Things To Do In Wanaka
Wanaka faces the lake with the same name and remains a progressive city with many train stations, numerous dining options, nature/conservation trails, and a whole range of accommodations to try ranging from camping to luxury hotel. It is a nice small town along the Otago Region in South Island where you can do anything on land and in water. It is the little sister of Queenstown, where nature is also beautiful, the mountains, and the lake. You can make a round trip by helicopter to a landing in the snow on the mountains.
Wanaka offers several restaurants and bars as well as numerous attractions in the surrounding area - for example, the Rob Roy Glacier Track and facilities with diverse activities associated with the sea. Wanaka is definitely worth a visit of several days. From above, the stunning view of Wanaka is pure joy, complemented by a quiet lake surrounded by impressive mountains. Do not hesitate to spend a few days in Wanaka to discover all its facets!
When To Go:
The city of Wanaka is an all year round travel/holiday destination in the South Island territory of New Zealand. The summer season (December - January) is delightful and autumn (March - May) sees the scene changing hues into lovely shades of chestnut, reddish brown, orange and red. Winter (July- August) sees the ski devotees slide for winter sports on the fine slants that encompass Wanaka; this is the peak season for tourism and the best time to be here. Wanaka's long, hot summers blur gradually into wonderful fall hues, the imposing mountain air guarantees snow and fresh winter days and nights. As the snowfalls melt, spring comes back with its lavish and impressive greens.
These are the major attractions and things to do in the city of Wanaka:
The panorama around Lake Wanaka is simply breathtaking- a crystal clear lake behind the snowy mountains. Overall, it is a bit similar to Lake Tekapo (also beautiful), but something else. There is plenty to do and around the lake there are some great trails for hiking or cycling. In Wanaka itself, there are many good restaurants near the lake. Worth exploring is the "Lone Tree" walk (a tree standing in the lake). From the Wanaka center it is about 2 km walk and a really great photo opportunity. It is an ideal place for the family to enjoy a picnic or a swim.
Do not miss the "Steamboat Adventure". From the lake, there are spectacular views of the Aspiring Mountains. In summer, the landscape becomes more yellow / brown and appears relatively dry, which is often seen as forest fire warning signs. From Makarora, you can visit the Aspiring National Park; a dense rainforest. You can have a brief stopover at the Fantail waterfall, in the river bed where many visitors have built numerous stone cairns. It is a serene blue lake (like the neighboring Lake Hawea); very rich in fish, there can be good trout and salmon fishing opportunities. It is nice for bathing along its pebbled beaches. A visit to the Lake Wanaka is one of the best highlights of a trip to New Zealand.
Lake Wanaka i-SITE Visitor Information Centre
The Lake Wanaka i-SITE Visitor Information Centre is a very informative place for tourists. Here you can learn all the routes, tracks, and excursions, buy guidebooks, books about New Zealand, souvenirs and postcards. The staff is very friendly, happy to promote their city and suggest places of interest and popular routes for all tastes.
Everything you wanted to know about Wanaka and were afraid to ask can be found here. There are a huge number of flyers and brochures; and equipped with employees that are polite and friendly. They have expert advice on walks and activities to do. The center can also organize tours for your behalf without paying extra charges.
The Deep Canyon is a great place for group camaraderie and finds tranquillity at the same time. Packaged tours can be arranged by the Holly Organization and guarantees a great day in the Canyon with Holly and her team of tour guides. The uphill adventure is quite challenging, but the adrenaline Holly encourages with beginners or professional climbers can help you make it perfectly through the canyon and still make funny pictures and videos!
The procedure, training, and everything else is great. After a short briefing and practice the team directly goes into conquering the walking trail first leading to the assault on the summit. The highlight is definitely the 9m slide into the canyons. The alternation between different jumps is just amazing. Equipment is provided completely, including shoes, helmet, ropes, gears, and walking sticks. After the tour, there are tasty sandwiches prepared by Holly. The team is caring and explains every part of the trail with knowledge and the level of their experience. It is absolutely one of the best things to do in Wanaka.
In clear weather, it is strongly suggested to take the hike to Mount Iron, as the view that one can see from the top is simply superb. The climb to the top takes about 45 minutes from the parking lot, but the entire trail lasts for one hour and 50 minutes. The walk starts at the car park, which is located approximately 2.5km from downtown Wanaka (so you can run from Wanaka to the mountain and does not necessarily go by car). The climb is steep indeed, but not very long. However, you should protect well in sunshine as the numerous bushes and small trees unfortunately donate almost no shade. Once at the top you can find several benches and an observation platform. The view of Wanaka from up there is simply wonderful. Everyone should take this 2-3 hours of their time when in Wanaka and make the trek in good weather - it's worth it.
This trail is very strenuous, but you will be rewarded. One needs to be agile and physically fit, because it's always very steep upwards. If you go towards the valley, it is also very stressful because downhill it is even more exhausting than uphill. But the tour will really be rewarded with wonderful views of Lake Wanaka during the entire hike. Along the way there are several bushes with red berries and beautiful. From the top, you can see several mountains, and there is a sign indicating the name of each mountain according to the direction in which you look. On the way down there is a section with very beautiful rock formations.
The Cardrona is a great cafe on the roadside where time has stopped in the last century. The drinks and cakes are excellent and a little break is enough to recharge your energy after the variety of hiking and sightseeing tours in Wanaka. There is also a beautiful stroll amid the sheep and cows led by Kelly, the gracious host who is filled with a good sense of humor and the desire to share her passion for horses and knowledge of the region.
The horses are very well cared for and have well maintained equipment. There are many short stops to open and close gates, which gave much time to enjoy the view of the mountains. The tour ends with a visit to the Cardrona Hotel with a warm glass of "gluwein" before riding back to the stables.
If you are looking for a memorable experience on board a helicopter, the Wanaka Helicopters is undoubtedly the best tour operator on this aspect in Wanaka. This company is located in Wanaka airport, a few kilometers east of the city. Carolyn is very welcoming and clearly explains the service offered with a detailed map of the region. Steve is the trusted pilot who will first give you a brief tour of the helicopter; a brand new or the latest generation of the Eco-Star that is luxurious and comfortable. After the confirmation, you will spend four hours flying over the most beautiful parts of Mount Aspiring National Park, approaching close glaciers, snow peaks, and lakes. Flying over Milford Sound is one of the best parts of this tour.
There are at least four stops and one is made in a beautiful white snow area where Steve takes time to play with the children and make a beautiful snowman. Milford Sound is a pretty deserted beach on the Tasman Sea; it has a nice little walk, cafes, and a surprise encounter with dolphins passing by. And finally, there is a pass made on the Wanaka summit with breathtaking views of this beautiful lake surrounded by mountains. This helicopter tour greatly contributes to a better appreciation of the scenic sights in Wanaka. Although the tour price is higher than that of another provider, you'll feel that this helicopter is a little yours throughout the tour and the driver suits your demands; the safety and security is fully respected. It is true that it is a major expense for a whole family, but it is probably the best memory you'll ever have about Wanaka in New Zealand.
Wanaka River Journeys
The Wanaka River Journeys is a very interesting and spectacular trip by jet boat on the Matukituki River, a 40 km upstream of very shallow water between the breathtaking landscapes of Mount Aspiring National Park. James, the official guide and boat driver create a great river adventure. He drives the boat skilfully and makes it not only a beautiful journey, but also an exciting one with his safe 360 turns.
He also tells the relevant information about every part of the area. The walk through the forest is very mysterious; the trail is wet, mossy, and whimsical; with a waterfall as a reward at the end. This three-hour experience is something you must not miss when in Wanaka. The hike is quite feasible even for the unfit. Wearing sturdy footwear is nevertheless very helpful.
National Transport and Toy Museum
The National Transport and Toy Museum is an impressive themed museum with an eclectic collection of cars, old dolls, bikes, typewriter or scales, oil cruets, lawn mowers, planes, rare engine tanks, motorcycles, pepper, old bottles; there's everything and everywhere.
And it does not finish since it has good activities in the pass designed for the whole family. The toys, miniature cars and Star Wars-related things, and the Barbie dolls on display are arranged in a row on the case. The toy car collection is numerous and looks good in their exhibition. Be sure to visit when in Wanaka.
Eco Wanaka Adventures
The Eco Wanaka Adventures is quite simply the best thing you can do when staying in Wanaka, among other things: the ride to an island in a lake on an island in an ocean! From Wanaka, it comes with a small ship in a small group to the Island Mou Waho situated in the middle of the lake. While there you can learn through the guide all the trails of the hike and most especially a lot about the nature of New Zealand. You can explore the rare Bluff Wekas and have a chance to enjoy the breathtaking scenery; it is simply unforgettable.
Stuart Landsborough's Puzzling World
The Stuart Landsborough's Puzzling World consists of three zones - the first zone includes the area where you can take a picture with the leaning tower, etc., the second is the room where they sell a lot of tickets and tables with different puzzles, the third is the cafe, shop and toilets (required for visits). It has two paid zones, a maze of optical illusions and a museum. The Territory Area has a lot of room with a variety of effects, there is a room located at an angle in which the vestibular apparatus is crazy, and you can buy a separate ticket to the 3km long labyrinth.
At the exit or at the cafe, there are many different desktop puzzles, you can sit down for tea and spend at least an hour to collect different puzzles. At the exit there is a souvenir shop with a variety of desktop and handheld puzzles. The room with optical illusions are very intriguing and well done. It is an interesting place, but for those with children, a visit to the Puzzling World is a must.
To jump with a parachute on Lake Wanaka is certainly one of the best experiences and thrilling things to do in Wanaka. The view up there is phenomenal and the activity is safe. The Skydive Wanaka team is really cool and they are super professional. The jumps are done in groups of up to six people (more instructors and cameraman). The prices vary according to the memories you want to take while doing the jump - cameraman, single camera, shirt, etc.
Participants usually take the package that includes the one with a video cameraman and photos. The staff is super responsible and checks the safety equipment several times. Another employee helps to tighten the equipment and check again whether everything is as it should be. The jump itself is breathtaking and the scenery is impressive. There is no mass processing, the team takes time for everybody, and it's a very friendly atmosphere. Who wants to make a parachute jump in New Zealand should do this in any case in Wanaka.
Anyone who has long dreamed to fly on board an Oltimer can make this dream come true or made possible here in Wanaka. After you are welcomed by the very friendly staff at the reception, it's time to dress up and attend a brief seminar about flying. You'll be dressed in an overall, a leather jacket, and leather cap and you're ready to fly with a resident pilot Andy Hailey.
He is a friendly and cautious man who will make your flight experience a safe and unforgettable one. It is a perfect overall package, which will stay for a long time in your memory. A "Flight Certificate" issued by the Classic Flights is available as a souvenir after the tour.
The Paradiso Cinema is a small movie theatre in Wanaka that shows original films and furnished with sofas, armchairs plane, and there is even a VW Beetle in which you can choose to settle while watching a movie. The place has a special and offbeat atmosphere. Very good sound and good choice of films and there is a possibility to eat before the film showing and during intermission. The projection room is very comfortable, with sofas, an open car for that complete drive-in experience and also a great screen and great sound. During the intermission, you can feast on homemade delicacies. The combo ice cream - double chocolate cookie is to die for. It's worth a look when in Wanaka.
Wanaka is a gorgeous little city where there is too much hustle and bustle in its major attractions. There is good shopping in large supermarkets and some walks within the urban area are offered. It has a waterfront promenade that leads to the past and where there is plenty of parking. There are some very nice cafes with direct views of the lake. Also, the i-Site is located directly on the lake and provides a lot of information about the place and the environment. During the day, it can be truly relaxing by the directly adjacent lake or use one of the countless recreational opportunities such as jet skiing or skydiving. In the evening, Wanaka is very good for going out, there are several bars. Wanaka is a must when visiting New Zealand.
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