New Zealand

Nelson Lakes National Park

Where is it?

Nelson Lakes National Park is located in the north of the South Island. St. Arnaud is the closest town to the park, situated in a beautiful location on the shore of Lake Rotoiti. St. Arnaud is only 1.5 hours by vehicle from Nelson or Blenheim (State Highway 63).

There are regular bus services to and from St. Arnaud and water taxis are available on both Lake Rotoiti and Rotoroa.

Facts about the Nelson Lakes National Park

Nelson Lakes National Park Map

The main features of Nelson Lakes park are the two lakes Rotoiti and Rotoroa. These lakes were formed by glaciers scoring out valleys at headwater of the Buller River. The lakes are enclosed by craggy mountains.

At lower levels in the park the vegetation is mainly beech, with the red and silver species growing in warmer sites and mountain beech at cooler levels. As the altitude rises, the vegetation suddenly changes from beech forest to alpine plants at the bush line. In summertime these alpine plants display beautifully coloured flowers.

The lower level beech forests are teeming with bird life, such as tomtits, robins and the tiny rifleman, New Zealand's smallest bird.

Throughout New Zealand, 'mainland islands' are being created as part of a national programme to establish recovery areas for native plant and animal life. As part of this project the Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project has been established in the Nelson Lakes National Park. The project plan is to create a pest-free refuge in the honeydew beech forests beside Lake Rotoiti. This refuge will allow the re-establishment of native species in the park.

To do

Tramping is a very popular pastime in the park. As with other national parks there is a large network of DOC maintained tracks and huts. There are a large number of short walks in the vicinity of St. Arnaud including the Bellbird Walk which is suitable for wheelchairs. Longer tramps include the Travers-Sabine Circuit which takes from 4 to 7 days depending on conditions.

Both Lake Rotoiti and Rotoroa are good spots for trout fishing, and water-skiing is permitted on Lake Rotoiti only. No mooring is permitted on either lake.

For snow enthusiasts there is a small club on Mount Robert. There is a 2 hour climb from the road-end to the field.

Where to stay?

There is plenty of accommodation at St. Arnaud including campsites, motels, backpackers and holiday homes. At Lake Rotoroa there is a basic camping ground and a tourist lodge.

Tramps in the Nelson Lakes NP

Bellbird Walk

An easy 15 minute stroll on a loop track with wheelchair access. Along the track you may hear bellbirds and tuis.

Travers-Sabine Circuit

An 80 kilometre loop track, taking between four and seven days. Features of the circuit include tramping through peaceful beech forests, views of majestic mountains and stunning clear lakes. Trampers must be aware that freezing conditions may occur on Travers Saddle at any time of year.

Lake Angelus and Robert Ridge

A circuit tramp with a number of options taking three days. The most popular route (given good conditions) is along Robert Ridge to Angelus Hut. The hut is situated next to the alpine lake of the same name. From the hut Cascade track leads down to Travers River, then turn left on the Travers Track to Coldwater Hut at the edge of Lake Rotoiti. The Lakeside Track leads back towards the car park at the base of Mount Robert.

Lakehead Hut

An easy two day hike to Lakehead Hut with stunning views of the park's mountain ranges and Lake Rotoiti. Ideal for trampers short on time or those looking for an easy first tramp.

Bushline Hut

Another easy two day tramp, ideal for families, to the Bushline Hut. The views from Paddys Track and from the hut itself are stunning and the hut is cozy.

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