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Lake Heron, Hakatere Conservation Park

Lake Heron, Hakatere Conservation Park

The road to Lake Heron branches off from the main Hakatere-Potts Road, meaning it’s a bit of a detour from the road to Mount Sunday (which is why I’m assuming you’re in this region in the first place). It’s a stunning drive though – there are a few other lakes to see on the way and Lake Heron is easily one of the nicest spots in the Hakatere Conversation Park / Ashburton Lakes region. There are a few walks to do once you get there or you can just relax by the lake with awesome mountain views (especially in winter).

Driving to Lake Heron

A big part of the appeal of a trip to this area is the driving. The gravel roads wind through some of the best mountain scenery in New Zealand and there are plenty of places to stop along the way. The road to Mount Sunday (Hakatere-Potts Road) is the nicer of the two, but the road to Lake Heron (Hakatere-Heron Road) is great too. You’ll pass by Lake Emily (well, you’ll have to walk for a while to reach it if you don’t have a FWD) and the Maori Lakes as well as some scenic stretches of gravel road.

Lake Heron

We arrived at Lake Heron late in the afternoon and it seemed completely deserted. There’s a camping ground there as well as a few houses, but it definitely had a ghost town vibe to it. We had a look around town (if you can call it that) and found some great photo spots close to the camping ground. We visited Lake Heron in winter and the lake views, with the snow-capped hills on the other side, were beautiful. There are a few places where you can get down to the lake-front so have a little explore and see what you find.

We also drove past the town for a little while and saw another cool angle of Lake Heron. It’s kind of a marshy, wetland type area and if you’re lucky you’ll get some nice reflections of the mountains behind Lake Heron. The road to the right (before you reach town) is also a good place to get photos — you’ll drive along that road if you’re doing the Kettle Hole Track mentioned below.

Lake Heron Walks

There seems to be a few walks close to Lake Heron, but I can’t find much information about them. Apparently, there’s one called the Lake Hill Track, which I imagine has pretty good views. We did the Kettle Hole Track, which was a quick 10-minute walk to a big hole in the ground. It didn’t look like much, but the views were nice. Apparently, a kettle hole is a “part-time” wetland formed by blocks of ice breaking off a receding glacier.

Other Places to See in Hakatere Conservation Park

Mount Sunday is the obvious place to visit in this area. It had a key role in the Lord of the Rings movies (Edoras / Rohan) and the scenery surrounding it is special. Also check out Lake Clearwater, Lake Emma and Lake Emily. You can see most of this in a day and, assuming you have good weather, it could be one of the highlights of your trip to New Zealand’s South Island!

Mount Sunday

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Jon Algie

I'm a South Island local -- born in Timaru and raised in Dunedin. I left the island in 2006 and returned 10 years later. Having seen a good chunk of the world I realised how special this place is -- the most beautiful island in the world! Seven years (and almost 400 posts) later I'm still helping locals and tourists alike plan their trips around the South Island.