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Top things to do in Wanaka

See all 17 things to do in Wanaka

Things to Do in Wanaka

Seated at the southern end of Lake Wanaka, the resort town of Wanaka serves as a gateway to the incredible nature of New Zealand's South Island. The area was historically visited by the Ngāi Tahu, who sought out greenstone in the surrounding mountains. After a gold rush in the 19th century, the current town of Wanaka was created and quickly became a tourist destination during the summer and winter thanks to its location near ski areas like Cardrona Alpine Resort and the Mount Aspiring National Park. No matter when you visit, experience firsthand the beauty of the great outdoors as you explore the hiking tracks, ski trails, and pristine lakes of Wanaka.

Areas & Neighborhoods

Wanaka is the Otago region's premier ski and summer resort, nestled on the edge Lake Wanaka. The surrounding area, marked by snow-capped mountain ranges and glassy lakes, makes Wanaka a hotspot for outdoor recreation and activity.

Mount Aspiring National Park - The hiking haven of Mount Aspiring National Park is located in the Southern Alps of New Zealand, just west of Lake Wanaka. Its tallest peak, Mount Aspiring (Tititea in Maori), is the highest mountain outside the Mount Cook region. The park is packed with trails perfect for short treks in the summer and mountaineering during winter. Follow the famous Routeburn Track, which links the park to the Fiordland National Park, or trace rivers on the Rees-Dart Track. Popular shorter walks from Wanaka include the Aspiring Hut walk and Rob Roy track.

Lake Wanaka & Lake Hawea - Lakes Wanaka and Hawea lie side-by-side in the heart of the Otago Lakes. Wanaka is the fourth largest lake in New Zealand and is the source of the Clutha River, while Lake Hawea feeds into the Hawea River. Their clear, glossy waters are scenic spots for jetskiing, sailing, and kayaking adventures, while walking paths around the lakes lead to nearby mountains like Mount Iron. Many unique animal and bird species endemic to New Zealand can be found on Mou Waho, an island in Lake Wanaka.

Cardrona - Just a short distance from the town of Wanaka is Cardrona Alpine Resort, one of New Zealand's most popular ski resorts. Ranging from 4,134 feet to 6,102 feet (1,260–1,860 m) in elevation, the resort features a wide spread of trails for skiers and snowboarders of every skill level. Cardrona is also home to an Olympic-size halfpipe and terrain parks for freestyle snowboarding and skiing. During the summer, the resort becomes the Cardrona Bike Park, the highest mountain biking park in New Zealand, offering trails for hiking and mountain carting as well.

What to See in Wanaka

Its proximity to nature makes Wanaka a stunning place to visit. To fully grasp the grandeur of the region, take to the skies and go soaring above the snowy peaks of the Mount Aspiring National Park or look down on the glittering waters of Lake Wanaka. You can even touch down on Isobel Glacier for a unique, wintry view of the Southern Alps. Take in the natural wonders of the South Island from the ground as well by following the Clutha River Walk, which takes you through the idyllic scenery that lines the Clutha River. The Cardrona Valley is a breathtaking destination no matter the season-in winter, the valley becomes an alpine paradise for winter sports, while the summer makes it a beautiful environment for hiking and walking.

Things to do, Landmarks & Attractions

Get your adventure on while visiting Wanaka. With access to many mountains, lakes, and valleys, the area promises excitement no matter what the season. Make Wanaka your winter destination and hit the slopes, taking your pick of New Zealand's best ski fields and resorts. Go skiing or snowboarding at Treble Cone-the largest ski area in the South Island-or Cardrona Alpine Resort, which also features halfpipes and terrain parks for freestyle practice. With 34 miles (55 km) of trails, Snow Farm is ideal for cross-country skiers as well. In the summer, Wanaka transforms into a flourishing wonderland of nature-lined paths, roaring rivers, and glittering lakes. Explore a range of easy and challenging tracks that venture into the Mount Aspiring National Park, such as the Rob Roy Glacier Track that leads you up-close to active glaciers, or Roy's Peak Track, which brings you up 5,177 feet (1,578 m) for incredible views of the mountains. Try your hand at navigating the Clutha River, kayaking around bends and over playful rapids, or really get your adrenaline pumping by tandem skydiving over the Otago Lakes. For a more relaxed time, discover scenic fishing spots along the Outlet Track the Clutha River, or catch a boat out onto Lake Wanaka and enjoy the views. The town of Wanaka itself is also an excellent place to indulge your inner foodie. Visit the Wanaka artisan market and sample handmade snacks from chocolate to bread, sit down to a meal at elegant and boutique restaurants around town, or tour the Cardrona Distillery and learn about their handcrafted whisky and spirits.