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Along the central Otago plain lies the beautiful lakeside town of Wanaka. A short drive from the bustling city of Queentown and the expansive area of outstanding natural beauty of Mt Aspiring National Park, it is easy to side step Wanaka for its more famous neighbours. But Wanaka in its own right has a lot of activities and beauty to offer, here are some of the best things you can do during a visit to this lakeside charmer.
As you will find is true for most of New Zealand, Wanaka is the perfect place for anyone who loves a hike and a stunning view. There are many tracks and trails which suit hiking novices and seasoned mountain goats alike.
For experienced walkers looking for a challenge, Roy’s Peak is a 5-6 hour hike which leads to the most stunning views over the central Otago area. Make sure if you are visiting in the summer months to head out early as the heat will become intense in the middle of the day.
A much more relaxed version for those who don’t fancy walking all day is the Mt Iron trail which provides equally impressive views over Wanaka, but at a much more appealing 1.5 hour loop. Other more mid-length hikes include Rob-Roy track or Diamond Lake which both take about 3-4 hours return.
If scaling a hill really isn’t on your to do list, it is worth remembering Wanaka is set around a beautiful lake and taking a stroll round the perimeter provides you with some first class views from round level too!
Looking to spend a few hours bending your mind through mazes and illusions? Not just for kids, Puzzling World is a much loved feature of Wanaka for adults, families and couples alike. Puzzling World has been open since 1973 growing to become a mix of bizarre buildings, rooms of illusions and a world famous Great Maze which aims to baffle your brain and challenge your perception of reality. Parts of Puzzling World are free to enter so you can take a snap in their unusual ‘Roman communal’ public toilets, or get a combo deal for access to all of the mazes and illusion rooms for $25. This is a great afternoon out, unless you get stuck in the maze for longer!
Claimed to be New Zealand’s most famous tree, a visit to Wanaka is surely not complete without a visit to #thatwanakatree (and 60,000 of you posting a picture of it with that hashtag seem to agree!). The tree itself grows alone a few metres into the Wanaka lake attracting hundreds of tourists and photographers every year to get a shot of the wonky wood. I won’t lie to you, if you hadn’t looked it up before, you might be a little disappointed at the size of said tree! All the same, if you head around sunrise or sunset to avoid the crowds you get the chance to take a few truly stunning pictures with the rising or falling sun lighting up the lake and the hills surrounding it.
Whilst it is beautiful to visit in the summer months, Wanaka has a lot to offer when winter draws in too. Wanaka is home to two excellent ski fields for visitors to enjoy and both within a 30 minute drive of the town centre. Cardrona Alpine Resort is the largest alpine resort in the country offering a great space for experts and beginners, including some wonderful lesson deals which are worth checking out. Treble Cone is a little less crowded and whilst it offers areas for beginners and learners, it is mostly popular amongst more the advanced skier or snowboarder with its vast off-piste terrain.
Here are some of our foodie highlights in Wanaka:
Your only struggle will be deciding which to try first at Patagonia Chocolates. Step into a chocolatiers paradise where you are met by a huge glass case of fresh handmade artisan chocolates made from the finest natural ingredients. Let your senses take over as you are met with melting chocolate and in-house coffee roasters giving you access to the produce fresh from source.
My personal joy came in the form of their traditionally Italian made ice cream, sorbet and frozen yogurt counter, complete with 20 flavours to choose from. Silky smooth and soft ice-cream in classic indulgent chocolate flavours, or sharp fruity numbers all piled high on a waffle cone, any more than one scoop is a wonderful struggle!
If you are taking a trip to New Zealand you will quickly realise the importance of a bakery, and in particular, a savoury pie. Doughbin Bakery is Wanaka’s lakefront bakery providing all your pastry, sandwich and sweet cake needs. Very reasonably priced and with a huge selection of goods, it is a great place to grab for a bite to eat to take to the water front. They have a very interesting range of pie flavours such as Thai Green Chicken Curry or Venison and Cheese.
On a Thursday afternoon/ early evening make sure to head down to Dinosaur Park for the local artisan food market held there every week. Bakers, butchers, brewers and winemakers line the park offering you the best of New Zealand’s produce. In the last few years the market has also expanded to add stalls of locally-made arts and crafts, making it a wholesome Wanaka afternoon out for all whilst supporting local businesses.
This is New Zealand of course, and so you can’t explore an area with a visit to their local vineyard. Rippon Valley is just a short 2 minute drive from the centre of Wanaka and offers an intimate cellar door experience. Tastings are provided for small groups by appointment only where for half and hour you are immersed in the Rippon Valley history, methods, and most importantly tasting. You can try between 4-6 samples free of charge in this beautiful vineyard with a backdrop of Wanaka and the lake.
Wanaka has so much to offer for adventure seekers, avid hikers, puzzle solvers and food and wine lovers. Come sunshine or snow check Wanaka out on your visit to New Zealand.