Wanaka is a pretty alpine resort town on the banks of Lake Wanaka, New Zealand’s fourth largest lake and one of its most scenic. Surrounded by high peaks of the Southern Alps, it is a popular destination for skiers and snowboarders, and it offers some great walking and hiking trails for summer months. The town is much quieter than its big sister Queenstown, but offers almost as many adventure activities, the most popular being rafting, skydiving, and canyoning. There are also cruises on the lake and some good museums, including the New Zealand Fighter Pilot Museum, which is great if your trip coincides with the bi-annual air show, Warbirds Over Wanaka. Wanaka is a great alternative to Queenstown if you are looking for a less crowded, more nature-oriented destination.
100 Ardmore Street, Wanaka
Tel (03) 443 1233
Open 8.30am-5.30pm daily
Ardmore Street, Wanaka
Tel (03) 443 7660
Open Jan-Apr 8am-5pm daily; May-Oct Mon-Fri 8.30am-4.30pm, Sat 9.30am-4pm; Nov-Dec 8am-5pm daily
38 Helwick Street, Wanaka
Tel (03) 443 7078
Open 9am-10pm daily
48 Helwick Street, Wanaka
Tel (03) 443 4440
Open 8am-10pm daily
Pembroke Mall, Wanaka
Open 7am-10pm daily; 24 hour wireless access
3 Helwick Street, Wanaka
Tel (03) 443 7429
Open 10am-9pm daily
Atomic Shuttles (tel (03) 349 0697) go to Dunedin and Christchurch. Atomic Shuttles stop outside the i-SITE visitor centre on the lakefront (100 Ardmore Street, Wanaka).
InterCity Coachlines (tel (03) 471 7143) go to Christchurch and Queenstown. InterCity coaches stop outside the i-SITE visitor centre on the lakefront (100 Ardmore Street, Wanaka).
Nakedbus.com go to Christchurch, Greymouth and Queenstown. Nakedbus.com stop outside the i-SITE visitor centre on the lakefront (100 Ardmore Street, Wanaka).
Southern Link K Bus (tel (03) 358 8355 or 0508 458 835) go to Christchurch and Queenstown. They stop outside Wanaka Travel.
Wanaka Connexions (tel 0800 244 844) have six daily shuttle services to Queenstown plus coaches to Dunedin and Invercargill. They depart from outside 99 Ardmore Street.
Corner State Highway 6 & Kingston Street, Albert Town
Tel (03) 443 9487
73 Brownston Street, Wanaka
Tel (03) 443 4291 or 0800 BASE NZ (0800 2273 69)
122 Brownston Street, Wanaka
Tel (03) 443 7480 or 0800 555 556
71 Upton Street, Wanaka
Tel (03) 443 8187
56 Brownston Street, Wanaka
Tel (03) 443 1119
7 Russell Street, Wanaka
Tel (03) 443 9010 or 0800 112 201
94 Brownston Street, Wanaka
Tel (03) 443 1800 or 0800 772 277
117 Lakeside Road, Wanaka
Tel (03) 443 7877
181 Upton Street, Wanaka
Tel (03) 443 7405
Dining options in Wanaka tend to be higher end, so it is best to pick up groceries at the New World supermarket (20 Dunmore Street, Wanaka) and cook at your hostel.
There are some cheap restaurants, but they can mostly be found out of the centre; Central Fish (54 Reece Crescent, Wanaka) has excellent fish and chips. Fast food places are found on the outskirts of town as well, but there is a Subway (145 Ardmore Street, Wanaka) on the lakefront. At most cafés and restaurants along the waterfront, you really pay for the view, but there are a couple of exceptions. The Snack Shack (139 Ardmore Street, Wanaka) has cheap kebabs and falafel, as well as snacks and good chips. And hidden behind it is Sagun Café (139 Ardmore Street, Wanaka), a brilliant little blue café with excellent curry and Indian dishes at great prices. Also in this area, The Doughbin (Lakefront, Wanaka) has fresh bread, pies and sandwiches at prices that won’t kill your budget.
This excellent museum has displays about New Zealand’s fighter pilots and features one of the Southern Hemisphere’s largest collections of fighter planes.
Wanaka Airport, SH 6, Wanaka
Tel (03) 443 7010
Open 9am-4pm daily
This museum features aircraft, cars and motorcycles as well a collection of toys. Exhibits include an Antonov AN-2 (the world’s largest bi-plane), a MiG jet fighter and a rare 1924 McLaughlin Buick Limousine.
State Highway 6, near Wanaka Airport
Tel (03) 443 8765
Open 8.30am-5pm daily
Deep Canyon (tel (03) 443 7922) run exciting canyoning trips in the spectacular canyons of the Matukituki Valley. The trips include abseiling down waterfalls, climbing, swimming and plunging down slippery shutes. The basic trip ($215) is suitable for most people but the “Big Nige” ($280) option is “steeper and deeper” and better suited to fit people with some abseiling experience. A lot of people consider canyoning to be the best activity in Wanaka. Canyoning trips operate Nov-Mar.
The Clutha River Jet (tel (03) 443 7495) offers one-hour rides on Lake Wanaka and the Clutha River. Jet boat rides depart from the log cabin on the lakefront (100 Ardmore Street, Wanaka) and cost $95.
Alpine Kayak Guides (tel (03) 443 9023) run half-day ($135) and full-day ($190) kayaking trips on rivers around Wanaka, including the Clutha River which has mostly grade two rapids. Kayaking trips operate during summer and autumn (Nov-Apr).
Wanaka Rock (tel (03) 443 6811) has half ($110) and one-day ($190) rock climbing courses as well as more advanced three day courses ($495). A combination of the one-day introductory course ($190) followed by the one-day Explore Wanaka Rock course ($190) will give you a thorough introduction to rock climbing.
Doing a tandem skydive over Lake Wanaka allows you to take in the breathtaking views of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Aspiring National Parks as you freefall at 200km/h. Tandem Skydive Lake Wanaka (tel (03) 443 7207 or 0800 786 877) gives you the option of jumping at 12000ft ($279; 45 seconds freefall) or 15000ft ($369; 60 seconds freefall).
River sledging, or hydrospeed, involves riding a custom-designed river sledge through rapids. Hydrospeed operators point out that you are in control, as opposed to rafting where the guide does the steering. Frogz (tel (03) 441 2318 or 0800 4 37649 (0800 4 FROGZ)) run river sledging trips the Kawarau River (grade 2-4 rapids). A half-day trip costs $135 and a full day trip costs $285.
Wanaka is popular with skiers and snowboarders because of its close proximity to Cardrona and Treble Cone ski areas. It can get pretty lively during the ski season.
Located about halfway between Queenstown and Wanaka, Cardrona (tel (03) 443 7411) is a family-oriented resort with good snowboarding. A full-day lift pass is $81, but a lift, lesson and rental package is better value at $80 for skiers or snowboarders.
Snowpark NZ (tel (03) 443 9991) claims to be the Southern Hemisphere’s top all-mountain terrain park, catering mostly to snowboarders. A day ticket is $65-75.
With 550ha of terrain, Treble Cone (tel (03) 443 7443) is bigger than most other New Zealand ski areas, and it geared mostly toward advanced skiers who have half the runs while beginners only get 10%. A full-day lift pass costs $89-99. Treble Cone have a first-timers package that gives you ski or snowboard rental, a two-hour group lesson and lift pass for $99 (one-day) or $380 (three-days). Treble Cone is a 35-minute drive from Wanaka.
Waiorau Snow Farm (tel (03) 443 7542) is New Zealand’s only dedicated cross-country ski resort. A day pass is $35 and ski rental starts at $25.