Queenstown’s Lake Wakatipu

Bustling with boats by day, and home to an incredible sunset show by night, Lake Wakatipu is undoubtedly Queenstown’s greatest asset. No visit to Queenstown, or New Zealand for that matter, would be complete without spending some time out on Lake Wakatipu. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the lake – whether you’re after jet boat thrills or something a little more relaxing.

Lake Wakatipu is New Zealand’s longest lake and the country’s third-largest lake (after Lake Taupo and Lake Te Anau) at 291 km². Lake Wakatipu is so deep it dips below sea level at its deepest point (around 380 metres). Several rivers and streams feed Lake Wakatipu, including the Dart and Rees Rivers near Glenorchy at the head of the lake. The lake is drained by one river, the Kawarau River and because of this the lake level often rises during heavy rainfall. Several floods over the years have occurred with the famous 1999 floods causing water to inundate the town centre.

What to do on Lake Wakatipu

For Queenstown’s best views, get out on the lake and river. For a bit of exercise and the chance to explore the lake in detail, grab a paddleboard or kayak from the lakefront rental companies. Jet boats depart from the main town jetty taking you for a high-speed journey across Lake Wakatipu and onto the rivers where the jetboat weaves its way over incredibly shallow braided waterways. Find out more about Queenstown’s must-do lake activities.

What is the history of Lake Wakatipu?

The name Wakatipu translates to “the trough of the giant” and comes from the Māori legend of the breathing lake. It is said the rise and fall of the lake level is the giant’s heart still beating. During the gold rush in the late 1800s, Lake Wakatipu played an essential role in providing transport for gold prospectors. Before roads, boats on Lake Wakatipu connected Queenstown to the nearby towns of Glenorchy and Kingston and were vital in moving goods in and out of the area. Discover the legend of Lake Wakatipu here.