Circle Track

Circle Track - Manapouri

Circle Track



2 Rankers Reviews

2 Face-to-Face

12 Manapouri

Your Nature Guide

Marios Gavalas's avatar

Marios Gavalas

Author And Researcher

Nau mai, haere mai

Nau mai, haere mai

I'm Marios, delivering the best of Aotearoa's nature walks to your device.

I've personally walked hundreds of New Zealand's tracks and spent months in libraries uncovering interesting information on New Zealand/Aotearoa. And you'll find a slice of that research on this page - enjoy!


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6.9 km return | 3 hours return

The lookout is the undoubted highlight of this walk, for the distant views over Lake Manapouri and Fiordland mountains.


To reach the start of the track you will need to cross the lower Waiau River. This can be done by contacting the Manapouri Store or the Pearl Harbour Visitor Centre.


The Circle Track is best attempted by following the loop clockwise. Follow the track through the open airy mountain and silver beech forest above the riverbank to the signpost , reached after 15 minutes. Head left and negotiate the muddy sections (20 minutes) before a sometimes steep 45 minute climb to the summit.

Head left for 2 minutes to the gap in the foliage, which frames a portal over Lake Manapouri. The conspicuous turret of The Monument shields Hope Arm with the swampy lake-filled flats behind. Occasional islands, Mahara Island and Pomona Island being most prominent, occupy the lake waters and a sinuous coastline recedes to the snow capped ranges to the west. Friendly tomtits flit about and can come daringly close. Take time also to examine the decaying tree the track markers are on, which is decorated with a form of bracket fungus.

The 45 minute descent is on a more gentle gradient than the ascent and arrives at a signpost. Left leads to the Hope Arm Hut and Back Valley Hut, while right continues the loop.

This level section (1 hour to the jetty) returns towards the mouth of the Waiau River. In places the track passes close to the white sandy beaches of the lake, an easy skip from the track. Occasional clumps of flax and oioi rushes stud the beach. Views to the Kepler Mountains stretch to the horizon beyond.


The lake has a shoreline of 170 km, is up to 444 metres deep, covers 142 square km and is 178 metres above sea level at mean water mark. It’s level can vary by up to 5 metres, carefully managed by the Manapouri Power Scheme at the end of West Arm.

The upper part of the Waiau River weaves a sinuous course through the outwash gravels of the westward lumbering glaciers. It drops a mere 24 metres over a distance of 14 km. Once in Lake Manapouri, the water used to flow out of the lake at Pearl Harbour, but since the construction of the Manapouri Power Scheme, the flow has been reduced from 402 cumecs (cubic metres per second) to an average of 14.

Lake Manapouri is mottled with 33 islands, the largest of which is Pomona Island, covering 260 hectares. Most are unmodified by introduced browsers such as deer and possums. 31 islands are covered with trees and shrubs and harbour complex undertoreys, resplendent with orchids such as Earina autumnalis (Easter orchid) and E. mucronata. 8 podocarps, 13 coprosmas and 46 ferns find home on the islands. Had lake Manapouri been raised by the proposed 8 metres, 17 would have been submerged and 7 reduced to barren rocks.


Feature Value Info


South IslandFiordlandManapouri


  • Walking
  • Free


Ruud Biemans's avatar

Ruud Biemans


Ranking: 9/10

Awesome views of the Fiordland.

Reviewed about 7 years ago and experienced in March 2014

Thank You - to the thousands of travellers that have contributed to our Top Voted NZ Activities Map - it's free from Rankers.

Bjorn Houlberg's avatar

Bjorn Houlberg


Ranking: 7/10

Nice easy day walk with possibility to sleeps in huts near beach or in forest. Water taxi is required ($10).

Reviewed about 7 years ago and experienced in February 2014

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Nick Morrison's avatar

Nick Morrison

Rankers owner