Wanaka is a beautiful resort town situated in the South Island of New Zealand. It is well known for its stunning natural landscapes, which include snow-capped mountains, crystal clear lakes, and beautiful hiking trails. There are plenty of things to do in Wanaka for nature lovers, adventure seekers, and culture enthusiasts. In this article, we will explore the 15 best things to do in Wanaka, from exploring the great outdoors to experiencing the local culture.
Interesting facts about Wanaka
- Wanaka is located in the Southern Alps of New Zealand’s South Island, and it is surrounded by stunning natural landscapes, including mountains, lakes, and rivers.
- Lake Wanaka is one of the town’s main attractions, and it is New Zealand’s fourth-largest lake, covering an area of 192 square kilometers.
- The town was named after the Maori word ‘wana’ which means ‘place of an abundance of food and resources’.
- Wanaka is known for its outdoor activities, including hiking, skiing, kayaking, and mountain biking.
- The town has a rich history, and it played a significant role in the gold rush era of the late 1800s.
- Wanaka is home to some of the best wineries in New Zealand, and the Central Otago wine region is known for its Pinot Noir, which is considered one of the best in the world.
- The Wanaka Tree, a lone willow tree growing in the lake, has become a popular attraction and a symbol of the town.
- The Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow is held every two years, and it is one of the largest airshows in the Southern Hemisphere, attracting thousands of visitors from around the world.
- Wanaka is located near several ski resorts, including Cardrona, Treble Cone, and Snow Farm, which offer some of the best skiing and snowboarding in New Zealand.
- The town has a thriving arts and culture scene, and it hosts several festivals and events throughout the year, including the Wanaka A&P Show, the Festival of Colour, and the Wanaka Beer Festival.
- Wanaka is home to the only indoor climbing facility in New Zealand, Basecamp Wanaka, which offers a range of climbing challenges for all skill levels.
- The town has several unique attractions, including the Puzzling World, a fun-filled attraction featuring puzzles, illusions, and mazes, and the National Toy and Transport Museum, which showcases a collection of vintage cars, motorcycles, and toys.
- Wanaka is a popular destination for skydiving, bungee jumping, and other adventure sports, attracting thrill-seekers from around the world.
- The town has several conservation areas and parks, including the Mount Aspiring National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the Te Kakano Aotearoa Trust, which is dedicated to restoring the native flora and fauna.
- Wanaka is located near several famous filming locations, including the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, which were filmed in the nearby areas of Glenorchy and Queenstown.
Go Hiking at Mount Aspiring National Park
Mount Aspiring National Park is a hiker’s paradise, offering a range of trails for all skill levels. The Rob Roy Glacier Track is one of the most popular hikes, which takes you through the beautiful alpine meadows and up to the glacier face. The track is around 10 kilometers long, and it usually takes around four hours to complete. The trail offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains, glaciers, and waterfalls, making it a must-do activity in Wanaka. For more experienced hikers, the Cascade Saddle Track is a challenging hike that takes you to the top of a mountain pass, offering panoramic views of the Southern Alps.
Visit Lake Wanaka
Lake Wanaka is the heart of the town, and it offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. You can take a stroll along the lakefront, where you can enjoy the stunning scenery and the fresh air. The lake is also a popular spot for water activities, such as kayaking, paddleboarding, and swimming. You can rent a kayak or a paddleboard and explore the lake’s beauty, including the hidden beaches and islands. During winter, the lake transforms into a winter wonderland, and you can enjoy ice skating, snowshoeing, and other winter activities.
For the ultimate adrenaline rush, skydiving in Wanaka is an unforgettable experience. You can jump from a plane and enjoy the stunning views of the mountains, lake, and the town from above. Skydiving in Wanaka is a popular activity, and there are several operators that offer tandem jumps for beginners and solo jumps for experienced skydivers. The jumps usually take place from around 12,000 feet, and you can reach speeds of up to 200 km/h. The experience is truly unforgettable, and it is a must-do activity for adventure seekers.
Take a Scenic Flight
If you prefer to take in the stunning views from a safer distance, you can take a scenic flight over Wanaka. You can choose from a helicopter or a fixed-wing aircraft and enjoy the panoramic views of the mountains, glaciers, and lakes. The flights usually last for around 30 minutes to one hour, and they offer a unique perspective of the town and its surroundings. You can also take a helicopter flight to the nearby glaciers, including the famous Franz Josef Glacier and the Fox Glacier, which offer stunning views of the ice formations.
Go Wine Tasting
Wanaka is surrounded by some of the best wineries in New Zealand. You can take a wine tour and taste some of the finest wines in the region. The tours also offer stunning views of the vineyards and the surrounding mountains. The Central Otago wine region is known for its Pinot Noir, which is considered one of the best in the world. You can visit the wineries and cellar doors in Gibbston Valley, Bannockburn, and Cromwell, and taste the award-winning wines. The wine tours usually include transportation, tastings, and a knowledgeable guide who can provide insights into the winemaking process.
Visit the Warbirds and Wheels Museum
The Warbirds and Wheels Museum is a unique attraction in Wanaka, showcasing the vintage warplanes and classic cars. The museum is located near the airport, and it has an impressive collection of aircraft, including the Spitfire, Hurricane, and Mustang. The museum also has a collection of classic cars, including the Ford Model T and the Chevrolet Camaro. The museum provides a fascinating insight into the history of aviation and automobile technology.
Wanaka is home to some of the best fishing spots in New Zealand. You can take a guided fishing tour and catch some of the most sought-after trout species in the region. The town is known for its fly fishing, which is a popular activity among anglers. The fishing tours usually include transportation, gear, and a knowledgeable guide who can provide insights into the best fishing spots and techniques. The town also hosts several fishing competitions throughout the year, including the annual Wanaka Trout Fishing Festival.
Take a Bike Tour
Wanaka has some of the best bike trails in New Zealand. You can take a guided bike tour and explore the beautiful landscapes, including the lakes, rivers, and mountains. The bike tours cater to all skill levels, from easy rides to challenging trails. The tours usually include transportation, bike rental, and a knowledgeable guide who can provide insights into the best routes and sights. You can also rent a bike and explore the town on your own, following the scenic routes and stopping at the cafes and restaurants along the way.
During winter, Wanaka transforms into a winter wonderland, and skiing is one of the most popular activities. You can choose from the three ski resorts in the region, including Cardrona, Treble Cone, and Snow Farm. The ski resorts cater to all skill levels, from beginner slopes to advanced trails. The resorts also offer other winter activities, such as snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. The ski season usually runs from June to October, and the resorts offer transportation, gear rental, and ski lessons.
Visit the Puzzling World
The Puzzling World is a fun-filled attraction in Wanaka, which offers a range of puzzles, illusions, and mazes. The attraction includes the Great Maze, which is a maze made of hedges and covers an area of 1.5 acres. The maze has several challenges, including a hidden tower, a water feature, and a mini-maze. The attraction also includes the Sculptillusion Gallery, which showcases a range of optical illusions and 3D sculptures. The Puzzling World is a great place to visit with family and friends, and it offers a unique experience that is both fun and educational.
Take a Jet Boat Ride
Jet boating is a popular activity in Wanaka, and you can experience the thrill of speeding down the river and doing 360-degree spins. The jet boats are designed to navigate the shallow and fast-flowing rivers, and they offer a unique way to explore the stunning landscapes. You can choose from several jet boat operators in Wanaka, including the famous Shotover Jet, which offers a high-speed ride through the Shotover River.
Go Rock Climbing
Wanaka has some of the best rock climbing spots in New Zealand. You can take a guided tour and climb some of the most challenging cliffs and rock formations in the region. The tours cater to all skill levels, from beginner climbs to advanced routes. The guides provide all the necessary gear and safety equipment, and they can provide insights into the best climbing spots and techniques. The climbing spots in Wanaka offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains and lakes, making it a must-do activity for adventure seekers.
Visit the National Transport and Toy Museum
The National Transport and Toy Museum is a unique attraction in Wanaka, showcasing the collection of vintage cars, motorcycles, and toys. The museum has an impressive collection of over 600 vehicles, including the rare and classic models. The museum also has a collection of toys, including model trains, planes, and cars. The museum provides a fascinating insight into the history of transport and toys.
Take a Horse Trek
Horse trekking is a popular activity in Wanaka, and you can explore the stunning landscapes on horseback. You can choose from a range of guided horse treks, from short rides to multi-day adventures. The horse treks take you through the beautiful alpine meadows, rivers, and forests, offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The tours cater to all skill levels, and the guides provide all the necessary gear and safety equipment. Horse trekking is a unique way to experience the natural beauty of Wanaka and to connect with the horses.
Experience the Local Culture
Wanaka has a rich history and culture, and you can experience it by visiting the local museums, galleries, and cultural centers. The town has several museums, including the Wanaka Transport and Toy Museum and the National Toy and Transport Museum, which showcase the history of transport and toys. The town also has several art galleries, including the Wanaka Fine Art Gallery and the Gallery Thirty Three, which showcase the works of local and international artists. You can also experience the local culture by attending the events and festivals, such as the Wanaka A&P Show, the Wanaka Beer Festival, and the Festival of Colour. The events offer a unique insight into the local traditions and customs.
In conclusion, Wanaka is a beautiful destination with plenty of activities for everyone. Whether you are a nature lover, adventure seeker, or culture enthusiast, there is something for everyone in Wanaka. From hiking and skiing to wine tasting and museum visits, the town offers a diverse range of experiences. So, plan your next trip to Wanaka and enjoy the stunning natural landscapes and the local culture.
What is the best time to visit Wanaka?
The best time to visit Wanaka depends on the activities you want to do. Summer (December to February) is ideal for hiking, biking, and water activities, while winter (June to August) is perfect for skiing and winter sports.
How far is Wanaka from Queenstown?
Wanaka is about an hour’s drive from Queenstown, and there are plenty of transport options available, including buses and taxis.
Can I go bungee jumping in Wanaka?
Yes, there are several bungee jumping operators in Wanaka, including the famous AJ Hackett Bungy.
Is Wanaka expensive?
Wanaka can be expensive, especially during peak season. However, there are plenty of budget-friendly options available, including backpacker accommodations and free activities.
Are there any family-friendly activities in Wanaka?
Yes, there are plenty of family-friendly activities in Wanaka, including hiking, biking, horse trekking, and visiting the Puzzling World and the Warbirds and Wheels Museum.