During winter, Wanaka is used as a base for skiing and working in Cardrona, Snowpark/Snowfarm and Treble Cone and has a true 'ski town' vibe. Therefore, it shouldn't be a surprise to learn that half of New Zealand's Olympic skiers and snowboarders call Wanaka home. During the summer it's a busy holiday town for New Zealanders; many of the houses in town are baches (holiday houses). Lake Wanaka, New Zealand's fourth-largest at , is also a popular boating destination (it's warmer than Lake Wakatipu), as is the nearby Lake Hawea.
Wanaka is pronounced similar to the phrase won a car. Many international tourists before have made the mistake of pronouncing Wanaka as if it rhymed with tanker, much to the locals' amusement.
By planeThe closest international airport is in Queenstown which services flights from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, plus domestic flights are handled from Auckland and Christchurch. Wanaka Airport is also served by at least two flights most days from Christchurch by Air New Zealand.
By carWanaka is a two-kilometre detour off State Highway 6, via State Highway 84. From State Highway 8, Wanaka is a 30 km detour via State Highways 8A, 6 and 84.
Approximate distances and times (non-stop):
- Queenstown: 70 km (1hr 10min) via Crown Range Road, 112 km (1hr 30mins) via State Highway 6
- Fox Glacier: 265 km (3hr 15mins)
- Christchurch: 430 km (5hr 15mins) via Lake Tekapo and Lindis Pass (SH 79 and SH 8),
- Dunedin: 280 km (3hr 30mins) via Roxburgh (SH 8)
By busSeveral bus companies connect Wanaka with Queenstown, Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, Christchurch and Dunedin. Most buses arrive and depart from the Log Cabin at 100 Ardmore Street, on the lakefront opposite the Wanaka i-site information centre. Ritchies run 10 trips a day (5 from Wanaka, 5 from Queenstown) to and from Wanaka. All trips are via Queenstown Airport, cost for an adult is $NZ23 one way $NZ40 return. They will pick up from hotels in the CBD's at both ends of the trip.
National Transport & Toy Museumaddress: beside Wanaka AirportHas aircraft, cars, trucks, motorcycles, fire appliances, military vehicles and tractors, clockwork and battery powered toys, porcelain dolls, teddy bears, pedal cars and money boxes.
phone: +64 3 443-7489address: 188 Wanaka Luggate HwyIts major feature is the Great Maze, a 1.5km two-story maze of confusing passages. It also features dozens of optical illusion rooms and a large puzzle centre, cafe and gift shop. Check out Wanaka's version of the Leaning Tower and the incredible roman toilets.
Wanaka Beer WorksLearn about the brewing process and sample a brew or two in the tasting room.
address: Wanaka AirportA museum of classic and vintage automobiles and motorcycles, and war planes, including an A-4 Skyhawk, a Strikemaster, a Vampire, and a Hurricane. It replaced the Fighter Pilots Museum.
World of DeerOpening in Sept 2018.
- Boating, several operators offer guided cruises out to the islands on Lake Wanaka. There is also a wake-boarding/water-skiing charter service. Both Mou Waho and Stevenson's island provide wildlife sanctuaries for birds. Mou Waho is a larger island with a small lake which you can walk up to. Lake Wanaka itself is the third largest lake in New Zealand and has a maximum depth of over a 300 m. There are beaches close by town which offer swimming and sailing or windsurfing, as well as idyllic and virtually deserted beaches 5-10 min drive from the township.
phone: +64 3 443-7922address: 99 Ardmore StDescend the spectacular canyons of the Matukituki valley. Explore crystal pools and native forest. Plunge down water polished chutes, abseil down waterfalls. Climb, swim and float through a spectacular world of water sculpted rock and sparkling, crashing waterfalls.
address: 72-76 Brownston StLegendary small movie theater with custom seating including comfy old sofas, an old Morris Minor, and a great range of food
- Fishing, the surrounding lakes and rivers offer superb Fly Fishing. The rivers are stocked with both Brown and Rainbow Trout.
- Skiing, Lake Wanaka is both a skiers and snowboarders paradise. Close to 4 ski resorts. Heliskiing and cross country skiing are also possibilities.
phone: +64 3 443-1406address: off Wanaka-Mount Aspiring RdTreble Cone has two chairlifts and a poma serving a mixture of beginner, intermediate, advanced and expert terrain. The resort offers a small retail store, cafe, bar and restaurant at its base. It is approximately 30 minutes drive from Wanaka. The last part of the drive is up a winding dirt road that requires snow chains in winter and a confident driver. Snow reports phone +64 3 443-7444.
phone: +64 3 443-7411address: off Cardrona Valley RoadThis is the highest ski field in New Zealand. Snow reports phone +64 3 443-7007
Harris Mountains HeliskiHarris mountains heliski can be booked from retail stores in Wanaka, and offers a number of different payment options, for a few runs or many. Go when the snow is good or go when the snow is ordinary, and trust your guide and pilot to find a stash. If you book only a few runs and want to do more, the guide may offer an extension to you while you are on the hill. Make a lowball offer! They would not have flown out if profits were not already sorted, and the guide may want another run anyway.
WineTake a tour around the local estates
Festival of ColourThis celebration of the arts occurs every two years in April.
Warbirds Over WanakaAn air show held every second Easter long weekend. The next show is in 2016. See over 50 aircraft from the biplanes of WWI, the stars of WWII, the Korea fighters and the jets of Vietnam. Also military vehicles and Harley Davidson motor cycles.
There is a New World supermarket a block back from the lake for all your food supplies.
Shopping opportunities are limited, as you would expect in a town the size of Wanaka. There is a good range of ski/snowboard/outdoor and also clothing shops to get you prepared for the mountains.
phone: +64 3 443-7872address: 71 Ardmore Street
Finchy's Bar and Restaurantphone: +64 3 443-6262address: 2 Dunmore StreetBuilt on the 1880 old Wanaka jail site.
McGregor's Restaurantphone: +64 3 443-5200address: 54 Reece CrescentLocal cuisine, outdoor seating. Huge meals.
phone: +64 3-443 1133address: 43 Helwick StTop notch Indian food in a warm and pleasant atmosphere. There is also a Spice Room in Queenstown.
phone: +64 3 443-7148address: 71 Ardmore StA bar with some real Central Otago character, featuring some unique entertainment including indoor ice curling and occasionally sheep racing
Opium Barphone: +64 3 443-5545address: 66 Ardmore StAsian-themed bar popular with the snowboard crowd
phone: +64 3 443-5459address: 93 Ardmore StSpeights bar offering drink and food
phone: +64 3 443-4345address: 145 Ardmore StWaterfront bar with a lake-side deck
phone: +64 3 443 1880address: 94 Brownston St
phone: +64 3 443 4291address: 73 Brownston St
phone: +64 3 443 9010address: 7 Russell St
phone: +64 3 443 6723address: 21 Russell St
phone: +64 3 443-7111address: 23 Studholme RoadSurrounded by mountains.
phone: +64 3 443-6066address: 2 Dunmore St
phone: +64 3 443-2289address: 120 Mount Iron DriveHome stay.
phone: +64 3 443-7480address: 122 Brownston StOne, two and three-bedroom chalets near the lakefront.
SplurgeFor luxury or more upmarket stays, there are several excellent lodges.
address: 672 Ballantyne Road, LuggateGreat service.
phone: +64 3 443-6275address: 56 Halliday RoadMountain view.
phone: +64 3 443-1856address: 34 Eely Point RoadGreat service. For Lord of the Rings fans, Minaret Lodge offers a themed room, 'Barlimans' as well as LOTR packages.
- Mount Aspiring National Park – enjoy the scenery, mountaineering and jet boating
- Queenstown – take the Crown Range Drive, the highest main road in New Zealand, to Wanaka's big brother
- Haast and on to Fox Glacier, 3 hours drive north, in the West Coast region