Lake Manapouri for tourists

By: Road Trip

Lake Manapouri on the lower South Island is often described as the ‘loveliest’ of all New Zealand lakes.

Manapouri Lake

You can see why. With its array of 33 small islands, backdrop of the majestic Cathedral Mountain range, native bush-clad edges, and sandy beaches and coves, Lake Manapouri is a stunning place to visit.

Originally called Roto-au (the rainy lake) by early Maori, and then Moturau (many islands), this lake is the second deepest in New Zealand, with a circumference of 170 kilometres and deepest point of 444 metres.

Lake Manapouri is renowned as a catalyst for environmental consciousness amongst New Zealanders in the 1950s when plans to flood the lake for power generation became public. The lake was subsequently ‘saved’, with the power station at West Arm now operating under strict controls.

The peaceful township of Manapouri lies on the shores of the lake and Waiau River (population 300).

Local knowledge

Manapouri Track is popular for its variety of day and overnight walks. On offer is a four-hour walk on the Circle Track or overnight walks to Hope Arm and Mt Titiroa. Row boat and water taxi hire is available to transport you across the lake.

More remote tracks around the lake include The Monument, Waterfall Walk at Stockyard Cove, Gorgeburn Falls Track, the Kepler Track, Cone Peak, Percy’s Pass, and Dusky Track – all are accessible by water taxi.

In summer the area is abound with sandflies so pack plenty of bug spray and lather up with insect repellent, lest you get eaten alive! Also, make sure to pack appropriate clothing as weather conditions in this area can change rapidly.

Doubtful Sound: take a cruise – dolphins and other marine life often reward a visit to the more remote fiord.

Vehicle chains: drivers must note that all vehicles on the Milford Road are required by law to carry chains for their vehicles from May to November.

West Arm Power Station: Manapouri is known as the departure point for Doubtful Sound excursions and trips to the largest underground power generation operation in the Southern Hemisphere.

Kayaking: although weather dependent, this is a wonderful way to experience all the remote bays and sandy beaches of Lake Manapouri, with only the song of birds and splash of water to hear.

Kea: the world’s only alpine parrot, prevalent around The Homer Tunnel and Milford Sound, is very curious, and unfortunately quite destructive, often pecking and carrying away unguarded items of clothing or prying apart rubber parts of cars. Please don’t feed them, no matter how cute they are!

Places to eat and drink

Manapouri services: these include a variety of accommodation and with two cafes, a restaurant, a garage and hotel.

Blue Duck Café & Bar: in the heart of Milford Sound Village, with spectacular views, enjoy a steaming espresso and light snack or a tasty lunch buffet. Buy a freshly-made sandwich or roll for your Milford Sound adventure.

Bracken Hall Café & Gift Shop: located in Mossburn, this is a must stop on the Queenstown-Te Anau highway for a great selection of food and gifts. It also has an information centre, clean toilets, and friendly staff to welcome you.

Need to know

The 1270m-long Homer Tunnel, between Te Anau and Milford Sound, can be very narrow and campervans should exercise caution.

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