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Nestled behind the towering Southern Alps in the South Island of New Zealand, the tranquil town of Wanaka is one of New Zealand's top tourist locations. Filled with incredible attractions and activ...More
Nestled behind the towering Southern Alps in the South Island of New Zealand, the tranquil town of Wanaka is one of New Zealand's top tourist locations. Filled with incredible attractions and activities with snow-topped mountains casting their magnificent reflections over Lake Wanaka, making the views from the town virtually incomparable. In winter, the main activity is skiing and snowboarding with skiers flocking here from all over the world for superb skiing and snowboarding at Cardrona and Treble Cone with cross-country skiing activities at Snow Farm and heli-skiing attractions high in the Harris Mountains. There are great things to do with year-round activities which include fishing, hiking, mountain biking, horse riding, kayaking, climbing, jet boating, skydiving and parasailing and the ever famous Puzzling World. Surrounded by the crystal clear waters of the lakes and rivers, fresh mountain air, stunning alpine views this natural paradise has something for everyone.
Located 55 kilometres north east of Queenstown and surrounded by sky scraping snow topped mountains often mirrored in Lake Wanaka below them and bordered by the tremendous Mount Aspiring National Park with its Hanging Glaciers, stunning waterfalls, ancient beech forest and fantastic bird life. As well at all of the exhilarating adventure activities. Wanaka has many delicious restaurants, wine tasting and fun free activities and things to do such as strolling through lavender fields, and eating lots of ice-cream.
Top activities are to take a boat cruise activity on Lake Wanaka or an adrenalin packed jet boat ride. Cycle or hike around Lake Wanaka, a 4WD Safari Tour, visit Puzzling World and check out the many activities for Mount Aspiring National Park. The main attraction in NZ winter are the many activities in the snow as Wanaka is one of New Zealand’s primary skiing destinations with breath-taking panoramas and views of snow-capped peaks and lake vistas.
Best attractions and things to do in Wanaka
1. Visit the Lake Within a Lake on Mou Waho Island
Mou Waho Island is a protected nature reserve with a natural glacial formed lake at its summit and is home to many native New Zealand birds including the curious and flightless Weka. Take a boat trip activity to Mou Waho Island including a one hour guided eco walk taking you up to the natural glacial lake right on top of the island and magnificent mountain and lake scenery in every direction. This is rated as one of the top activities by visitors to Wanaka and rated among the best Wanaka walks and hikes. Click here for more information about this awesome experience.
2. Boggle Your Mind at Puzzling World
This is a famous attraction for this area, it’s been around and a constantly developing activity since 1973, and is definitely something you don’t want to miss. Illusions, puzzles, giant mazes, tricks and freaky stuff: Puzzling World never has a dull moment. Try to get your bearings in a tilted room, try to figure out the giant maze, and don’t forget to visit the bathrooms!
3. Jet Boating
One of New Zealand’s popular adrenaline activities, Jet boating in Wanaka will take you to places you’d not normally see up the mighty glacier fed Rivers and around Lake Wanaka. This is an an exhilarating jet boat trip activity at the same time as taking in the stunning views and natural surroundings.
4. Horse Trekking
The Cardrona Valley near Wanaka offers some of the most spectacular riding terrain in New Zealand. A fantastic activity for horse lovers where you journey along the Cardrona River under the willow trees, cross through the river and ascend up in to the mountains of the working sheep & cattle station giving spectacular views down the the Cardrona Valley and the surrounding mountain ranges along the way. This really feels like you are on top of the world in the middle of nowhere! You can even take a horse trek activity that takes you to the Cardrona Hotel where you dismount and tie your horse to our hitching rail and enjoy a well-earned beverage in the gorgeous garden bar.
5. 4WD and of Road Driving
Wanaka offers excellent 4WD, quad bike and off-road adventure tours. Get off road and explore the authentic New Zealand high country farms, and off road tours into otherwise inaccessible areas. A fun activity that will give you the opportunity to explore the countryside with breath taking panoramic views right from the bottom to the top of the mountain – into the snow in winter!!
6. Take a trial flight!
This is a fantastic activity and excellent value, a fun scenic trial flight with stunning views of this magnificent area! If you have always wanted to learn how to fly, or if you have ‘flying a plane’ on your bucket list, this attraction is the perfect thing to do. The highly qualified and experienced instructors have many hours flying in Lake Wanaka region. They know the area and the conditions, so you are in the very safest hands.
A really fun activity for the whole family. Fly high above the beautiful Lake Wanaka and enjoy amazing views of Wanaka's lakes and mountains and 360 degree views with a single, or a tandem flight. Safely parasail up to 300m high and even dip your toes in the water if you like and land back on the boat with a huge smile!
8. Skiing and Snowboarding
Wanaka is known for its amazing skiing and snowboarding attractions. Cardrona is a fabulous ski field for the whole family and Treble Cone for more challenging slopes.
Free Attractions and Things to do in Wanaka
1. Walking Activities Around Lake Wanaka
One of Wanaka’s main attractions are its walking, cycling and hiking tracks. Lake Wanaka caters for all abilities with short strolls along the lakefront and along the Clutha River running into town, to amazing day long hikes up the surrounding hills and mountains. From the town centre a trail leads for miles along the waterfront and the further you get from town, the quieter it becomes.
2. Take a Picture of #ThatWanakaTree
New Zealand's most photographed tree and a main attraction. Have fun with the different times of day with the light and reflections in the lake!
3. Hike Up Mt Iron
Across the road from Puzzling World is the entrance to the Mt Iron loop walk. A hike up this glacier-carved rocky knoll will reward you with awesome views of Wanaka and its surrounding mountains. The walk is a 1h 30min loop and a great free activity. Location: The Mt Iron car park is well-signposted off State Highway 84 just as you leave Wanaka.
4. Visit Wanaka Lavender Farm
Wanaka Lavender Farm is a beautiful attraction just a few minutes from Wanaka where you can experience 20 acres of beautiful lavender fields, farm animals & display gardens. Play a game in their gardens and treat yourself to lavender ice cream at the cafe. The vibrant fields of lavender make another awesome free photo opportunity in Wanaka. For a very low entry fee you can meet and interact with the resident farm animals
5. The Farmers Market
Treat yourself to some local produce at the Wanaka Farmers Market, held year-round on Thursdays from 3pm to 6pm. Location: Alongside Bullock Creek, between the Speights Ale House and Francesca’s Italian Kitchen.
6. Blue Pools Track.
It's only a short walk to the famous, crystal clear Blue Pools in Makarora. An easy tramp for all skill levels through a beautiful beech forest with great attractions along the way including swing bridges. The track leads you through silver beech/tahina to a swing-bridge overlooking the pools at the mouth of Blue River where you can occasionally see large brown and rainbow trout feeding in the pools.
With over 750 kms of tracks to explore, you are not short of walking or hiking adventures. There are great half-day hikes include Roy’s Peak and the Rob Roy Glacier Track, two of the most-loved tracks around, both with incredible panoramas. For the more serious trampers, The Gilliespie Park Circuit a 2 to 3-day loop, starting and finishing from Makarora is a stunning hike taking you into the Mt Aspiring National Park. Download the Wanaka Tracks app to help you choose the best track for you. Available on Apple and Android