Lake Wakatipu

Think of tourist hot spot Queenstown and its incredible geographical features, and the first things that come to mind are the spectacular mountains that surround the town.

But as amazing as The Remarkables and the other ranges are, there’s another natural attraction I think deserves as much attention – Lake Wakatipu.

Give me water over big lumps of land any day. Yes, the mountains are stunning to look at and going up to the top provides breathtaking views, but because I don’t see the fun in hurtling across snow on flimsy bits of wood or puffing my way up them on foot, they’re not where I like to spend my time when I’m in Queenstown.

Instead I find myself gravitating towards the lake – which, admittedly, is not hard to do as it’s smack-bang in the middle of everything.

Because it was winter when my family and I recently visited, we chickened out of on-the-water activities such as kayaking and started out with what was meant to be a short stroll along the lakeside. It was a clear, crisp day and we were enjoying the walk so much we kept going past the shops and cafés out of town to the Sunshine Bay walking track. This takes you a further 25 minutes through native bush alongside the shore to the Sunshine Bay jetty.

But a far more relaxing way to see Wakatipu is on the TSS Earnslaw. The vintage steamship makes several 90-minute trips across the lake each day. The scenery is gorgeous and so is the boat herself – she’s in incredible shape for a 99-year-old.

With a rental car we decided to venture further afield and see more of the zigzagging lake. First stop was 12 oile Delta, a scenic reserve on the road to Glenorchy. We’d stayed at the campground here many years ago, and as glorious as it was in summer, it’s just as lovely in winter.

Glenorchy, at the northern tip of Wakatipu, is just as picturesque, with the wharf and a pretty red shed framed by towering mountains crying out to be photographed.

After a divine-tasting bowl of pumpkin soup in the Glenorchy Cafe, we retraced our route back to Queenstown.

That evening we took another stroll along the water’s edge at Frankton Arm (a large inlet). The Remarkables looked striking, painted pink by the setting sun, but it was their reflection in the lake that made this one of the most magnificent sights I’ve ever seen.

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