10 Largest Lakes in New Zealand© NZPocketGuide.com
10 Largest Lakes in New Zealand

10 Largest Lakes in New Zealand

© NZPocketGuide.com

Spoiler Alert: Most of Them are on the South Island

In New Zealand, you are never too far away from water! If it’s not by the fact that you will never be more than 2h30mins away from the sea, it’s because you will be near one of the 775 lakes on New Zealand’s mainland! And in true Kiwi fashion, this top list is celebrating the biggest of New Zealand’s bodies of water! 8 out of our top 10 largest lakes are formed by glaciers on the South Island, while the rest are here thanks to volcanic activity creating huge crater lakes! All of them offer something different in terms of appearance and watersport activities, so try to tick them off your bucket list while travelling in New Zealand.

1. Lake Taupo – Largest Lake in New Zealand

The largest lake in New Zealand is Lake Taupo. This 623-square-kilometre (240-square-mile) volcanic lake trumps this top 10 list by far! It is almost twice the size than the second lake on this list and is said to be bigger than the whole of Singapore. The whole Lake Taupo area is well worth exploring in-depth so check out our Lake Taupo destination category.

Location: North Island

Tourism NZ© Tourism NZ

2. Lake Te Anau

Coming second on our list of the lakes in New Zealand is Lake Te Anau. The first of a long list of glacial lakes is Lake Te Anau which is 348 square kilometres (134 square miles). The town of Te Anau is also your starting point to explore the majestic Fiordland National Park.

Location: South Island

NZPocketGuide.com© PocketGuide.com

3. Lake Wakatipu

Welcoming Queenstown on its shore, Lake Wakatipu is simply unmissable when visiting New Zealand’s South Island. At 289 square kilometres (112 square miles), it gets the bronze medal of this list. This may also be one of the most popular of all the lakes in New Zealand as Queenstown is one of the most visited towns in the country.

Location: South Island

Pixabay© Pixabay

4. Lake Ellesmere (Te Waihora)

The fourth of our largest lakes in New Zealand is Lake Ellesmere. This is the shallowest lake on the list with a maximum depth of only 2 metres (7 feet) for a 182-square-kilometre (70-square-mile) size! It is actually one of New Zealand’s most prominent wetlands.

Location: South Island

Phillip Capper on Wikipedia© Phillip Capper on Wikipedia

5. Lake Wanaka

So close! By being only 2 square kilometres (0.8 square miles) smaller than Lake Te Waihora, Lake Wanaka drops to number 5 on our list. The surroundings of the lake were home to many Lord of the Rings’ filming locations good to know for those with an agenda! Worth a visit if you are looking to check off all the biggest lake in NZ from your bucket list.

Location: South Island

 Ghislain Mary on Flickr© Ghislain Mary on Flickr

6. Lake Manapouri

The deepest lake on this list is Lake Manapouri and it is the 6th largest lake in New Zealand. Although it is only 143 square kilometres (55 square miles), making it 6th on our list, it has a maximum depth of 444 metres (1,457 feet)!

Note: Just to be clear, lake Manapouri is NOT New Zealand’s deepest lake, it is merely the deepest one on this list of the 10 biggest lakes in NZ. The deepest lake of New Zealand is Lake Hauroko located in the Fiordland National Park on the South Island.

Location: South Island

Pseudopanax at English Wikipedia on Wikipedia© Pseudopanax at English Wikipedia on Wikipedia

7. Lake Hawea

Next is probably one of the most stunning of all New Zealand lakes, Lake Hawea. Bordering Mt Aspiring National Park, this long and narrow lake covers 143 square kilometres (469 square miles). The lake is a great escape from busy Queenstown and Wanaka.

Location: South Island

Yogi de at en.wikipedia© Yogi de at en.wikipedia

8. Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki is one of the most photographed New Zealand lakes. Edging the Mackenzie Basin, the famous 99 square kilometres (38 square miles) milky blue lake surrounded by a mountainous landscape is a typical New Zealand postcard picture.

Location: South Island

 karlnorling on Flickr© karlnorling on Flickr

9. Lake Tekapo

We could not make a list of the biggest lake in NZ without mentioning Lake Tekapo. Slightly smaller than its neighbour Lake Pukaki at only 87 square kilometres (34 square miles), Lake Tekapo compensates with colourful flora and stunning night skies. We strongly recommend spending time in the Lake Tekapo area!

Location: South Island

Pixabay© Pixabay

10. Lake Rotorua

For the 10th largest lake in New Zealand, we have Lake Rotorua. That’s right, we are back on the North Island to finish this “Top 10 List” with Lake Rotorua, an 80-square-kilometre (31-square-kilometre) volcanic lake. The lake is part of the many geothermal wonders of the area.

Location: North Island

10 Largest Lakes in New Zealand© NZPocketGuide.com


Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in New Zealand over 10 years ago and with a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to travel New Zealand. She knows Aotearoa inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience New Zealand’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides and is the co-host of NZ Pocket Guide’s live New Zealand travel Q&As on YouTube.

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