Wanka is a small town located roughly 1 hr outside of Queenstown. It is the perfect place to get away from the hustle of Queenstown and to get out into nature! This town is a popular destination for both tourists and locals. It is well worth spending at least a few days here to explore what’s on offer.
I had 3 incredible days in Wanaka, this list contains a serious of hikes and activities that I did, as well as others which I which I had time for.
Table of Contents
1. Hike Roy’s Peak
A trip to Wanaka wouldn’t be complete without hiking the best day hike! This hike is a 16km return track, with steep ascends and descents. It can be completed by anyone of any fitness, as the trail is easy to follow and well graded. Give yourself anywhere between 5-8hrs to complete this hike.
2. Hike Sawyer Burn hut OR Sentinel Peak
Both these hikes start in the same place, at Kidds Bush Reserve. Each trail is completely different and requires different levels of experience and fitness.
If you want a trail which is easy to follow, has some steep ascents/descents, is well marked yet still offers beautiful views over the surrounding landscapes. Hike the Sawyer Burn hut. If you want something a bit more adventures, have hiking experience and can follow backcountry trails, Sentinel Peak is for you.
Before attempting Sentinel Peak, please read my blog about my experience. You shouldn’t attempt this hike if you are inexperienced.
3. Go on a Helicopter ride
Wanaka offer plenty of scenic helicopter flights. If you’ve ever been to Wanaka, you know how beautiful is from below, imagine it from above!
A helicopter flight will cost you anywhere between $150-$800NZD, depending on which route you take, duration and which company.
4. Hike Mt Iron for sunset
Mt Iron is a 1hr round trip hike, located in the middle of Wanaka. This hike can be completed by anyone with any fitness levels. At the summit you will be rewarded with beautiful view over the town and the distant landscapes.
5. See the famous Wanaka Tree
A trip to Wanaka wouldn’t be complete without visiting the famous Wanaka Tree. This spot is very popular with photographers. Although there isn’t really much to do besides stop and look at this tree (which is a tree coming out of the lake), it’s still worth doing if you have some spare time.
6. Explore the waterfalls of Mt Aspiring National Park
These waterfalls are only a short walk from the carpark and are beautiful! Fantail Falls and Thunder creek Falls are on the road leading into Wanaka from the west coast. They are both well worth stopping for and completing the short walk.
7. Hike to the Liverpool Hut
This was hike I was supposed to do, but unfortunately couldn’t, due to the road conditions leading the Raspberry Flat Carpark. This is a 15km one way hike, which offers outstanding views over the Mt Aspiring National Park. This hike will take you anywhere between 5-8hrs one way.
Liverpool Hut is a vibrant red colour and said to have some of the best views out of all the huts in New Zealand. Hiking during winter is completely different to hiking during summer, so alpine snow hiking experience will be required.
This hut is very popular, so its recommend that you book in advance. Make sure you check the road conditions of the road before leaving. There are a few fords which need to be crossed, and after heavy rainfall will make it impassable to any cars which aren’t 4X4. You can also organise a shuttle bus, but I would only recommend this if you had a group as for one person it will be costly.
8. Hike to Rob Roys Glacier
Another hike I wanted to do but couldn’t! This hike leaves from the same carpark as the Liverpool hut. This 10km return track is rated as easy and will take anywhere between 3-4hrs to complete.
The trail follows through a small gorge, beech forest and then onto alpine vegetation. You will be rewarded with good views of Rob Roy Glacier.
9. Swim at Blue Pools
Blue Pools are located roughly 1.5-2hrs outside of Wanaka and would make the perfect swimming spot in summer. These pools are vibrant blue colour, and the walk to and around the pools is only short. You can make this a quick stop on your way to Wanaka or bring a picnic and make it a day trip.
Unfortunately, on the day I was meant to visit, it was raining, and I was told take after/during rain the water gets murky. Therefore, it wasn’t worth visiting and is something I will have to do when I return to New Zealand.
10. Hike Isthmus Peak
This hike come’s in a close second of the most popular day hikes to do in Wanaka. Isthmus Peak is a 16km return trail that overlooks Lake Wānaka and Lake Hāwea, with great views of the Southern Alps.
It is very similar in gradient to Roy’s Peak, but is said to be a lot quieter, with less foot traffic.
11. Hike Rocky Mountain
The Rocky Mountain summit track is a 7km return trail, taking roughly 2-4hrs to complete. You will be rewarded with views of the southern alps and Mt Aspiring. If you are looking for shorter walks, you can complete the Diamond Lake or Lake Wanaka look out trail.
12. Visit Lake Hawea
Only a short drive away from Wanaka, is the vibrant blue Lake Hawea. You most likely drove past this lake coming into Wanaka or will drive past it leaving. There are plenty of viewpoints to stop on the main road. There are also plenty of hikes in this area, from short to long.
13. Walk Around Lake Wanaka
With Several short walks leading around the Lake Wanaka shore line there are plenty to choose from. These easy strolls would make for a great morning or afternoon walk, before heading into the town foreshore to grab some breakfast, or dinner and a pint!
15. Go Canyoning in Mt Aspiring
Canyoning is an activity that involves sliding, climbing, rappelling, and swimming across a canyon. In other words, it’s an adrenaline filled day out!
The canyoning tour in Wanaka, involves a short walk before you must abseil, swim and climb your way through the incredible canyon. You can even complete a cliff jump if you are feeling up to it!
Where to stay in Wanaka?
- For campervans and families: Wanaka TOP 10 Holiday Park
- For budget: Wanaka Backpackers Worthy
- For Glamping: Mt Gold Glamping
- For Luxury: Edgewater hotel
- For hot tubs: Archway Motels and Chalets OR Luxury Secluded Wanaka Escape
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