New Zealand scenery is without a doubt some of the best in the world. While the mountains and jagged coastline often hog the limelight, the many gorgeous lakes all across both islands are the real stars of the show. If you’re planning a visit to New Zealand, be sure to include a stop to one of these incredible locations for a chance to see the most beautiful lakes in New Zealand!
I love lakes. Particularly ones in New Zealand. There is something wonderfully calming about a body of water that has a finite boundary. Knowing that you could explore the circumference and end up back where you began, a little more enlightened by the gentle ripples and changing perspective. I find the experience of sitting by a lake a pensively beautiful one, it’s somewhere I find inspiration while travelling New Zealand – and fortunately there isn’t a lack of choice for picking favourites here! These are what I consider the most beautiful lakes in New Zealand, the ones that you simply must try and visit on your trip. You won’t be disappointed, and you certainly won’t be lacking an amazing photo or two either!
The largest lake in New Zealand by surface area, Lake Taupo is a sight to behold with the Tongariro National Park looming in the distance. With a whole host of adrenaline fuelled sports as well as historical sights such as the Maori rock carvings, the lake itself is a memorable stop for visitors.
Beyond the lake, Taupo is the perfect town to base yourself if you’re hoping to complete the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, a popular hike for stunning scenery, challenging climbs, and that unforgettable Kiwi landscape. For a place to unwind after your long hike, the natural hot spring pools allow you to chill out and relax to soothe your sore legs!
If this looks familiar, that could be because this lake view is a favourite for tourist photos. As with many NZ lakes, Lake Rotoiti perfectly positioned between the mountains which offers quite the view. The jetty offers a chance to take a dip in the cool, clear waters – but keep an eye out for eels that might be lurking nearby. They’re perfectly harmless but can give unsuspecting swimmers quite the fright!
Nestled between the mountains that spread across much of the Otago region, Lake Wanaka has that beachy, family fun feel that makes it such an appealing spot. Beyond That Wanaka Tree that we all recognise there are plenty of activities such as kayaking and swimming in the beautiful lake, and the fascinating Puzzling World just a short drive away from the lakefront makes for a fun and unique day out.
Some of the best views of Lake Wanaka are the elevated ones, particuarly from Roy’s Peak – arguable the most popular day hike in the area. Famed for it’s iconic viewpoint overlooking the vast lake, this is certainly not a view to miss.
The bluest glacial waters fill Lake Pukaki, leaving visitors wondering if they’re in a dreamy fairytale rather than parked up along a country road! Across the still lake is the imposing Aoraki/Mount Cook standing tall above the other mountain peaks, perfectly completing the outstanding view.
Lake Pukaki makes the ideal lunch spot to enjoy on a road trip along the winding South Island roads of the Mackenzie Basin, basking in the views of this incredible country. While there’s no town on the lakefront, the nearby areas of Twizel and Tekapo are only a short drive away from the lake.
Lake Tekapo is another example of the pristine natural scenery in New Zealand. The crisp, transparent waters are complemented by both a lakefront sand beach and the stoney waters edge, perfect for a perch to take in those beautiful views and have a refreshing paddle.
The town of Tekapo offers more than just this beautiful lake in New Zealand, with short walks around the surrounding Mount John, visitors can even take advantage of the area’s clear skies and low light pollution by star gazing at the Mount John Observatory under the night’s sky.
No trip to New Zealand is complete without a visit to the popular and ever lively Queenstown. A town built on the edge of Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by The Remarkables mountain range, there are a number of walks to take around the lake which all offer the most majestic views over the water. A favourite viewpoint is at the top of Queenstown Hill, with peaceful forest views over the lake you’ll instantly fall in love with New Zealand if you haven’t already.
To really get a sense of how vast this beautiful New Zealand lake is, take a boat trip on the historical TSS Earnslaw for a chance to float past magnificent mountains on all sides.
For the more adventurous types, take the gondola up to Skyline Queenstown for panoramic views over the town and lake, and luge your way down the mountainside or, if you’re really brave, bungee jump off the side!
One of the deepest lakes in New Zealand, Lake Hāwea is a marvellous view to enjoy driving between Wanaka and the West Coast. Flanked by dramatic mountains on all sides, the few lookouts along the way won’t feel enough to capture every vantage point of this gorgeous piece of New Zealand landscape.
Included as one of the beautiful lakes in New Zealand due to it’s enormity, it’s best seen from The Neck which is an area of land that provides panoramic views of both Lake Wanaka and Lake Hāwea. Best seen on a clear, still day for maximum wow-factor, this is certainly a lake that epitomises the atmosphere of the South Island of New Zealand.
Nestled between mountains, visiting Hooker Lake is part of the hike along the Hooker Valley Track in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. Passing Mueller Lake along the way gives amblers a glimpse of the vivid blue waters that await at the end of the track. What makes Hooker Lake so spectacularly special and included as one of the most beautiful lakes in New Zealand is the view of Aoraki/Mount Cook itself, right at the end of the glacial lake.
With freezing waters and literal ice floating along the lake, you’ll quickly realise just how intense this feat of nature is. Visit in the cooler months and you’ll likely want to catch a few photos and avoid lingering before losing a toe to the cold! In the warm weather however, and particularly on calm days, set up for a picnic with the best view in New Zealand for a lunch to remember.
It’s safe to say that no trip to New Zealand is really complete without visiting one the many lakes around the country. Thanks to there being plenty of options scattered across both islands and being so easily accessible, it’s not hard to stop off at these great natural beauties to capture the essence of the Kiwi landscape.
Have you got a favourite lake in New Zealand? Let me know which one’s you’d include in your choices of beautiful lakes in New Zealand!
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