Is Lake Hawea Worth Visiting in 2024? Top Things To See And Do

Despite its small size, Lake Hawea can easily become one of your favorite spots in New Zealand. Located in Otago, next to Wanaka, this place is home to 2,760 lucky people and has everything a traveller might ever want.

Lake Hawea is a paradise for any backpacker, hiker, or cyclist. It’s a small town next to Wanaka, which is often missed by tourists. Yet, it offers stunning views and plenty of outdoor activities. If you are visiting Wanaka town, make sure not to miss Lake Hawea.

If you’re planning to visit Lake Hawea on your way to or from Queenstown or Wanaka, this article is for you. I spent two months in Lake Hawea, so I thought to give you an overview of this place and what it offers.

Should you visit Lake Hawea in Otago, New Zealand?

If you are visiting the Queenstown area and have spare time, you should definitely see Lake Hawea. It is worth spending an entire day here and even more if you are keen on hiking.

There are some wonderful tracks that are much less crowded than in more popular areas like Wanaka or Queenstown.

Fortunately, Lake Hawea is off the radar of most visitors who come to the Queenstown area, as it’s less developed and populated. That said, its beauty can compete with New Zealand’s tourist Meccas like Queenstown and Wanaka.

Lake Hawea isn’t the only lake, it has several accommodations and eating options that will satisfy your needs and fit into your budget.

Top things to do in Lake Hawea

There are several things that you can do in Lake Hawea and around. This place is less touristy than Wanaka and Queenstown, so you will enjoy less crowds.

If you need a car in New Zealand, use Rentalcars to rent one. They have the best rates.

1. Hiking

Gladstone Track

View at the end of the Gladstone Track
  • Distance: 6,5 km one way (you will need to walk back)
  • Time needed: 1,5 to 2,5 hours walk
  • Difficulty: Easy

Gladstone Track goes along Lake Hawea up to the Johns Creek Track. It’s an easy and enjoyable walk, run, or bike. This route is popular among locals, too, so expect to see some people passing regularly.

Hawea River Track

“My favorite views on a Hawea River Track”

  • Distance: 12 km one way
  • Time needed: 2 – 3.5 hours (walking), 40 minutes to 1,5 hours (biking)
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Start at: Lake Hāwea township or Domain Road

Hawea River Track is an easy, family-friendly walking & biking path that follows the Hawea River from Lake Hawea to Albert Town or another way around, depending on where you start.

This track isn’t on Lake Hawea but goes along not less beautiful Hawea River. You can walk or bike along this river, although it’s more suitable for biking, as the walk isn’t that spectacular and can get a bit boring.

At the end of the track, you will reach the Clutha River, which offers possibilities for further explorations.

The path takes you from Domain Road, Lake Hāwea Township, and the Lake Hawea township down to the Albert town Recreational Reserve.

Isthmus Peak track

Image from Michal Klajban, Licence;
  • Distance: 15.6 km – (up/down on the same path)
  • Time needed: 5 to 7 hours
  • Difficulty: Difficult to hard
  • Start at: Isthmus Peak car park on SH6
  • Things to keep in mind: Closed for fawning from 20 November and 20 December. Not recommended in winter due to snow and ice.

Isthmus Peak track is about a 16 km-long exciting track that opens you a view of both Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. It’s an out-and-back trail, meaning you will go back via the same path.

Not less beautiful than Roys Peak track, it’s a less popular route; hence, you will see fewer people.

The best time to visit Isthmus Peak is from January through November. This track is great for walking, but mountain biking is also possible, however, you will have to push your bike in many areas.

Isthmus Peak track is a serious hike for well-prepared and reasonably fit travellers. You also should have all the necessities that are usually recommended for hiking, including:

  • Proper shoes and clothes
  • Hiking backpack
  • Water and snacks
  • Hat and sunglasses
  • Sunscreen

2. Mountain biking

“My bike outside the local Hawea store & kitchen cafe”

“Mountain biking views around Lake Hawea”

Lake Hawea is very popular among mountain bikers and cyclists. You will see plenty of them having a quick bite at the Hawea store & kitchen.

The most popular route to bike is Hawea River Track, which is an easy one. That’s also why there are many older people exploring this area. Road biking in the Lake Hawea area and surroundings is great as you won’t see many cars around.

For example, you can take a highly-rated e-bike tour from Lake Hawea to Lake Wanaka. It’s a wonderful track that I have done a few times.

Upper Clutha River Track is excellent for both walking and mountain biking. See more details in the hiking trails section.

However, for mountain biking, Wanaka has more exciting options. In fact, there is over 750 km of tracks to explore in and around Wānaka.

3. Fishing

Fishing on Lake Hawea can be hit or miss, but you generally would need a boat to catch some fish, and fishing is allowed all year round. If you are lucky, here is what you can catch:

  • brown trout
  • rainbow trout
  • salmon

According to states that Lake Hawea has 60% rainbow trout, 29% Quinnat salmon, and 11% brown trout. Experts say that October and November are good months for shore fishing at the southern end of the lake near the holiday park.

Shoals of landlocked salmon move around Lake Hawea. Bait fishing seems to be more prevalent in Otago than it is in Canterbury.

Best sports for fishing in Lake Hawea:

  • The Neck on the north-west side about halfway up the lake
  • The Hunter River delta at the northern tip
  • The camping ground at the southern end
  • Silver Island, on the eastern side of the lake opposite the Neck

The section 2 km from the access road to the Neck, called Hunter Valley Junction, offers good spinning and fly fishing and can have a very good evening rise. Fish can be spotted cruising the shoreline along this section.

Roads along the east and west of the lake provide numerous access points. Access to The Neck is possible from SH6 and from the road to Hunter Valley Station off SH6, although only by foot after heavy rain. Exposed mud makes even foot access difficult when the lake level is low.

Keep in mind the bag limit for fishing in Lake Hawea, which is 2 trout and 4 salmon.

Boat ramps: 

  • Next to the campground, off SH6 near the Lake Hawea township
  • Off SH6, south of Hunter Valley Station Road
  • Off Hunter Valley Station Road

The Timaru River delta is one of the best places to fish for both spin and fly anglers. The in-flowing Timaru River is approximately a 15 km drive up the western side of the lake from the township.

4. Explore the Clutha River

“View of the Clutha River on the Upper Clutha River Track”

You can access Clutha river from different sides and enjoy tracks when in Lake Hawea. Check out the Upper Clutha River Track, which is only a 10-minute drive from Hawea.

The route from Albert Town to Luggate follows along the river bank, offering views of the Clutha’s emerald-green water with the odd trout lurking in its shadows.

The track on itself is 18.5 km and will take about 5 – 5 hr 30 min to complete, although it’s wonderful for a few hours stroll and a walk back. Therefore, you can walk the whole length or sections of the track.

If you decide to bike this route, it’s an intermediate level of biking with a tiny road along the river.

Dogs are also allowed on this track.

Here are carparks that lead to the Upper Clutha River Track:

  • Shortcut Road carpark
  • Albert Town
  • Cardrona River
  • Stevenson Road
  • Reko’s Point
  • Luggate

5. Visit Puzzling World

The Puzzling World is located close to Wanaka and is a 15-minute max drive from Lake Hawea. It’s a fun activity to entertain if you need a break from constant hikes and bikes or if it’s a rainy day.

At Puzzling World, you can choose among a wide range of activities, from wandering in the Great Maze to exploring one of the Illusion rooms. One might easily spend half a day there, but allow at least two hours.

Adult ticket is $25 and $18 for children over age 5. Entrance for children under 5 is free.

6. Catch a fish and dine at the Hook – Lake to Plate

“They have excellent pizza with fresh salmon.”
  • Open days & hours: Wed, Thurs & Sun: 11 am – 7 pm; Fri & Sat: 11 am – 9pm
  • Address: 49 Monteith Rd, Wanaka 9382

If you take a Hawea River Track or visit Puzzling World, you will find yourself near Albert town, which has another fun place – a restaurant Hook – Lake to Plate.

It’s an interesting concept, where guests can catch a fish in the river next to the restaurant while sipping cocktails in the outdoor sitting area. Moreover, a restaurant will cook your fish, if you wish! The lake is famous for its salmon, so there is a good chance of taking an entire fish home!

I came there just to eat, which is also an option. The restaurant has an extensive menu and fabulous pizza. Local wine and craft beers are available too. 

If you want to do some fishing but have never tried it, they also offer paid lessons right there!

Can you walk around Lake Hawea?

You can walk in one direction along Lake Hawea, to the east, from one of the carparks in Lake Hawea township. However, the trail along the lake becomes a part of the Johns Creek Track after 6 km to 7 km max.

So, you can walk only about 6 km to 7 km along Lake Hawea and can continue exploring the Gladstone track if you wish. But generally, walking along the entire Lake Hawea is impossible.

Swimming in the Lake Hawea

“I attempted to swim in the lake Hawea – it’s cold.”

Can you swim in Lake Hawea? Theoretically, yes; it has no stream. That said, Lake Hawea is pretty cold, in fact, it’s freezing! I was able to go in only with my feet.

You will need a wetsuit to swim in Lake Hawea without cringing. Official sources state that the average temperature in Lake Hawea is 8.9°C to 10°C.

For some, this temperature might be manageable but probably not enjoyable. You decide.

Best places to stay in Lake Hawea

With things to do in Lake Hawea all clear, does it have any places to stay overnight? Yes, it does! In fact, one of the best luxury hotels, Lake Hawea Station, is situated in Lake Hawea, as the name says. It’s a three-bedroom luxury accommodation offering a full experience of remote and peaceful Lake Hawea.

Prices, however, are pretty staggering, $1,900 per night in low and $2,400 in season.

For travellers on a budget, there is Camp – Lake Hawea, a campsite, just one kilometre from Lake Hawea township. There you can choose from various cabins, cottages, and even a tiny house.

Besides, there are plenty of holiday homes, which you can find on

Places to eat, drink and snack

Hawea Store & Kitchen

  • Open days & hours: Every day: from 7.30 am to 9 pm
  • Address: 33 Capell Avenue, Lake Hāwea 9192

Hawea Store & Kitchen is the only cafe within the Lake Hawea township. They have a wide variety of meals and also have a full menu for takeaways or eating in. However, their main restaurant space on the second floor has been closed since the pandemic.

This cafe also has a full store where you can find everything that a traveller might need. It’s a convenience store thought.

Hawea Hotel, Eatery & Bar

  • Open days & hours: Wed & Thurs: from 4 pm; Fri to Sun: from 12 pm
  • Address: 1 Capell Avenue, Lake Hawea, 9345

The second option to eat out in Lake Hawea township is the Hawea Hotel, Eatery & Bar.

This lakeside restaurant offers some impressive lake views and a great menu at reasonable prices. Meals are mostly made of regionally grown and seasonal produce, which is amazing.

Check out their menu here. In addition to the excellent restaurant, Hawea Hotel serves as a hotel (of course), so you can book a room there for a night or two.

Find accommodations in Lake Hawea.

Lastly, be aware of sandflies

Be aware of sandflies in Lake Hawea, they can be pretty annoying. Always have bug spray handy.

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