Lake sediment archives from Southern Hemisphere mid-latitude regions provide invaluable records of late Quaternary environmental change. Here, changes in depositional environment over the past ca. 53,000 years were reconstructed using a range of physical, sedimentological, geochemical, and μ-XRF elemental proxy datasets analyzed from lake sediment cores obtained from Lake Kanono, Northland, New Zealand. The Lake Kanono stratigraphy displays a terrestrial peat environment (ca. 53,700–6,670 cal yr BP), followed by a trend of increased influx of detrital sediment during the Late Glacial–Interglacial Transition (LGIT) at ca. 14,000 cal yr BP with a peak from ca. 12,000 to 9,000 cal yr BP driven by increasingly dry conditions. The increase in sediment influx continued during the early to mid-Holocene, leading to dune reactivation which altered the catchment dynamics of the region, leading to the inception of a shallow lake basin at ca. 6,670 cal yr BP. The timing of the formation of this lake basin can be associated with changes in intensity of the Southern Westerly Winds (SWW) and the appearance and increase in intensity of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) after ca. 7,500–7,000 cal yr BP (Moy et al. 2002; Moreno et al. 2018). Drier conditions peaked from ca. 4,000 to 2,400 cal yr BP, possibly culminating in decreased lake levels that persisted from ca. 2,400 to 2,210 cal yr BP, renewed dune accumulation, and blocked stream outlets, resulting in a deep lake basin with thermal stratification that persisted to the present. Cluster analysis of the μ-XRF data demonstrates that the most prominent change in chemistry is near the onset of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) at ca. 26,700 cal yr BP associated with a transition to a drier, windier climate. The second most prominent change in the μ-XRF data is during the Polynesian phase of human settlement at ca. 612–575 cal yr BP (1338– 1375 CE). Hence, we can demonstrate the utility and power of a multi-proxy approach coupled with μ-XRF element data to interpret changing sediment sources to a lake basin. Such an approach allows rapid and reliable evaluation of catchment processes influenced by climate events and land-use changes at a resolution not available using other approaches.