The Most Beautiful Lakes in New Zealand

There are more sparkling blue alpine lakes in New Zealand than you can possibly imagine. In a land that is so geologically new, it’s no surprise that these beautiful waters go hand in hand with ancient glaciers and towering mountain peaks. Whether it be the stillness of New Zealand’s South Island picture-perfect lakes, or the geothermal heated waters of the North Island, you will not be disappointed by the beautiful lakes all around.

Lake Pukaki, Canterbury 7999, New Zealand
A magical alpine lake on the South Island is Lake Pukaki, crystal blue and turquoise. Oftentimes in the morning it’s so still it reflects a perfect mirror of the clouds. One of many glacial lakes in the area, the best view is from the southside, when on sunny days you can see all the way to Aoraki-Mount Cook, New Zealand‘s highest peak. Though not as developed as other lakes on the South Island, it’s worth at least stopping by for a photo or two on any road trip.
Lake Tekapo 7999, New Zealand
Lake Tekapo is one of those places in New Zealand that is instantly recognizable but few know its name. Bright blue with clear water surrounded by pink and purple lupines in the summer, it’s the perfect background for these blooming flowers. A perfect holiday destination, there are heaps of treks, walks, and lake activities to participate in while visiting. There are even scenic flights over the lake that show the surrounding mountains.
Lake Wanaka, Otago, New Zealand
Soak up the endless horizon on this 15k tramp alongside Lake Wanaka. Why is this worth your Kiwi time? The rolling and winding track that follows the lake’s edge provides an unobstructed and ridiculous view of the snowcapped mountain tops (head over in spring for sunny skies and cool winds). Park your car in one of the lakefront car parks in town and head clockwise along the lake. You’ll pass Waterfall Creek and the small Damper Bay before you reach Glendhu Bay. The only thing that is missing here are sculptures of hobbits, dwarves, and trolls (just saying).
Lake Matheson, West Coast 7886, New Zealand
Lake Matheson is a magical little spot near Fox Glacier. It’s a great place to take a walk at sunset, before enjoying dinner and some local wine at the Matheson Cafe. On a clear day, the reflection in the lake proudly displays all the reasons to be in love with the Westland National Park region of New Zealand, while the rugged peaks of Mount Tasman and Mount Cook rise out of the mountain range. This is glacier country at its best. The lack of wind—the lake is set within the dense rain forest—means Lake Matheson’s surface is calm and still. The reflection photo opportunities have made this lake the most photographed body of water in New Zealand (and that is saying something). The walk around the lake takes about an hour and a half, and you have three viewing platforms offering exceptional perspectives along the way. Hit the trail just before sunset and have a glass of Otago Pinot Noir at the cafe while you watch the sun set over those mountains. The cafe opens at 5:30 p.m. and I’d suggest the mushroom risotto.
Near Lake Wanaka in the South Island is the remote and sparsely settled Lake Hawea. Surrounded by steep mountains untouched by man that drop swiftly down to turquoise blue waters, it couldn’t be more picturesque. This is the perfect place to stop on a road trip on the South Island between Wanaka and Franz Josef Glacier to the north. There are a few beaches fit for swimming and plenty of pull-offs to take a photo or two.
Franz Josef Glacier, West Coast 7886, New Zealand
I was a glacier virgin. I had never seen one in person before, much less set foot on one. That all changed though as the helicopter lifted off and took off towards the incredible Franz Josef Glacier on New Zealand’s South Island. Almost as soon as the Glacier Helicopters flight lifted off, Mt. Cook popped into view, a looming presence throughout the area. We skirted over the lush rainforest and before I knew it, we were on top of the glacier. It’s amazing really; the glacier looks exactly like a glacier should look. It was a vast, frozen river leading from the tops of the mountains to the valley below. We landed at the top for a little exploration and impromptu snowball fights before taking off again to zoom past the massive crevices of the ice mountain. The ride back included even more impressive views of the glacier and the flat plains below leading to the Tasman Sea. It really is strange to see the glacier adjacent to the mild valley below. There’s something surreal about it all and that makes it one of the best adventure activities in New Zealand. For your own glacier adventure, visit the small mountain town of Franz Josef where you can find tour providers operating a variety of ice-based activities, including these extraordinary helicopter tours.
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