The bodies of two kayakers have been found on Lake Wakatipu.

Queenstown police were called shortly after 10pm yesterday by a tourism operator who had received a cell phone distress call from the two men in an open double kayak, Senior Sergeant John Fookes said.

Police, the Queenstown Coastguard, several local vessels and a night-vision equipped helicopter from Te Anau mounted a search.

The bodies of the two men - believed to be foreign nationals in their 20s - were found this morning near the middle of the lake, about 3km west of Hidden Island.

Queenstown harbourmaster Marty Black told Radio New Zealand the men only had one paddle between them and had been warned of conditions on the lake.

They had been in a swell of about 1m, he said. Mr Black said the men's bodies were found by rescuers on a helicopter.

Police are in the process of formally identifying the men and making enquiries to locate next of kin.