Have you ever wondered what it’s like to gaze upon waters so brilliantly blue they seem otherworldly, or to stand amidst landscapes so stunning they take your breath away? Welcome to New Zealand, a land where nature’s artistry is at its finest, particularly when it comes to its lakes.

The 12 Most Beautiful Lakes In New Zealand

Lake Tekapo

Nestled in the heart of the Mackenzie Basin, Lake Tekapo is not just a lake; it’s a celestial wonder. The turquoise waters of this lake, fed by the glaciers of the Southern Alps, gleam under the sun like a sheet of polished aquamarine. It’s a sight that photographers dream of and nature lovers yearn to witness.

Attractions: The lake is famed for more than just its waters. It is a stargazer’s paradise, lying within the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, one of the best places on earth to gaze at the stars. The iconic Church of the Good Shepherd, perched on its shores, offers a picture-perfect setting against the backdrop of the lake and the mountains.

Practical Tips: The best time to visit Lake Tekapo is during the spring when lupins bloom along its shores, creating a vibrant mosaic of colors. The town of Tekapo, a short drive away, provides excellent accommodation and dining options.

Lake Tekapo - Most Beautiful Lakes In New Zealand
Lake Tekapo | @simply.madeleine

Lake Pukaki

Continuing our journey, we come across Lake Pukaki, another jewel in the crown of New Zealand’s lakes. This lake is renowned for its surreal glacial-fed waters, which shimmer in a unique shade of blue, reflecting the grandeur of Mount Cook in the distance.

Scenery: The view of Aoraki/Mount Cook, New Zealand‘s tallest mountain, rising majestically above the lake, is nothing short of spectacular. The lake’s surroundings offer a panorama of alpine beauty that is quintessentially Kiwi.

Activities: For the adventurous at heart, Lake Pukaki is a gateway to some of the most scenic hiking trails in the Aoraki region. Photographers, too, will find endless inspiration in the lake’s ever-changing moods and hues.

Comparison: While it shares the turquoise brilliance of Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki has a character all its own, with wider vistas and a more rugged landscape.

Travel Advice: When planning a trip to Lake Pukaki, consider a stay in the nearby town of Twizel, which offers a range of accommodations. The best views of the lake are from the Aoraki/Mount Cook viewpoint, especially during sunrise and sunset.

Lake Pukaki - Most Beautiful Lakes In New Zealand
Lake Pukaki | @orbziitravel

Lake Wanaka

From the grandeur of the Mackenzie Basin, we move to the enchanting Lake Wanaka, a haven for adventurers and nature lovers. The lake is famous not just for its pristine waters but also for the lone Wanaka Tree, a willow that stands gracefully in its shallow waters, creating a surreal scene.

Unique Feature: The Wanaka Tree has become a symbol of resilience and beauty, attracting photographers from around the world. Its solitary presence against the backdrop of the lake and mountains encapsulates the serene beauty of New Zealand’s landscape.

Adventure Sports: Lake Wanaka is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. With opportunities for hiking, kayaking, and even skydiving, it’s a place where adventure meets tranquility.

Recommendation: For a truly ‘Wanaka’ experience, why not try paddleboarding to the Wanaka Tree? Just be prepared for the audience of ducks and the occasional curious fish!

Getting There: Wanaka is easily accessible from Queenstown, making it a perfect day trip or a stopover in a longer itinerary. The town of Wanaka, with its cozy cafes and boutique shops, adds charm to the lake’s natural allure.

Lake Wanaka - Most Beautiful Lakes In New Zealand
Lake Wanaka | @valeridex

Lake Taupo

In the heart of the North Island lies Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake. Formed in a volcanic crater, this expansive body of water is a testament to the island’s turbulent geological past. The lake’s vastness is awe-inspiring, making it a favorite among locals and tourists alike.

Size and Significance: Its size is so immense that it’s often mistaken for an inland sea. The lake is a hub for various water activities and offers spectacular views of the volcanic landscapes that surround it.

Nearby Attractions: One of Lake Taupo’s most breathtaking features is the Huka Falls, where water thunders through a narrow gorge, creating a spectacle of power and beauty. The region is also known for its geothermal attractions, with steaming vents and boiling mud pools.

Fishing: Lake Taupo is a fishing paradise, renowned for its trout fishing. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or trying your hand at fishing for the first time, the experience here is unparalleled.

Local Insight: When in Taupo, don’t miss out on a boat tour that takes you to the Maori rock carvings at Mine Bay, which are only accessible by water and offer a unique glimpse into the local Maori culture.

Lake Taupo
Lake Taupo | _thelittlemermeg

Lake Wakatipu

As we journey further south, we reach the iconic Lake Wakatipu, nestled among the dramatic peaks of the Remarkables Mountain Range. This lake, with its serpentine shape and deep blue waters, holds a special place in the heart of Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand.

Queenstown Proximity: Lake Wakatipu’s proximity to Queenstown makes it a central part of the region’s adventure tourism. The town’s vibrant energy is mirrored in the lake’s clear, invigorating waters.

Mountain Views: The Remarkables Mountain Range provides a stunning backdrop, creating a photographer’s paradise. The contrast between the rugged peaks and the smooth surface of the lake is simply mesmerizing.

Cruise Options: A cruise on Lake Wakatipu is a must-do. It offers a unique perspective of the lake and the surrounding mountains, with options ranging from vintage steamship rides to luxury yachts.

Seasonal Advice: Regardless of the season, Lake Wakatipu remains an enchanting destination. In winter, it’s a gateway to some of the best skiing in New Zealand, while the summer months are perfect for hiking and water sports.

Lake Wakatipu
Lake Wakatipu | @documenteddepartures

Lake Rotorua

Shifting the scene to the geothermal heartland of New Zealand, Lake Rotorua offers a blend of natural beauty and cultural richness. This lake, lying in a region peppered with hot springs and bubbling geothermal pools, is a testament to the Earth’s fiery interior.

Cultural Aspect: Lake Rotorua is deeply entwined with Maori culture. The lake and its surroundings are steeped in Maori history and legends, offering a fascinating insight into New Zealand’s indigenous heritage.

Geothermal Features: The lake’s geothermal wonders are a major draw. From relaxing in geothermal spas to exploring the colorful Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, the area provides a unique sensory experience.

Urban Connection: The city of Rotorua, on the lake’s shores, is a hub of Maori culture, with opportunities to experience traditional Maori performances and cuisine. The city also serves as a convenient base for exploring the lake’s natural attractions.

Lake Rotorua
Lake Rotorua | @new_zealand_beautiful

Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake)

Next on our list is Lake Tikitapu, more affectionately known as Blue Lake, located near Rotorua. This small but stunning lake is a favorite among locals and visitors for its strikingly blue, clear waters and lush surrounding forests.

Family-Friendly Focus: Blue Lake is an ideal destination for families. Its calm waters are perfect for swimming, kayaking, and paddleboarding. The surrounding area also offers picnic spots and a playground, making it a great spot for a day out with the kids.

Recreational Activities: The lake is surrounded by walking and mountain biking trails, offering scenic views at every turn. The clear waters also beckon those interested in water sports, with options ranging from leisurely swims to adrenaline-pumping water skiing.

Comparison: While it shares the geothermal region with Lake Rotorua, Blue Lake offers a different experience – tranquil and serene, it’s a place to relax and enjoy the simpler pleasures of nature.

Visitor Information: The lake has excellent facilities, including ample parking, toilets, and barbecue spots, making it convenient for visitors to spend a full day exploring its beauty.

Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake)
Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake) | @kiwidroneography

Lake Matheson

Our exploration takes us to the West Coast of the South Island, to the mesmerizing Lake Matheson. Known as the ‘Mirror Lake,’ this lake offers some of the most breathtaking reflections of New Zealand’s highest peaks – Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Tasman.

Natural Mirror: On a calm day, the dark, still waters of Lake Matheson create perfect reflections of the snow-capped mountains, a sight that is both surreal and captivating.

Walking Trails: A gentle walk around the lake allows visitors to take in various viewpoints, each offering a unique perspective of the lake and its surroundings. The walk is easy, suitable for all ages, and provides an immersive experience in the native forest.

Photography Tips: For photographers, the early morning light offers the best conditions for capturing the mirror-like reflections. The mist rising off the lake adds an ethereal quality to the photographs.

Tranquility Theme: The lake’s serene environment makes it an ideal spot for those seeking peace and quiet, away from the hustle and bustle of tourist hotspots.

Lake Matheson - Most Beautiful Lakes In New Zealand
Lake Matheson | @alice.adventuring

Lake Hawea

Moving further into the Southern Alps, we encounter Lake Hawea, a spectacularly long and narrow lake formed by glacial erosion. This lake is a hidden treasure, known for its crystal-clear waters and peaceful surroundings.

Serene Beauty: The tranquility of Lake Hawea is its most striking feature. The lake is often quieter than its more famous neighbor, Lake Wanaka, offering a more intimate experience with nature.

Outdoor Activities: Fishing enthusiasts will find Lake Hawea a paradise, with its abundant trout and salmon. Kayaking and windsurfing are also popular activities, taking advantage of the lake’s clear waters and gentle breezes.

Local Charm: The nearby town of Hawea provides a quaint, laid-back atmosphere, perfect for those looking to escape the more tourist-heavy areas. Local cafes and restaurants offer delightful dining experiences with stunning lake views.

Accessibility: Lake Hawea is easily accessible by road and provides various accommodation options, from campgrounds to luxury lodges, catering to all types of travelers.

Lake Manapouri

As we venture into the depths of Fiordland, we come upon Lake Manapouri, known for its serene beauty and unspoiled wilderness. Often described as the loveliest of all lakes in New Zealand, Lake Manapouri serves as a gateway to some of the most remote and breathtaking parts of the country.

Gateway to Fiordland: Lake Manapouri is the starting point for many journeys into the Fiordland National Park, including the famous Doubtful Sound. The lake itself, with its many islands and coves, is a haven for explorers.

Adventure Opportunities: The lake’s crystal-clear waters are perfect for kayaking and boating, providing an up-close view of its pristine beaches and dense rainforests. Hiking trails around the lake offer spectacular views and encounters with diverse wildlife.

Unique Selling Point: Unlike some of the more popular tourist destinations, Lake Manapouri offers a sense of seclusion and intimacy with nature. It’s a place where one can truly disconnect and immerse in the natural world.

Travel Essentials: Accommodations near Lake Manapouri range from campsites to eco-lodges, catering to a variety of preferences. The town of Manapouri, though small, provides essential services and a warm, welcoming atmosphere.

Lake Manapouri - Most Beautiful Lakes In New Zealand
Lake Manapouri | @noahtemplevisuals

Lake Tarawera

Nestled in a region rich with Maori history and volcanic landscapes, Lake Tarawera stands out for its natural beauty and cultural significance. The lake, with its deep blue waters and surrounding mountain ranges, offers a tranquil escape as well as a glimpse into New Zealand’s past.

Volcanic Landscape: The lake is set against a backdrop of Mount Tarawera, known for its historic eruption in 1886. The landscape around the lake is a testament to the earth-shaping power of volcanoes.

Cultural Heritage: Lake Tarawera holds a special place in Maori culture. The area is dotted with historic sites and stories that speak of the lake’s significance in Maori legends and history.

Recommended Activities: Boat tours on the lake provide stunning views and an opportunity to visit the hot water beach, where visitors can enjoy a natural hot spring bath. Fishing for rainbow trout is also a popular activity.

Insider Tip: A visit to Lake Tarawera is not complete without exploring the Tarawera Trail, a hiking path that offers breathtaking views and ends at a secluded hot water beach.

Lake Tarawera
Lake Tarawera | @rotoruanz

Lake Ohau

Our journey concludes at Lake Ohau, a lesser-known but equally enchanting lake located in the Mackenzie Basin. This lake is a haven for those seeking peace and quiet, away from the tourist crowds, and offers some of the best stargazing opportunities in the country.

Stargazing: Being part of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, Lake Ohau offers spectacular night skies, free from light pollution. It’s an ideal spot for astronomers and romantics alike.

Winter Sports: In winter, Lake Ohau becomes a skiing destination, with the Ohau Snow Fields providing a more intimate and less crowded skiing experience than larger resorts.

Summer Activities: During the summer, the lake is perfect for hiking, cycling, and bird watching. The Ohau Waterfall Walk is a must-do, especially during the salmon spawning season.

Concluding Advice: While remote, Lake Ohau is accessible and offers various accommodation options, including lakeside lodges and cozy bed and breakfasts. It’s a place that truly encapsulates the beauty and tranquility of New Zealand’s natural landscapes.

Lake Ohau
Lake Ohau | @weownthemoment