The Best Things To Do In Wanaka, New Zealand
Wanaka is a buzzing lakeside town in the heart of New Zealand’s Southern Alps. Set at the foot of the vast lake it’s named after, it’s the ultimate destination for outdoor activities, adventure and stunning scenery, whatever the season. So whether you want to explore the lakes and mountains or simply just relax in town, these are the best things to do in Wanaka to help you make the most of your time there.
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If you’re looking for an easy 1 – 2-hour walk then the Mount Iron track is the perfect option. Starting just outside of Wanaka’s centre, it’s a short but quite steep climb to the summit. At the top, you’re rewarded with the most fantastic views of the township, lake and mountains rolling into the distance. You can continue enjoying the sights on the way back down as you face the landscape on your descent.
Walk or bike around Lake Wanaka
There’s no doubt that exploring the mountainous scenery around the lake is one of the best things to do in Wanaka. There are endless trails fringing the shoreline that is renowned for both walking and mountain biking. Whether you want to explore it all on two wheels or with your own two feet is up to you. Shorter routes include Roy’s Bay and the Waterfall Creek Track. Or for a full day of activity and amazing views, try the Gledhu Bay Track.
Kayak or paddleboard on the lake
One of the best things to do in Wanaka is to get out onto the water itself. During the warmer months, you can rent kayaks and paddleboards at the beachfront and head out onto the lake yourself. Or if you’re looking for a more guided experience, Paddle Wanaka offers a wide range of half-day and full-day kayaking and paddleboard tours around the lake and nearby rivers and rapids.
This willow tree growing in the shallows of the lake has become a social media sensation. Although slightly overhyped and overcrowded at times, it’s still a very scenic spot that landscape photographers will enjoy. Head there early in the morning to beat the crowds and enjoy the peace and quiet.
Hang out by the lakefront
Wanaka’s lakefront is home to an abundance of bars and restaurants where you can sit back, lakeside, and enjoy a drink or two. In particular, I would recommend Speight’s Ale House, Water Bar and Lake Bar. All have outside seating areas which offer amazing views of the lake and mountains.
Not everything in Wanaka is about action and adventure. So if you’re looking for a little bit of downtime, look no further than Rippon Winery. Set within walkable distance from Wanaka’s centre, the winery’s Cellar Door offers free wine tastings several times a day. The tastings are relatively informal with 5 – 6 different wines to try, and the chance to buy a bottle of your favourites after.
Roy’s Peak Track
Roy’s Peak Track is considered one of the best half-day hikes on the whole of the South Island. The start of the track is just a 6-minute drive from the town, and then it’s a 5 – 6 hour return hike to the summit. Along the way, you’ll be rewarded with the most amazing panoramic views of Lake Wanaka and its surrounding peaks, including those of Mount Aspiring National Park.
If you’re looking for even more best things to do in Wanaka, then make sure to add Lake Hawea to your list. This neighbouring lake is just a 15-minute drive from Wanaka and is as equally spectacular to see. For the best views, follow Route 6 up the shoreline of Lake Hawea until you reach The Neck. This is the narrowest point between Lake Wanaka and Hawea and you can see both of them from the observation decks near the road.
Ski or snowboard on Treble Cone
If you’re visiting during winter, then hitting the slopes is definitely one of the best things to do in Wanaka. Treble Cone, the largest ski field in New Zealand, is under a 30-minute drive from the town centre. Whilst other popular ski areas including Cardrona, Snow Farm and Soho Basin are all within a 45-minute drive of Wanaka.