One of the unfortunate downsides to popular tourist destinations is that they can become overcrowded and overdeveloped, leading to you becoming over them.
However, what if we told you there is a place like no other that doesn’t suffer from these two letdowns?
Wanaka, New Zealand, is just a short drive from bustling Queenstown but feels miles away from anywhere you’ve been. Here you can take time to just relax and wander, as the sparkling Lake Wanaka is just a short walking distance from your Wyndham resort accommodation.
So what would your weekend in Wanaka look like?
The sun is shining, the temperature is gloriously warm and Middle Earth is at your doorstep. What should you do? Explore!
There is an almost infinite number of walks and drives around the Wanaka area, each making a perfect experience by themselves or the ultimate Saturday when combined.
Start by exploring the Wanaka township itself. Ardmore Street is the main waterfront drive and has numerous cafes, restaurants and pubs lining it on one side, with pristine lakefront views on the other. Make sure to stop by Black Peak Gelato for arguably the best gelato ice cream in the entire South Island (not hyperbole).
We’ll come back to the lake tomorrow. For now it’s time to grab a vehicle and set off somewhere exciting.
If you’ve got great hiking boots, make your way along the Wanaka-Mt Aspiring Road to find the various trailheads for the Matukituki Valley, near Camerons Flat. There are plenty of half-day walking tracks around here, offering a down-to-earth natural setting and, on a clear day, a chance to spot some glaciers.
Alternatively, just next to Wanaka is the charming village of Albert Town. Here you can enjoy a spot of fishing, swimming or even jet boating!
Lake Hawea, the twin sister to Lake Wanaka, is only 20 minutes from Wanaka and has similarly picturesque mountain views, though with even fewer people. If you didn’t bring your cossie, don’t fret. Keep your clothes dry and go for an auto adventure instead. State Highway 6 flanks the western edge of this azure water and is a truly stunning drive in its own right.
Sunday: Get wet
Now that you’ve seen the surrounding area it’s time to dive into what Lake Wanaka has to offer – literally!
If you have a vehicle you can park at numerous car parks along Ardmore Street, or alternatively just slip on your shoes and wander down the road on at your own pace.
The lake is lined mostly with rough sediment and small stones, so although you can go barefooted you may wish to take some sandals or thongs with you, just in case.
If the kids can stop climbing on the lakefront trees for a second (they are exceptionally climbable), they’ll love the crystal-clear waters. Though Spring will often have quite chilly water – as the winter mountain snow melts into it – the glorious summer sun heats it up around Christmas so you can enjoy a refreshing dip in some of the purest water you’ll find anywhere.
There is a small pontoon located just offshore which is easy to swim out to (then jump off of). However, to take full advantage of the lake you should hire yourself some equipment.
Companies such as Wanaka Kayaks operate out of the major car park next to the dinosaur playground (you’ll see when you get there), and offer activities such as freedom kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, as well as optional half- and full-day tours of the local area.
For something a little easier to use, you could always book a pedal-powered aquabike from a company such as Lakeland Adventures.
So when you want to escape normalcy and see somewhere exceptional, choose Wanaka.