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Queenstown was originally named the ‘Camp' by William Rees. The name Queenstown has two theories, the most common being that it was gold prospectors, captivated by the beauty of the surrounding mountains and rivers, who hit upon its name when they pronounced it a “town fit for a Queen”. The other is that it was named Queenstown after Queenstown in Ireland (now called Cobh).


Population: Permanent population of around 18,000 people.

Time Zone: 12-13 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time

Province: Central Otago

Coronet Peak: Sits at an altitude of 1650 metres (6200 ft)

Remarkables: Sits at an Altitude of 2000 metres (7600 ft).

Bobs Peak: Altitude of 790 metres with a vertical rise of 450 metres.


Size: 291 square kilometres or 180 square miles

Deep: 399 metres or 1309 feet

Temperature: 10-12 Celsius or 50-53.6 Fahrenheit

Wakatipu according to Maori legend means either “hollow of the lake giant” or “heaving waters” due to the very slight rise and fall of the lake.


Long, long ago there lived an evil Maori giant named Matau, who delighted in stealing sweet Maori maidens. One of his captives was Manata, the beautiful daughter of a powerful chief.

When it was learned that Manata had been kidnapped, her father declared that any warrior in the tribe who was brave enough to rescue her could marry her.

The only warrior to respond to this challenge was Matakauri. He had been previously rejected as prospective husband material for Manata, but now took his chance of winning her hand.

Most of the evil giants in Maori legends have a specific weakness and Matau was no exception. Matakauri knew that Matau always slept when the west wind blew. At the first opportunity, Matakauri approached the giant to try to rescue Manata. She was tied to the sleeping giant by rope and Matakauri could not cut through it. Manata saw that all her lovers’ efforts were in vain and she began to sob. But as her tears fell on the rope, they miraculously severed it and she was free.

Matakauri took Manata back to her tribe and set off immediately to destroy the Maori giant once and for all. He surrounded the huge body with dry scrub, which he lit to make an enormous fire. As the giant’s body burned it scoured a huge hole in the ground. This hole became Glenorchy, his knees Queenstown and his feet Kingston.

The soul of the giant descended to the bottom of the lake, where it remains to this day. When the soul is angry the lake is rough and when he is calm so too is the lake. Matau’s heart still beats causing the lake to gently rise and fall several inches every few minutes. This is how the Maori explain the rise and fall of Lake Wakatipu.

However science has a slightly less romantic reasoning. Lake Wakatipu has a seiche of period 26.7 minutes which, in Queenstown Bay, causes the water level to rise and fall some 200mm (7.9 in).

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