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Nelson Lakes National Park

Nelson Lakes National Park, New Zealand

Nelson Lakes National Park.
Nelson Lakes National Park

Nelson Lakes National Park is at the northern end of the Southern Alps in South Island. It is known for its pristine lakes, namely Lake Rotoiti and Lake Rotoroa as well as glacial valleys, beech forests and snow-topped mountains. Camping, fishing and tramping are all popular pastimes within this beautiful region. Nelson and Blenheim are the nearest large towns about 100 km distant.

The park was created in 1956, one of several of New Zealand's 13 national parks established in the 1950s. The others were Aoraki/Mount Cook, Fiordland National Park, and the now disestablished Te Urewera.

According to Maori mythology, the lakes originated from the actions of the chief Rakaihaitu, who crafted them by using his ko, or digging stick. One of these excavations gave rise to Lake Rotoroa, "large waters," while the other formed Lake Rotoiti, meaning "small waters."

The park covers an area of approximately 1,019 square kilometres (393 square miles).

The park covers approximately 1,019 square kilometres.
Enjoy pristine lakes and forest


The park is dominated by the towering peaks of the Southern Alps, including Mt. Robert and St. Arnaud Range.

Lake Rotoiti is the larger of the two main lakes and is popular for boating, fishing, and camping. Known for its tranquil atmosphere, Lake Rotoroa is surrounded by beech forests and is a great spot for nature lovers. There are water taxis in operation on both lakes.

Whisky Falls is a spectacular 40 metre waterfall surrounded by moss and ferns. It is roughly a 5 km walk from St. Arnaud.

Popular hikes in the national park include the Travers-Sabine Circuit, a multi-day trek that takes you through diverse landscapes, including alpine meadows, beech forests, and mountain passes.

The park is home to a variety of native flora and fauna, including beech forests, subalpine vegetation, and alpine herb fields. Birdwatchers may spot native species such as kea, kaka, and even the rare rock wren.

Note: Dogs and other domestic animals are forbidden in the national park. Wasps are a hazard between January and April.

The main Department of Conservation (DOC) Visitor Centre with information on the park is in St. Arnaud.

Rotoiti / Nelson Lakes Visitor Centre
View Road St Arnaud 7053
Tel: (03) 521 1806

Whakatū / Nelson Visitor Centre
Millers Acre/Taha o te Awa
1/37 Halifax Street, Nelson 7010
Tel: (03) 546 9339

Murchison Lodge.
Murchison Lodge


The small village of St. Arnaud, situated near Lake Rotoiti, serves as the main gateway to the national park. It is an 88 km drive from Nelson on SH6. The village has restaurants, cafes, and other essential services to cater to the needs of its visitors.

Some places to stay here include the Alpine Lodge, with a restaurant, bar, a shared lounge, garden and children's playground.

The Avarest Bed & Breakfast offers free Wi-Fi, as well as complimentary evening drinks and snacks in the upstairs lounge. It is only a 2-minute walk from the shores of Lake Rotoiti.

The Murchison Lodge provides free breakfast and free Wi-Fi internet access. It is a 45-minute drive from the national park.

Find accommodation in Saint Arnaud.

Awe-inspiring scenery in Nelson Lakes National Park.
Awe-inspiring scenery in Nelson Lakes National Park

Access - Getting There

St. Arnaud is a 1 to 2 hour drive from either Blenheim or Nelson. It is also 129 km from Picton on SH63. From Christchurch the distance to St. Arnaud is 350 km on on SH65 and SH6.

The nearest major airport is Nelson (NSN) Airport. You can fly into Nelson from New Zealand's major cities Auckland Airport (AKL) and Wellington International Airport (WLG), and Christchurch.

Nelson Lakes National Park.
Find tranquility in Nelson Lakes National Park

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