Wanaka’s beautiful Southern Alps location and proximity to Queenstown, visitors from around the world, are drawn to the Wanaka region by its outstanding beauty. Magnificent sights are abundant, adventurous attractions are plenty, and classy vineyards are right on your doorstep. To help you plan your next trip, here are some of the best things to see and do in Wanaka.
‘That Wanaka Tree’
In recent years, a lonely tree right in the middle of Lake Wanaka caught the attention of curious nature photographers. The surge in popularity for this photogenic spot propelled the Wanaka Tourist Board to add it into the local photo trail, which makes travellers have to stop by there to take photos.
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Cardrona, Treble Cone and Snow Farm
These are Wanaka’s main skiing destinations. Cardrona Alpine Resort is one of the best places in New Zealand, offering a trove of slopes and runs for beginners and advanced skiers alike. Treble Cone is the South Island’s largest ski field and is especially famous for its off-piste terrains and uncrowded runs. Snow Farm is home to New Zealand’s only cross country ski field and, in the summer months, the mountain is changed into an epic hiking and mountain biking spot.
Wanaka’s oldest vineyard, Rippon, is famous for its biodynamic wine production and exquisite lakeside views. It lives on farmland that has been with the same family for five generations. As with many vineyards in the Central Otago region, Pinot Noir is the house speciality — other varietals they offer include Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer. Rippon's door, open to taste on a regular basis.
The Roys Peak Hiking Trail
If a walk with panoramic views of Lake Wanaka and Mount Aspiring is what you look for, the Roys Peak Track will be the best place to do this. The trail begins at Roys Peak car park, only six kilometres (3.7 miles) from Wanaka town. A 16-kilometre (10-mile) return journey, it takes about five to six hours to complete, will make a zigzag route through the pasture when you climb to the top of 1578 meters (5177 feet).
Rob Roy Track and Glacier
A scenic one-hour drive will take you across to the Rob Roy Glacier track, which is an amazing entry point to Mt Aspiring National Park. If you don’t have a dedicated car, there are regular shuttles to Raspberry Creek (where the trail begins) from Wanaka. On arrival, head on a 15-minute valley trek towards Matukituki River. From there, you’ll steadily climb through a small gorge, along with the Rob Roy stream, to reach the alpine valley that will gift you with spectacular views of the beautiful glacier.
Deans Bank Mountain Biking Track
The 11-kilometre (6.8-mile) loop track at Deans Bank is a definite must-do for keen mountain bikers. The track consists of a few narrow corners and rocky obstacles, making it better suited for intermediate-advanced riders. When you trace the tussocks, berms and flowing downhill slopes, you’ll get to relish the very best of the Otago region landscape, including the Clutha River and the awe-inspiring Southern Alps.
Horse trekking the Cardrona Valley
Now here is something uniquely Wanaka: a horse trekking tour. Backcountry Saddles and The Cardrona Horse Trekking Tours are two operators you can choose. Both offer quad bike tours for adrenaline addicts and will take you on a journey along the gold mining valleys and plateaus.
Jet boating the Matukituki River
Who says Queenstown is the only place that makes your jet nervous? Journey on the Wanaka River takes adventurers on a spectacular journey through the Matukituki River. You can choose between a half-day trip from Wanaka to Mt Aspiring National Park, a 3.5-hour flight that includes a 4WD countryside safari adventure, or a zooming 2.5-hour ride along the shallow rivers and past the epic mountain formations.
A cruise along Mou Waho Island
This stunning South Island gem is a must-visit for nature and wildlife enthusiasts. Take the scenic cruise across Lake Wanaka to reach the predator-free Mou Waho Island. On arrival, you’ll get to explore the forested tracks, which will take you to a secluded lake at the island’s highest point.