New Zealand’s Best Lakes That Are Worth Visiting

New Zealand’s lakes are one of the natural wonders of this diminutive country. Whether you hike their shores, fly over them or take a walk to the water for a close up look at New Zealand’s best lakes, you can’t fail to be impressed by the panoramas that unfold in front of you. Here’s our top picks of New Zealand’s lakes with the best sceneries.

New Zealand’s Best Lakes Not To Be Missed

Best for panoramic views

In a league of its own despite stiff competition is Lake Tekapo. A few hours’ drive from both Queenstown and Christchurch, there can be few views as spectacular as that of the Church of the Good Shepherd, perfectly framed by the Southern Alps across the water. The turquoise water gets its colour from mineral deposits fed from the nearby glaciers. It’s as impressive at night, part of the UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve.

New Zealand's best lakes. Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Tekapo
Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Tekapo

Best for reflections

Few things keep a photographer happier than a clear lake on a calm day. Get lucky with the weather and there are plenty of options for scenic lake reflections across New Zealand. Among New Zealand’s best lakes is Lake Matheson which you’ll find near Fox Glacier on South Island. The forest that surrounds it is responsible for the lake’s dark colour as the tannins are leached out during rain showers and washed into the lake. The icing on the cake is the view of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman to the east.

New Zealand's best lakes. Lake Matheson
Lake Matheson by Gopal Vijayaraghavan on Flickr/ CC BY 2.0

Best for a picnic

Split by a glacial ridge from Lake Wanaka, Lake Hawea is famed for its fishing. Fly fishermen come from all over the country to catch its brown trout, salmon and rainbow trout. But you don’t need to pack your rods to chill out. Lake Hawea’s pebbly beaches are just begging to be covered by a picnic blanket. If you need to be active to relax, there’s a great mountain biking trail that loops the lake.

New Zealand's best lakes. Lake Hawea
Lake Hawea by Kowal1964 on Wikimedia/ CC BY-SA 3.0

Best for bungee jumpers

Technically, if you’re doing the Taupo bungee, billed as the highest water touch bungee in New Zealand, you’ll be dangled head first into the Waikato River which feeds it rather than the lake itself. Who’s quibbling? You can bungee solo or tandem and it’s up to you how much of a dunking you get. If you’d rather keep your head dry (or at least not completely drenched), there’s always boating, jet skiing, whitewater rafting and more.

Water sports on Lake Taupo. New Zealand's best lakes
Water sports on Lake Taupo

Best from the air

Take to the skies above Queenstown and you’ll be treated to splendid views of Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding countryside. Take a flight in a helicopter or light plane – the perfect way to come back to Queenstown from Milford Sound – or ascend the Skyline gondola in the centre of town. Either way, the views from the sky are incredible.

New Zealands best lakes. Lake Wakatipu
Lake Wakatipu

About JuliaHammond


Julia Hammond is a Geography teacher turned travel writer with a passion for places. Winning Mail Travel's Deep South competition was the catalyst to write for a diverse range of publications including Bradt's Bus Pass Britain Rides Again. She’s written Kindle guides to Cape Town, Peru and London for Unanchor and advice on Savannah for Wanderlust. When not travelling, she can be found at home in Essex planning her next trip, her two golden retrievers curled up at her feet.

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