Just a few hours from Nelson you’ll notice the elevation shift, the air freshen and the trees become dense as you close in on Nelson Lakes National Park. Covering 102,000 hectares (252,047 acres), the national park is considered the northern gateway to New Zealand’s famous Southern Alps. Shaped by glacial movement the national park is the site of two mountain ranges and is punctuated by the Rotoroa and Rotoiti glacial lakes. Stay in the comfort of St. Arnaud, the town on the park’s border, or get back to nature at one of the park’s many camping grounds and hikers huts.
Stay in the national park to immerse yourself in New Zealand’s natural beauty. The Nelson Lakes National Park’s main campground is located on the banks of Lake Rotoiti. From your campsite on the edge of the water you’ll have stunning views of the St. Arnaud Ranges and Mount Robert. There’s a smaller campground at Lake Rotoroa, as well as an upscale fishing lodge. Test your skills as you fly fish on the lake. The national park is a popular destination for trout fishing, with a large number of brown trout recorded in the glacial lakes.
Embark on a day hike to explore the surrounds of the lake or set out on a multi-day trek to go farther afield. A 3-day loop trail will take you around Lake Angelus while the 5-day Travers-Sabine Circuit is a popular longer walk. Water taxis operate on both lakes and can deliver you to the trailheads of more remote treks.
In winter, the slopes of the national park become a destination for skiers. Bring your skis or snowboard to tackle the trails of the Rainbow Ski Field. Lift passes can be obtained in St. Arnaud.
Nelson Lakes National Park is between 1 to 2 hours’ drive south of Nelson and is serviced by the neighbouring town of St. Arnaud. Fees and permits are required for staying in the park and accommodation should be booked in advance.