The land of the long white cloud, New Zealand is home to a series of sweeping beaches, primeval forests, snow-capped mountains and some of the world’s most impressive lakes. From the lightning bolt of Lake Wakatipu to the turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo each one has a unique story to tell. Below are 14 of these amazing lakes:
1. Lake Taupo
Located in the volcanic heart of New Zealand’s North Island, Lake Taupo – with a surface area of 620 square Kilometres (roughly the size of Singapore) – is New Zealand’s largest fresh water lake. Formed by a volcanic eruption over two thousand years ago, the lake leads to New Zealand’s most visited natural attraction in Huka falls, and is also home to what must be the world’s most bizarre hole-in-one challenges.
2. Emerald Lakes
Found near the summit of the volcanic Mt. Tongariro, the Emerald Lakes are part of New Zealand’s most popular day walk across the Tongariro Alpine crossing. Helping to fill craters left behind by volcanic activity within the park, the lakes emerald colours come from a series of dissolved volcanic minerals which have been washed down from the nearby summit. Alongside boiling hot springs, geysers and lava flows, the crossing is widely recognised as scenery from the Lord of the Rings trilogy with Mt. Tongariro itself having been the setting for Mount Doom.
3. Lake Wanaka
Set against a backdrop of towering mountains, New Zealand’s fourth largest lake was left behind by a glacier during the last ice age and now lies peacefully on the edge of the town of Wanaka. Stretching some 28 miles the lake has become a popular tourist spot, with the annual world Heli challenge – “The world‘s most extreme skiing competition” – being held in the neighbouring Mt Aspiring national park.
4. Lake Hawea
1000 metres to east of lake Wanaka lies the deep blue crystal clear waters of Lake Hawae, the smallest of the southern alpine lakes. Named after one of the early inhabitants of the local district, the lake is damned to the south by an ancient terminal moraine where the small town of Hawae (with a population of just 300) resides.
5. Champagne Pool
Sculptured by Geo-Thermal activity, the Champagne Pool is found inside New Zealand’s most geothermic site – the Wai-O-Tapu Park. Home to a series unique volcanic features including boiling mud pools and bubbling geysers, the pool is a short distance from the famous town of Rotorua – the ancestral home of the Te Arawa people.
6. Lake Tekapo
Commonly known as the turquoise lake, Lake Tekapo can be found to the south-west of Christchurch in the Mackenzie Basin. Surrounded by the breath-taking snow topped mountains of the Southern Alps including Mount Cook, the lake’s unique turquoise colour comes from left over glacial sediments which are still suspended in the water.
7. Lake Pukaki
The largest of the Alpine lakes, Lake Pukaki boats a distinctive light blue colouring created by the by-product of glacial erosion. As with Lake Tekapo, Pukaki is surrounded by stunning mountainous scenery including Mount Cook, which together with its rocky shoreline and abundance of wildlife has helped it become one of New Zealand’s most popular and most visited destinations.
8. Lake Mahinapua
Once a costal lagoon Lake Mahinapua has developed into one of New Zealand’s most loved inland lakes. Surrounded by a lush forest margin, the lake offers stunning scenic views and is a stone’s throw away from the popular Mahinapua beach. The legendary poo pub run by the iconic “Uncle Les” is also found nearby – if you’re lucky he’ll cook you up some of his famous venison stew.
9. Lake Wakatipu
Naturally shaped like a lightning bolt, New Zealand’s third largest lake lies on the fringes of its most famous town; Queenstown – the adventure capital of the world. Bordered on all sides by a series of scenic mountain ranges including the iconic Remarkables, the lake is often described as the “heartbeat of the southern island” owing to the fact that a large standing wave causes the lake to rise and fall by 20 centimetres every hour.
10. Lake Matheson
Formed over 14,000 years ago when Fox Glacier retreated from its last major advance towards the sea, Lake Matheson offers a perfect reflection of New Zealand’s highest peaks – Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. An area rich in natural beauty the lake is a traditional mahinga kai (food gathering place) for the Maori people, with numerous species of fish, water birds and even the elusive long finned eels calling the lake home.
11. Lake Te Anau
Found in New Zealand’s Southern Fiordland’s – an area once described as being “utterly useless except for mountaineers” – Lake Te Anau is surrounded by stunning mountain ranges, wild forest and rolling hill country. It is from here that two of New Zealand’s Great walks; the Kepler Track and the Milford Track both begin.
12. Lake Rotoiti
Sitting atop a chain of lakes that formed within a volcanic depression, Lake Rotoiti is the most prominent of the Nelson Lakes and home to both the forest covered mountains of the Matawhaura and the beginning of the Southern Alps. An area of cultural significance for a variety of Maouri tribes, the rights around the lake have been passed down through generations with a number of Marae still residing on the lake’s shoreline.
13. Lake Hayes
A small lake located just off the famous highway 6, Lake Hayes is part of the Wakatipu basin and lies on the doorstep of the famous gold-mining town of Arrowtown. Known for being postcard-perfect the reflective lake offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and is set to feature in the upcoming Hobbit trilogy.
14. Lake Manapouri
Often regarded as New Zealand’s most beautiful lake, Lake Manapouri is located inside the Fiordland National Park and is home to 34 unique islands. Framed by the spectacular cathedral mountains, the lake was used extensively as a filming location throughout the Lord of the Rings trilogy.