Queenstown and the Lakes District

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New Zealand is known for its water features. Whether you’re talking oceans, fjords, rivers, waterfalls or lakes, water is everywhere. The Lakes District in southwestern New Zealand holds some of the most spectacular lakes in the country, including Lake Wakatipu, Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. Many of the key attractions and towns of this area center around the water.


Queenstown is a resort town located on Lake Wakatipu, and it is the most developed town near Fiordlands National Park. This is a great place to take in some extreme activities such as bungee jumping or jet boating. Some people are turned off by the touristy nature of the city, but I welcomed the sight of restaurants, retail stores, and hotels after spending close to a week in the isolation of Fiordland National Park. The city does get a little over-congested with people, but it is easy to see why in a town that has so many beautiful lake and mountain views. Queenstown is also a mixing bowl for diversity and many different types of travelers, including adventure-seekers, outdoor enthusiasts, luxury travelers, and hippies. The main downside to the city is the cost of hotels, as they often exceeded 300 NZD while I was there. Thankfully there are low-cost holiday parks nearby.

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Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea

North of Queenstown is the town of Wanaka, which is appropriately situated on Lake Wanaka. Although smaller and more laid back than Queenstown, Wanaka has plenty of restaurants and activities to keep you occupied. If you travel north of Wanaka you will be treated to great views of Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea during your drive.

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Stuart Landsborough’s Puzzling World

Puzzling World is located in Wanaka, but it is worthy of its own entry in this post. Yes, Puzzling World is a bit silly, but almost everyone who has visited there lists it among their most-memorable experiences in New Zealand. Puzzling World started in the 1970s as a large wooden labyrinth, and it has expanded over the years to include all kinds of puzzles and optical illusions that are both thought-provoking and a ton of fun. Some of the illusions you may encounter include a tilted room that seems to defy gravity, a hall of faces that follow you as you walk, and the Ames Room, where big people can be small and small people can be big. This a must visit if you are in the Lakes Region, and you will get some of your most hilarious pictures here.

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