Waterfalls, lakeside picnics and the tree fuschia await on the walking tracks of Lake Rotoroa in Nelson Lakes National Park.

Track overview

Walking and tramping

25 m - 3 hr Easy: Walking track

Dog access

No dogs

About this track


Rotoroa Nature Walk

Time: 25 min return

This walk starts at the picnic area near the lake. At the picnic area an information panel and a small carved wooden canoe reveal the livelihood of an early resident of the area.

The track proceeds along the Lakeside Track for about 10 minutes before branching off to the left onto the loop section. It returns to the picnic area via the start of the Porika Track.

The gentle nature of this ramble is a botanist’s delight. Of all the short walks in the park, this one contains the greatest variety of tall forest trees, shrubs, climbing vines, mosses and particularly ferns. Here the beech–podocarp forest around the lake is at its most diverse.

Braeburn Walk

Time: 2 hr return

This walk leads along a wide and well graded track through a diverse remnant of beech and tall podocarp forest rich in bird life, then zigzags up to a picturesque mossy waterfall.

The track starts 400 m west along Braeburn Road from the Gowan River Bridge. Initially the track follows the remains of a road constructed in the 1950s during the hydro-electric investigations. Flanking the flat section at the beginning of the walk is a grove of distinctive fuchsia trees forming a natural avenue.

Porika 4WD Track

Time: 3 hr return

The Porika 4WD Track heads up onto the northern end of the Muntz Range, which runs along the eastern side of Lake Rotoroa. From here, a spectacular view can be gained of the lake and the surrounding bush-clad, bare-topped mountain ranges.

The track begins at the parking area and campground on the road that branches left after passing the Rotoroa Lodge.

Alternatively, begin at the picnic area and walk a short way (10 min) along the Rotoroa Route, then take the Rotoroa Nature Walk to meet the Porika 4WD Track. This option passes through a delightful area of mixed beech–podocarp forest with an impressive variety of ferns, mosses, shrubs and tall forest trees.

Soon after leaving the parking area, the track zigzags steeply through the beech forest to the lookout points, following the 4WD track that is used to service the power transmission lines. The lookout points are not signposted.

To reach the lookout points and return to the parking area takes approximately one hour. The track, while on the edge of the National Park, is outside its boundary. Be aware that 4WD vehicles and mountain bikes may also be on this track.

Getting there

By road, St Arnaud, the main entry point for the national park, is 1 hour 30 minutes from Nelson or Blenheim, 5 hours from Christchurch, and 2 hours from Westport. Lake Rotoroa Village is 40 minutes from St Arnaud off SH6.

Bus services to St Arnaud operate on an irregular basis. Phone the Nelson Lakes Visitor Centre for more 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, and the northern end of Lake Rotoroa. 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.

Watercraft and activity restrictions: The Nelson Lakes National Park bylaws 2006 prohibit jet skis and hovercraft from the park which includes both main lakes. Jet boats are prohibited on rivers. Water skiing is prohibited on Lake Rotoroa but permitted on Lake Rotoiti. 

Drinking water: The presence of giardia and other disease-causing organisms in park waters cannot be dismissed. We recommend that you boil (for 3 min), 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.


Rotoiti / Nelson Lakes Visitor Centre
Phone:   +64 3 521 1806
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Address:   View Road
St Arnaud
Postal Address:   PO Box 55
St Arnaud 7053
Whakatū / Nelson Visitor Centre
Phone:   +64 3 546 9339
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Address:   Millers Acre/Taha o te Awa
79 Trafalgar Street
Nelson 7010
Postal Address:   Private Bag 5
Nelson 7042
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