“Life is like a mirror. Smile at it, and it smiles back at you.” ~ Unknown.
What I saw when I visited Moke Lake was almost unbelievable and one of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had during all my years of travelling (and I’ve been travelling for over 15 years). Can you believe this little gem is just 20 minutes from Queenstown? Oh New Zealand, you’re just full of pleasant surprises!
If you’re planning on visiting Queenstown, here’s why you should definitely include a side trip to Moke Lake while you’re there. Read on for more!
This guide to visiting Moke Lake will cover:
Why visit Moke Lake?
If you’re planning a 7 day itinerary in the South Island, you should add this little-known attraction just outside Queenstown to your trip. It’s a nice diversion from the bustling adrenalin capital of New Zealand’s South Island. Moke Lake will literally blow your mind provided the weather is on your side during your visit. As an added bonus there are a few things to do to make the most of your time there.
Not to mention, there’s a beautiful photo opportunity on the way in before you even reach the carpark:
How to capture reflection perfection at Moke Lake
It’s key to visit Moke Lake on a clear day without wind in order to see Mother Nature’s giant mirror come to life. If you’re fortunate enough to get the much-desired perfect weather, just the view from the carpark will take your breath away!
My travel buddy and I were so lucky to have a cloudless sky and no wind when we visited. I couldn’t believe how clear the water was and how perfect the reflection of the surrounding mountains.
Never had I been anywhere with water so still and air so silent.
How to get to Moke Lake from Queenstown
Moke Lake is an easy 20 minute drive from Queenstown. If you’re travelling with a mid-range budget the most efficient way to get there is to hire a car for the day. In Queenstown’s city centre you’ll find Hertz, Avis, Budget and more along Stanley and Earl Streets. Alternatively, you can book online in advance to avoid disappointment.
To get to Moke Lake from Queenstown, drive west out of the city on the Glenorchy-Queenstown Road for 6 kms. This road is sealed until it becomes gravel at the Moke Lake Road turnoff. Follow the gravel road for about 7 km to the lake. The lake is accessible in a regular hire car albeit a little bumpy, so there’s no need to hire a large 4WD especially for the trip. Don’t let a few bumps put you off though, because the views on a clear day are incredible!
Even if Mother Nature decides not to allow you to witness the mirror that is Moke Lake the walking tracks surrounding her are worth the trip, anyway. Who needs Photoshop when nature looks this good?!
Things to do at Moke Lake
Aside from the obvious for photo-junkies like myself, there are a few things you can do at Moke Lake:
Walk the tracks
There’s a few lovely tracks to enjoy surrounding the lake. I’ll talk about these in more detail further down the page.
Love mountain biking? Around Moke Lake is perfect as you’ll have a stunning backdrop of Ben Lomond, Ben More and Mt Hanley as you ride. There’s more info from 100% Pure New Zealand.
Moke Lake is a popular choice for fishing trout. Keep in mind that the waters are so clear, fish can be easily spooked. Fly and spinner fishing is permitted but fishing from a propelled boat is prohibited.
It’s also possible to canoe or kayak your way around the lake. Make sure you get your photos with the still water beforehand!
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Moke Lake has a camping ground with covered picnic tables, toilets and access to running water. During my visit in August we had the place to ourselves so it was very tranquil. Although, it probably isn’t the best place to camp during the winter months as the taps were turned off due to water pipes freezing. You’re also forbidden from starting campfires. More info on camping from the Department of Conservation.
Regardless, it would be a lovely spot to enjoy a relaxing picnic lunch. My travel buddy and I had decided to walk one of the few tracks surrounding the lake instead. I was able to stop at many points along the way to capture these shots. Reflection perfection overload!
I’ll let my photos speak for themselves:
Walking the tracks around Moke Lake
There are a few tracks in varying lengths to choose from. The easiest loop track took us 1½ hours and was mostly an easy walk. There were some steep hills in parts where we needed to catch our breath but nothing extreme. If you happen to go just after rain you can expect muddy sections and some bonus little waterfalls beside the track coming off the mountains above!
You can find more information on the tracks from the Department of Conservation. It is possible to use a pram (buggy) along this track if you have small children. As mentioned there can be some mud in parts so you may need to lift your pram to get through.
TIP: Bring plenty of drinking water, especially during winter because the water pipes at the campsite freeze. If you plan your visit during summer months, bring plenty of insect repellant as the sandflies can be nasty.
Fun Fact about Moke Lake
The BBC’s hit TV drama Top of the Lake (2013) was filmed right here at the lake. This mini-series has won a Golden Globe Award and been nominated for 48 more awards.
Did you know about this little gem just outside Queenstown? Let me know in the comments below! If you enjoyed this article, please share it to Facebook, follow me on TikTok, Instagram or don’t forget to save it to Pinterest!
Until next time,
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Woahhhh, this is incredible! I can’t believe I’ve never heard of it. I stopped at a little lake on the way to Mount Sunday (which was my favourite place in New Zealand and also totally underrated, but would probably go into battle with this place easily!) that was similarly enchanting, but nothing on this scale! Thanks for the tip!
Oh wow, really! I must check out out Mount Sunday when I’m next in NZ by the sounds of it! Thanks for your comment, Clazz 🙂
Wow, this is beautiful and what a good idea for a post! Thanks for sharing, the photos look great! I am sure this would work on a lot of the lakes we have in Switzerland as well.
Thank you, Anna. Switzerland is definitely up there with NZ in terms of stunning lakes!
I like so much natural and peaceful place like this! I’d love to visit it and to take a lot of pictures like you did 🙂 really great and useful article!
Thanks a lot for your comment, Kate!
Wow! The views are unbelievable! I could easily spend days exploring here. So awesome that they let visitors camp. I can’t even imagine the gorgeous reflections you could see for sunrise/sunset.
Oh yes the sunsets would be amazing! I’ve seen photos of the lake when the Southern Lights are dancing above it, with green and pink hues – incredible!
I’d never heard of Moke Lake until your post. Moke lake is stunning spot surrounded on all sides by mountains and is great when the wind is low for those reflection shots ! If you’re capturing reflections, a polariser will also help to change the strength of the reflection and really makes a difference to your photography, right ?
I would imagine so! I’m an amateur photographer who isn’t too technical – I didn’t have to do anything special to get these shots, nature was very kind to me on this day 🙂
I love seeing perfectly calm lakes, it makes photographing the reflections so easy. I’m moving to NZ this September (it’s been eight years since I was there). I can’t wait to get out and explore this beautiful country once more.
How exciting for you, Mike! I’m a little jealous actually, NZ is beautiful no matter where you look 🙂
Moke Lake in Queenstown looks very beautiful! It reminds me of the Yosemite in California. I wish NZ was not so far away from Europe, I would love to come and visit it one day, but it is so far from us.
I’d love to visit Yosemite, Barb! And I COMPLETELY agree with you about NZ being so far away. If were any further away, it would start getting closer again 😉 Hopefully one day you could make the journey and have a few destinations to stop off along the way to break up the trip. Thanks for your comment 🙂
I’d never heard of Moke Lake until your post – but wow, the reflections are incredible! And to say it is so close to Queenstown too, it’s a wonder it doesn’t sit higher up TA’s things to do list. But as you say, poor weather may have had an negative effect on that ranking!
Thanks Vicki, yes from what I can gather it isn’t very well known. Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned anything and kept this little gem to myself ? Just kidding, when nature is this beautiful it’s hard to keep it a secret. Thanks for your comment!
There’s so much to love about New Zealand and this location looks pretty special. I would love to mountain bike around here I think, as something just a little different to the usual hiking. The reflections here are mesmorising.
I agree, Kerri! I think I’d have to give mountain biking a go next time around too. It’s such a lovely setting. Thanks for your comment!
Those photos really speak for themselves! I love how you enumerated the activities that one can do! I’ve heard that New Zealand offers a lot of activities that one can never think of. How true is it?
Yes it’s true, there are LOADS of amazing activities to do in New Zealand! To name just a few, have you heard about the world’s biggest swing, the Nevis Swing? It has a 300m arc and it’s 160m above the river! There’s a dedicated ziplining Adrenaline Forest just outside Wellington. In Queenstown you can experience Flyboarding on Lake Wakatipu – It’s a water jetpack that propells you into the air that allows you to fly like a superhero and there’s a shark-submarine called Hydro Attack. Go check them out 🙂
Holy cow these shots are INCREDIBLE! Did you do have to do a slow exposure to get rid of some of the water ripples, or was it this really this still? Either way it’s amazingly beautiful!
Thanks for your lovely compliment, Amelie! No special cameras or exposures, just a quick happy snap – the water was really THAT still. Because the lake is almost entirely surrounded by mountains it can be quite sheltered from the wind I guess. I couldn’t believe it either!
It looks like there wasn’t anyone else there. That’s so surprising for an attraction so close to Queenstown. Especially since New Zealand is becoming a pretty trendy tourist destination. I think I’d like to kayak on the lake. Are there rentals available there?
I agree, Jennifer. I think maybe because I went in August so it was too cold for most campers. It was great to have Moke Lake all to ourselves! I didn’t see any places to rent kayaks there during my visit but I believe you can hire in Queenstown with tour companies who do half-day trips, such as Queenstown Sea Kayaks 🙂
Gorgeous photos. I love the reflections of the mountains, one of my favorite views. And a lot of great activity opportunities at the Moka lake.
Thank you Bilyana, the reflections are amazing aren’t they!
Those are fabulous photos – The lake is soooo blue it’s unbelievable. Is the weather always so good or were you just lucky?
Thank you, Fiona! The weather in Queenstown can change very rapidly but February, July & August are said to have the lowest rainfall. I visited in August and the weather was quite clear the week I was there. I think your chances of witnessing this giant mirror would be higher in these months but I’m sure you could get lucky at any time of the year 🙂
What a gorgeous part of the world and one I hadn’t heard of before. It definitely reminds me of the lakes in the Canadian Rockies. So beautiful. That walk or mountain bike ride around the lake sounds like the perfect way to spend a morning out of Queenstown. Great photos too.
I agree, Skye! It is so gorgeous. I’d love to visit the Canadian Rockies someday as well, they look incredible. As lovely as Queenstown is it’s nice to wander a little beyond it sometimes. Thanks for your comment!