Lake Hāwea. Lake in New Zealand, Oceania

Lake Hāwea

Lake in New Zealand, Oceania

Lake Hawea, New Zealand Photo © Jan Reinecke

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Lake Hāwea

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Crystal Clear - Lake Hāwea
Crystal Clear - Lake Hāwea. Photo by Jocelyn Kinghorn
Excavated by massive glaciers more than 18,000 years ago, Lake Hāwea is an stunning lake in the Otago Region of New Zealand. Lying side by side with its more famous sister, Lake Wanaka, Lake Hāwea offers a perfect location for a getaway filled with adventure or relaxation.


“Hāwea” comes from the indigenous Maori language. The name is thought to be from a local tribe, although its exact meaning is unknown.

In 1958, the lake was raised artificially by 66 feet to store more water for increased hydroelectric power generation.


The lake is situated at an altitude of 1,142 feet, and covers 54 square miles. At its deepest, the lake is 1,286 feet deep. The lake is 22 miles long.

The lake lies in a glacial valley formed during the last Ice Age, and is fed by the Hunter River. Nearby Lake Wanaka lies in a parallel glacial valley eight kilometers to the west. Lake Hāwea is dammed to the south by an ancient terminal moraine created some 18,000 years ago.

The only flat land around the lake lies at its southern end, surrounding its outflow into the Hāwea River.

Lake Hāwea - Lake Hāwea
Lake Hāwea. Photo by karlnorling


Ringed by pebbly beaches and with magnificent views to the surrounding peaks, Lake Hāwea offers a range of holiday adventures year-round.

During summer, the lake is used for fishing, boating, and swimming. For the sports-inclined, the lake is also a favored spot for wind surfing, paragliding, and kite surfing.

In winter, the nearby mountains and fast-flowing rivers allow for skiing and jet boating, no matter the cold. Nearby skifields include Cardrona, Treble Cone (Wikipedia Article), and Snowfarm.


If hiking is your style, tracks wind their way along the Timaru River, Dingle Burn, and Breast Hill all the way to Mt. Prospect – ideal for hunting, fishing, and the passionate hiker and walker. For unbelievable views, hit the Isthmus Peak hike.

More gentle walks include the lakefront walk to Johns Creek, or take a picnic and enjoy a stunning hike along Timaru River Road. From Lake Hāwea township, follow the road to Timaru Creek. The trail that begins here leads through a valley of beech forest, until it flattens onto a braided riverbed.

Lake Hāwea, Route 6, Otago Region, New
	Zealand P1230219 - Lake Hāwea
Lake Hāwea, Route 6, Otago Region, New Zealand P1230219. Photo by Jane Nearing

Lake Hāwea Track

The Lake Hāwea Track is one of the area’s main draw cards, and provides access to one of the Hāwea Conservation Park’s most beautiful areas, the Hunter Valley. A 10-12 hour hike, the route is challenging, and recommended for experienced hikers. The track is also open to mountain bikers, taking around 6-8 hours.

The undulating track leads from the Turihuka Conservation Area and provides excellent lake and mountain views. It fords the Dingle Burn, and goes on to the Hunter River/Lake Hāwea confluence. Along the river flats, the track weaves in and out of pockets of kanuka and silver/tahini and mountain/tamauka beech forest.

The Hunter Valley’s open grasslands and braided river system lie beneath the McKerrow, Young, and Huxley Ranges. After entering the Hunter Valley, follow the extensive valley flats to gain access to the head of the valley. It is a spectacular ride along Lake Hāwea toward the head of the lake. The track runs through private land, so be considerate of livestock. No dogs are allowed.

To get to the track, follow the unsealed Dingleburn Station Road from Hāwea Township to the public car park. From the car park, walk or bicycle along the 4-wheel drive road until a new access track for foot and mountain bike traffic leads to the Turihuka Conservation Area, on to the Lake Hāwea/Hunter River confluence, and access to the Hāwea Conservation Park.

For more information and how to prepare for the hike, check out the Department of Conservation website at

Lake Hāwea,
	Route 6, Otago Region, New Zealand P1230228 - Lake Hāwea
Lake Hāwea, Route 6, Otago Region, New Zealand P1230228. Photo by Jane Nearing

Where to Eat

The Lake Hāwea Hotel has a fantastic restaurant. Lake Hāwea also has takeaways and cafés, or a shop where you can fill your picnic basket and head to the beach for a twilight lakefront dinner.

Getting There

Arriving in the nearby Wanaka township is easy, whether by air, bus, or self-drive. A scenic 60-minute drive from Wanaka, Queenstown Airport is an international gateway to the region. A number of transfer options are available including self-drive, private transfers, shuttles, and regular bus services. Christchurch and Dunedin Airports are within a 5-hour drive and are linked by bus services and car rentals.

From Wanaka, take State Highway 6 northeast to Lake Hāwea. The drive takes 15 minutes from central Wanaka.

Where to Stay

For a treat, stay at the Lake Hāwea Hotel right on the shore of Lake Hāwea. 15 minutes' drive from the heart of Wanaka, the hotel is a luxurious base for a getaway. The hotel is only a 40 minutes' drive from skifields, including Cardrona, Treble Cone, and Snowfarm.

For more economical options, quaint bed and breakfasts are available in Lake Hāwea, as well as camping grounds, including the local favorite, the Kidds Bush lakeside camp area.

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Author: Amanda. Last updated: Jun 04, 2015

Pictures of Lake Hāwea

Lake Hāwea, Route 6, Otago Region, New Zealand P1230217 - Lake Hāwea
Lake Hāwea, Route 6, Otago Region, New Zealand P1230217 - Photo by Jane Nearing

Lake Hāwea - Lake Hāwea
Lake Hāwea - Photo by karlnorling

Lake Hāwea - Lake Hāwea
Lake Hāwea - Photo by karlnorling

Lake Hāwea, Route 6, Otago Region, New Zealand P1230244 - Lake Hāwea
Lake Hāwea, Route 6, Otago Region, New Zealand P1230244 - Photo by Jane Nearing


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