Gemstone Beach and Lake Monowai

South of Te Anau towards Riverton, about halfway is Gemstone Beach. A hidden gem, this beach would have to be the most colorful shoreline I’ve ever walked. It’s also the most distracted I’ve been and it took quite a while to go such a short distance because like a child, I felt like any shiny stone grabbed my attention. All colors of the rainbow, an entire spectrum of hues were scattered in smooth gems.

Some people off in the distance were crouched around the creeks that ran into the ocean, searching for gold or jade. We continued down the beach and along the way I spotted a hole in the cliffside and a small wooden house was tucked away. A signpost read that the person who lived there was clinically insane so it would be best if passersby would move along.

Wooden dwelling tucked away behind a cliff near the Gemstone Beach entrance

We took our shoes off, rolled up our pant legs, and walked barefoot through the creek to get to the other side of the beach where more gemstones piled up. Walking through the water was paralyzingly cold and the stones beneath reminded me of times spent in Shanghai in the parks walking barefoot along stone zones that were meant to strengthen and stretch feet muscles. Hunched over, I found plenty of green stones, yet none were jade.

Gemstone Beach

After an hour of searching, we gave up and got back in Doris, our faces were numb from the cold wind whipping the coast and we turned the heater on and hit the road to continue down to Riverton. The pasturage went on most of the way to Riverton exposing the land to the coast and wind made the trip even more of a struggle for Doris as it took nearly 15km/h off of her max speed of 90km/h. When we finally got to Riverton, we stopped into some hospice shops and walked the main strip. Boats were moored in the cove and the town seemed a bit industrial. There were some cool murals painted in town and although it felt quaint, it still felt exposed compared to Te Anau which has the mountains to provide a buffer along the west coast.

On our way back we discovered Lake Monowai. This lake is smaller than Lake Manapouri and Te Anau and it’s shaped like a boomerang. A glacial lake, Lake Monowai is a great place to camp, although many complain about the sandflies. Taking the gravel road to get there was relatively flat and once we parked we stretched our legs and took the short 20-minute hike down the trail to the end which offered better views of the lake. The lake is home to one of New Zealand’s oldest hydroelectric power stations which opened in 1925. The lake is also touted as an excellent place to go fishing. Maybe after I get my fishing license we’ll take a trip back out to test our luck.

Opposite the control gates near Lake Monowai
Joseph Pallante
Joseph Pallante
An avid traveller, Joe enjoys spending time exploring the New Zealand countryside. In his spare time, he travels around in his campervan, writes about nature and how to live a frugal and sustainable lifestyle.

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