LAND OF LAKES

New Zealand is a country of lakes. In fact, there are 3, 820 of them. To put this into perspective, the British mainland is roughly the same size as New Zealand but it has only 387 lakes, a staggering difference in numbers!

SOUTHERN LAKES ATTRACTIONS

The glacier created southern lakes are internationally renowned for their spectacular settings and a number have their own special attractions. Lake Wakatipu is home to Queenstown, one of the world’s top alpine resorts.  It is also known for the iconic old steamer, TSS Earnslaw which has been sailing on the lake for 105 years. (I have talked about this vessel in an earlier blog).

Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu

Also in Otago, Lake Te Anau has its unique glow worm caves. Lake Manapouri is noted for the underground power station which is one of Australasia’s greatest engineering projects. Lake Wanaka boasts the world’s most photographed tree.  Photographers travel from around the world to snap this beautiful “Wanaka Willow” in the unique light and position that makes it so special.

Famous “Wanaka Willow”

The “Wanaka Willow” started as a wooden fence post 77 years ago and sprouted into the tree that has become so iconic after exposure on social media. It is now popular with Asian newlyweds who pose in front of it for their wedding photos. It is also the subject for photo competitions and professional photographers who try and capture it in the right light from misty winter mornings, to dramatic summer sunsets.

Lake Pukaki is famous for the milky blue colour of its water and Lake Matheson (the “Reflection Lake”) is renowned for the reflections found on the mirror surface of its dark brown water, caused by leaching organic matter from the surrounding native forest. The lake’s most famous reflection is of  Mt.Cook, Australasia’s tallest mountain.

Lake Matheson (“Reflection Lake”)

 Lake Tasman offers the unique experience of sailing amongst iceburgs. It was formed with the retreat of Tasman Glacier and has doubled in area since 2000. It is currently 7km long and 2km wide. To take a boat ride past the numerous spectacularly shaped iceburgs on a lake is an experience found nowhere else in the southern hemisphere and it is becoming an increasingly popular destination for overseas tourists.

Tasman Lake Iceburgs

Lake Hauroko is New Zealand’s deepest lake and one of the 10 deepest in the world. It is also one of the least visited of the southern lakes. It is known for the “Lady of the lake”. Tiny Mary Island in the centre of this lake is the burial site of a Maori female. I have visited this site and it has a very strange, foreboding atmosphere. The skeleton is in a seated position in a small cave with a flax cloak draped around its shoulders. It is believed to have been put there around 1660. This whole lake has an uninviting feel. On the occasions I have been there, it has been completely deserted, no boats sailing on its dark surface or swimmers in it. I also found the total absence of birdsong of note as it is surrounded by native forests. Mary Island is administered by a government department and a special permit must be obtained before visiting the island. While I was on the boat to Mary Island, a sudden storm appeared from nowhere and the calm surface quickly turned into angry waves that rocked our small boat alarmingly.

Lake Hauroko

LESS DRAMATIC LAKES

Numerous smaller lakes, especially in the South Island, are popular with fishermen who search them out for the tranquility and bounty they provide.

I have been to many of these lakes but my fondest childhood memory is of little Moke Lake in the hills near Queenstown. It is in a small valley surrounded by tussock covered hills. It epitomizes a small New Zealand lake with its accompanying peace and quiet. It was a great place for my sister and I to go in search of tadpoles. We always came away with a jar full of the little creatures which we would nurture into frogs then release them into a pond near our grandmother’s house.

Little Moke Lake

NEW ZEALAND’S LARGEST LAKE

At 616 square kilometres (238 sq miles), Lake Taupo is the largest lake in New Zealand, and the second largest freshwater lake in Oceania. The tourist town of the same name is roughly half way between Auckland and Wellington, the country’s two largest cities. It is also in easy reach of four other major cities. Apart from boating, a hole in one golf challenge is the other attraction of note.

Hole in One Challenge Lake Taupo

Those who hit a hole in one receive a $10,000 prize. The attraction has been operating for 20 years and is in the “top 100 things to do” in New Zealand. On a busy day, up to 10,000 balls are shot across the 102 metre distance from shore to punt. I wonder how they are retrieved.

PLANET CHANGING ERUPTION

The Oruanui volcanic eruption 26,500 years ago blew apart the Taupo Volcano, as well as a considerable part of the central North Island and is the most violent volcanic eruption to take place on the planet over the past 70,000 years. The eruption was so violent, it has been estimated that dust from the volcano was visible in what is now China. As a result of this massive upheaval to the island, a giant caldera was formed. It is a type of crater that results after the earth collapses. Since the first super explosion, another 28 eruptions have occurred. The giant crater was eventually filled with water from a number of rivers including the Waikato, the country’s longest river.

Lake Taupo lacks the spectacular beauty of the South Island lakes, and I personally have never understood its attraction, but because of its location it is a popular destination for those wanting a lake experience. Last year, 2,000,000 tourists visited Taupo. The lake has been populated with brown and rainbow trout so is a magnet for fishermen.

Lake Taupo

The annual Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge is the largest event of its kind in the country. Up to 11,000 cyclists compete along the route that follows the lake edge for160km.

For a small country the similar size of Britain, it is amazing there are so many lakes with unique features and attractions. It is always a joy to come across these lovely bodies of water that people travel so far from all parts of the world to experience for themselves.

Ceidrik Heward

 

Comments

  1. Hi Ceidrik,

    We met briefly at Quantum Ed. some years ago and I used to live in Browns Bay.
    These are fabulous photos with very interesting accompanying information. I hope they will be part of a book sometime soon. Congratulations.
    Glad to see you are still writing.

    Best wishes,
    Ray

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