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Lake Hayes Loop Track (also known as Lake Hayes Walkway) is the perfect easy hike in Queenstown for those looking for wildlife, stunning mountain views, and reflections, as well as a little bit of peace and quiet. The trail circles Lake Hayes’ perimeter and although 8 kilometers (5 miles) long, makes for a nice stroll any time of the year.
I personally love visiting Lake Hayes at sunset. Although during the day the colors and mountains are beautiful, the trail can sometimes attract a crowd. During sunset though, I often have the place to myself!
If you’re interested in hiking Lake Hayes Loop Track, then there is some essential info to know before you go. And in this blog, I’ll tell you all of that info and more!
Lake Hayes Loop Track Overview
Distance: 8 kilometers (5 miles) return
Elevation gain: 140 meters (459 feet)
Time needed: 2-3 hours
Type of trail: Loop
Lake Hayes Loop Track is a nice hiking trail on the South Island of NZ near Queenstown. Since it’s relatively flat and easy, the trail is a perfect activity for families with children or those just looking for a relaxing stroll. It’s also a popular trail for bike riding or a place where people go to hang out and even swim.
The entire trail circles around Lake Hayes and is 8 kilometers (5 miles) long. However, like other loop tracks in the area such as Moke Lake or Mt Crichton Loop, you don’t have to walk the entire thing. Just start the trail and walk for as long as you feel before turning back the way you came! Of course, you won’t be able to enjoy the views along the lake from every angle, but it’ll still be beautiful!
Lake Hayes Loop Track starts in the suburb of, you guessed it, Lake Hayes Estates. Lake Hayes is located about a 10-minute drive from Queenstown or 5 minutes from Arrowtown. The great thing about this hike is that it’s accessible by public bus too so you don’t need your own car to get there.
Lake Hayes Loop Track FAQs
What to Pack
There are a few things you should bring with you if you’re heading oiut to hike the Lake Hayes Track including:
Water – There are no water refill stations or fountains around, so bring your own.
Good footwear – Lake Hayes Track can sometimes get very muddy. Wear suitable footwear!
Swimsuit and towel – It is common to swim in Lake Hayes
Money – It is free to hike Lake Hayes Track, but you might want to stop in at one of the nearby wineries or restaurants for a post-hike drink or snack!
Sun protection – Lake Hayes Loop Track is only partially shaded. The sun in New Zealand is strong, so some sun protection will save you from getting a bad sunburn.
Getting to Lake Hayes
Getting to Lakes Hayes Loop Track is a lot easier than some of the other hikes in Queenstown. While the track is located about a 10-minute drive from Queenstown, you don’t need a car and you can actually ride the public bus!
From Queenstown, take the number 2 bus heading for Arrowtown. Get off at Amisfield Winery. From here it’s only a couple hundred meters until you reach the lake’s edge and the walking track. You can plan your entire route using the local online journey planner.
Related Read: Lakes Hayes is one of the best stops on the scenic drive between Queenstown and Wanaka. There are a few other noteworthy stops that make this journey an epic road trip!
Parking and the Start of the Trail
If you do drive yourself to Lake Hayes then you have a couple of options in terms of parking. The first is at the Lake Hayes Pavilion. This large banquet hall has tons of parking and makes for one of the best places to start the loop track.
Your other option is to park at the Lake Hayes Scenic Reserve. It is less developed than the pavilion but you’ll find pit toilets here and signs for the Lake Hayes Walkway.
Since the Lake Hayes Walkway is a loop, there is no right or wrong place to start the trail. Just jump on wherever you want and follow the trail around the entire lake until you are back where you started! It’s just that simple.
Walking Lake Hayes Perimeter
I find that walking Lake Hayes Loop Track is one of the most relaxing activities near Queenstown. The trail is well-maintained and not technical, making for a leisurely stroll.
With that said, there is one incline on the side of the lake near Rutherford Road. Here, you’ll climb up a hill to a viewpoint overlooking Lake Hayes (picture under what to pack heading.) There is a bench here which makes for the perfect stop for a picnic!
Along the trail, there are various steep sections heading down towards the lake’s edge. Head down to the water for a swim during the summer months (it’s one of the locals’ favorite things to do in the summer in Queenstown!) Lake Hayes is considerably warmer than Lake Wakatipu, so it’s a good swimming spot. Just do watch for water warnings, some years there is algae in the lake and swimming may not be recommended.
There are also lots of ducks and Australian Crested Grebe that call Lake Hayes home. These birds are usually friendly and may even approach you in hope that you have lunch to share!
Of course, the calm waters of Lake Hayes are what make this walkway special. In fact, it’s one of the most Instagrammable places in Queenstown with reflection photography opportunities at every turn! To see these reflections for yourself, be sure to head out on a day when there is little wind.
One of the things I like most about walking Lake Hayes Track is looking at all of the beautiful cottages and homes around. I mean, sure the lake and reflections are stunning, but it’s fun to check out all of the fancy homes surrounding the lake! I often wonder who lives there, are they vacation homes, are they Queenstown locals? It’s just another element to the hike that I enjoy!
Things to do Nearby
Once you’re done walking Lake Hayes Loop Track, why not stick around and check out some of the other things to do in Lake Hayes.
Just next to Lake Hayes is Amisfeild Winery and Restaurant. This is the perfect place to go wine tasting or have lunch!
Akurua Winery is also located just down the road. They offer some of my favorite wine in the area! Plus, their gardens are absolutely stunning!
Essential Things to Remember
- Watch for signs about swimming and the water safety. Sometimes the lake isn’t suitable for swimming but it often is.
- Visit Lake Hayes on day when there is little wind. This way, you’ll be able to see the amazing mountain reflections in the lake.
- Sometimes the trail can be muddy. Wear suitable footwear.
- Parking is best at Lake Hayes Pavilion or Lake Hayes Scenic Reserve. Both locations can be found on Google Maps.
Must-Do Activities While in Queenstown
There are plenty of activities that will keep you busy while you’re in Queenstown. Honestly, there are so many things to do in Queenstown, that it’ll be hard to choose which ones to do! Below are some of my favorites:
- Take a cruise – Aboard the TSS Earnslaw Steamship Cruise you’re in for a scenic and relaxing cruise in Queenstown that’s great for any afternoon. This is one of the last coal-fired steamships in the world and you get to watch the crew add coal to the flames to power the vessel as you take in mountain ranges and lush green valleys. You can also upgrade this tour here to include dinner at Walter Peak High Country Farm.
- Watch a sunset – As the day draws to a close in Queenstown, make sure to head to the shores of Lake Wakatipu to watch a sunset. It’s one of the best viewpoints to watch the sun sink behind the Southern Alps. I like watching from Queenstown Beach or Perky’s Floating Bar where you get a view of the lake and delicious food and drinks too!
- Go canyoning – Climb and jump off waterfalls, rappel, swim, and trek as part of this Queenstown Canyoning Adventure with a qualified guide. This thrilling full-day activity is perfect for those who love adventure and exploration! As long as you aren’t afraid of heights and have a basic swimming ability you won’t need any other skills.
- See Milford Sound – This day trip to Milford South with a picnic lunch will give you the ultimate ability to explore the beauty of Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park. Not only will your guide stop at several impressive viewpoints on the way from Queenstown but there is also a cruise in Milford Sound included.
- Wine tasting – This Central Otago Wine Tour and Tasting is my personal favorite wine tour in Queenstown! It is one of the best values for money as for $239 NZD your tour bus will stop at 4 different boutique wineries in the Otago region that include a wide range of wine samples and a provided gourmet lunch platter. As you hop between wineries you’ll gaze out the window at spectacular views.
Where to Stay in Queenstown
Finding the right place to stay in Queenstown can be hard. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of awesome choices, but things book up fast! For that reason, I highly suggest booking your accommodation well in advance.
Honestly, during peak times, any of the best hotels in Queenstown will be fully booked several weeks in advance…you have been warned! To help you plan ahead, here are a few places I personally love and that would make an awesome place to stay in Queenstown.
Kamana Lakehouse – $$$
For a luxurious stay, I highly recommend Kamana Lakehouse. This hotel is located just on the outskirts of town. Although it’s super peaceful, it’s just a 5-minute drive into the center of town. The place overlooks both the lake and the mountains, and the onsite restaurant uses local, seasonal ingredients to create the freshest meals. To top it off, many of the rooms boast lake views, and some even have outdoor baths!
The trick will be snagging this for your dates (it’s a popular place!). Rooms start around the $400 NZD mark, and you can check availability and book online here.
La Quinta Queenstown – $$
If you’re looking for a mid-range hotel, then you should seriously consider La Quinta Queenstown. This beautiful hotel is right by the airport but still very quiet. Plus, the views are amazing (although you won’t find me recommending a place without great views!). The rooms are all studio or one-bedroom apartments, which is really handy if you want to cook or even just have breakfast in your room.
Prices start at $200 NZD and you can book online here.
Absoloot Hostel Queenstown – $
My top choice for budget travelers is the Absoloot Hostel Queenstown. This small hostel has dorm rooms and budget private rooms, and it’s really clean and comfortable. The location is in the heart of Queenstown – the window from the kitchen looks out over Lake Wakatipu!
Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand
Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!
You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:
- Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
- Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It’s what most budget travelers use for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping…and be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime! My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY because they have a huge selection of campervans to choose from, plus multiple pick-up/drop-off locations. You can browse JUCY’s campervan selection online here. Alternatively, you can easily compare all campervans available in NZ on Motorhome Republic here.
- Motorhome – A motorhome is larger and more comfortable than a campervan. Many motorhomes will comfortably sleep 6 or more people – perfect for a family visiting New Zealand. Motorhomes are the most expensive option, but with one you won’t ever need to stay in a hotel and you’ll save money that way. My top choice for a motorhome company is Star RV because they have beautiful motorhomes at affordable prices. You can check prices and availability for Star RV motorhomes online here. Alternatively, you can use Motorhome Republic to search all motorhomes in NZ. For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!
EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve managed to snag a discount code for 5% off for my readers if you book your JUCY or Star RV campervan or motorhome before the end of June 2024! Simply click here to select your JUCY campervan, or click here to select your Star RV motorhome, and then use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off – it’s that easy! One thing to note is that this code is only valid for travel before Dec 21, 2024.
Travel Insurance Has Your Back!
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Since using SafetyWing we’ve been reimbursed thousands of dollars when we’ve gotten sick. During the pandemic, they’ve even gone as far as to pay for our last-minute flights back to Canada before the border closed!
Thanks for reading!
Lake Hayes Loop Track is a great hike in Queenstown, and one that I recommend for anyone looking for a quiet and easy trail!
I hope this blog has helped prepare you for the hike, and if you have any other questions please leave them below. Be sure to check out the rest of my blogs about hiking in Queenstown, or even hikes in Glenorchy – I’ve written about a ton of them! Or check out some other of my other recommended blogs below.