The focus of the Nelson Lakes National Park are Lakes Rotoiti and Rotoroa. It is also home to the northernmost peaks of the Southern Alps, and many travellers come here for the superb hiking and walking trails around Mount Robert. St Arnaud is a small alpine village with a laid-back atmosphere and a couple of good hostels. There is a kiwi sanctuary here, so it is a good place to come if you want to spot these endangered birds. There are also kayaking tours, as well as rafting trips on the river. The scenery in the surrounding valleys, mountains and hills is excellent.
View Road, St Arnaud
Tel (03) 521 1806
Open 8am-4.30pm daily
St Arnaud lies on State Highway 63, which is the main route connecting Blenheim and the West Coast. Atomic Shuttles (tel (03) 322 8883) and Southern Link K Bus (tel (03) 358 8355 or 0508 458 835) stop in St Arnaud on their Greymouth to Picton route.
Nelson Lakes Shuttles (tel (03) 521 1900) operates a transport service around the national park with connections to neighbouring towns.
Main Road, St Arnaud
Tel (03) 521 1887
There is an excellent network of hiking trails in the national park.
The most well known track in the park is the Travers-Sabine Circuit (8km, 5 days). This is a challenging tramp that passes through river valleys and crosses the Travers Saddle.
There are many short walks departing from St Arnaud. These include Black Valley Walk (30 minutes), which runs from Kerr Bay and has several exit points that lead into the village centre; the Honeydew Walk (45 minutes), which offers great views of the lake with its backdrop of the Southern Alps and the Loop Track (1½ hours), which stars at Kerr Bay and passes through the Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project area.
Longer day walks departing from St Arnaud include the hike up Mount Robert (5 hours return), the St Arnaud Range Track (5 hours return), which climbs through beech forest from Kerr Bay above the tree line (1400m) to a height of 1650m offering spectacular views. The Lake Rotoiti Circuit (6-9 hours return) combines the Lakehead and Lakeside Tracks to circumnavigate Lake Rotoiti.