Lakeside camping rarely comes free, so campers at Lake Pearson / Moana Rua Wildlife Refuge are right to feel lucky. Lake Pearson (Moana Rua) Campground is spread along the shore at the northwest end of a tranquil hourglass-shaped lake in a mountainous part of Canterbury on the South Island of New Zealand. State Highway 73 passes right alongside the lake and the free campground and picnic area are a convenient stop for travelers, just over 30 kilometers from Arthur’s Pass National Park.
Lake Pearson, also known as Moana Rua, is an oddly shaped body that shrinks to a narrow passage a third of the way from the south end. The campground is located on the west shore at the north end of the lake. The terrain around the campground is fairly flat, but across the lake, a mountain called Purple Hill rises over 1,000 meters to a bare summit. The mountain and the lake create a beautiful landscape for campers to admire. On the west side of State Highway 73, you’ll find mountains that are even taller.
Lake Pearson is closed to motorboats and is a preserved habitat for southern crested grebe, a rare, threatened, and protected bird. The lake is open for canoeing and kayaking. Swimming and fishing are also allowed and are popular activities.
The New Zealand Department of Conservation Campground has approximately 20 sites for tents and campervans. The sites are near the lake on gravel and dirt roads. Trees that border the lake shade some sites. The campground has vault toilets but does not have potable water or electric hookups. Be sure to bring your own water. Picnic tables are available for campers and day use visitors.
Lake Pearson fills a glacially-eroded valley in Waimakariri Basin, just over 600 meters above sea level. While camping near the water’s edge, realize that Māori travelers stayed at this lake in the past. A panel by the shore explains that Lake Pearson was an important food-gathering place:
Each year, groups of Canterbury Ngāi Tahu Māori camped here on the shores of the lake. This was one of many places where they gathered seasonal resources to supplement winter food supplies and to trade with other groups.
While it is just off State Highway 73, road noise is not overwhelming in the campground. Dogs and campfires are not allowed. The campground does not take reservations and all sites are first-come first-serve. There is no fee to stay at Lake Pearson (Moana Rua) Campsite, so get out and enjoy!
Directions: The campground and picnic area at Lake Pearson / Moana Rua Wildlife Refuge is location on the east side of State Highway 73, 20.5 kilometers north of Kura Tawhiti Castle Hill Conservation Area and 33.5 kilometers south of Arthur’s Pass Village.
Campground address: 10630 West Coast Road (State Highway 73), Lake Pearson, Canterbury, 7580, New Zealand
Campground coordinates: -43.0944, 171.7794 (43° 05′ 39.84″S 171° 46′ 45.84″E)
Use the map below to get directions to the campground:
|Kura Tawhiti / Castle Hill Conservation Area|
This 2 to 3-kilometer hike explores a fascinating jumble of limestone boulders close to Arthur’s Pass National Park.
|Old Coach Road Walk|
If you stay overnight at Greyneys Shelter Campground, start the day with this 1 to 1.4-kilometer loop that leaves the campground and travels through the surrounding forest along an old roadbed.
|Millennium Walk to Avalanche Creek Waterfall|
This 500-meter round trip walk goes from Arthur’s Pass National Park Visitor Centre to a bridge and viewpoint below a waterfall on Avalanche Creek as it approaches Arthur’s Pass Village.
|Devils Punchbowl Falls|
This 2-kilometer round trip hike ascends to a viewing platform near the base of an impressive waterfall that should be a top priority for Arthur’s Pass National Park visitors.
|Arthur’s Pass Village to Bridal Veil Falls Lookout|
This 1.8 kilometer round trip hike up Arthur’s Pass Walking Track takes a gradual approach to a viewpoint with a perspective of Bridal Veil Falls and surrounding mountains.
|Jacks Hut to Bridal Veil Falls Lookout|
This 2.5-kilometer round trip hike on Arthur’s Pass Walking Track crosses beech forests and alpine shrublands, dropping across a canyon to arrive at a view of Bridal Veil Falls.
|Bealey Chasm Walk|
This short walk passes through moss-covered beech trees to a bridge over Bealey River where it slips through a ravine.
|Otira Valley Track|
This 3.8-kilometer round trip hike ventures up a valley on the north side of Arthur’s Pass, finding a footbridge over Otira River and broad views of surrounding mountains.
|More trails in New Zealand|
Explore other destinations for walking and hiking (as well camping and lodging) in New Zealand.
|Greyneys Shelter Campground|
Camping is free around this small 3-wall stone shelter along State Highway 73 south of Arthur’s Pass Village.
|Avalanche Creek Shelter Campground|
This 10-site campground in Arthur’s Pass Village has a large shelter and easy access to the park visitor center and nearby hiking tracks.
|Lake Pearson (Moana Rua) Campground|
This campground has about 20 sites along the shore of a peaceful lake between mountains in the Canterbury Region near Arthur’s Pass National Park.