake Brunner Road. Turn off State Highway 73 at Jacksons and head for Inchbonnie. If the fantastic fishing ops don’t lure you to Lake Poerua, the ethereal natural surrounds will. Mist clings to the hills and massive native trees reach for the sky from the lake bed. Wildlife is abundant, so are the sand flies. We recommend using a good insect repellent.

Lake Manapouri

Often overlooked as visitors scramble to Te Anau & Milford Sound, Lake Manapouri oozes tranquillity and peacefulness. Views across the water to the mountainous ranges within Fiordland National Park are vast and sublime. Lake Manapouri has its own small harbour called ‘Pear Harbour’ where you can take boat rides to the West Arm Power Station. Formed by ancient glaciers, Lake Manapouri is New Zealand’s second deepest lake at 444 metres. Containing more that 30 small islands, Lake Manapouri is a fascinating place to explore. Offering an unhurried ambience, there are plenty of welcoming places to stay & eat and the vast waterfront park at Frasers Beach has awesome walking and cycling trails.

Lake Mapourika

Approximately 15 kilometres north of Franz Josef Glacier, Lake Mapourika is a delightful jewel set in natural, wild, West Coast splendour. If paddling is your thing, this is the spot for you. Perfect for kayaking, fishing, relaxation and family walks, Lake Mapourika also offers excellent facilities for camping. You’ll find flush toilets and wheelchair accessible amenities along with flat tenting and campervan sites for your stay. Grab your slice of West Coast wilderness for just $15 per adult/night.
Image credit; Julian Apse

Lake Wakatipu

Generally associated with the bustling tourism mecca of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu is even more beautiful at its head near Glenorchy. From the optimal roadside layby at Bennetts Bluff you’ll get mind blowing views over the lake to Mount Earnslaw and the Humboldt Range. Pidgeon & Pig Islands are also visible from Bennetts Bluff. You can paddle out to them on a kayak tour from Glenorchy and inspect the unique wildlife and scenery. While you’re up that way, head to Paradise (yes, it’s a real place) and stay a while in the mountains. You won’t be disappointed!

If you intend to fish in any South Island lakes and rivers you must adhere to the Check, Clean, Dry biosecurity protocols to avoid the spread of waterborne pests.
Also, please remember that lake & river levels can rise rapidly and without warning during heavy weather events.




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