With the picturesque Southern Alps as a backdrop, Wanaka is one of the most scenic towns in New Zealand. Stroll along its paths or get comfortable with a hot drink and enjoy the views from one of its many cosy cafés, or do as the locals do and embrace the great outdoors! Plan a skydive, go skiing, take a boat ride, hire a mountain bike, or indulge in the town’s favourite passion: aviation. Whatever you decide to do, there is plenty to keep you occupied in this tranquil lakeside town.
Activities in Wanaka
Wanaka boasts hundreds of kilometres of winding tracks to conquer by bike. Start off by the lake’s edge, then head into the forest, venture to the farm, river, and coastal tracks. If you go at the right time of year, you might coincide with one of the many mountain biking events Lake Wanaka hosts every year, including Lake Hawaea Epic, Motatapu, and The Big Easy.
Home to two world-renowned skiing areas, Wanaka is a paradise for skiers due to its reliable snow conditions and plentiful offerings for families and beginners. Cadrona and Treble Cone both offer varied ski and snowboarding experience, or for an experience you’ll never forget, opt for an all-inclusive heliski day trip and fly out to the best terrain on the day.
You can’t visit Wanaka and not explore the stunning 74 square mile lake – New Zealand’s fourth largest lake. During the summer months, the lake is the perfect respite from the heat and locals and tourists love to swim, sunbath and explore the many islands, beaches and inlets. During the winter, you can bike or walk around the perimeter.
Explore Wanaka’s Culture
We recommend planning your visit to coincide with the town’s Warbirds over Wanaka air show; a truly spectacular four-day festival in which the townsfolk celebrate their history of aviation. It’s classed as one of the best air shows in the world and with fighter jets, Sport Aircrafts, RNZAF, and jet racing as well as market stalls and rides, there’s plenty to see and do. If you miss the festival, then the Warbirds & Wheels museumis a good second-best; a world class collection of classic cars and warbird aircrafts, visual arts, and tales of local aviation.
To further explore the town’s love of aviation, book one of the many flight-based activities in the area. For sightseeing, operators are always keen to show off aerial views of Milford Sound, Mount Cook and Mount Aspiring – the more adventurous can opt to land in remote parts for hiking and climbing. Vintage plane enthusiasts can take a flight in a classic Tiger Moth, or maybe a skydive over the Southern Alps might be more to your taste.
When you’re not half way up a mountain or about to parachute from a plane, be sure to save some time to enjoy Wanaka town itself. The town offers a host of fun and quirky activities, such as Stuart Landsborough’s Puzzling World – a mix of rooms of illusion, baffling buildings, and the world renowned Great Maze, things will start to get a little confusing! For a laid-back evening, pull up a sofa in the local classic cinema, Cinema Paradiso, where you can enjoy hot cookies and homemade ice cream during your viewing.