Wanaka is a cute little lakeside town sitting adjacent to Lake Wanaka in the Central Otago region in the central south of the South Island. This is where the lake drains into the Clutha River which empties into the Pacific near Dunedin and Wanaka is also the gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park, part of the World Heritage listed Fiordland.
Nestled among the Southern Alps it is accessed from the West Coast via Haast Pass and it lies at the northern end of the Central Otago wine region just one hour from Queenstown. Originally a service town during the gold rush years Wanaka is now a resort town servicing the nearby ski-fields in the winter and the national parks, lakes and rivers in the summer.
As well as the skiing and lake activities – kayaks, jetboats, wakeboarding etc – there are many wineries in the surrounding districts and Central Otago is home to arguably the best pinot noir in New Zealand among other aromatic varietals.
There are over 100 producers between Wanaka and Queenstown with Cromwell as the hub including many cellar doors and restaurants. Wanaka is also home to Paradiso Cinema a unique cinema where you can watch a different film every session from the comfort of a sofa, a recliner or even a converted car.
You’ll also find Puzzling World in Wanaka home to an eccentric series of mazes and optical illusions popular with children and adults alike.
Wanaka is a great base to explore Mt Aspiring National Park either via road or by air (Siberia Experience) and there you’ll find many different walks varying from a few hours to a few days. there are hunting opportunities in the high country too.
The Rob Roy glacier which offers some wonderful views of the Alps is a half day walk and there are several ghost towns, remnants of the gold rush, for the more adventurous to explore. Further afield the Clyde dam – one of NZ’s biggest hydro-electric projects is of interest to the engineer.