Lake Monowai is one of the more accessible entry points into Fiordland, offering hikes and a DOC campground. Lake Monowai Road is signposted about 35 km north of Clifden on the Southern Scenic Route. From there it is about 14 km to the lake, the last half of which is a well-maintained metal section.
On a misty overcast day, the lake and river below the hydro control outlet has an almost prehistoric quality. A small area of forest was drowned by the raising of the lake for power generation and the stumps are still apparent. Below the lake is a quintessential “black lagoon”. The lake’s name is also a point of interest, being a corruption of the Māori “Manokiwai” by an early English explorer with inadequate language skills, who rationalised it as an amalgam of mono (one in Greek) and wai (water) to mean “one water”.
From the carpark it is an easy walk around the outlet to Monowai River. Alternatively, you can take the 1.2 km flat Monowai Lookout Track through beech forest for a better view of the lake. The Burnt Ridge Track is a longer but still easy option that takes you from the Lake to Borland Lodge on Borland Road (3 hours return). Tougher and longer tramping options include the 17 km Green Lake Track which connects Lake Monowai to Borland Road, via the Green Lake hut. Allow a full day for this walk. Another option is the 10 km Rodger Inlet Track to the Rodger Inlet hut on the west side of the lake, with another 3.5 km and 800 metre climb for views over the region.
In addition to the campground at Monowai, there is basic lodge accommodation at the Borland Lodge on Borland Road. More options can be found at the small hamlet of Monowai, established next to the power generation plant fed by the Monowai River.