A trip to New Zealand’s South Island isn’t complete unless you’re able to view at least some of these lakes. They each offer their own identity, with truly awe-inspiring views and they give a sense of the enormous amount of space for roaming, adventuring and exploring. We are lucky enough to have quite a few of these glimmering lakes in the South Island; some are hidden gems off the beaten track and others, like Lake Wakatipu are world famous!
We’ve picked the seven most beautiful lakes in New Zealand’s South Island that you should put on your to-do list when visiting our shores, let’s see what you think!
Lake Wanaka is picturesque and vividly-framed, with the craggy peaks of the Southern Alps striking a pose in the background. Wanaka Township is popular with both domestic and international tourists, with two major ski fields for winter fun, and a host of wineries and eateries to enjoy during the warmer months. Look out for Red Star Luxury Burgers, Wanaka’s legitimate competitor to Ferg Burger in Queenstown!
Queenstown is of course a main attraction for visitors to New Zealand and Lake Wakatipu provides plenty of entertainment and world-class vistas. Lake Wakitipu is dog-legged with Glenorchy at the North-Western end, Queenstown in the middle and Kingston to the South. From Queenstown, the views across the lake towards the snow-capped Remarkables Mountain Range are unforgettable. One of the best times to enjoy this view is during the Winter Festival in June, with a warm cup of mulled wine and live music at Earnslaw Park.
Lake Tekapo located in the Mackenzie Basin, is the second largest lake in New Zealand’s South Island. It sits 700 meters above sea level and is a great mid-way point to stop for a snack if you’re travelling between Christchurch and Queenstown. Lake Tekapo is famous for its iridescent baby-blue coloured hue – due to the high content of rock flour, or limestone and mineral sediments that travel downstream in the glacial waters feeding the lake.
Famously known as the surrounding setting for ‘Lake-town’ in ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’, Lake Pukaki is another long large jewel in the Mackenzie Basin. Nestled under the shadow of Aoraki/Mount Cook, it was the lakes pure distinctive light, amazing turquoise hues, coupled by the sharp alpine landforms that originally got the attention of Sir Peter Jackson. Sir Peter ended up using this particular region three times to backdrop major location scenes in his ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit Trilogies’.
Lake Ohau is another popular destination for skiers and snowboarders. It sits directly underneath Ohau ski field and is located four hours drive south of Christchurch and two hours north of Queenstown. It offers incredible mirror images, views across to Aoraki/Mt Cook, Beech Forest hikes and protected shrub lands. Lake Ohau is a favourite among Otago locals.
Lake Matheson sits close to Fox Glacier in South Westland, on the West Coast. The lake is renowned for its crisp, reflected views of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. A magnificent place to stop for a night or two beside the lake, or stay in a local lodge – there’s also a great walk through native forest around the fringe of the lake.
Lake Hawea lies near Lake Wanaka and covers a huge 141 square kilometers. It’s a popular lake for mountain activities like fly fishing, kayaking, wind and kite surfing and boating. Along the shores of the lake there are numerous biking and hiking trails and up the valleys there are some well-known hunting spots.
So that’s our list of the 7 most beautiful lakes in New Zealand’s South Island, an impressive selection of stunningly beautiful lakes. If you’re thinking of visiting some of these destinations, you should check out our New Zealand Adventure trips.
P.S. If you think there are any other South Island lakes that need to be added to the list, definitely let us know!