Lake Ōhau holds a special place in our heart, it’s got that certain feel to it. We always end up spending a lot of time there during summer, although most people rather associate wintersports and the Lake Ōhau Skifield with the area.
During our Canterbury Lakes Discovery Trip it is a reliable option for Northwesterlies (unless they do get too strong). Funny fact: in Te Reo Māori “O” means usually “place of” and “hau” means “wind”. “Ōhau” could therefore be translated as “Windy place”.
With this spotguide for Lake Ōhau we give you the run down on what you can expect here.
Geography and amenities of Lake Ōhau:
Lake Ōhau is 20 minutes off the main highway (SH8) and is off the beaten track for most tourists. The turn off is a few kilometers South of Twizel and is well marked. You can’t miss it.
Lake Ōhau Alpine Village was severely impacted by a big wildfire in 2020. The country is super dry, please respect the total fire ban! The village doesn’t have any shops, cafes or restaurants. There are a few holiday homes and the Lake Ōhau Lodge north of the village offers excellent accommodation and food for their guests. Apart from that you can camp at the (very basic) DOC campsite at Lake Middleton or Round Bush (no dogs allowed). Take insect repellent, the sandflies are ferocious the moment the wind stops!
The Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail goes along Lake Ōhau (to the Lodge) and is well worth exploring on a windless day. Or check out the disc golf course at Lake Ōhau Lodge.
Wind and water conditions:
Lake Ōhau is at 520m above sea level. It is shaped like a comma and fed by the braided rivers Hopkins and Dobson on its northern end. These rivers have their headwaters in the Southern Alps. Different to neighbouring Lake Pukaki, Lake Ōhau hasn’t got the milky blue water colour, but its colour is rather dark blue and clear.
The water temperature is around 18-20 degrees Celsius in the summer months. It various a lot from day to day, depending on the dominant wind conditions. With a fetch of 20km from North to South along the lake, the waves can build up nicely in a strong wind. But don’t worry, you don’t need to launch all at the Southern end, you can pick your spot along the shoreline and therefore choose how much wave you want!
During our Canterbury Lakes Discovery Trip Lake Ōhau is our super reliable option for any wind from the Northwest. When it’s raining on the West Coast and sunny in the East, you’ve got a good chance it will be blowing. On the other hand, if the Easterlies are fairly strong, they sometimes make it all the way up to Lake Ōhau and you can get beautiful flat conditions at the Southern end with 15 knots.
Rigging area and water access:
There is a good public (gravel) road along the West side of the lake and another road along the East side. As there is hardly any water access and no amenities at all on the East side, the West side of the lake is the better option. Plenty of spots to pull over an get down to the water. The best spots are (depending on wind direction) right at the bottom (especially good in an Easterly), opposite Lake Middleton campground, opposite the Lake Ōhau Lodge and at Round Bush DOC campsite. If it is howling, the head of the lake can make for good speed runs.
Lake Middleton isn’t really suitable for any watersports (too small and sheltered), but a fantastic place for kids to swim or even to teach them windsurfing and winging. Beware of the powerboats!
Rigging is on grass and gravel, access to the water is over some gravel and small rocks. It can be a bit slippery but is usually not too bad.
As mentioned earlier, Lake Ōhau is off the beaten track. Most likely you will be the only one on the water. Lake Middleton is popular with New Zealanders for their summer holiday in January, apart from that and people biking the Alps 2 Ocean, there aren’t many tourists in summer.
As long as you don’t mind the sandflies, Lake Ōhau is a fantastic place to explore. In a Northwesterly flow, you will most likely get wind here. With plenty of access points along the Western shoreline, you can pick the spot you like and also have plenty of emergency exit points if needed.
As on any of the lakes, the weather can change quickly. Keep an eye on what’s happening around you and – if you can – let someone know what you are up to.