When we think lakes, we think campfires, still waters and a sense a serenity. Sometimes it’s nice to have a reminder of the beautiful country we live in and the natural wonders it holds. Whether it’s the reflection lakes of Wanaka or the emerald green waters that crater the Tongariro Crossing, Aotearoa is home to some amazing bodies of water.
Here are the top New Zealand lakes you need to visit at least once.
Starting with the largest and in charge, (it’s the same size as the entire country of Singapore) is the most well-known lake in New Zealand, Lake Taupo. The vastness of the water will blow your mind. Take a swim, cycle, or paddle-board on, in, or around the lake to get a full understanding of this famous landmark. And, don’t forget to test your golfing skills at the infamous ‘Hole In One’ challenge.
The lakes in Nelson Lakes National Park are filled with the clearest natural fresh waters in the world, with a clarity depth of 80 metres. Scientists credit this to an underground passage leading from Lake Constance, filtering out particles and revealing water’s naturally blue/violet colours. The pristine Blue Lake has a depth of up to 8.5 metres, a regular temperature of five to eight degrees, and remains sacred to local Maori.
Take a hike all to the summit of Mount Tongariro and you will be greeted with a bath of emerald green waters. The lakes fill the explosion craters created at the top of the volcanic land, with their vibrant colours the cause of dissolved minerals that have been washed down from the neighbouring Red Crater. The lakes are now an iconic snap for thousands of hikers who have tackled the Tongariro Crossing.
A flow of carbon dioxide, similar to a glass of bubbling champagne, gives the name to this geothermal hot spring in the Rotorua area. Champagne Pool was only formed 90 years ago, making it a relatively young development in the grand scheme of things. The strong orange colour that outlines the pool originates from deposits of antimony and arsenic sulfides, with the contrasting waters being a silver-white hue. The Rotorua Hot Springs is also a must.
The Mirror Lakes
The Mirror Lakes along Milford Road are just that—literal mirrors. The breathtaking reflections of the Eglington Valley and towering trees, make it the perfect spot to capture amazing illusion photos. As well as being physically beautiful, the lakes are also home to some of our most rare and native wildlife. The Mirror Lakes are a great spot to sit back, relax, and reflect.
Glacier flours are the reason for Lake Pukaki’s deep turquoise colour, fed by the surrounding Tasman Glaciers. From the vibrant waters of the lake, you can also grab the perfect view of the tallest peak in New Zealand, Aoraki/Mount Cook. Perfect for an (ice cold) dip, bike ride, or quick stop-the-car photoshoot, Lake Pukaki is a sight for sore eyes.
Lying at the heart of the Otago Lakes is Lake Wanaka, New Zealand’s fourth largest lake. Estimated to be at least 300 metres deep, it is surrounded by the Cardrona Valley, one of the region’s most popular tourist areas. The view when standing on the shoreline is unlike any other, with glass-like stillness and towering mountains encompassing the water. The Wanaka Tree is also one of the photographed icons in the country, the lonely willow grows just inside the perimeter of the lake and is quite a sight to see.
Don’t let the sulfurous scent deter you, Lake Rotorua is a summer hotspot. The lake is a product of an eruption from the Taupo Volcanic Zone some 240,000 years ago. Maori legend has it the Lake Rotorua was the very same lake that forbidden lovers Hinemoa and Tutanekai crossed to find each other. Nowadays the lake is a huge body of blue water making it a great location for boats, jet skis, and paddle boarders.
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Image credit: Mead Norton, Graeme Murry, Will Patino, David Wall, Julian Apse, Rob Suisted