Early European History
When Alexander Garvie first spotted a stunning, jagged mountain range in the distance during a reconnaissance survey of the district in 1857, he named them the Remarkables. But the first European to set eyes on Whakatipu wai Maori (Lake Wakatipu) was Nathaniel Chalmers in 1853. With the payment of a three-legged pot, he was guided by the celebrated Maori chief Reko up the Nevis Valley where, at the summit and en route to Wanaka and Hawea, Chalmers spied the lake. Sadly, Chalmers suffered severe food poisoning and, close to death, was taken back down the Mataura River in a mokihikihi (flax leaf) raft where he recovered, but never saw the lake again.
Reko returned three years later, this time in the company of John Chubbin, John Morrison and Malcom Macfarlane, who were the first European men to finally stand on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. Unfortunately, as the men gazed in awe at the beauty that surrounded them, Morrison lit his pipe, threw away the match and unwittingly set alight the area now known as Kingston.
The inferno burned for three hours, but the men and their horses survived by standing neck-deep in the lake until the blaze finally died down. Ironically, this act of destruction created an access way to the district that would later bring many more people and animals.