The Department of Conservation campsite at the Mavora Lakes on the South Island is one of the most beautiful places I have ever camped.
The campsite setting
The Mavora Lakes DOC campsite is situated between the Mavora Lakes (North Mavora lake, South Mavora lake) and a small stream and is quite isolated due to its 30km north of Mossburn gravel road access. The campsite is set in Mavora Lakes Park in the mountains and offers large open grasslands surrounded by beech forest. Mavora Lakes Park is also part of south-west New Zealand’s World Heritage Area.
It’s a vast campground, providing over 60 tent sites, and in the summer months, there’s a ranger in residence. The great thing about this campground is that you can choose to camp by the lake, by the forest or right in the middle of the vast grassland. The atmosphere is fantastic; the campground offers enough space for you to choose your tent site depending on whether you want privacy and solitude or set up base close to other campers and make friends. It’s not a transient place; many people stay for weeks at a time and spend a good chunk of their vacation time there. It is also popular with families, but due to the large size of the whole operation, it never feels crowded, noisy or like a family park.
Facilities at the Mavora Lakes DOC campsite
In terms of facilities, the basics are all there. Long drop toilets can be found all over the big campground and are cleaned and checked daily. There are picnic tables and benches for you to eat your dinner at, and there’s water from taps in various locations, too (although you still need to treat the water for drinking). There’s also access to a little stream.
Activities around the Mavora Lakes
There is plenty to do around this campsite: walking, tramping, fishing (brown and rainbow trout), water sports, swimming, boating, mountain biking, hunting, horse trekking… I once met a fellow camper there, who was a bushman, originally from Scotland but now lived in Invercargill. He camped at the Mavora Lakes with his family and went ice fishing on the lakes. Yes, mice fishing (the mouse being the bait 🙂 )
There is a very nice short walk starting from the North Mavora Lake. The South Mavora lake walking track starts at the swingbridge of North Mavora lake and ends at the swingbridge of South Mavora lake, leading through beech forest along the Mararoa River. You’ll see a few people fishing in the lakes along the way. It’s easy to walk and takes two and a half hours to complete, but you need hiking shoes as the path gets quite narrow and rocky in the forest at some stages. Other walks lead to the Kiwi Burn hut (4 hours) or other huts in the area, and there’s also a 4-day walk, the Mavora-Greenstone walkway that starts here.
- Type: Standard
- Fee: $5.10 per person per night
- Location: 30 km north of Mossburn. On SH 94 between Mossburn and Te Anau, branch off at Centre Hill or Burwood Station, follow 30 km (!) of gravel road
- Facilities: picnic tables, water from the tap (sourced from a stream, untreated), long drop toilets, barbecue, the little stream.
- Notes: take lots of supplies as it’s quite isolated (Te Anau is a 1.5-hour drive away); take lots of insect repellent – sandflies galore; motorised boats only allowed on North Mavora lake; dogs allowed.
For more information on Department of Conservation campsites in New Zealand, read my introduction to DOC campsites.
Other DOC campsites: