Image of the April 2011 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
April 2011 Issue
Home / Articles / Places

A lake that breathes

20min to kiln; 90min one way for walkway to Twelve Mile Delta; 90min return to White Point
Signposted on the Queenstown-Glenorchy Road at Twelve Mile Delta and Bobs Cove
Bobs Cove, Lake Wakatipu / easy

It’s warm and still as we descend from the roadside on the Queenstown-Glenorchy route, through regenerating forest to the horseshoe-shaped Bobs Cove on the northern shore of Lake Wakatipu, north Otago.

The lake surface is taut, like a silk sheet, ripples reflecting the light beamed into the bay though rents in the cloud base. The cove is a natural wonder, hidden from the road, sheltered by the high steep hills to the north, west, and east, as well as the finger peninsula of Picnic Point which protrudes from the shoreline south-west of the bay. It’s perfect for swimming or exploring along the track that cuts through the regrowth at the back of the beach.

The water here invites a dip, crystal clear near the shore it fades out into rich turquoise in the depths and has in fact been a popular destination for Queenstowners for generations, lured by the intrinsic beauty of the cove and limestone. A quarry was established here in 1880 to process the limestone for mortar and fertiliser, the mortar going to construct buildings in nearby Queenstown and outlying districts. Two of the most well known of these are the Queenstown Courthouse and the Kawarau suspension bridge. There were seven lime kilns in all operating here, but only one still stands at trackside on the southern flank of the cove, nestled among the gum trees which were planted to fire the kilns. It’s an improbable sight in this beautiful cove, full of birdsong and the sigh of the lake.

Beyond the cove, the track continues east around the point to the site of additional lime kilns before cutting inland over a low saddle to reach Twelve Mile Delta camping area and the track’s end. Near the Picnic Point end of the track are some well preserved marine terraces containing numerous fossils.

Another track heads west from the cove to White Point, passing through a magnificent section of mature red beech forest to reach the point. This was once the route of the bridal trail that linked Queenstown and Glenorchy, now superseded by the present day bitumen strip, speeding visitors to the lakehead.

A moment or two at lakeside in Bobs Cove is a tonic for the journey and there’s just a sniff of mystery here, too. They say that this lake ‘breathes’, as even on a calm, still day the surface is never completely flat, but moves to a gentle rhythm as though stirred somewhere by an unseen hand. Scientists cite the lake’s long, narrow profile, high summits in proximity to the shore and a pressure gradient ‘massaging’ the lake. Perhaps, but there is much science cannot explain, and does not know, so for now the lake’s breath lingers, caressing the deep mysterious waters of Wakatipu.