Moke Lake is a stunning horseshoe-shaped lake a short drive from Queenstown.
There, you’ll find yourself out of reception and away from the big crowds that the centre of Queenstown is known for.
As one of many lakes in the area, this is a great place to spend a day or two in the summer, but you can visit in winter as well. Albeit, activities such as swimming aren’t so pleasant when the temperature drops.
Whatever the temperature though, it is home to beautiful views and some of the best walks in the area.
This article will let you know how to get to Moke Lake and what to do when you get there, along with a few accommodation options in the immediate area.
For a spot as beautiful as Moke Lake to be so close to our busiest tourist town is a real treat – don’t miss it when you’re next in the Southern Lakes.
But first, here are a couple of fun facts about Moke Lake:
- The traditional names for Moke Lake are Punamāhaka and Waikāmāhaka. Meaning “twin waters”, they reference the funky shape of the lake.
- Moke was named after the first donkey to encounter the lake. ‘Moke’ being an old name for a donkey.
- In the 1860s the area around Moke Lake became the scene of a gold rush – the nearby Sefferstown flourished with upwards of 2,000 people living in the area.
- The gold rush continued there until the early 1900s when it was finally abandoned by miners who had taken $4 million worth of gold from the area.
Be prepared: Dogs aren’t allowed at Moke Lake, and there’s no cellphone reception.
Things to do at Moke Lake
Hikes and walks
Moke Lake is home to a number of worthwhile walks and trails.
You’ll see a map of the different options on the information board. Find this just before the Moke Lake car park.
We’ve also added a couple of off-trail options here to keep the adventure alive.
Moke Lake Loop Track
The Moke Lake Loop Track is a 6km loop around the lake with mild undulations. The path is well-formed (so regular shoes are fine) and there are a couple of short boardwalk sections too.
It’s a beautiful family-friendly walk that takes no more than two hours.
You’ll get lots of great views up at the mountain peaks and over the lake.
Moke Lake to Lake Dispute
Moke Lake to Lake Dispute can be incorporated as an extension of the Moke Lake Loop. Walk it as an out-and-back track, or walk just one way with a pick-up at the other end.
You’ll walk along Moke Lake to start with, before veering off across some farmland.
Then walk up a cool saddle, before descending down to Lake Dispute. We always seem to see people fishing there so keep your eyes peeled.
Moonlight Track starts at Moke Lake and finishes up in Arthurs Point.
It’s not high on the list of walks for most short-term travellers, but one that long-term Queenstowners always enjoy when they get to it.
On this walk, you’ll essentially go around both Ben Lomond and Bowen Peak.
The track starts off primarily as a farm road, before turning into a single track down to Arthurs Point.
You’ll get some great views down through some of the valleys behind Queenstown, where it really feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere.
You’ll also pass Sefferstown where you’ll spot the old Moke Creek stone school – it dates back to the 1880s.
Williamson Spur to the ‘Secret’ Moke Lake Viewpoint’
This is a short hike it’s well worth it. It gives you great views over Moke Lake.
From the car park, follow Moke Lake then turn right at the fence line at the end of the horse paddock.
Then follow the fence line until you reach the bottom of the spur. You’ll see a fairly definite track going up the spur – follow it.
This is a steep incline, but worth it.
You don’t need to go all the way to the top as there’s a flat section about halfway up, where you’ll get full views of the lake below, and down the Moonlight Track.
Moke Spur towards Ben More
Moke Spur is an advanced hike, as you’ll be following deer/goat tracks most of the time. As the tracks aren’t always well marked, keep an eye out for orange markers.
If you’re doing this route, you’ll want a good topo maps app. We recommend paying for this one as it includes route finding. It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind when out on more challenging tramps.
The first climb that follows the orange markers up Moke Spur is steep!
Once you enter the conservation area there’s still a lot of elevation gain, but it’s not quite so drastic.
You get some awesome ridgeline sections as you’re essentially following it all the way.
The final leg to Ben More itself is a choose-your-own-adventure.
I’ve only made it to point 1760 on the topo map, but from what I’ve heard, it’s better to stay below the ridgeline as you approach the final section and come at the Ben More summit from below.
The most challenging of the Moke Lake walks, we recommend this one of adventurous, experienced hikers.
If horse riding is something that interests you, Moke Lake Horse Treks is based right next to Moke Lake Campsite.
They have a few options available starting from 45-minute rides, right up to 2 hours treks that can be booked online. Private rides and overnight horse treks are also available by request.
All the treks go over farmland and some include river crossings, with plenty of photo opportunities, including one with Moke Lake in the background.
Every year 300 trout are released into Moke Lake, so there are definitely fish in the lake! For those who love to fish, throw a line in and try your luck. Of course, there are restrictions and to make sure there’s a sustainable population, follow the rules.
If you’re reading this in 2023, the fishing should be even better as 500 fish were released in 2021 and they all should be coming to catchable size in 2023.
Kayaking, SUP and swimming
Yep, you can go swimming in Moke Lake, which on a warm summer’s day is super refreshing after one of the hikes we just mentioned.
Or, for those who prefer to be on top of the water, you can go kayaking/SUPing out on Moke Lake, enjoying the water surrounded by peaks.
If you haven’t got a kayak, you can join a tour that includes kayaks and everything else you need on the lake. After giving you some training, you’ll be free to explore the lake on a self-guided kayak or SUP.
If you’ve got a bike with you, you’ll find a few different options at Moke Lake.
You can follow the Moke Lake loop, or take on another one of the walking tracks.
Adventurous cyclers can bike the Moonlight Track to Arthurs Point. Then head into town and back around to Moke Lake to complete a 30km loop.
Away from the city lights, Moke Lake can be a great place to stargaze and snap some astrophotography shots.
If you choose to camp out there (more information on that soon), you’ll be well-positioned to make the most of the night sky.
How to get to Moke Lake
So, you’ve decided you’re keen to head to Moke Lake and get involved in all that this beautiful spot has to offer… but how do you get there?
The easiest way to get to Moke Lake is by car.
From Queenstown, plan for a 25 to 35-minute drive to cover the ~15km from the heart of Queenstown.
In summer, all cars will be fine driving to Moke Lake, but during winter, a 4WD is a must.
The first 9km or so is along a sealed road. This includes the first few kilometres after you turn right onto Moke Lake Road.
The final 6km is a gravel road which can be slow going if the road hasn’t been graded recently.
Pro tip: Some rental cars will not insure you for driving on gravel roads. Check your policy first and ensure you’re comfortable. The drive itself is not particularly challenging, however.
The gravel road can be really dusty in summer so drive at speeds you’re comfortable with and don’t be afraid to pull over to let other cars pass you.
The road is narrow at points so if there’s a car coming in the opposite direction, slow down and keep left.
Along the gravel road, you’ll pass Lake Kirkpatrick, which some people think is Moke Lake. Keep driving through – Moke Lake is a lot bigger.
It’s also possible to ride your bike to Moke Lake. To do so you follow the same route the cars take.
And if you’re comfortable, it’s reasonably easy to hitchhike to/from Moke Lake. Just make sure you don’t leave too late to get back to town before dark.
Join a tour
Some tours travel from Queenstown into Moke Lake. These are the perfect option if you don’t have your own transport.
Where to stay at Moke Lake
Though most people visit Moke Lake on a day trip, choosing to spend the night in Queenstown, there are some great accommodation options by the lake.
Moke Lake Campsite
Moke Lake Campsite is on the northern shores of the lake.
There’s plenty of space for everything from tents to campervans, and with enough bushes to create separation, you’ll have some privacy too.
The facilities are great, with clean long drop toilets and running water. Though the taps are turned off in winter, to prevent freezing.
There’s no need to book in advance. Just pay cash at the box by the information board when you arrive.
At the other end of the scale, you’ve got a glam camping option. This is high-end camping, with one geodesic dome starting at $350 per night for two people.
These domes are stunning, with hardwood floors, large windows, comfy bedding, hot showers, and a flushing toilet.
There are cooking utensils provided, or you can opt to have a chef cook for you – fancy, fancy!
And yes, with great views, you’re only minutes away from Moke Lake.
Other accommodations are found nearby.
You have the 12 Mile Campsite which is 4.5km past the Moke Lake Road turnoff. This is a more popular campsite, but again always has plenty of space available.
Or, for the adventurers, you can pitch a tent on Williamson Spur above Moke Lake which is mentioned as one of our recommended walks.
And remember, you’ve got Queenstown nearby if you’d like something a little (or a lot) more comfortable.
Moke Lake is a gorgeous place to spend time and best of all, it’s within 30 minutes of Queenstown.
There are many people who visit Moke Lake for an hour or two, before moving on with their day. But we recommend spending a night out there in the middle of summer – we guarantee you’ll have a great time.
And don’t forget to wake up in the night to check out the stars!
Guest post and photos (unless otherwise stated): Jub Bryant.