Wanaka is one of the most popular cities to travel to and should be included on everyone’s New Zealand itinerary. This gorgeous city, located on the South Island, has a particular charm that draws tourists and Kiwis all year long. Ideal for any adventurous person, Wanaka is a nature lover’s playground. With ski fields, snow-capped mountains, lakes, rivers, and endless hiking, Wanaka is one place you’re not going to want to miss. Some choose to visit Wanaka as a day trip from Queenstown, but there’s plenty to do here to stay for longer. While there are endless outdoor activities to enjoy, the city really does cater to all travellers, so welcome all!
Top Things to do in Wanaka, New Zealand
From hiking to skiing, Wanaka sightseeing to adventure, this guide has got you covered.
Roys Peak Hike
This trek is typically wet and muddy, super windy and rain can turn to snow at any given moment, and you will frequently cross paths with sheep, but it is epic. Hiking Roys Peak is one of the best free activities in Wanaka and leads you to one of the most photographed spots in all of New Zealand. From one point you are rewarded with beautiful views of Mt. Aspiring and Lake Wanaka. Depending on conditions, there is a smaller path that will take you a little further up the peak, however, the wind up there is intense.
This is one of the best things to do when visiting Wanaka because you can do it solo and without a guide. The hike itself is pretty moderate, with a lot of switchbacks and crossover paths, however, the weather is seriously unpredictable. It can be sunny and warm at the base of the mountain, rainy and muddy in the middle, and blizzard conditions on the top. Just pack accordingly and always let someone know where you are going and when to expect you back. Hiking Roy s Peak is by far one of the top things to do in Wanaka, New Zealand for epic views and adventure.
See the Wanaka Tree
An obvious thing to do in Wanaka, but an absolute must, photographing the Wakana Tree is easily one of the top things to see in Wanaka and it is, of course, free. This unique tree somehow manages to bloom and stand tall throughout the year despite growing right in the middle of the waters of a lake. It’s best to get pictures in the early morning or evening, during sunrise or sunset. But don’t let it being a tourist attraction deter you from visiting, there will probably be fewer people there than you think!
Waterfall climbing adventure
The very best Wanaka activities and attractions will get you out of your comfort zone and into New Zealand’s wild wilderness. Waterfall climbing and repelling is definitely one of those adventures, and this particular tour takes you on the highest waterfall climb, not just in New Zealand, but in the world. Your 4-hour hike includes an expert guide, all your safety equipment, and gear, a safety class as well as a practice route before setting out on this Wanaka must-do.
You’ll be climbing, using cable, iron rungs, pegs, bridges, and ladders in conjunction with your harness as you climb up a 350m cliff. You will have a lunch break and time for a swim as well as some cliff jumping before heading back down. This day will leave you breathless in more ways than one.
Happy hour booze cruise
Whether you’re celebrating the step out of your comfort zone or just relaxing after a day of shopping, taking a happy hour cruise around Lake Wanaka is an excellent way to kick off the night. Lake Wanaka is surely one of the top Wanaka tourist attractions and this cruise proves why. As you cruise over the crystal clear waters you can enjoy drinks of your choice from the fully licensed and operating bar onboard the boat.
You’ll cruise by the waterfront and the legendary Lone Tree and then continue up Waterfall Creek and past Ruby Island and Stevensons Peninsula. This luxury catamaran ride is stocked with both local beer and wine and is the most relaxing and scenic boat tours in Wanaka.
One of the best ways to spend your time in Wanaka is to go skydiving. Opt to choose from 3 different heights, 9,000, 12,000 or 15,000-ft. This tandem jump gives you an indescribable thrill as you freefall for a full minute, reaching speeds of up to 200 kph.
After the chute is pulled you get to experience boundless views of The Southern Alps, Mt. Cook, Mt. Aspiring, and the Clutha River. You can also see Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. Skydiving is one surefire way to get the best of Wanaka sightseeing.
Kayak Lake Wanaka
Head out onto the water in a kayak for a leisurely half or full-day of paddling around the edges of Lake Wanaka for picturesque views, photo opportunities, and a refreshing day in the outdoor air. No kayaking experience is necessary to enjoy the scenery in this incredible part of New Zealand.
Mou Waho Island
Ever wanted to visit an island that’s on a lake that’s on an island that’s on a lake? You read that right! This unique island in New Zealand is filled with rare and exotic birds as well as other non-predatory creatures.
Get to see this island by boarding a luxury catamaran that will transport you over calm waters to this Department of Conservation reserve which is home to the Mountain Stone Weta and the Buff Weka, which have both been extinct on the mainland since the early 1920s.
These are rare creatures to see in Wanaka and your knowledgeable guide will fill you in on all the local legends, stories, facts, and information about the local flora and fauna on the island. Your guide will also take you on a hike throughout the island for some stunning views with some morning tea.
Hit the slopes
Skiing and snowboarding are the best way to spend a winter day in Wanaka. These beautiful mountains are intriguing Wanaka attractions and offer up some of the best ski areas in all of New Zealand. Winter in Wanaka is great, the Southern Alps really shine and there is so much adventure to be had. The snow quality on the South Island is great and makes for the best time for a winter vacation. Cardrona, Treble Cone and Snow Farm are all great mountains whether you are looking for a full day or half-day trek, you’ll have incredible views and get exciting rides as you cruise down the slopes.
Mountain biking is a very popular sport for people seeking adventurous things to do around Wanaka. This tour is even more special in that it takes you by helicopter to the summit of Pisa Range. Before taking off for the ranges, you’ll be weighed and given the proper safety gear and the correct size bike as well as equipment and a safety brief. The helicopter will then drop you and your guide off so you can begin your trek 25km downhill. Your guide stays behind you and gives you pointers and tips as you navigate the trails back down.
Mount Aspiring National Park
The Aspiring National Park is an absolute Wanaka must-see. This beautiful park was named in honor of Mount Aspiring which is one of New Zealand’s highest peaks. It is a magical wonderland for hikers and bikers and hitchhikers alike. With numerous hikes and treks to do in the park there are always people looking for new hiking friends. The most popular treks are The Rob Roy Glacier Trek, The Routeburn Track, The Blue Pools Walk, and the Greenstone & Caples Track. Spending time in the park is one of the best things to do in Wanaka.
There are so many places to see in Wanaka, you can truly find any adventure you seek. This great town must be on your travel itinerary while on your visit to New Zealand’s picturesque southern island.
When the weather gets moody, head over to Puzzling World for an afternoon of puzzles and fun for the whole family or for adults to embrace their inner child. With a maze and other rooms filled with tricks and challenges, this is an entertaining way to spend some time between adventurous activities.
Explore the Restore Thriftstore
The Restore Thriststore is organized chaos. When making your way into Wanaka, this should be your first stop. Needless to say, despite following the best travel tips, we all still forget to pack things, or need items we didn’t even think about. This place literally has anything you could ever be looking for.
Want to go snowboarding, and need some gear? Stop here! Need some hiking boots and a better rain jacket? This is your place too! Mountain bikes, books, summer stuff, winter stuff, sports gear and more can all be found at Restore and for really good prices! This place is massive with inside and outside areas and they also take donations if you are leaving town and need to ditch anything.
Continue planning your trip to New Zealand!
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