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The 10 Most Beautiful Lakes In New Zealand

New Zealand has amazing nature, wonderful wildlife, unique flightless birds, and the friendliest people.

Besides mountains, tropical forests, dunes, green rolling hills, and volcanoes there are many beautiful lakes in New Zealand.

In this post can read about the 10 prettiest New Zealand lakes and where to find them.

The most beautiful lakes in New Zealand

Lake Tekapo in New Zealand

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Where to find these beautiful New Zealand lakes?

On the map below you can find all the lakes on this list.

Click here for the interactive map

10 breathtaking New Zealand lakes

When I was looking up how many lakes there are in New Zealand, Wiki quickly provided me with a surprising answer: there are about 3820 lakes in New Zealand!

I obviously haven’t seen them all, though I sure would love to because all the NZ lakes I saw were so incredibly beautiful! That is why I created a list of these amazing lakes in New Zealand.

I hope this post will inspire you to pay these New Zealand lakes a visit when you make a New Zealand road trip!

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? Rent a campervan for your NZ road trip (or a car via
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?️ Travel safely and get reliable travel insurance from Safety Wing.

10-day New Zealand South Island Itinerary

Don't feel stressed out by the prospect of planning your epic New Zealand adventure. Get the ultimate 10-day South Island itinerary for the trip of a lifetime!

What's included:

• A day-by-day outline of your 10-day trip around the South Island of New Zealand (including Lake Tekapo, Mount Cook, Queenstown, Milford Sound, and the West Coast).
• Accommodation recommendations
• Tips for great restaurants
• A Google Map with all the highlights
• Driving distances
• And more…

1. Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo New Zealand

About Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo New Zealand was the first lake I visited on my NZ trip and my favorite one as well.

Lake Tekapo is one of the most popular tourist destinations because of its striking blue color. The vivid color is caused by the rock flour floating in the glacial waters. These small particles refract the sunlight and give the lake its typical color.

The lake is surrounded by mountain peaks, and at the southern end of the lake, there is a small village also called Lake Tekapo.

When you travel to Lake Tekapo, don't forget to visit the Church of the Good Shepherd, the most beautifully located church in the world.

Also, hike the 3-hour Mount John circuit, and you'll have splendid views over Lake Tekapo!

The best thing about Lake Tekapo

The gorgeous blue lake and the surrounding mountains which are completely devoid of any sign of cultivation.

⏳ If you’re short on time, consider joining this small-group Lake Tekapo day tour from Christchurch. Visit the Church of Good Shepherd, and enjoy a scenic walk to see the Tasman Glacier.

2. Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki South Island New Zealand

About Lake Pukaki

Just like Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki is a beautiful blue glacier lake. The lake is fed by the Tasman river and has a surface area over twice the size of Lake Tekapo.

There is no town on the Pukaki lake shore, but there is a viewpoint on the south side of the lake. From this viewpoint, you can see the Southern Alps and the famous Mount Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand!

The best thing about Lake Pukaki

My advice: take a (lunch) break at the viewpoint. Cook up a nice meal or brew a cup of coffee and enjoy the wonderful over the lake with impressive Mount Cook in the background under a striking sky.

3. Lake Wakatipu

Lake Wakatipu South Island New Zealand

About Lake Wakatipu

Lake Wakatipu is possibly the most well-known lake in New Zealand, though Lake Taupo on the North Island might give it a run for its money. But not without reason: Lake Wakatipu is stunning!

Fun fact: Lake Wakatipu is New Zealand’s longest lake with a length of over 80 kilometers!

Just as famous as Lake Wakatipu is Queenstown, an enviably located town at the shore of this beautiful lake and the foot of the Remarkables.

Queenstown is also known as ‘the adventure capital of the world‘. popular activities are:

Besides these adrenaline-inducing outdoor adventures, there are lots of other things to do in Queenstown. Grab a Fergburger, take a cruise on Lake Wakatipu, or do a wine tasting.

The best thing about Lake Wakatipu

Coming from the south you will drive the thrilling Devil’s Staircase road to Queenstown, a patch of road with lots of twists and turns.

Along the entire drive, you'll have a fantastic view of the lake and the majestic mountains in the backdrop. But be careful and keep your eyes on the road (most of the time;-).

4. Moke Lake

Moke Lake New Zealand

About Moke Lake

Moke Lake remains off the beaten track, but one of my favorite lakes on this list! I ended up here because there is a wonderful DOC campsite located on the North side of the lake.

Getting to this picturesque lake required some effort, you have to drive over a very bumpy gravel road for 4 kilometers.

The road is only accessible by 4WD cars during winter but in summer a 2WD will do (drive slowly!).

The best thing about Moke Lake

At Moke Lake you will feel very peaceful and far removed from civilization. Be sure to follow the 2-hour walking track around the lake, it's a lovely hike with beautiful views over the lake.

Alternatively, there is a secret hiking trail to a viewpoint as well. Read more here.

5. Lake Wanaka

Wanaka Tree Lake Wanaka South Island New Zealand

About Lake Wanaka

Lake Wanaka is a beautiful lake in the center of the South Island and 4th on the list of biggest lakes in New Zealand.

When you drive from Wanaka to Haast you will travel along the top half of the lake. While driving this scenic route, you'll get a feeling of the massive size of this body of water as well as its natural beauty!

The best thing about Lake Wanaka

Lake Wanaka and its surrounding area regularly appear in international movies, like LOTR, the Hobbit, and Mission Impossible 3. The lake is also known for the famous Wanaka tree (pictured above).

Fun fact: New Zealand has a population of 5 million people but is home to more than 30 million sheep!

6. Lake Hawea

Lake Hawea New Zealand

About Lake Hawea

Lake Hawea can also be found on the South Island of New Zealand, next to Lake Wanaka. At their closest point, the lakes lie just 1000 meters apart!

They are separated by a narrow ridge called The Neck and driving on road 6 you cross from Lake Hawea to Lake Wanaka, from one gorgeous lake to the other.

The best thing about Lake Hawea

The drive along the lake is absolutely spectacular! There are also lots of things you can do on or in the lake, such as fishing, swimming, and jet boating.

7. Lake Paringa

Lake Paringa New Zealand South Island

About Lake Paringa

One of New Zealand's lakes is Lake Paringa. This small but beautiful lake is found on the West Coast of New Zealand.

The downside: there are so many sandflies!

The upside: it's gorgeous…

The best thing about Lake Paringa

The DOC campsite is next to the lake so it's a perfect place to spend the night. Imagine stepping out of your campervan and waking up to this view!

8. Lake Matheson

Lake Matheson in New Zealand

About Lake Matheson

Lake Matheson is a pretty lake on New Zealand's wild west coast and is renowned for its mirror reflection of Mt Cook on wind-still days.

Unfortunately, the clouds covered the top of Mount Cook when I visited but it was still a beautiful sight.

The best thing about Lake Matheson

Obviously, most people come here for the mirror reflections of Mount Cook and other impressive snowcapped mountains like Mount Tasman.

You'll have the highest chance of taking a mirror picture when you visit early in the morning. But even when you don't get the perfect shot, Lake Matheson is well worth a visit.

The hiking trail around the lake is lovely and there are lots of birds nesting in the area.

9. Lake Mahinãpua

Reflections in Lake Mahinapua, New Zealand

About Lake Mahinãpua

Lake Mahinãpua is a beautiful lake with very clear water, situated on the west coast of New Zealand (just south of Hokitika).

The area around the lake is part of the Mahinapua Scenic Reserve and there are several short hiking tracks. There is also a lovely DOC campsite next to Lake Mahinãpua, perfect to spend a night!

The best thing about Lake Mahinãpua

If you are lucky and it's a clear day, you'll have a beautiful view of the towering mountains reflecting in the lake…

10. The Emerald Lakes

Emerald Lakes Tongariro Crossing New Zealand

About the Emerald Lakes

The only lake(s) on this list that isn't located on the South Island! Instead, the Emerald Lakes are found on New Zealand's North Island along the famous Tongariro Crossing (in Tongariro National Park).

The Tongariro Crossing is one of the coolest day hikes on the planet and one of the best places to visit in New Zealand.

I mean, it's where LOTR (Lords of the Rings for all people who aren't Fantasy geeks like me;-) was shot!

The lakes are actually old craters, filled with melted snow and dissolved minerals which is what gives them their pretty color.

The best thing about the Emerald Lakes

The Tongariro Crossing is over 19 kilometers long and ascends 800 meters. That is if you don't include a hike to the top of Mount Ngauruhoe (a.k.a. Mount Doom), which adds another 700 meters to the climb.

That's why one of the best things about the Emerald Lakes is that the Tongariro trail only goes downhill from there, so the hardest part is over once you have arrived at these pretty lakes.

? Book your Tongariro Crossing shuttle here (booking ahead is recommended during peak season).

Best lakes in New Zealand: in conclusion

I hope you enjoy visiting these amazing NZ lakes! Want to read more about my New Zealand trip? Check out these posts as well:

This post was updated in November 2022.


Saturday 22nd of October 2016

Hi! I just discovered this article (thank you pinterest!) and I just wanted to tell you that this article is great! Makes me nostalgic, I loved New Zealand so much :)


Sunday 23rd of October 2016

Thanks Stephanie! The reason for writing the post was me feeling very nostalgic about New Zealand, glad you can relate;-). It's the most beautiful place in the world!


Saturday 19th of December 2015

Loved this post and makes me miss New Zealand - I hadn't heard of Moke Lake before so will definitely keep that in mind for my next visit. Because yes, there will be one :-) only thing I'm not so happy about when it comes to lakes, are the sandflies, they nearly killed me when we were camping at Lake Daniells!


Saturday 19th of December 2015

Thanks Anto! Yes, I wrote this post because I miss New Zealand, it's a form of therapy really;-) Another trip to New Zealand is always a great idea and Moke Lake is really worth a visit. You'll love the hike around the lake, though you might find it a bit short as such a hardcore hiker:-) And yes, the sandflies.... don't get me started on those little #$^$&%!

Enjoy your trip to Tasmania, you could even pop over to NZ since you're already on the other side of the world...


Friday 11th of December 2015

Thanks for these! I am planning a visit to New Zealand right now and am feeling so overwhelmed by all there is to see! We don't do well traveling quickly, so I know I need to zero in on a few places I want to visit and then take my time. There will definitely be a lake or two on that list :)


Friday 11th of December 2015

With all the overwhelming sites in New Zealand it's a great idea to take it slow! Have an amazing trip:-)


Sunday 22nd of November 2015

Your photos are stunning! My friend and I were lucky enough to visit New Zealand way back in 1995. It's one of the most beautiful places in the world. I can only imagine how many photographs we would have taken if we had a digital camera instead of film.


Sunday 22nd of November 2015

Thanks you so much Rebecca, that’s really kind of you to say! I am working on improving my photography skills because I don't find myself very good. But luckily that doesn’t matter much in New Zealand, as the country is so stunning it really is impossible to take an ugly picture;-)

It must have been great visiting New Zealand in 1995, back when you could still camp everywhere! And luckily you still have your memories even if you don’t have so many pictures:-) Plus, it’s always good to have a reason to go back!

Amanda Williams

Friday 20th of November 2015

Wow that's a lot of lake! Seriously though awesome views. Thanks for sharing.


Friday 20th of November 2015

Haha, yes so many lakes! I'm glad you enjoyed the views:-)