Lake Waktipu - Maori Legend - The Earnslaw. Queenstown New Zealand information, accommodation and hotel booking, NZ tourism, travel, vacation and holiday information.

Lake Wakatipu

15,000 years ago during the last ice age, a huge glacier moving from the north west carved out what is now Lake Wakatipu. The lake is relatively thin, but the mountains run straight into the lake, forming a deep canyon, 399m at its deepest point.

Lake Wakatipu is the second largest lake in the Southern Lakes District, covering 290 square km. At its widest point Lake Wakatipu is five kilometers wide, and the total length is 84km.


Maori Legend

The Maori legends state that the giant Matau was burnt to death in his sleep after he abducted a chief's daughter, burning a massive hole in the ground and melting the ice and snow of the surrounding mountains, forming the lake. The lake is a large "S" shape, like a giant, curled up and sleeping on its side. Matau's head rested at Glenorchy, at the north of the lake, and his feet south in Kingston. Queenstown sits on Matau's knee.

One of Wakatipu's mysteries is the rise and fall of the lake by about 12cm (5") every five minutes. Legend states that a Giant's heart is impossible to destroy, and causes this rise and fall, while science says it is due to fluctuating atmospheric pressures. But across the lake from the town below Cecil Peak is a little island visible only from up close, from above, or from a different angle. Some say Hidden Island is the still beating heart of the Giant Matua...

The Maori people first inhabited the area in a search for food, ponamu or greenstone, and the flightless Moa. The north of the Lake is one of six of the country's main sources of greenstone.


The Earnslaw

Queenstown's famous "Lady of the Lake" has been in operation since 1912, when it first set off on its Maiden Voyage from Kingston. Originally designed to carry sheep, cattle, and passengers to high country stations around the lake, today the Earnslaw runs tourist cruises to Walter Peak high country station.

The beautiful steamship was refurbished in 1984, when the 12m high funnel was painted bright red, and the hull a brilliant white. And living up to the town's name as being fit for the Queen, in 1990 the Earnslaw carried Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip.



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