While you’re here, you won’t want to miss –
When you approach Lake Wanaka from Haast Pass or Crown Range, you’ll be blown away by the awe-inspiring scenery of this lower South Island region. Lake Wanaka is one of New Zealand’s larger lakes – and the surrounding area features some of the country’s best mountains for skiing and hiking.
With neighboring Adventure Capital, Queenstown, enjoying so much popularity, Wanaka offers a more peaceful alternative. You’ll find a wide selection of boutique accommodation in a region that’s popular all year round. Offering an up-scale lifestyle retreat with a selection of heart-pumping adrenalin bursts, Lake Wanaka is a picturesque area just waiting to be explored on your New Zealand vacation.
Things to Do
The town of Wanaka is situated on the lake’s southern shores and has many options for things to do in addition to shops, restaurants and cafés.
In winter, it’s a playground for snow sport buffs, and in summer, you’ll find plenty of water-based activities — boating, fishing and kayaking. Temperatures can soar here, so a dip in the lake is a refreshing way to cool off. Or why not take a lunch-time cruise out on the lake and relax in style?
Whatever you choose, the crystal clear waters of the lake with its brooding mountainous backdrop will always provide plenty of photo opportunities. The southern shores of the lake can be explored with scenic walking tracks shaded by long avenues of poplar trees – in fall, the display of golden color is stunning.
For a more energetic walk, try the 1½ hour return walk to nearby Mount Iron. From the summit, you’ll enjoy panoramic views of the lake – and learn how massive glaciers smoothed and flattened this landmark rock tens of thousands of years ago.
Are you ready to challenge your powers of perception, direction, balance and common sense? A popular attraction in Wanaka for adults as well as kids is Puzzling World.
For solving puzzles, finding your way out of mazes, interacting with holograms and more, this place is tops. If all that thinking works up an appetite, there’s a café – and a gift shop for purchasing unique puzzling souvenirs.
If you’re planning a visit to Wanaka at Easter, time your vacation to see the famous air show, “War Birds over Wanaka,” which takes place every 2 years. This 3-day flying extravaganza is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere and is not to be missed if you love aviation of any kind. With an array of WW I & II military planes and modern jets, the aviation acrobatics and flyby displays are thrilling.
Even if you can’t schedule your vacation to attend the air show, a stop at the airport is still worthwhile. From there you can:
- Go back in time with a flight in a vintage DH82a Tiger Moth – complete with an open cockpit;
- Catch a scenic flight over Lake Wanaka, to Milford Sound or to private Lord of The Rings film sites;
- Try your skills at flying a small plane;
- Boost your adrenalin-levels with skydiving.
Prefer to keep your feet on the ground? Don’t let the name fool you: Warbirds & Wheels features a collection of vintage cars – including a 1934 Dusenberg! – in addition to its collection of war planes.
Lake Wanaka Loop
Using one of the boutique lodges in Lake Wanaka as your base, you’ll find you’re perfectly situated for day trips to explore nearby areas. Just down the road on the way to the historic town of Luggate is the local brewery, Wanaka Beerworks. Have a taste of Cardrona Gold, the Brewski or the Tall Black.
Upon reaching Luggate on the banks of the impressive Clutha River, stop for a wander to The Devils Nook, a hairpin bend in the river that creates huge whirlpools. Head back to the Luggate Hotel for a pub lunch.
Continue across the famous Red Bridge and up to Lake Hawea, which lies parallel to Lake Wanaka. The small town of Hawea looks out over the lake and has a laid back feel to it. You can while away an afternoon at the Sailz Café or Lake Hawea Hotel, the pottery shops or, in summer, by swimming at the lakefront.
Another option is to drive or walk to Timaru Creek picnic grounds via Timaru Creek Road on the eastern shore. From Lake Hawea, it’s just a 10 minute drive back to Wanaka.
The Crown Range
From Lake Wanaka, it’s also easy to visit Queenstown, Arrowtown, the award-winning Rippon Winery and more wineries in the Gibbston Valley if you feel like a day of exploring. Of the 2 roads available, the most scenic is the Crown Range, famous for being New Zealand’s highest main road (two meters higher than the Desert Road in the North Island).
Stop at one of the viewing points along the way to look out over Arrow Valley for a different perspective on Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown and the Remarkables mountains. After a fresh snow fall, the Crown Range is like a winter wonderland, but it can get icy, so pace your drive to the current weather conditions.
On your return to Wanaka, stop off for a drink or meal at the iconic Cardrona Hotel in the Cardrona Valley.
This much-loved historic hotel – a remnant from the gold mining days – is where locals gathered for food and a pint of southern ale. In the restaurant foyer and bar you’ll find an interesting collection of historic memorabilia – ask about the resident ghost as well!
You’ll find a wide choice of things to do in Wanaka – from sipping fine wine or locally crafted beer, peaceful walks and lake activities to exploring small heritage towns – all with a stunning mountain backdrop. Lake Wanaka is the perfect place to forget about your worries. In a place as beautiful as this, all you need to care about is enjoying yourself.