Crystal-clear, pristine lakes form a big part of the quintessential holiday – kiwi style. Whether it’s swimming, kayaking, jet boating or walking on the shores, at MoaTrek we’ve grown up with Christmas holidays lake-side and as a result, we have a few firm favourites. From the lakes of Rotorua, steeped in Maori legends, to the Middle-earth like lakes of Central Otago and Franz Josef, a New Zealand vacation wouldn’t be the same without the opportunity to enjoy these beautiful landscapes. 

Lake Rotoiti 

This gorgeous North Island lake is one of many in the Rotorua region and has its own special charm. Pristine waters are cradled amongst rolling hill country that thrives with native birdlife and healthy forests. Created as the result of a volcanic eruption around 240,000 years ago, legend has it that Lake Rotoiti was discovered by a local Maori explorer, Henga. As a result, for hundreds of years Lake Rotoiti has been the home and food source of the local Te Arawa tribe.

To truly experience the magic of Lake Rotoiti, you'll need to take to the water. Climb aboard a sailboat and glide out amongst the gently lapping waves to discover secret coves and beautiful places to swim. For an added taste of adventure, have a go at the helm or drop a fishing line for a chance to catch the numerous trout that inhabit the lake. Alluring natural hot springs hide in a remote corner of the lake and are only accessible by boat – a tranquil soak in pure mineral water is the perfect way to round off your Lake Rotoiti experience.  


Lake Wakatipu 

Set against the back drop of the majestic Remarkables Range, Lake Wakatipu is a jewel in the crown of the South Island high country. Along its south-eastern edge the lake is bordered by the towering Remarkables Mountain Range, and the lake’s magical, Middle-earth like qualities were showcased during many scenes of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Teeming with trout and salmon, Wakatipu feeds many rivers popular with fly fishermen. New Zealand's adventure capital, Queenstown, is perched on the lake front, and is the main gateway  to Lake Wakatipu. One of the best ways to do this is with a thrilling jet boat ride or with a cruise on the TSS Earnslaw – New Zealand’s oldest fully operational steamship.  

Lake Matheson 

Ever seen photos of a picture-perfect lake, surrounded by rainforest reflecting New Zealand’s Southern Alps? If you have, then these photos were probably of Lake Matheson. Located near Franz Josef on the West Coast of the South Island and formed by ancient glacial melt, this lake offers some of the most perfect mountain scenery in the country. Photographers relish the opportunity that is presented here on calm days, as do those simply seeking a glimpse of an enchanting corner of kiwi paradise. This lake is best explored with a short stroll round the shoreline – don’t forget your camera!

Lake Wanaka

Wanaka ranks amongst the most beautiful places in New Zealand - a slice of heaven in the South Island where the Central Otago high country meets Mount Aspiring National Park. Dotted with islands and framed by the imposing peak of Mount Aspiring, Lake Wanaka is paradise for lovers of pristine, natural places. The best time to visit is between October and April, when snow gives way to sunshine and the water temperature warms up. An excellent track for walking and cycling spans the lakefront, and kayaking is a great way to leisurely explore the lake. A forty-minute drive from Queenstown, Lake Wanaka and its charming, sleepy township is a world away from the hustle and bustle of New Zealand’s adventure capital.


Inspired to visit our favourite New Zealand lakes? We think these places are pretty special, so we’ve incorporated them into many of our small group New Zealand tours. Take the helm of a catamaran as you explore Lake Rotoiti, snap the perfect reflection of the Southern Alps at Lake Matheson, and enjoy a little light adventure and plenty of refreshing swims in Lake Wanaka and Lake Wakatipu. Learn more about our small group New Zealand tours, or contact us directly


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