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Only a short trip from Queenstown, Wanaka perfectly complements its vibrant neighbour, offering innumerable possibilities for nature lovers and pioneers.

An alpine town in a stunning setting, and the easy-going sibling of vivacious Queenstown, Wanaka marries small-town accessibility with high standards worthy of its international resort town status. Visitors can expect a warm welcome from the friendly locals who are always happy to share their little slice of heaven. Ski there in winter, hike in Mt Aspiring National Park in autumn, spring or summer, take it in from above on a scenic flight, or go out and explore award-winning vineyards, famous for Pinot Gris.

Table of Contents
  1. About Wanaka
  2. Best Time to Visit Wanaka & Central Otago
  3. Tours & Holidays

About Wanaka

Just 50 minutes drive from Queenstown over the magnificent Crown Range, Wanaka perfectly complements its vibrant neighbour. Indeed the name Wanaka translates from Maori as “renewal of the soul”.

The town is set on the southern shore of the lake across from Mount Aspiring, the centrepiece of Mount Aspiring National Park. The park features a multitude of different landforms: hanging valleys, lake basins and some one 100 glaciers of different shapes and sizes. It offers innumerable possibilities for nature lovers and pioneers.

Downtown there’s a pretty shopping village with a wide variety of ambient areas to eat and relax. The fishing is superb, there’s a multitude of adventure activities on offer and anywhere you walk you’ll find breathtaking scenery and wide open spaces.

Lake Wanaka and town

Best Time to Visit Wanaka & Central Otago

Summer (Dec-Feb)

Tourists have flocked to this region for summer holidays since the 1880’s. While the attractions of clear waters, fresh air and breathtaking scenery haven’t changed, the list of activities means there’s plenty to entertain over the summer season.

Daytime temperatures hover between 20 – 30°C (mid 70°s – 90°F). At latitude 45° south, the summer days are long – midsummer dawn is as early as 5am while dusk settles around 10pm.

Come late December, Queenstown, Arrowtown, Lake Wanaka and Te Anau move into holiday mode as New Zealanders settle into their favourite resort towns for the annual break. Others prefer the laid back style and scorching temperatures of Central Otago. Several typically New Zealand events are staged at this time offering the opportunity for international visitors to mingle with the annual influx of New Zealand holidaymakers. Summertime is high season for the walking tracks. Bookings are essential for the Milford, Routeburn (guided and independent options) and Kepler (independent only) tracks.

Autumn (Mar-May)

A luxurious and relaxed time with a backdrop of brilliant reds and golds of the autumn leaf fall. Walk, horse ride, go wine tasting or goldpanning. Known for stable, clear weather it’s a great time to holiday in the Southern Lakes. Warm days allow for most daytime summertime pursuits and you’ll enjoy occasional balmy evenings. Come sunset and you’ll relish fireside evenings.

Temperatures fluctuate between several degrees below zero and 25°C (32°F – 77°F), so pack a few layers, including t-shirts. Leaves normally begin to turn in late March or early April. By the end of the month fall colours are in full swing. Take a walk along the banks of the Arrow River to fully appreciate the vibrant backdrop.

Winter (Jun-Aug)

A magical season of snow capped mountains and clear blue skies. Six snow areas, with an après ski culture to match, promise a fantastic winter holiday. The town is alive with the happy sounds of people reliving the day’s skiing. International visitors rub shoulders with locals, united in their passion for snow sport. Dress warmly – winter temperatures seldom reach higher than 7° C and often fall below zero.

The snowfields open from early June, and a good season generally runs well into October. Get to grips with the basics of snow sports, take to the piste or throw down freestyle tricks at six different ski fields, all a comfortable driving distance from Queenstown.

Chilled out or adventure central, this four season resort has heaps to do – choose from relaxation, high energy pursuits, art, culture, wining and dining, shopping, or adrenaline stirring activity. Arrowtown is a delightful day trip, and from Glenorchy experience the tranquillity of Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks.

Spring (Sep-Nov)

Stretch out as the trails, golf courses and gardens defrost and bloom. Fresh clean air, warm daytime temperatures, cool evenings and a time when the skiing is often at its best. Restaurant tables creep on to the sidewalks and the beaches fill with people enjoying warm late afternoon sunshine. Sit in a café and people watch, browse the markets and shops, hike the hillside trails, take in the new colours and scents, reawaken adrenaline with adventure. Plan to dress in layers for rapid weather changes as equinox winds and sudden, quick showers regularly refresh the landscape and air between hot sunny periods.

Weather is unpredictable, sublime one moment, spring showers the next. Temperatures span 8°Celsius to 22°Celsius (48°F to 75°F). A great time to take a garden tour. You’ll find an astonishing range of bulbs, annuals and perennials creating colourful displays as a prelude to the more showy blooms of summer. The high alpine tracks are just open. Early in the season is a relaxed and unhurried time to walk in the mountains.

In Central Otago, the hills are mauve with flowering herbs, particularly wild thyme – a great time to wander the vast and scented landscape. The low lying river fishing season opens on October 1. The alpine river fishing season opens on November 2. Low lying rivers are generally described as those flowing out of the great lakes, the alpine are those flowing in.

Group biking, Wanaka

Tours & Holidays