Mavora Lakes in Fiordland, New Zealand is popular among locals but for us tourists, it involves quite a detour to get to.
The park itself is divided into the South and North Mavora lakes with the Mararoa river in between the lakes.
There is no admission fee unless you want to camp there overnight.
You might be wondering if it’s even worth going to:
A stretch of 40km gravel road is the one obstacle you should anticipate before heading to this beautiful park renowned for not one, but three Lord of the Rings filming sites.
Getting to Mavora Lakes
If you’re coming from:
Te Anau – 1 hr, 11 minutes (69.9km)
Invercargill – 2hr 16 minutes (155km)
Queenstown – 2 hr, 28 minutes (168km)
Wanaka – 3hr 14 minutes (223km)
Dunedin – 3 hr 47 minutes (286km)
After that dusty trip on the bumpy gravel road, you might realise you might as well stay longer at the park:
Camping overnight at Mavora Lakes
After the less than an hour’s drive on the gravel road, you will reach the entrance to the park.
Here (and pretty much everywhere around the park), you will find similar DOC honesty boxes with envelopes and forms to fill.
It costs $8 per adult per night.
This is where the south lake is:
There is a swing bridge with a great view of the lake that can be accessed from the day parking area.
The camping sites are marked by signs and are usually near the long drop toilets (we did not see any flush toilets).
There are camping sites near the lake and further inland, near the trees.
Pay heed to the signs that also say “No vehicles”:
These are usually closer to the stream and on the higher ground of the park.
Other facilities worth mentioning are the boat ramps (we saw one around the North lake).
And the taps that draw their supply straight from the surrounding streams. Untreated water, mind you.
There are no trash cans. So, take your trash back with you out of the park. Please.
People bring their dogs and may let them loose around the park so take note:
They don’t necessarily follow the campground rule that dogs must be kept on a leash around the campsites.
You can keep your horses here. The paddock is at the north side of Mavora Lakes.
What to do at Mavora Lakes
- Camping – Obvious?
- Boating or kayaking– Locals come here to use their boats. There are specific rules you have to follow based on the brochure downloaded from the DOC webpage.
- Fishing for trout – We saw someone fishing but didn’t see any fish in the clear waters of the lakes or river. Oh, and you need a license and the limit is 2 fish per person.
- Swimming – There is evidence (swing ropes) that people swim in the river connecting the two lakes (a.k.a Mararoa River) but I think that’s during the summer season.
- Horse riding – There is even a paddock for keeping your horse if you have one. Pity for the horses though. The sandflies are abundant in this location.
- Cycling – A lot of people bring their bicycles (and even ATVs) to explore the park.
- Barbeques – There are plenty of barbeque areas – you are not allowed to set up a fire anywhere else.
- Walking/tramping – plenty of trails to explore around the park. There is even a 4-day track that starts at the north lake and heads way up, passing a number of huts along the way. We opted for the shorter walks (2-3 hours one way or return) but found them to be a little too swamped to continue right to the end.
And if you’re here to find the Lord of the Ring film locations:
Lord of the Ring sites at Mavora Lakes
- Check out the view of the river from the swing bridge at the entrance to the park
- The pebbly shore along the North Mavora lake
- The forests along the lake look straight out of the movie
By the way:
Be sure to bring along insect repellent.
There are quite a lot of sandflies in Mavora lakes:
How many? We left our car open while cooking at the back.
Before we went to sleep, we discovered and killed at least a hundred in the car.
These New Zealand west coast sandflies are harmless in the fact that they don’t harbour any diseases (like mosquitoes) but the endless buzzing and itchy bites can drive a person to distraction easily.
Don’t let the sandflies (or the detour and gravel road) deter you from visiting Mavora Lakes.
We nearly omitted this from our plan during our working holiday in New Zealand and we’re tremendously grateful that we didn’t!
It is a gorgeous place, regardless of rain or shine. We happened to go there when it was cloudy with some drizzle. And it was still a marvel.
Whether or not you are a fan of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, this place is well worth the detour (and hassle) to visit. It’s so beautiful that blue skies and clear weather aren’t necessary. So just imagine if it was sunny! <3
Is Mavora Lakes on your New Zealand bucket list? Leave a comment below.
Can’t fit Mavora Lakes into your full travel schedule?
Got time to spare?
Here are some other places to visit in Fiordland (on a budget).
Need help planning the rest of your trip in New Zealand?
Check out our New Zealand trip itinerary from North to South island
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