Sutton Salt Lake

Image: Stefan Marks | Creative Commons


Sutton Salt Lake is New Zealand's only inland salt lake, with water about half as salty as seawater.


With no outlet, Sutton Salt Lake has concentrated salts from surrounding soils as it has repeatedly filled, evaporated and refilled.

Nestled amongst the spectacular parallel rock tor ridges of Sutton, with a backdrop of the Rock and Pillar Range, the lake (approximately8 ha) occupies an enclosed shallow basin in the schist rock landscape.

Place overview


  • Bird and wildlife watching
  • Walking and tramping

Find things to do and places to stay Sutton Salt Lake Scenic Reserve

About this place

Nature and conservation

Sutton Salt Lake. Photo: John Barkla.
Sutton Salt Lake with Rock and Pillar Range in the background

Lake with kowhai in foreground. Photo: John Barkla.
Lake with lone kowhai in foreground

Salt tolerant herbs and grasses occupy the lake margins, although in a dry summer the lake dries up completely, only to refill again during the winter. A range of water birds and waders use the lake, feeding on the tiny salt-adapted aquatic animals, including copepods, rotifers and water beetles.

Elsewhere in the 143 ha scenic reserve, rock tors provide ledge habitat for an undescribed forget-me-not (Myosotis sp.), while numerous small shrublands contain species such as desert broom (Carmichaelia petriei), poataniwha (Melicope simplex), korokia (Corokia cotoneaster) and matagouri (Discaria toumatou). Grasslands abound, comprising both native and exotic species. Natives include common and uncommon speargrasses - the distinctive sharp-leaved aciphyllas. 

Getting there

Sutton Salt Lake Car Park is located approximately 9.5 km from Middlemarch.

Drive south from Middlemarch towards Dunedin on SH87. Just after you cross the railway line for the second time, continue straight onto the unsealed Kidds Road - the reserve entrance is about 2.5km along this road on the left.

If coming from Dunedin, drive south of Dunedin to Outram and take SH87, heading towards Middlemarch. Turn left onto Kidds Road before you cross the railway line at Sutton. The reserve entrance is about 2.5 km along this road, on the left.

Know before you go

There are no toilet facilities on site.

Dogs are not permitted,


Kā Moana Haehae / Alexandra Office
Phone:   +64 3 440 2040
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Address:   43 Dunstan Road
Alexandra 9320
Postal Address:   PO Box 176
Alexandra 9340
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