What Makes Wanaka Special

Kiwis Answer: What is Wanaka known for?

Every year many Kiwis visit Wanaka—a town along the shores of Lake Wanaka. It is nestled between two mountain ranges and is surrounded by many beautiful crystal-clear lakes and rivers. 

But if you’ve never been here, you’re probably wondering why people come to this town. We’ll show you that today!

What is Wanaka known for? 

Wanaka is known for its stunning scenery, thrilling adventure activities, relaxing atmosphere, and small-town charm, making it an unforgettable destination for all who visit.

Let’s break down all of these so you know exactly what to see or where to go when visiting Wanaka yourself!

Wanaka’s Stunning Scenery 

In Wanaka, every corner you turn unveils a new spectacle. This place is a testament to nature’s artistic mastery, from its cerulean lakes to snow-capped mountains. 

There are many ways to experience Wanaka’s stunning scenery firsthand for yourself. Here are some of our favourite spots that make up Wanaka’s epic scenery. 

  • Lake Wanaka 

Fancy a swim in the summer or prefer to admire the snow-kissed mountains in winter? Lake Wanaka offers a unique charm for every season.

This shimmering body of water, framed by sky-touching peaks, is more than just a sight for sore eyes. It’s a natural crossroads with a rich Maori heritage. 

  • Roy’s Peak 

Just a stone’s throw away from the lake, you’ll find Roys Peak. This place is not just a hiker’s paradise but also a stairway to some of the most breathtaking panoramic views you’ll ever witness. 

As you ascend, each turn unfolds a new perspective of Wanaka’s beauty, culminating in a summit view that will leave you speechless.

  • Cardona Valley 

Cardrona Valley is a spectacle in itself. This place is a bit like a Swiss Army knife of landscapes—it’s got a little bit of everything. 

This valley blends natural beauty and adventure, offering everything from ski slopes for winter sports enthusiasts to vineyards for wine connoisseurs. The valley’s undulating landscapes and serene atmosphere make it a must-visit spot in Wanaka.

  • Mount Aspiring National Park 

This park is a dreamland of mountains, glaciers, river valleys, and alpine lakes. Whether you’re an ardent mountaineer or a casual tourist, the park promises an unforgettable experience of nature’s raw, untamed beauty.

  • Mou Waho Island

Of course, we can’t forget Mou Waho Island, a hidden gem in the heart of Lake Wanaka. This island is a microcosm of Wanaka’s rich biodiversity, making it an ideal spot for wildlife enthusiasts and bird watchers.

Wanaka’s Thrilling Activities 

Wanaka is a hub for adrenaline-fueled activities, making it an adventurer’s dream destination. Whether diving from the sky, soaring above the mountains, or speeding down snowy slopes, the thrill is all part of the experience. 

Our team voted on our favourite thrilling activities in Wanaka and here are the ones that came out on top:  

  • Skydiving 

Skydiving in Wanaka is another must-do activity. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of free-falling from 15,000 feet, reaching speeds of up to 200km/h! 

As your parachute opens, you’ll glide serenely over snow-capped mountains, lush green fields, and the sparkling lake. Although it felt like we screamed our lungs off, we don’t regret trying this experience. 

  • Paragliding 

Those who prefer their adventures closer to the ground aren’t left out. Paragliding over the beautiful landscapes of Wanaka is a fantastic way to soak in the scenery. 

Floating above the mountains and Lake Wanaka is a peaceful and serene experience that contrasts beautifully with the intensity of bungee jumping or skydiving.

  • Skiing 

No visit to Wanaka would be complete without hitting the slopes. The town is renowned for its fantastic skiing conditions, with various runs suitable for beginners and experienced skiers. 

The crisp mountain air, the crunch of fresh snow under your skis, and the exhilarating feeling of racing down the mountainside make skiing in Wanaka an absolute joy.

  • Mountain Carting 

Mountain carting in Wanaka is about feeling the adrenaline rush, the wind in your face, and the sense of freedom.

We’ve gone mountain carting at Cardrona Alpine Resort, about a 50-minute drive from Wanaka. There are different tracks to choose from, so whether you’re a novice seeking a gentle ride or a seasoned adventurer craving a more challenging route, there’s a track that’s just right for you. 

  •  Waterfall Climbing 

Waterfall climbing, or Via Ferrata as it’s often called, is an exhilarating blend of hiking and rock climbing. The sound of rushing water fills your ears, the misty spray cools your skin, and the sight of the lush greenery surrounding the waterfall is breathtaking. 

In Wanaka, you get to experience this unique adventure on the towering Twin Falls. The climb up Twin Falls is not just about physical endurance—it’s a sensory overload. 

Instead of setting out on your own, we suggest using Wildwire Wanaka. They have guided climbs that are safe yet thrilling.

  • Hiking 

The Rob Roy Glacier track is a local favourite, leading you through native beech forest, across swing bridges, and finally revealing the stunning vista of the glacier itself. 

Another must-visit place is the Mount Iron Track. This easy hike offers panoramic views of Wanaka and its stunning landscapes. 

While challenging enough to get your heart rate up, it’s also a great place to find peace and quiet away from the crowds.

Wanaka’s Relaxing Atmosphere

Wanaka is a haven of serenity that beckons to those seeking relaxation and rejuvenation. But relaxation in Wanaka goes beyond activities: it’s ingrained in the very atmosphere. 

Simply soaking up the unmatched scenery from the lakeside or a mountain peak instils a sense of calm. Here, tranquility isn’t just an aspiration—it’s a way of life. If you want to see what we mean, we’ve listed a few of our favorite ways to relax below. 

  • Stroll around Lake Wanaka

One calming experience we enjoy in Wanaka is undoubtedly a leisurely stroll along the shores of the stunning lake. Just a stone’s throw from the town centre, you can lose yourself in the beauty of nature, letting your worries drift away with the gentle lapping of the waves.

The lake’s crystal-clear waters reflect the surrounding mountains and skies, creating a mesmerizing panorama that soothes the soul. 

  • Visit Wanaka Lavender Farm

For a truly relaxing experience, visit the Wanaka Lavender Farm. Just a few minutes’ walk from the town, the farm is a feast for the senses. 

The sight of blooming lavender fields stretching as far as the eye can see and their intoxicating aroma creates a calming atmosphere that’s hard to resist. You can wander through the fields, enjoy lavender tea, or simply sit back and enjoy the surroundings.

  • Relax in Hot Tubs 

On our last visit to Wanaka, we enjoyed relaxing in a hot tub while gazing out at the panoramic views of Lake Wanaka and the snow-capped Southern Alps. All we could hear was the soft crackling of the wood fire heating our tub. 

With Land Escape Wanaka (the company we used), each hot tub has its own private deck, surrounded by native bush and overlooking stunning landscapes. Whether you’re under the starlit sky or the morning sun, the experience is as intimate as it is relaxing.

  • Go Fishing

There’s something about the rhythm of fishing—the cast, the wait, the thrill of the catch. It’s a meditation in itself. 

Whether you’re an expert angler or a novice, casting a line in the pristine waters of Lake Wanaka or the Clutha River is a therapeutic experience. Some fish we’ve caught include brown trout, rainbow trout, chinook salmon, koaro, and longfin eel. 

  • Venture off to the Vineyards

One of our favourite ways to spend a lazy afternoon in Wanaka is at Atikon’s Folly Vineyard. Sipping their world-class Pinot Noir while gazing out over the vineyards to the lake beyond is an experience of pure bliss.

Wanaka’s Small-town Charm

Wanaka has a thriving local culture that adds to its appeal. 

The town hosts numerous events throughout the year, like the Wanaka A&P Show, a traditional agricultural event that brings the community together. It’s a beautiful way to experience the local culture, complete with livestock shows, equestrian events, and local food stalls.

The local food scene in Wanaka is another highlight. From farm-to-table restaurants to cozy cafes, the town offers a variety of dining options that showcase the best local produce.

A visit to the Wanaka Farmers Market is a must—it’s a great place to mingle with the locals, sample fresh produce, and even pick up a few homemade treats.

A stroll through the town centre reveals quaint boutiques, art galleries, and craft shops full of local treasures. The town’s laid-back atmosphere, combined with its unique offerings, makes for a shopping experience that’s both relaxing and rewarding.

But perhaps the most charming aspect of Wanaka is its people. Friendly, welcoming, and always ready with a smile, the locals embody the spirit of Kiwi hospitality.