Nestled within Fiordland National Park, Lake Manapouri is surrounded by the majestic Cathedral Range and dotted with 33 islands. Forested slopes descend into the water, creating impressive waterfalls and isolated sandy coves perfect for swimming and picnics. It is also the jumping-off point for travel to Doubtful Sound.The Basics
Lake Manapouri can be reached by boat from the Waiau River, which feeds the lake. Fishing is popular on the lake, and kayaks and rowboats are available to rent, depending on the weather. Perhaps the biggest reason for visiting Lake Manapouri is a motorized boat ride across it to reach Wilmot Pass—a necessary but scenic part of the journey to remote Doubtful Sound.
A number of walking tracks surround Lake Manapouri, including the well-known Manapouri Track, which leads you up Mt. Titiroa to take in the lovely lake views before finishing with a swim, and the Kepler Track, a New Zealand Great Walk that includes a stop at the Moturau Hut on the lakeshore. Lesser-known walks include Percy’s Pass, Cone Peak, Gorgeburn Falls Track, and the Dusky Track, all of which can be reached by water taxi.
Things to Know Before You Go
How to Get There
- Lake Manapouri is an ideal destination for boating or hiking off the beaten path.
- Bring binoculars for bird watching if you plan to walk on the Manapouri Track.
- A bathing suit, towel, sun protection, water shoes or hiking shoes, and a change of clothing are necessary, depending on your activity level.
- Doubtful Sound cruises offer photo ops of marine life and typically last from three hours to overnight.
- Stop the spread of didymo and other freshwater pests by checking, cleaning, and drying all items before entering and moving between waterways.
Lake Manapouri is outside your door if you’re staying in the small town of Manapouri (population 300), which lies on the eastern shore. Otherwise, it’s about a 15-minute drive from Te Anau via State Highway 95 or a 2.5-hour drive from Queenstown via SH 6 and 94. Doubtful Sound cruises most often include hotel pickup and drop-off in the township or Te Anau. When to Get There
As it’s the only access point to Doubtful Sound via the West Arm and due to its proximity to Te Anau, Lake Manapouri is a year-round destination for outdoor activities. Winter boasts snow-sprinkled peaks, while summer temps are ideal for dipping into crystal-clear waters. Check weather and trail conditions before setting off.Follow in Frodo’s FootstepsThe Lord of the Rings
fans may recognize several filming sites from the movie trilogy, starting on the shores of the “River Anduin,” aka the Waiau River, which was featured in The Fellowship of the Ring
. East of the lake, the Kepler Mire is the Te Anau Basin’s largest wetland, but it’s also the stand-in for the “Dead Marshes,” a swamp where the Hobbits follow Gollum, and Frodo barely resists its dreary spell. “Careful, now!”