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Nelson Lakes National Park in New Zealand

Lake Angelus, Nelson lakes national park, New Zealand

Lake Angelus, Nelson lakes national park, New Zealand

Snow-capped rocky terrains, glacial lakes with insanely deep visibilty, alpine forests, and numerous crystal clear streams of icy freshwater are a part of the Nelson Lakes National Park. The alluring and secluded lakes – Rotoiti and Rotoroa – are an ideal getaways for travelers. Massive glaciers and several glacial landforms add to the magnificence of the National Park.


To preserve the ideology of native communities and precious habitats, Nelson Lakes National Park was established in 1956. As per Maori mythology, Nelson lakes were created by their chief Rakaihaitu. It is believed that he dug holes in the ground only with his ko (digging stick), which led to the formation of Lake Rotoiti and Lake Rotoroa.

Activities in Nelson Lakes National Park

Recreational activities such as boating, kayaking, camping, tramping, rafting, mountain biking, and ice skating are popular among the visitors.

Hiking – From 30-minute walks to long hikes for 4-7 days, there are trails for every category of hikers. A walk through the spectacular landscape of the park is thrilling. You discover small cabins and huts near the tracks. Angelus Hut Tracks & Routes, Lake Rotoiti Short Walks, Travers-Sabine Circuit are widely preferred by the hikers.

Birdwatching – Honeydew Beech Forest spreads over the lower regions of the park. Birdwatchers can look forward to spot Bellbirds, Fantails, Heron, Morepork, and Kaka as they saunter along.

Exploring Wildlife – The Nelson Lakes National Park is home to a wide variety of wildlife including Red Deer, Chamois, and Hare.

Fishing – The brown trout of Lake Rotoroa attracts a lot of travelers to fishing. There is a fishing lodge of 1920s for those who want to pursue fishing.

Backpacking – In winters, Lewis Pass to St. Arnaud- which usually takes 4-5 days- is exceptional climbing route for campers and trampers.

Nearby Attractions

Lake Rotoiti, Lake Rotoroa, Mount Robert, The Rotoiti Mainland Island, Victoria Forest Park, Mount Frankin, and Kahurangi National Park.

Nelson Lakes National Park Location

It lies in the North Tasman region of South Island in New Zealand. It is near the St. Arnaud village. Being on the northern end of Lake Rotoiti, St. Arnaud serves as the main gateway to the park.

Location map of Nelson Lakes National Park

How to Reach?

By Air – Travelers can fly into Nelson City Airport that is around one-hour drive from the National Park.

By Road – St. Arnaud can be accessed from Nelson or Blenheim via Highway 63. Nelson Lakes Shuttles service comes handy for trekkers going to Rainbow Forest Park, The Heaphy Track, Wangapeka Track, Mt Richmond Forest Park, and nearby areas.

Accommodations at Nelson Lakes National Park

Some of the popular accommodations near the National Park include the Alpine Lodge, Nelson Lakes Motels, St. Arnaud House, and Avarest Bed & Breakfast. Moreover, lodges and huts in the Park are provided by the Department of Conservation to campers and hikers.

Name of Hotel Website Type Address
Alpine Lodge www.alpinelodge.co.nz/    3-star hotel 75 Main Rd St Arnaud, St Arnaud, 7072, New Zealand, info@alpinelodge.co.nz
Nelson Lakes Motels www.nelsonlakes.co.nz/    Lodging 7053 State Highway 63, St Arnaud 7053, New Zealand, INFO@NELSONLAKES.CO.NZ
St. Arnaud House www.st-arnaudhouse.co.nz/    Bed & Breakfast Cnr Bridge St, Holland St & Lake Rd, PO Box 88,St. Arnaud, Nelson Lakes,New Zealand,retreat@st-arnaudhouse.co.nz
Avarest Bed & Breakfast www.avarestbnb.co.nz/    3-star hotel 33 Kerr Bay Road, St Arnaud, Nelson Lakes 7053, New Zealand, avarestbnb@xtra.co.nz


Alpine Lodge in St. Arnaud is the nearest place to dine. Within few kilometers of Nelson Lakes National Park is the Kohatu Flat Rock Cafe, The Belgrove Tavern, Rivers Cafe, and Oceano Restaurant.

Best time to visit

Generally, from October to February, the climate remains pleasant enough to visit the Park. However, for hikers, it is best to wait till fall that lasts from March to May.

Things to Remember

  • Traveling during winters can be a memorable experience as the chill weather (-10ºC at times) makes hiking even more challenging. You should come prepared.
  • Near the lakes, vehicles should be driven under speed limit.
  • While trekking in countryside, please carry radio or navigational devices as there can be unforeseen avalanches or heavy rain.
  • Personal Jet Skis and boats are prohibited in both lakes of the National Park.

Facts about Nelson Lakes National Park

  • The National Park is spread across an area of 1,020 sq. km.
  • Sabine, Travers, and Buller rivers flow through the glaciers in Nelson Lakes National Park.
  • Rainbow Ski Area- on the southeast side of Lake Rotoiti- becomes a key destination for skiers during winter.
  • The Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project is working towards sustaining the critical wildlife and ecosystem of this protected park.
  • Highway 63, which passes along Buller River through the Nelson Lakes National Park, offers stunning view of surrounding valleys and passes.

National Parks in New Zealand

Published On: Thursday, September 17th, 2015