The 8 Most Beautiful Lakes On The South Island Of New Zealand

Beautiful lakes in New Zealand - Lake Tekapo

New Zealand is absolutely breathtaking, with amazing nature and a very limited number of people. In 2015 I was lucky enough to travel around New Zealand (both the North and South island) by campervan for 6 weeks. It’s still one of the best trips of my life!

Fun fact: the population of New Zealand is about 5 million people, however, there are more than 30 million sheep!

Another fun fact: when I was looking up how many lakes there are in New Zealand, Wiki quickly provided me with an answer: there are about 3820 lakes greater in New Zealand!

I obviously haven’t seen all of them, though I would like to give it a try because all the lakes that I saw were so incredibly beautiful! That is why I created a list of the most beautiful lakes of New Zealand. I hope this post will inspire you to pay them a visit when you are in New Zealand!

The 8 most beautiful lakes on the South island of New Zealand

#1. Lake Tekapo

Most beautiful lakes in New Zealand - Lake Tekapo

About Lake Tekapo: Lake Tekapo was my first New Zealand Lake and also my favorite! The lake has a striking blue color because of the rock flour floating in the water which refracts the sunlight and is surrounded by mountains. I very much liked hiking the 3-hour Mount John circuit track because of the phenomenal views over the lake.

What I love most about Lake Tekapo: the gorgeous blue color and the surrounding hills and mountains that are completely devoid of any sign of cultivation…

#2. Lake Pukaki

Best lakes to visit in New Zealand - Lake Pukaki

About Lake Pukaki: a beautiful blue glacier lake, with a surface area over twice the size of its neighbor Lake Tekapo. Go to the viewpoint at the south of the lake for the best views of Mount Cook!

What I love most about Lake Pukaki: having lunch, cooked in our campervan, while looking over the lake with impressive Mount Cook in the background under a striking sky.

#3. Lake Wakatipu

Stunning lakes in New Zealand - Lake Wakatipu

About Lake Wakatipu: arguably the most famous lake in New Zealand, though Lake Taupo on the North Island might give it a run for its money. Not without reason: it is gorgeous! I came from the south and drove over the Devil’s Staircase up to Queenstown, with fantastic views over the lake and majestic mountains in the backdrop on my left hand side.

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

What I love most about Lake Wakatipu: gazing over Lake Wakatipu with the Remarkables in the background, thinking what a lucky and blessed person I am to see such a pretty picture…

#4. Moke Lake

Breathtaking lakes on the South Island of New Zealand - Moke Lake

About Moke Lake: Moke Lake is not very well known but so pretty nonetheless! I ended up here because of the DOC campsite located at the North side of the lake. After a 30 minute drive over a bumpy gravel road I arrived at the lake surrounded by lovely hills, I felt so peaceful and far removed from civilization.

What I love most about Moke Lake: the remote feeling! I hiked around the lake and did not meet a single soul…

#5. Lake Wanaka

Mirror Lakes in New Zealand - Lake Wanaka

About Lake Wanaka: Lake Wanaka is a beautiful lake in the center of the South Island and 4th in the list of biggest lakes in New Zealand. Driving the road from Wanaka to Haast took me past the top half of the lake, giving me a feeling of its massive size. And beauty…

What I love most about Lake Wanaka: there was almost no wind on the day I was at Lake Wanaka, which meant the lake perfectly mirrored the surrounding mountains. Exquisite!

#6. Lake Hawea

Amazing Lakes in New Zealand - Lake Hawea

About Lake Hawea: Lake Hawea lies next to Lake Wanaka and 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…

What I love most about Lake Hawea: feeling very tiny and insignificant compared to this massive lake…

#7. Lake Paringa

Off the beaten path in New Zealand- Lake Paringa on the South Island

About Lake Paringa: a small lake on the West Coast. There were loads of sand-flies but the view was worth it!

What I love most about Lake Paringa: waking up early in the morning and seeing the mysterious morning haze burn away by the rising sun…

#8. Lake Matheson

Reflections in Lake Matheson - Mount Cook mirror picture

About Lake Matheson: a pretty lake on the West coast, famous for its mirror reflection of Mount Cook on a wind still day.

What I love most about Lake Matheson: well, this might not be very original or a big surprise… but I loved the mirror reflections of Mount Cook (and other impressive mountains like Mount Tasman) in the lake!

Where can I find these beautiful lakes in New Zealand?

On the map below you can find the 8 lakes of my list, in the order I visited them.

You can download the map below.

Looking for more travel planning resources? Check out the Phenomenal Globe Travel Planning Library and my Travel Resource page!

Read about more wonderful places I visited in New Zealand in my 6 week itinerary or check out my budget breakdown infographic if you are interested in the costs of traveling in New Zealand.

New Zealand, the most beautiful country in the world and the country that stole my heart. Check out these gorgeous lakes (like Lake Tekapo, Moke Lake and Lake Wakatipu) and you'll understand why! New Zealand, the most beautiful country in the world and the country that stole my heart. Check out these gorgeous lakes (like Lake Tekapo, Moke Lake and Lake Wakatipu) and you'll understand why!


  1. November 20, 2015 / 4:49 pm

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

    • Lotte
      November 20, 2015 / 5:08 pm

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

  2. November 22, 2015 / 2:38 pm

    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.

    • Lotte
      November 22, 2015 / 2:46 pm

      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!

  3. December 11, 2015 / 2:07 am

    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 🙂

    • Lotte
      December 11, 2015 / 9:56 am

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

  4. December 19, 2015 / 11:15 pm

    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!

    • Lotte
      December 19, 2015 / 11:35 pm

      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…

  5. Stephanie
    October 22, 2016 / 6:24 pm

    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 🙂

    • Lotte
      October 23, 2016 / 2:59 pm

      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!

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