Exploring New Zealand: Lake Wanaka

Wanaka is a picturesque lake town nestled in amongst snowy mountain peaks. It is situated 67km from Queenstown. The best way to get there is by flying into Queenstown Airport, and then catching an InterBus bus or renting a car and taking the quaint drive through Cardona Valley.

You can visit Wanaka all year: summer is the busiest time, autumn is the most beautiful season when all the trees bloom in colour, winter is when the snow sport aficionados come out and play, and spring is a bit quieter and the locals come out of hibernation.

Modern, quiet and tidy, it’s the perfect destination if you want to avoid the hustle and bustle of Queenstown. There are plenty of things to do in Wanaka, from nature hikes, to trendy cafes, shops and thrill-seeking activities. There are also plenty of accommodation options for all budgets, varying from backpacker hostels to five star hotels and ski resorts.

Lake Wanaka is known as a ‘lifestyle reserve” to present the best of a Kiwi lifestyle. Here you will find scenery mixed with a sense of community and adventure in all sorts of activities.



Wanaka offers some exciting and spectacular walking trails that will suit all levels of fitness. You can walk up Mt Iron, which is near the town centre; it offers 360 degree panorama views of Lake Wanaka and surrounds. The hike up to Rob Roy Glacier, one hour drive from the town, is an easy 10 kilometer walk that will take about 4.5 hours on a return journey.  You can also book guided tours that will offer you information about the region and also a full wilderness experience.

Water Activities:

For the leisurely travellers, there is swimming, kayaking and fishing or if you want something more adventurous, you can book a jet boat cruise up the Makarora River, or do some water skiing or white-water rafting. There are plenty of secret beaches and tucked away corners for you to explore.  Maybe pack a picnic and sit and enjoy the water from dry land. Whatever your fancy is, Wanaka has crystalline, blue waters fed from the glaciers that will take your breath away.

Winter Activities:

Winter is a busy period in Wanaka. Boasting beautiful vistas, pristine snow and the biggest skiing terrain in Australasia, this is the perfect spot if you want to hit the slopes. For skiing and snowboarding you can choose from five ski areas: Cardrona Alpine Resort, Treble Cone, Snow Farm, Coronet Peak, and the Remarkables. Here you can experience everything from cross-country skiing, adrenaline rushing off-piste rides, family fun, or even heli-skiing.   You can hire all the skiing and snowboarding gear you need from the various hire shops around town.

Art and History:

The Toy and Transport Museum is one of the largest private collections in the world, covering over 600 vehicles, 12 aircraft, 30,000 toys and thousands of other miscellaneous items over 4 massive buildings. This is something that the whole family will enjoy, and it’s perfect if you are looking for an activity to do on a rainy day. For the artsy folk, there is Gallery Thirty Three, which is the only Contemporary Art Gallery in Wanaka and exhibits works from New Zealand artists.

Aviation lovers have the biennial Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow, which happens on Easter Weekend on even-numbered years. It is a spectacular event displaying vintage and modern aircrafts, and also includes various aviation personalities, car shows, and an array of wine and food to taste from the region.

Food and Drinks:

From local to imported food, there are many choices when it comes to eating in Wanaka. There are also farmer markets on the lakefront every Thursday from 4pm-6pm, where you can procure organic food, bread, honey and meats. There are also plenty of options for drinking. The Rippon winery, which is Wanaka’s oldest winery, is world renowned for its wine and tranquil setting. It’s most famous for its pinot noir, but it produces other varieties too. There are also world famous breweries for beer drinkers. Wanaka’s boutique brewery, Wanaka Beerworks, will provide you with quirky, unique beer. While, Speights Alehouse serves beer made famous by Speight Brewery from Dunedin, South Island, since 1876.

Alexandra Sanda Written by:

Hello, my name is Alexandra and I was born in small town in Romania, but raised in Perth, Western Australia. I have always had a passion for travelling and discovering new places around the world. I would love to combine my love of travelling with writing and photography, my two other passions. So far, I have traveled through Romania, Germany, Spain, Singapore, New Zealand, and to various Australian cities: Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Adelaide and in South West WA. I am going back to Europe to spend some time in Eastern Finland and hope to see much more of that wonderful continent. Someday, I hope to travel to South America and Africa to trek through the Amazon and see the African savanna.