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Choose a tramping tracks in the area. You can circle around Lake Rotoiti, climb into the mountains above the lake or visit 40 m high Whisky Falls.

Track overview

Return via same track

Walking and tramping

5 / 7-10 hr Advanced: Tramping track

Dog access

No dogs

  • Check, clean, dry
    Stop the spread of didymo and other freshwater pests.

    Remember to Check, Clean, Dry all items before entering, and when moving between, waterways.

About this track


Lake Rotoiti Circuit

Time: 7–10 hr return

Canoeing on Lake Rotoiti, Mt Robert in the background. Photo: Simon Noble.
Canoeing on Lake Rotoiti, Mt Robert in the background

As this is a long walk to complete in one day, you may choose to halve the walk by taking the water taxi to Lakehead Hut or Coldwater Hut and walking back to Kerr Bay.

Beginning in Kerr Bay, take the Lakehead Track around the eastern shore and reach Lakehead Hut after about three hours. If the Travers River is low, you can cross the river opposite the hut to get to the main Travers Valley Track and Coldwater Hut; otherwise there is a swingbridge located 1 hr 30 min further up the Travers Valley.

From Lakehead Hut to Coldwater Hut via the swingbridge is three hours.

From Coldwater Hut at the lake edge, the Lakeside Track heads north along the western lake shore. An hour from the hut the track passes by a short side track to Whisky Falls.

After another hour the track turns away from the lake and climbs to Mt Robert Road. To complete the circuit along the road to West Bay and tracks to Kerr Bay adds another hour.

Mount Robert as seen from Parachute Rocks.
Mount Robert as seen from Parachute Rocks

St Arnaud Range Track

Time: 5 hr return

Beginning in the eastern corner of Kerr Bay, this walk climbs steadily through beech forest to a height of over 1650 metres. The lower section of the walk crosses moraine terraces deposited by past glaciers.

Above the bushline (at 1400 m), there are spectacular views from Parachute Rocks, which gained their name from a parachute-shaped gravel scree located just to the north.

The track climbs from here to the ridge line, where you are rewarded by spectacular views of the surrounding area: east down the Wairau Valley, north to Mt Richmond Forest Park, west towards Kahurangi National Park and the Buller Valley, and south to the rest of Nelson Lakes National Park.

Return via the same route.

Whisky Falls

Time: 5 hr return

From Mt Robert Road, take the Lakeside Track along the western shore of the lake. The track passes through forests of mānuka and kānuka, and then beech, crossing several shingle fans before reaching Whisky Falls.

Almost 40 m high, the falls provide a damp atmosphere for the thick walls of moss and ferns. The remains of an illicit whisky still were found here in the 1880s, giving the falls their name.

Return the same way.

Getting there

Lake Rotoiti is easily reached from both Nelson and Marlborough. From Nelson City, follow SH6 south and take the turn-off to the left sign-posted for Nelson Lakes after passing through Wakefield. This road reaches a T-junction with SH63 where you turn right to reach the village of St Arnaud and Lake Rotoiti.

From Blenheim take SH63 south-west out of town and follow it all the way to St Arnaud. If travelling north on SH6 from Springs Junction, you can reach St Arnaud by turning right onto SH63 at Kawatiri Junction north of Murchison. There are limited bus services to St Arnaud. Contact the Nelson Lakes Visitor Centre for updated information.

Know before you go

Bad weather and freezing conditions can occur at any time in the park. Be prepared with warm, waterproof clothing and extra food.

  • Do not light fires.
  • Boil, filter, or treat water for drinking.
  • In late summer and autumn, carry antihistamine if allergic to wasp stings.

Pest control programmes, using toxins and traps, operate in the Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project area. Keep to the tracks marked with orange triangles.

Sandflies: The presence of biting sandflies can detrack from your experience at the lakes, especially during the summer months. To minimise this problem, cover up and apply a good quality insect repellent to any exposed skin.

Wasps: Wasps are a known hazard and are particularly common from December until April. Carry antihistamine if you are allergic to their stings.

Rubbish: No rubbish facilities are provided. Carry out all your rubbish.

Pets: To protect the wildlife, domestic animals are prohibited in Nelson Lakes National Park. Dog owners convicted of bringing a dog into the park face a maximum fine of $10,000 or 12 months in prison under the National Parks Act.

Drinking water: The presence of giardia and other disease causing organisms in park waters cannot be dismissed. We recommend that you boil (for 3 minutes), filter or treat your water and avoid taking water from areas where waterfowl are present in large numbers.

Didymo: The invasive alga didymo is present in some rivers and streams of the Buller catchment and can be spread further by walkers and trampers through wet boots or other equipment. To prevent spreading didymo please comply with Biosecurity New Zealand guidelines and check, clean and dry all potentially contaminated equipment between waterways. To report a suspected find of didymo to Biosecurity New Zealand free phone 0800 809 966.

Eels: Eels are fully protected in the lakes and rivers of the park. No fishing for eels is allowed.

Trout fishing: Is only permitted in the rivers in the park between 1 October and the following 30 April each year. You must first have a Fish & Game licence. Licences can be purchased at the Nelson Lakes Visitor Centre or from Fish & Game New Zealand.

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