It’s no secret that New Zealand is an incredibly beautiful country. Naturally beautiful. Given that the majority of the population congregates within the cosmopolitan hubs, much of the surrounding land is left unspoiled and seemingly untouched by humanity. It’s the perfect landscape for both seasoned travellers and those that are just beginning to dip their toes into the nomad lifestyle… as long as you’re someone who enjoys quality time with Mother Nature.
Whilst exploring New Zealand a recurring theme made itself apparent: unbelievably blue water. Be it a lake, waterfall, or natural pool, each water body I came across was just as breathtaking as the next. Though there are still countless picturesque blue spots out there to explore, outlined below are a few of the most easily accessible, to get you started.
NEW ZEALAND NORTH ISLAND
Located on the North Island of New Zealand is Huka Falls, the Waikato River’s largest falls. The word Huka means ‘foam’ in Maori and is certainly relevant in this case. The (usually wide) river finds itself forced through a rather small gap. Due to the immense volume of water shooting out, a great deal of foam is created and is visible amongst the intensely blue water.
The water is incredibly loud and the current strong. So much so that jet boat trips are offered to get your adrenaline pumping, if that sort of thing takes your fancy. Otherwise, there are plenty of cycling (and walking) routes nearby if you are looking for a calmer activity.
Huka Falls is only a ten-minute drive from Taupo town centre. It’s such a popular attraction that it is actually accessible by bus or sightseeing tour. To get to the actual falls through, you will need to walk a short way and it can get very busy. If you don’t like crowds, aim to get there early in the day!
Located within Nelson Lakes National Park on the North Island of New Zealand, is the alpine Lake Rotoiti. Framed by steep mountains, this rather large lake was formed in the last Ice Age by huge glaciers.
Internet searches for this glistening wonder will mostly present images of the famous jetty at Lake Rotoiti. The reason that this jetty is so photogenic? It provides a perfectly symmetrical viewpoint overlooking the lake and the dramatic landscape which surrounds it. What the pictures don’t show you is that the jetty is in the middle of a somewhat isolated area… A large empty car park.
Other than the public bathrooms, there is nothing else within the car park. You’ll need to venture onto one of the trails if you’re looking to hire a boat or find somewhere to grab a snack. On the other hand, you can easily stop off at this lake as a detour if you’re pushed for time. Or just a little curious.
Given the valley in which it sits, Lake Rotoiti offers some of the freshest, chilliest water I’ve ever experienced. I visited towards the end of summer on a warm, sunny day, so was not quite prepared for the glacial temperatures that hit my system as soon as I hit the super clear water. It was exhilarating. What’s not so exhilarating? Realising how many eels swim under the jetty. And being able to see them all because of how crystal clear the water is.
Try not to let this put you off the jump if you can, I promise you it’s worth it!
NEW ZEALAND SOUTH ISLAND
The originally named ‘Blue Pools’ can be found where the ‘Blue River’ meets the ‘Makarora River’, on the edge of Mount Aspiring National Park. The glacial water here is so clear that the light which reflects and refracts from it gives off a mesmerising blue hue. If you’re driving to/from Franz Josef to Wanaka or Queenstown (as so many exploring New Zealand do), I highly recommend that you make this stunning detour.
To access the Blue Pools, you will need to follow the track from the Blue Pools car park. This car park is often busy as it’s such a stunning, tranquil place with plenty of space for you to wander around or relax by the water. As well as this, there are no facilities on site, so make sure you plan ahead. From the car park, it’s an easy and picturesque forest trail, around 1.5 km round trip. The trail will lead you to a spectacular viewpoint by a rather rickety suspension bridge, with the best views being obtained atop of said bridge.
My main advice? Take note of the signs warning how many people should be on the bridge at any given time. So many fellow travellers were ignoring these signs but they really are there for a reason. So try to be respectful, but most importantly, be safe!
Ok, I will admit, this one is an anomaly. Unlike the others mentioned in this post, the water of Lake Matheson isn’t blue exactly… it’s brown. I know that doesn’t sound very appealing, but bear with me!
The brown colouring of Lake Matheson is from the organic matter which enters into the water, thanks to the surrounding forest. I’m sure that the image you have in mind as you read this part probably isn’t too pretty… BUT the brown actually creates the perfect reflective canvas, mirroring some of New Zealand’s highest mountain peaks. So what does all this mean? Depending on the conditions, you could have a clear, blue, sunny sky perfectly mirrored – exactly why it deserves to be on this list!
You can find Lake Matheson near to Fox Glacier. As with the aforementioned lake, start at the car park and follow the forest trail over the suspension bridge. I’m not sure why the running theme of car parks and questionable bridges leads to so much beauty, but I’m not complaining!
Added bonus? There’s a really nice café between the car park and the trail which serves baked goods and hot drinks. The perfect pick-me-up after a little stroll, particularly if it’s a little chilly outside.
Contrary to the other lakes listed, the viewpoint for Lake Matheson is relatively small, so prepare to be a little patient if you want to get that perfect shot. Sadly on the day that I visited, the thick and poorly-timed fog managed to block all mountain views. On the plus side, the fog didn’t detract from the beauty of this lake. In fact, it sort of added to the drama.
Lake Pukaki is bluest out of all the lakes on this list. This lake is a large moraine-dammed alpine lake, which sounds very scientific. All it really means is that glacial debris accumulated from receding glaciers, blocking the water and consequently leading to the forming of a lake. The glacial rock particles left behind are also known as ‘glacial flour’, the reason for the lake’s incredibly vivid turquoise/blue colour. It almost seems unnatural – but in a beautiful way.
Lake Tekapo and Lake Ohau are also said to have the same enchanting blue as Pukaki; they formed in the same way and are fairly nearby. I actually did visit Lake Tekapo but didn’t find it quite as striking. This could have been down to the fact that the water levels were low and so the colour didn’t seem very special. Maybe it just wasn’t the right day to visit! Ultimately, I’m only going into detail on Lake Pukaki as it’s the only one whose magic I saw first hand.
Important to note: This pocket of blue is more a drive-by photo opportunity than a destination. The surrounding area is rocky and the road runs very close to it, meaning it’s not exactly a picnic spot, unlike some of the others I’ve mentioned.
Lake Wanaka is truly one of the most naturally beautiful places I have ever seen. Located within the Alps on the South Island of New Zealand, this small town has so much to offer. There are numerous hiking trails, such as the famous Roy’s Peak Track, as well as watersport activities atop of the glittering lake. Alternatively, there is an abundance of cute coffee spots and boutique shops to peruse. Wanaka is also close to Mount Aspiring National Park, so is a good one to tie in with the Blue Pools mentioned earlier.
As the town of Wanaka is set amidst the Alps, the temperature is noticeably chillier. For this reason, I didn’t venture into the cool waters of this lake. Besides, wandering around is stunning enough, as the glacial water is practically crystal clear.
Unlike many of the other water bodies listed above, Lake Wanaka is just a few steps away from the main town, meaning that nearby facilities are not an issue. Of course, if you choose to embark on one of the trails or to visit the local winery, Rippon, you won’t find much other civilisation around. But trust me that’s all part of the charm.
One final thing to note is that the majority of the areas described above cannot be reached solely on foot. Though rest assured, there are plenty of ways to get there. Why not try a campervan, hire car or bus tour? I’m sure you won’t regret the journey! Every one of these is incredible and unique. The vivid blue waters are a testament to the natural beauty of New Zealand and I guarantee, they’ll take your breath away.
We hope that this article has helped inspire you to visit New Zealand. If you have any questions about the destination or have your own travel tips to share please leave these in the comments below.
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