Choose from 3 Fun Things to Do in Wanaka
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The town of Wanaka is a lakeside escape that drifts by under the radar—nowhere as busy as neighboring Queenstown, but arguably even more scenic. Rung by the mountains of Mt. Aspiring National Park, Wanaka also cradles Lake Wanaka inside of its river valley, where boating, kayaking, and standup paddling are popular summer activities. Imagine casually paddling a kayak beneath the Southern Alps, or parasailing in a canopy of silence while gazing toward hanging glaciers.
Of all the adventures you’ll find on Lake Wanaka, perhaps the quirkiest is a half-day tour to explore Mou Wahou Island. This offshore bird sanctuary is not only known for its wealth and diversity of bird life, but also the fact that it’s small lake, known as Arethusa Pool, is a lake on an island in a lake on an island that’s surrounded by the Pacific. Activities and offshore islands aside, Lake Wanaka is also popular for just swimming, since the shallow areas at the shore of the lake can reach as high as 65°F on the warmest days of summer.
Lake Wanaka, at nearly 75 square miles, is the 4th largest lake in New Zealand. Main beach access is from the center of town within walking distance of restaurants and shops.
Did You Know? North from Wanaka, at an area called “The Neck,” Lake Wanaka is separated from Lake Hawea by barely half a mile.
Address: Wanaka, New Zealand
From $ 127
In the rugged wilderness outside of Wanaka, Glenorchy, Makarora, and Haast, Mt. Aspiring National Park sits waiting to be explored. Here in New Zealand’s third largest park, glaciers hang suspended on mountainsides that are crossed by backcountry trails. Views of this pristine, South Island landscape are reserved for the hardiest of trekkers—or helicopter passengers who share the skies with kea, or alpine parrots. The hiking here in Mt. Aspiring National Park is some of New Zealand’s best, with the Routeburn Track being the most famous of the multi-day hikes through the park. Experienced trekkers seek out solace on the winding, Reed-Dart and Caples Tracks, and a large network of shorter day hikes make a playground of outdoor adventure. In the middle of it all towers Mt. Aspiring, which at nearly 10,000 feet is New Zealand’s tallest peak outside of Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park. Outside of Wanaka, the Rob Roy Track is a classic day hike with panoramic views of the lake, whereas Matukukituki is laden with trails that explore the isolated valley. Wherever you hike, scan the skies for the 59 bird species found flitting across the skies, and take the time to drink in the scenery of this stunning South Island park.
The best months for hiking in Mt. Aspiring National Park are from late November-March. Weather can change quickly here in the mountains, and snow and ice are possibilities during any month of the year. Before venturing into the backcountry, be sure to check in with the local DOC office for any alerts or closures.
Address: South Island, New Zealand, New Zealand
From $ 169
This small, but lively resort town serves as the gateway to World Heritage Area, Mt Aspiring National Park and New Zealand's fourth-largest lake. Whether you’re looking for peace and quiet or adventures, a long list of options is waiting, and most come with lake and mountain views.
With four distinct seasons, comes changing scenery and changing activities to enjoy in the area. In the summer water activities like boating, kayaking, fishing and swimming take center stage. Fall offers perfect conditions for hiking and biking, while skiers and snowboarders count the days to winter. Spring offers a great combination of spring skiing, biking and exploring trails.
Movie fans visiting for the first time may experience a strong sense of déjà vu. The area around Lake Wanaka and Mt Aspiring National Park is also home to a number of film locations for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
Getting to Wanaka is easy. Buses run regularly from Queenstown Airport. About an hour away, it’s the closest airport. Dunedin Airport is a three-hour drive. Christchurch Airport is five hours away.
Address: Wanaka, South Island, New Zealand, New Zealand
From $ 134