Named for its two largest glacial lakes, Lake Rotoiti ("little lake) and Lake Rotoroa ("long lake"), Nelson Lakes National Park was established in 1956 and protects 102,000 hectares (over quarter of a million acres) of the northern Southern Alps.
This semi-wilderness area is an outdoor adventure playground.
Plenty to do on land and water
For water sports, pretty Lake Rotoiti has a water ski lane and a swimming raft as well as several boat jetties. Lake Rotoroa has been designated a wilderness lake, providing a wonderfully peaceful experience if you're wanting to get away from it all.
Among the many adrenaline-based and low-key activities available in the Nelson Lakes National Park and its environs are historical and eco-tours, gold panning, Tophouse Historic Inn, guided treks and lake cruises. Summer days are great for boating, windsurfing, waterskiing, yachting, canoeing and swimming at the beautiful lakes.
For the angler, the rivers provide some of the best trout fishing in New Zealand. For the hunter, the park contains moderate numbers of red deer and chamois, with pigs and feral goats found further afield (refer to the DOC website for more information on where to hunt and note that permits are required for fishing and hunting). The wide variation of terrain makes the area attractive for hikers and there's an extensive network of tracks and huts. The surging rivers provide plenty of rushing adrenaline for kayakers and rafters.
The Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project ensures visitors and locals alike can enjoy
seeing a part of New Zealand which is heavily protected from pests and modification. A 5,000 hectare (12,300 acres) area of native beech forest is being restored on the shores of Lake Rotoiti and maintained as a "mainland island".
This unique and exciting project has resulted in many species of native birds being present in larger than expected numbers. Lucky walkers may glimpse the threatened kaka and kakariki, while tui, bellbirds and other species are found in abundance. Hearing the dawn and dusk chorus down by the lake is an experience you won't want to miss.
The alpine village of St Arnaud is the gateway to the Nelson Lakes National Park. It’s serviced by a general store, which also sells fuel. Accommodation options range from camping and backpackers through to boutique hotel and high-end B&B. There are three licensed eateries, plus a takeaway. Opening hours vary according to the season.
For general information about the National Park, download the Department of Conservation's Visitor Information pamphlet.
Nelson Lakes Visitor Centre
The Department of Conservation's Visitor Centre is open every day of the year except Christmas Day. Opening hours vary according to the season.
Summer hours: 8:00am to 4:30 pm, seven days. Closed Christmas Day.
Winter hours: 8:30am to 4:30pm
Winter weekends: 9:00am to 4:00pm
The Centre contains maps, information about the park and current weather, hut tickets, fishing licences, hunting permits and gifts.
View Rd, St Arnaud
Phone: +64 3 521 1806
Fax: +64 3 521 1896