Close to skifields, pristine lakes and rivers, great tracks for walking and biking, renowned vineyards, and holiday attractions, Wanaka is an ever-popular holiday spot.
It’s a bit quieter than Queenstown, and perhaps more family oriented. The lake and mountain vistas are stunning, and the area has loads to offer visitors in any season.
Hiking - into the wild blue yonder
Hiking to Rob Roy Glacier, Mt Aspiring National Park. Photo credit: Lake Wanaka NZ
Take in the view of all that alpine splendour and you’ll want to get out amongst it. Wanaka is the ideal base for day hikes in the Mt Aspiring National Park, such as the stunning trail up to Rob Roy glacier. Drive for an hour along the scenic road around the western shore of Lake Wanaka and into the Matukituki Valley: the road becomes gravel and has fords to cross, but leads you to great walking tracks, through beech forest, up past mountain streams to the snowfields and glacier above.
Closer to town, Roy’s Peak Track is a popular walk, starting 6km from Wanaka on the Mt Aspiring Rd. The track is 16km long and takes 5-6 hrs, with panoramic views of the lake and surrounding mountains from the top.
Biking round Wanaka
Mountain biking Deans Bank. Photo credit: Lake Wanaka NZ
There are fantastic opportunities for mountain biking around Wanaka. Try the network of mountain-bike tracks with switchbacks and berms, through the pine trees at Sticky Forest in Wanaka township. For scenic singletrack, head to Deans Bank, a loop track on the banks of the Clutha River. It’s mixed use, and single drection, swooping through a landscape of tussock and matagouri. It’s 5km from Wanaka, on SH6, across the stile from the north end of the Albert Town camp ground. There are lots of trails around the lake, rivers and high country too. Lake Hawea is a 12km bike ride away, along the Hawea River trail.
Every March, cyclists flock to the Motatapu off-road event, for the 47km high country ride from Glendhu Bay to Arrowtown.
Rippon Vineyard in autumn. Photo credit: Lake Wanaka NZ
If you’d rather take things easy, mosey around some famous local vineyards. Rippon Vineyard lies on the shore of Lake Wanaka, about a 45 minute walk from town, or an easy drive. The vineyard gets great reviews for its wine and food, and beautiful views across the vines to lake and mountain peaks.
Archangel is a boutique winery in Queensberry, in the Upper Clutha Valley, 15 minutes’ drive south of Wanaka. For other great wineries try Gibbston Valley and Bannockburn. Further away, Chard Farm is on the outskirts of Queenstown, up an infamously long driveway. Central Otago pinot noir is world renowned, and where better to enjoy it than the place where it was grown? There are wine tours on offer from Wanaka, so you don’t need to drive…
Wanaka is home to some interesting attractions for days when it’s raining, or everyone feels like a change from outdoor pursuits. Puzzling World mixes the weird and wonderful, with strange buildings, optical illusions,and a great maze, all set to challenge your perceptions…
Warbirds and Wheels is a museum with a collection of classic cars, fighter planes, and a retro diner.
Cinema Paradiso is a classic little picture theatre, at 72 Brownston St, Wanaka, with a good range of films, comfy old couches to sit on, homemade ice cream and cookies at half time.
Drop in to Wanaka Wastebusters, and see how this town takes “reduce, reuse, recycle” to a whole new level. Find a bargain, some skis, or unearth some treasures at the Reuse Shop here. Bring the children on a rainy day and they’ll learn a bit about sustainability and can find something to take back to the bach to read, or make into a craft project perhaps…
Awesome skifields, breathtaking views
Skiing Treble Cone, photo: Lake Wanaka NZ
Set close to five skifields, Wanaka is justly famous as a world-class ski town. Cardrona Alpine Resort offers great skiing and snowboarding for all the family, along with a terrain park, 35 minutes’ drive from Wanaka. Treble Cone is the closest skifield to Wanaka and the largest ski area in the South Island, with the longest runs in the area, and amazing views. For cross-country skiing, head to Snow Farm, and explore 55km of trails.
Where to stay
What to do
- Ski or snowboard at one of the three skifields nearby
- Paddleboard or kayak on Lake Wakatipu
- Mountain bike the trails at Sticky Forest or Deans Bank
- Take the family to Puzzling World or Warbirds and Wheels
- Cycle the 12 km Hawea River Trail between Wanaka and Lake Hawea
- Head into Mt Aspiring National Park for stunning hikes or climbing
- Enjoy fine wines at Rippon Vineyard or the famous wineries of Central Otago
- Drive to nearby Arrowtown for a glimpse into the region’s goldmining history