Glacial Lake Hawea – where the welcome is anything but frosty

South Island’s glacial Lake Hawea sits in a glacial valley a short drive from Lake Wanaka. At the closest point the two lakes are only 1000 metres apart, separated by a ridge of jagged rocks known as the Neck. Dammed by terminal moraine deposited more than 10000 years ago, this 35km long lake is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in the whole of New Zealand. For those looking for things to do at Lake Hawea, activities are centred around the outdoors, the lake and Mount Aspiring National Park.

Things to Do in Lake Hawea: Reflections at Lake Hawea, Wanaka, New Zealand
Reflections at Lake Hawea, Wanaka: Photo © albertpalenshoots

Things to Do at Lake Hawea

Legendary fishing

Famous for its brown and rainbow trout, and also for its salmon, Lake Hawea draws fly fishermen from across the country wishing to take advantage of abundant fish stocks in its tranquil setting. All around the lake, there are tiny beaches and grassy banks offering some of the best views for miles around. You’ll need a boat to access the prime spots, which can be summed up as the Neck, the Hunter River delta and Silver Island.

Chill out

Of course, you don’t have to fish to be able to chill out by the side of the lake. There are other plenty of other things to do at Lake Hawea. Those pebbly beaches are great for a picnic or simply to enjoy the fresh air with your headphones plugged in, providing you with your own personal soundtrack. For those who need to be doing something, then looping the lake on a mountain bike takes a lot of beating. It’s also possible to bike off road to Wanaka. Hikers will love the Isthmus Peak trail, one of several tracks that can be found in the area. Follow the route of the Timaru River and up to Mount Prospect or the more leisurely stroll along the shore to Johns Creek.

Rocky Mountain Track Hike, Lake Hawea, New Zealand
Rocky Mountain Track Hike, Lake Hawea: Photo on Flickr by Trey Gwuinn / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Take to the water

If you need to be on the water, then of course there are kayaks and boats to be rented, and once the weather gets warmer, it’s possible to swim in the lake too. The Hawea Whitewater Park has only been open a few years but it’s already immensely popular with locals and visitors alike. This purpose built attraction offers two river waves of differing strengths, suitable for surfers and body boarders to practise tricks, while kayakers and rafters can navigate varying levels of white water. The waves vary according to the precise amount of water being released from the dam, so it’s best to check conditions locally to avoid biting off more than you can chew. The Hawea Wave is free to use and a lot of fun.

Things to Do in Lake Hawea: Boat Trip on Lake Hawea
Boat Trip on Lake Hawea: Photo on Flickr by Kathrin & Stefan Marks / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A warm welcome awaits

There are plenty of accommodation options and things to do at Lake Hawea which will suit all tastes and budgets. Once you’ve clapped eyes on the captivating scenery, you’ll be glad you’ve opted to stay a while and not simply pass through.

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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4 Responses

  1. Avatar for JuliaHammond

    Andy Holt

    Nice post lovely pictures, Julia, will definitely spend some time at lake Hawea next year during our stay at Wanaka. We are visiting from Scotland UK in October.

    • Avatar for JuliaHammond


      That’s great to hear. Hope you have a fantastic time. There are lots of other NZ blogs here that you might find helpful too. Happy travels!

  2. Gagan

    Awesome post, Julia! Thanks for sharing this very useful information in this article with us all! Cheers, and you too have a lovely weekend, dear one! Looking forward to reading more of your articles.


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