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The Scenic Drive to Lake Ohau

The Scenic Drive to Lake Ohau

Lake Ohau — another scenic New Zealand lake! There are dozens of lakes in New Zealand which I’d recommend visiting, especially in the Canterbury High Country region. You won’t have time to visit them all (even if you’re based in New Zealand like I am), so you’ll have to pick and choose. Will you choose Lake Ohau? That probably depends how good my photos are… let’s find out!

The Scenic Drive to Lake Ohau

My favourite part of our trip to Lake Ohau was the scenic drive to get there. We visited in October (spring time) and it had recently snowed a lot, so the hills and mountains surrounding the road to Lake Ohau were covered in snow. It was an awesome drive – maybe not so breathtaking without a good helping of snow though.

We stopped by the side of the road a few times during the drive. We found one really nice spot (photo below) by a pond / lake with great mountain reflections – I can’t pinpoint exactly where that is, but you should see it if you’re looking.

To get to Lake Ohau you’ll need to turn down Lake Ohau Road (or Glen Lyon Road, that’s not the route we took though) — it’s around 31 km from Twizel. Also check out Lake Poaka if you’re in the area — it’s one of the closest freedom camping spots to Mount Cook National Park and its a pretty little spot.

Lake Ohau

Once you arrive at Lake Ohau you have a few options. You can get down to the edge of the water (and possibly have a swim if you don’t mind freezing water), go for a walk, check out the small village or head up to the ski field. We found a few places to get close to the water and we had it all to ourselves – this is a far different experience to a place like Lake Tekapo.

The walking tracks are mostly quite long, and we didn’t have time to do any of them. I’ve heard the hike up to Dumb-bell Lake looks nice and the track around Lake Ohau would be cool too. Although, you can drive around a fair chunk of the lake and you can see views which I’m guessing are similar right near the road. If you’re planning on doing a lot of hiking in Mount Cook National Park (which you definitely should) then it might be best to rest your legs a bit. I’ve heard the ski field above Lake Ohau is nice too – we would have driven up, but the recent snow persuaded us not to – maybe next time!

Waitaki Valley

Lake Ohau is kind of in-between two regions – Canterbury and Otago. The Waitaki Valley is nearby, where you’ll find the awesome (and very underrated) Benmore Peninsula Track as well as other lake and mountain views and some historical remnants.

Mount Cook National Park

Lake Ohau is close to Mount Cook National Park and you’ll likely be visiting it on the way to or from the national park. You’ll find some of the best hikes in New Zealand (that’s the Red Tarns Track pictured below) and the drive there is worth the effort alone.

Are you planning a trip to New Zealand? Check out my South Island travel guide for all the information you’ll need (on the South Island at least).

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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.