Destination: New Zealand

Photos and words by Johny Cook

New Zealand is a place filled with beauty and one of the best ways to see it is from the water. All of my paddling has been done on the South Island and although it can have great summers, the weather changes drastically regardless of the season. Summer is definitely a good time to hit the water but the lakes can be deceiving in how warm they look. This isn’t to say winter is a bad time but you’ll want to trade those shorts and t-shirt for a wetsuit.

While I use my own boards, its good to know that there are various rental opportunities dotted around some of the most iconic and scenic spots. Queenstown, Lake Wanaka, Dunedin, Christchurch and Abel Tasman all have rental companies and most recently Lake Tekapo. More rental companies seem to be popping up regularly as the popularity of paddleboarding continues to grow in New Zealand.

Most lake areas here will have a campsite if you want to be close to the water. While some of these are paid, many are free. A great app for checking out local sites is Camper Mate, which pinpoints campgrounds on a map. Always make sure to check where you are camping, as some spots incur a fine if used incorrectly.

Our short paddle trip back in January consisted of 10 lakes in 6 days. We hit both the local tourist water spots and some of the lesser-known areas that we had to ourselves. We did learn, however, to check the names of places. Lake Oahu translates to “windy place” and the water looked more suited for surfing than a paddle. Nevertheless, New Zealand is a land of opportunity for paddlers of all experience levels. 

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Watch: Orca Encounter in New Zealand