Looking north towards the Bayonets and Cecil peak, while State Highway 6 winds its path along the lakes' edge heading towards Queenstown which is just over the horizon.
Lake Wakatipu is the second largest of the southern glacial lakes and is 48 miles long and up to 3 miles wide, it covers an area of 113 sq. miles and is shaped like a reversed "N" or "dog leg". The lake is 1,017 ft above sea level and is 1,239 ft deep. It is bordered on all sides by glaciated mountains, the highest of which is Mount Earnslaw near the head of the lake.
Lake Wakatipu is associated with many Maori legends, especially those accounting for its origin. Perhaps the most popular ascribes it as due to the labours of the famous chief Te Raikaihaitu, pioneer explorer of the interior of the South Island. He brought with him from his former home in the tropics a long wooden spade (ko), and with this he dug the inland lakes. Legend affirms that Wakatipu was the most difficult to dig because of its great depth, its rocky surroundings, and its high mountains.
One of Wakatipu's mysteries is the rise and fall of the lake by about 12cm every five minutes. Legend states that a Giant's heart is impossible to destroy and this rise and fall is attributed to the still beating heart of Matau, who according to Maori legend was burnt to death in his sleep after he abducted a chief's daughter, burning a massive hole in the ground and melting the ice and snow of the surrounding mountains, forming the lake.
According to the studies by the Swiss hydrologist François-Alphonse Forel in 1890, it is actually caused by a natural resonant oscillation called a seiche. Forel was the first to make scientific observations of this effect on Lake Geneva, Switzerland and subsequently proved that every enclosed body of water has a number of natural resonances, created by factors including wind and atmospheric pressures and with the oscillation frequency determined by the size of the basin, its depth, contours, and by the water temperature.