Wanaka is a truly beautiful little town, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by the Southern Alps and Lake Wanaka. The lake is glacially fed which makes it a wonderful turquoise colour and the higher mountains are snowcapped most of the year.
It is very similar to its big brother Queenstown however, its not as big and not as busy. If your looking for everything that Queenstown offers but you don’t like the idea of going to the busiest tourist spot in New Zealand then take yourself over to Wanaka.
♦ Walks. With Mount Iron and the Aspiring National Park there are plenty of nice walks around Wanaka. Mount Iron is a nice hour round trip that will get your heart rate going! It’s quite steep in places but presents a 360 degree view from the top that’s well worth the walk. You’ll see Wanaka township, the lake, surrounding districts and the mountains. It’s very pleasant early in the morning or late in the afternoon during the summer months. If you fancy the walk make your way to the carpark off Rob Roy Lane/Allenby Lane. It’s on the edge of town and right under Mt Iron.
♦ Water Activities. As you could expect there’s plenty of water activities for summer visitors with kayaks, sailing and boating all popular. Kayaks would be our suggestion and can be hired for $15 an hour. They’ll give you all the freedom you need. Popular places to visit include Eely point, Wanaka tree (one of the most photographed trees in the world), waterfall creek and Ruby Island. If you go be sure to take sunscreen, water, swimming gear and a camera.
♦ Horse Riding. Fancy doing something a little different? Take a seat in the saddle and trek for 2hrs through the lovely little town called Cadrona (just outside of Wanaka) with Back Country Saddles. This was an incredible experience with an amazingly knowledgeable tour guide who will tell you all about the historic gold mines whilst cantering through the towering mountains of Cadrona. You’ll stop at the oldest hotel/pub we’ve seen in New Zealand the Cardrona Hotel for a drink and a chat about the area before getting back in the saddle. You don’t need to be a confident rider, you just sit back and the extraordinary well trained horse does everything for you.
♦ Mountain Biking. With over 750kms of tracks we hope you’ve got your legs prepared for a serious workout. The region offers enthusiasts, from beginners to experts, an ideal track to get the most out of your ride. You can cruise alongside the Wanaka lakefront, tackle the banks and berms of Deans Bank or explore the undulating Minaret Burn or Dingle Burn Tracks. For an uphill mission and a real leg workout go for Melina Ridge Track, Lindis Peak and Grandview Range Tracks.
♦ Rock Climbing. Basecamp Wanaka is an indoor, cheap way to get in some serious climbing. They cater of all abilities and are super helpful. If your like us and wanted a day outside learning then go with Rock Adventures. We’d suggest going for half days as your forearms quickly become fatigued. Half a day will set you back $150 but for some of New Zealand’s best rock climbing its not too bad. The instructors are awesome and the views are to die for.
♦ Ski-fields. There are two ski resorts for the snow-bunnies – Cardrona and Treble Cone. The ski season runs from the beginning of June to mid-October. If your looking to hire some gear and get a lift pass for the day then it’ll be between $150 – $200 NZD. Its not cheap by any means but in the middle of winter on a good day we simply don’t think you can beat a day on the slopes.
♦ Accomodation & Transport. A night in a backpackers in Wanaka will cost you around $30NZD pp a night. They are all central and you can get every where you’ll want to go on foot, bike or kayak.
Wanaka is a fantastic place to visit. If you enjoy the outdoors like us then you’ll love it and wont want to leave. We think its the most underrated place in New Zealand and I hope it stays that way for the people who visit it in the future.