Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Diamond Lake

While in Wanaka waiting for Warbirds (along with many others) we took an afternoon drive through town & followed the road around the lake front past Roys Peak, which we decided looked far too steep to climb.

And on around to beautiful Glendhu Bay which looked magnificent with all the autumn colours and the still calm waters & peaceful beach. There’s a large camping ground which takes up most of the bay and we decided that this would be a great place to come and stay for a week or so in the summer. There’s easy access to the lake to launch the inflatable unlike where we were parked at the Outlet Holiday Park on the other side of the lake. From the bay there’s also great views up the Matukituki Valley to Mt Aspiring and the mountains that surround it although on this day the cloud kept the summit hidden.

A crowded Wanaka lakefront- the day before Easter

Glendhu Bay looking east towards Roys Peak, Wanaka town is on the other side of this range.

The road carries on past Glendhu Bay and on into the Mt Aspiring National Park up the Matukituki Valley. We wanted to check out the DOC free camping site at Diamond Lake which in fact turned out to be not much more than the carpark for the walks in that area. It was quite a large area and you could park on the tussock rather than the gravel park and the surroundings were pretty impressive but still, it would have been nice to have a more dedicated area.

We recognised the motorhome that was parked up; we had seen them at Athol & we were to see them again at Warbirds. We met them later on the walk to Diamond Lake and they said there’d been 10 or so campers in the park the night before.

The landscape around the the Diamond Lake conservation area has been carved by Ice Age glaciers and contains many bluffs & rocky outcrops. For LOTR fans this area was also used as the “Rugged Country of Rivendell” in the film. Neither of us felt very energetic so we decided we’d walk up to Diamond Lake and maybe do the longer walks to the top of the range on another trip. With so many visitors in town for Easter Weekend & Warbirds there was a steady stream of people walking the track.

It’s a fairly easy walk up to Diamond Lake although it does climb steadily for about 15 minutes until you reach a small plateau where the lake is situated. The views down and across the valley are stunning, the Matukituki River, lined with willows & poplars in their autumn colours, winds its way past on its way to Lake Wanaka. Across and up the valley are deer farms, the roar is in full swing and now I can hear a much more impressive sound than the early season strangled squawks I heard back in Manapouri. These stags mean business!  

Diamond Lake is very small but its certainly a pretty lake from ground level, willows and rushes surround the shoreline and you can follow the track right around the outside and back down to the carpark. Apparently this lake was once a very popular ice skating venue, I suppose it would be perfect because of its size and the fact that it would freeze over very quickly in winter.

Half way around, the track branches off to a number of other walks that take the walker higher up the bluff and on up to Rocky Mountain Summit, a 3 hour/7km return walk. We decided to walk up to the viewing platform above the lake. This part is very steep and there are many steps but it was well worth the effort.

The surrounding landscape was once again breath-taking, and huge! We climbed a little further up the bluff to an area that gave us 270 degree views out over the farmland below to Lake Wanaka, Roys Peak & Glendhu Bay beyond.

You often don’t get an indication of the sheer size of the view in landscape photography especially if you haven’t got anything in the shot to give it scale. David picked up through his binoculars, a helicopter resting on the top of the ridge across the valley. The passengers were walking along the ridge obviously taking in the views, we watched it lift off later and fly up the valley towards Mt Aspiring & it’s glaciers.

It is in the photo on the left (click it to enlarge), its just to the right, at the base of the middle cutting down the range behind, you may still not see the helicopter because of the low resolution photos I have to upload to the blog. I zoomed in on it so you could see I wasn’t telling porkies!

The view really was amazing and we spent quite a bit of time just soaking it in. From a photographer’s point of view, the lighting was fabulous although it would have helped if I had changed to my landscape lens (the shot would have been a lot wider) before leaving the car! I’ll have to save that for next time too.

Once back at the car we continued on up the valley stopping at the bottom of the Treble Cone access road. Treble Cone is one of the top South Island ski resorts in winter and we could see the dozens of tight switchbacks as the road weaved it way high up the mountain side to the ski field. It was getting late in the afternoon and the road closed at 4pm (although I’m not sure who would check on that) so we decided to leave a visit to the top for another time.

We also decided not to drive up the very long (approx 34kms) winding gravel road to Mt Aspiring too. We had heard that the road was badly corrugated & dusty as there’s been no decent rain in the area for a long while so that will wait for another time too.

We turned around and headed for home, stopping a few more times (my long suffering husband is mostly very patient) to take in the colours and unusual landscape, although looking at the photo below I see that this one was taken out the window!


  1. Every summer we've been asked to join our friends at Glendhu Bay to go camping with them. Maybe this summer....?

  2. As we have come to expect Shellie, your photography and blog DO do justice to the countryside. Otago in the Autumn is absolutely glorious. "Congratulations"

    Cheers Chris

    1. Thanks Chris, you are too kind! I'm pleased you think I'm doing some justice because I don't think a lot of people(kiwis) realise how beautiful or country is. Autumn really has been fabulous! Cheers Shellie


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