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Lake Rotoroa, Nelson Lakes National Park

Lake Rotoroa, Nelson Lakes National Park

One of two main lakes in Nelson Lakes National Park, Lake Rotoroa is a pretty place to stop when driving between Christchurch and Nelson. If you want to do some hiking I’d recommend heading to Lake Rotoiti instead, but as far as scenic lunch spots go you’ll be hard pressed to beat Lake Rotoroa (and it’s closer to the main road than Lake Rotoiti).

Lake Rotoroa

The main pier / car park area at Lake Rotoroa is a great place to see the beauty of Nelson Lakes National Park. Even if you don’t spend any more time in the area, you’ll at least get a taste of what it has to offer. On a clear, calm day the water will reflect the mountains and hills surrounding it — walk down the pier for the best views! There’s a picnic table at the end — it’s one of the most scenic places I’ve eaten lunch in New Zealand (and you only have to walk about a minute from your car). For most people, that will be enough (like I said, go to Lake Rotoiti if you want to hike), but I decided to see what else Lake Rotoroa had to offer (which didn’t end well).

The Porika 4WD Track

This track heads straight up a steep 4WD track (the clue is in the name I guess) and it’s one of my least favourite walks in New Zealand (joining the annoying Tutoko Valley Track in Fiordland on my “worst of” list. It’s relentlessly steep and there aren’t many views to speak of. There is one stunning viewpoint looking over Lake Rotoroa (after around 40 minutes of climbing) and this track would have redeemed itself if I had have stopped there. Instead, I continued for another 35 minutes, assuming I’d get some more views, but it didn’t happen. I finally turned back when I saw that the track (or, more accurately, road) started heading sharply down the other side. I guess as a travel blogger I should be prepared to suffer so my readers don’t have to — you’re welcome! I’d only recommend doing this track if you stop at the first (only) viewpoint, unless your legs have been naughty boys (or girls) and need some punishment.

READ MORE: If you’re looking for better hikes in Nelson Lakes National Park check out the St Arnaud Range Track, Mount Robert Circuit and Whiskey Falls

Other Lake Rotoroa Walks

There are a few other walks to do at Lake Rotoroa, although none of them really appealed to me. You could do the Braeburn Track, which apparently takes you through the bush to a waterfall. I couldn’t find any information on the waterfall or even any photos, which leads me to believe it isn’t that great. Walking through the bush for two hours to see a (I’m guessing) tiny waterfall sounds about as appealing as watching another John Wick movie (I got through 1.5 of them before swearing I’d never watch another second of one). There’s also the “Nature Walk”, which I’m assuming is just a short forest track (which you’ve probably seen miles of already in New Zealand). If you’ve done any of these walks please let me know what they’re like!

Getting to Lake Rotoroa

Lake Rotoroa is a short distance off the main road (State Highway 6) between Christchurch and Nelson. It’s a good road and a quick detour to see the lake should only take around 30 minutes.

Are you planning a trip to Nelson Lakes National Park? Check out some of my other posts!

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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.