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Nelson Lakes National Park

Nelson Lakes National Park promises all levels of challenge for keen hikers and mountaineers.

In Maori mythology the lakes were created by the great chief Rakaihaitu digging holes with his ko (digging stick). One hole became Lake Rotoiti (small waters) and the other became Lake Rotoroa (large waters).

Known for its magical honeydew beech forests, which feed a variety of tuneful nectar-eating native birds, the park provides an easy wilderness escape. The nearby village of St Arnaud is a comfortable, well-equipped base for visitors.

Key Highlights

The spectacular landscape of Nelson Lakes National Park was sculpted by massive glaciers during the most recent ice ages, and many glacial landforms remain - lakes Rotoiti and Rotoroa are the two most obvious examples.

From January to April, the thick beech forest that cloaks the lower regions of the park shimmers with a coat of honeydew, filling the air with a delicious sweetness. The honeydew - each drop poised on the end of a threadlike tube that protrudes from the trunk of the tree - is created by scale insects, which process the tree sap into pure sugar. For many native birds, lizards and insects, the honeydew is a source of high-energy food.

The Department of Conservation is actively working in the park to create a pest-free refuge that will support greater numbers of kaka, kakariki and bush robins, as well as giant snails and native bats.