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Lake Wanaka
-> Map of Lake Wanaka

Wanaka travel tips:

  • Lake Wanaka region Wanaka is a central gateway to the West Coast, Queenstown, Mount Cook and Christchurch
  • The region looks its incredible best on a sunny clear autumn day when the blue water and skies contrast with the yellowish-red leaves of the willow trees
  • After many long hours in the car or campervan this is a great place to get active - Mount Iron is a great first walk with its 360 degree views over the Wanaka valley
  • The Crown Range Road is an exciting route to get to Queenstown
  • The Southern Scenic Route will ultimately take you to Fiordland, the Catlins Coast and Dunedin

The lake is the picture and the mountains are the frame

Lake Wanaka is a place to take a deep breath and relax. Protected from the outside world by the grandeur of the mountains, you’re enclosed in a hidden paradise.

Crystal clear lake waters lap the shores of Wanaka town and the feet of the Southern Alps, which are home to winter ski fields and the dramatically alpine Mount Aspiring National Park. The jewel of the region is its highest point, Mount Aspiring (3,027 metres), which nestles comfortably in one of the country’s largest national parks. Delve inside the park's boundaries and discover a rare world.

Lake Wanaka is New Zealand's fourth largest; its clean, blue waters are an inland sea for sailors and jetboaters to explore. Walking tracks and bridle trails wander the flats and foothills. In all seasons, outdoor adventures beckon.

The region’s fortunes have changed over the years. The discovery of gold in the 1870s inspired a rush of interest in the area. As the gold faded away, high country farming became the main source of employment. Today, tourism is the new gold - an endeavour that requires the environment to stay picture perfect.

Centuries of glacial action crafted Lakes Wanaka and Hawea. Discover their scenic perfection by mountain biking the high trails, paragliding over the hills, sightseeing by air or walking the myriad of tracks.

The Lake Wanaka region is a complete winter sports destination. Cardrona and Treble Cone are classic downhill ski fields, heli skiing happens high in the Harris Mountains and there’s Nordic skiing at the Snow Farm.

See here for hotels in the Lake Wanaka region.

Source: Tourism New Zealand

Highlights of the Lake Wanaka region

  • Lake Hawea: From the West Coast the main road follows this smaller cousin of Lake Wanaka, there is a remote Department of Conservation campsite at the northern shore (Kidds Bush Reserve) and the quiet Hawea village at the southern end.
  • Wanaka: This is often the preferred Southern Lakes destination for visitors who want to avoid the busier Queenstown, still it offers all the amenities of a great tourist centre with dozens of activity providers. You can rent bikes and follow the many lake trails, rent a kayak or jump from a plane. Or just enjoy the gourmet outlets, or rest at the beach and spot the eels and big trout under the wharf. The top short walk here and a must for everyone is a hike up Iron Mountain, it will give you a great orientation of the area and you'll see how much that popular town has grown in recent years.The drive along the western shore is especially rewarding, past Glendhu Bay and - if you dare - up the road to the Treble Cone ski field. On the same shore you can also discover the small Diamond Lake, a popular walk on the side of Rocky Mountain, with wonderful views over Lake Wanaka and the intriguing Diamond Lake itself amidst incredible greenery. For more serious hikers there are plenty more options, like the stunning Rob Roy Glacier Walk.
  • The Crown Range Road: The highest sealed pass in New Zealand (1076 m) links Wanaka with Queenstown within an hour's drive, past the quirky Cardrona village with its old picturesque Cardrona Hotel, full of old alpine European charm and definitely worth a stop. The views over Queenstown during the steep descent from the pass are also very interesting. If you prefer a safer and easier route, due to cold or bad conditions, you can drive via historic Cromwell with its reconstructed goldrush village centre at the river shore, the 'Old Cromwell Town Heritage Precinct'. 

The best Wanaka walks

  • Diamond Lake Circuit Track (45 min return), Wanaka-Mt-Aspiring Road, 12 km west of Wanaka
  • Rob Roy Track - alpine walk with views of the Rob Roy Glacier (3-4 h return), Raspberry Creek car park, end of the Wanaka-Mt-Aspiring Road, 1 h from Wanaka
  • Glendhu Bay Track - meandering lakeshore walk from Wanaka to Glendhu Bay (3-4 h one way), starts at Ardmore Street, Wanaka
  • Isthmus Peak Track (5-6 h return, to 1385 m), south of Stewart Creek, State Highway 6, Lake Hawea
  • Eely Point Track - along the lake from Wanaka centre to Bremner Bay (40 min return)

The best Wanaka lookouts

  • Mount Iron Track (1,5 h return), Wanaka-Luggate Highway, east of Wanaka-Zentrum
  • Diamond Lake Lookout (1 h return), Wanaka-Mt-Aspiring Road, 12 km west of Wanaka
  • Treble Cone Road, Wanaka-Mt-Aspiring Road
  • Crown Range Road, great views on the Queenstown side

The best Wanaka museums

  • National Transport & Toy Museum, State Highway 6, at the airport, Wanaka
  • Warbirds & Wheels, Wanaka Airport

Map of the Lake Wanaka region

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