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The jetty that overhangs the stunning glacial waters of Lake Rotoiti in the Nelson Lakes National Park is quite possibly one of the most regularly instagrammed spots in the wider Nelson Tasman region. Although, we’re not really surprised as it truly is picture perfect, at all times of the day, and all times of the year. From the low-hanging mist and panoramic views of the snow-capped mountains in Winter, to the stunning greenery that surrounds the glistening blue waters in the Summer, there’s never a bad time to capture that iconic jetty jump shot on camera (unless of course it’s winter and you’re jumping into the water, rather than into the air). See if you can spot the squirming pool of eels below, and take some time to admire the sight of the magnificent black swans gliding through the water, fluffing their feathers to capture your attention.
Photo: Andrew Bidwell
2. Take a lakeside stroll
The high intensity tramping experience isn’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the extraordinary beauty of the Nelson Lakes National Park. There are plenty of lakeside tracks to explore, offering stunning views of the glacial lakes on one side, whilst wrapping you under the wings of native beech forest on the other. Our personal favourites are the Bellbird and Honeydew Walks. Beginning at the lakes edge, you’ll enter a forest alive with birdsong, as the enchanting calls of tuis and bellbirds echo through the treetops. Children will enjoy learning more about the nature that surrounds them with the information panels dotted along the track, and may even like to try a taste of the honeydew droplets which adorn the tree trunks. Top tip: if you have a full day (or access to a boat), the gushing 40-metre high Whisky Falls are well worth a visit!
3. Go on a canyoning adventure
Slide, jump, abseil and zipline down pristine hidden falls in the depths of the Nelson Lakes National Park on a canyoning adventure with Canyoning Aotearoa. After a short water taxi ride across Lake Rotoiti and a stroll through lush native bush, you'll reach the top of the canyon to embark on your Hidden Falls trip, a half-day trip full of exhilaration, surprises, crystal pools and waterfalls.
Photo: Canyoning Aotearoa
4. Venture into the back-country to see Blue Lake
Deep in the alpine wilderness of the Nelson Lakes National Park is a hidden gem, something so extraordinary that curious travellers must trek for almost a week to catch a glimpse. Lake Rotomairewhenua, translated as the ‘land of peaceful waters’, and also known as ‘Blue Lake’ is accessed via a side trip from the Travers-Sabine circuit. Holding the title as the clearest lake in the world, the visual clarity of the ethereal lake can exceed 80m, a clarity that is surprisingly close to that of distilled water. The blue-violet and green hues of the lake provide stunning contrast to the rugged mountain ranges that envelop it, as though protecting it from discovery by inquisitive onlookers. Note: Please respect these waters and do not wash yourself, your clothes, or your dishes in the lake.
Photo: Jack Austin
5. Spend the afternoon mountainbiking
The Teetotal Recreation Area is a mountain bikers paradise, offering a challenging variety of trails suitable for everyone; from beginners right through to advanced riders. From Rattler Rim to Rocky Horror, riders will enjoy meandering through grassland and matagouri scrub, and feeling the adrenaline rushing through their veins with exciting dips, banked turns, steady climbs and steep descents just a few features of these extraordinary trails. Nearby, the Maitland Ridge circuit is a popular grade 4+ narrow technical singletrack renowned for its steep descents.
Photo: Alan Escrick
6. Ski to your hearts content
There aren’t many places where you’ll find a ski field that offers panoramic views over turquoise blue lakes, lush native forest, brown alpine valleys and snow-dusted mountaintops. The Rainbow Ski Area promises a fun day out for the whole family, with slopes suitable for all abilities and snow activities to keep everyone entertained, from skiing and snowboarding right through to tobogganing. Located high in the north of a stunning mountain chain, the winterplayground that is formed at Rainbow each year is home to wide uncrowded slopes, well-groomed chutes, high powder runs and plenty of happy snow bunnies! But even in the summertime, the Ski Area is open to mountain-bikers and hikers, so you can enjoy the picturesque vistas all year round.
7. Reconnect with nature on a multi-day hike
For experienced hikers looking for a multi-day adventure, the remote wilderness of the Nelson Lakes National Park is the perfect choice. Cleanse your mind and reconnect with nature as you traverse fields of waving tussocks and stunning alpine landscapes, contrasting deeply against the rushing river valleys and reflective glacial lakes that surround you.
Photo: Jack Austin
8. Experience history at Tophouse Historic Inn
Historically, the Tophouse Inn was the point where the two main roads met – known as the hub and the heart of St Arnaud back in its day - and the current owners claim that nothing has changed. Built to provide comfy beds and shelter for weary travellers, Tophouse Inn has had a colourful and sometimes tragic history. Hear all about the love, jealousy, murder and betrayal that transpired between the four walls of the cob building, discover the bullet holes in the eaves of the verandah and, if you dare, ask about the resident friendly ghost.
Photo: Tophouse Historic Inn
9. Go trout fishing in the diverse rivers
The alpine village of St Arnaud offers unparalleled fishing experiences for visiting anglers. Sitting at the top of two drainages, the Buller River and Gowan River, the Nelson Lakes National Park is home to some of the most diverse river environments in the country, as well as to an ample population of fine brown trout. Within the park, the Travers, Sabine and D’Urville rivers also provide superb wilderness fishing, with the challenge of landing the wiry and elusive trout making the achievement of doing so all the more satisfying.
10. Ice-skate at Teetotal during the winter months
As the fallen autumn leaves try to ward off winter’s worst woes, and the first signs of frost begin to descend on the stunning alpine village of St Arnaud, an excited buzz ensues in the community. Why, you may ask? Because the precious gift of winter is yet to come; an ice-skating rink on Duck Pond. Most winters, the pond freezes thick and solid, the local store hangs out their skate rental signs, and families are seen gliding gracefully along the ice (most of them, anyway).