With volcanic calderas and glacial-fed lakes surrounded by the Alps, New Zealand has some of the best lakes in the world. All fed by incredible rivers that travel through native forest teeming with wildlife, New Zealand lakes are the ultimate playground for nature lovers. All the lakes share the beauty of untouched wilderness, but offer something unique for visitors. You could spend your time with the family on sandy lake beaches or exploring the wilderness to see the lakefront views and local wildlife. Whether you want fun adventures or a relaxing lake holiday, find out more about New Zealand lakes to see what you can expect.
Lake Matheson for wilderness hikes
Lake Matheson is a glacial lake near Fox Glacier with dark brown waters that reflect the image of the towering Mount Tasman and Mount Cook. The lake is known for its coastal tracks and bridges, such as the Clearwater River suspension bridge, where you can trek to see the lake and surrounding landscape. The tracks travel through ancient native forests of kahikatea trees and rimu.
Lake Okareka for family fun
Located in the Bay of Plenty region, Lake Okareka is a peaceful lake that has quiet beaches for families and couples. The lake was formed in the Okataina caldera and boasts beautiful waterfalls on its outlets. If you want to see the scenery, you can take the boardwalk that travels through wetland areas. Other activities at Lake Okareka include boating, fishing and kayaking.
Lake Te Anau for unique experiences
Lake Te Anau is one of the largest of the glacial lakes and boasts massive fjords on the western edge. On the eastern side, you’ll find tranquil countryside with charming settlements on the lakeshore. There’s a lot to see and do at the lake, such as visiting the Te Ana-au glowworm caves, kayak on the lake to see the fjords or birding in the surrounding parklands to see weka, parakeets, kea, kaka and wood pigeons.
Lake Kaniere for watersports
Located in the Lake Kaniere Scenic Reserve, Lake Kaniere is a beautiful lake that’s a haven for watersports enthusiasts. Boating, fishing, kayaking and canoeing are popular watersports on the lake. You could hike in the surrounding reserve or mountain bike on mountain trails. The lake also has picnic areas, a campsite and short nature trails that you can take with the family.
Lake Okataina for fishing with the kids
Lake Okataina is a remote lake that’s surrounded by native forest, perfect for a relaxing lake trip. The clear waters and abundance of rainbow trout and other species make it a popular lake for fishing from a boat. The adjacent Okataina Scenic Reserve is a popular spot for hiking and wildlife sightings as well, which you can reach by following the paths near the lake.
Lake Ruataniwha for kid-friendly fun
Located near Twizel, Lake Ruataniwha is a manmade lake that’s popular for family visits. The lake has warm, shallow waters that are perfect for swimming and wading. You’ll also find a variety of kid-friendly amenities near the lake, such as swing sets and a playground. Many watersports are available at Lake Ruataniwha, including canoeing, kayaking and windsurfing.
Lake Pukaki for nature exploration
Lake Pukaki is one of the largest lakes in the MacKenzie region and boasts the tallest mountain peak in New Zealand, Mount Cook. The lake is a glacial-fed lake with turquoise waters. One of the best ways to experience Lake Pukaki is to hike in the surrounding forests of Mount Cook to see sweeping landscape views. You could also hike or bike around the lakeshore, or book a scenic flight tour to see it all from above.
Lake Wakatipu for local lore
One of the best-known lakes in New Zealand, Lake Wakatipu is a spectacular lake that’s shaped like a lightning bolt. The lake is surrounded by magnificent mountains and offers a sheltered paradise. Many visitors come to the lake for trout fishing, kayaking, swimming and boating, but you’ll also find a lot of attractions that focus on the hunt for the lake monster, Matau, a legendary leviathan that’s said to sleep beneath the lake.