A little lakefront town backdropped by the stunning Southern Alps; the town of Wanaka should be on every New Zealand bucket list. While often referred to as Queenstown’s little brother, Wanaka itself is a destination well worth the visit. This is a complete guide to visiting Wanaka, including things to do, places to stay and costs.
Things to do in Wanaka (year-round)
Visit the Wanaka tree
No visit to Wanaka is complete without snapping a shot of #thatwanakatree. The lonely tree is said to be one of the most photographed in New Zealand and makes for a gorgeous photo op.
Puzzling World is a unique attraction home to all things “weird”. Boasting a collection of bizarre buildings, optical illusions and 3D maze, Puzzling World is super family-friendly and a fun activity for everyone to enjoy.
Wanaka Lavender Farm
Wanaka Lavender Farm is only a short drive from the town and well worth visiting. Here you can experience 15 acres of beautiful lavender fields, meet friendly farm animals and explore a number of display gardens. You can also try some herbal tea or lavender ice-cream and sample a number of lavender products.
Queenstown may have been crowned the adventure capital of the world, however thrillseekers can still get their adrenaline pumping in Wanaka. Some of your options include skydiving, canyoning, paragliding, horse riding and jetboating.
Things to do in Wanaka in winter
Skiing and snowboarding
Wanaka is internationally recognised as one of the best ski and snowboard destinations in the world, so a trip to Wanaka in winter wouldn’t be complete without a day on the mountain. Treble Cone is Wanaka’s closest ski hill, and New Zealand largest ski area, offering groomed runs, backcountry tracks, incredible panoramic views of Wanaka Lake and the Southern Alps.
Snow Farm in the Cardrona Valley offers a number of activities, including dog sledding, which is truly an exhilarating experience. You can choose between driving yourself or sitting back and enjoying the ride while an experienced musher takes the helm.
Wanaka’s snowy terrain has a number of trails to explore and is suitable for all skills and fitness levels. Snowshoeing is a great way to enjoy the snow and alpine scenery away from the busy slopes. Treble Cone offers snowshoeing tours, for those who don’t want to ski or snowboard.
Tobogganing and tubing
Even if you’re not a skier or snowboarder, you can still enjoy the slopes. Tobogganing and tubing are both lots of fun and the perfect break from a long day of skiing.
Things to do in Wanaka in summer
Wanaka has over 750km of walking and hiking tracks that are some of the best in New Zealand. The Roys Peak Track is one of the most popular, taking 5-6 hours and covering 16km. The hike provides breathtaking views of Lake Wanaka and the surrounding mountains, making the journey well worth the trek.
A great way to explore Wanaka, especially during summer, is by bike. There are a number of bike tracks to choose from, both on and off road, meaning you can choose whether to ride gently along the lakefront or adventure through the backcountry.
A trip to Wanaka in summer is not complete without enjoying the two nearby lakes: Lake Hawea and of course, Lake Wanaka. There are a number of water activities to explore the lakes, including kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, jetboating, jet skiing, fishing and boat cruising.
Day trips from Wanaka
Some of the best day trips from Wanaka include:
- Central Otago Wineries
- Mt Aspiring National Park
- Lake Tekapo
- Mt Cook
- Kawarau Gorge
- Skippers Canyon
Getting to Wanaka
The closest airport to Wanaka is Queenstown Airport, which serves a number of domestic destinations, as well as international flights to and from Australia. Queenstown Airport is a scenic one hour drive from Wanaka.
InterCity bus lines operate daily Queenstown to Wanaka buses with fares as low as $1. Alternatively, you can hire a car from Queenstown Airport and make the drive yourself or arrange a private transfer.
You can search for accommodation in Wanaka below.
Wanaka is home to several accommodation options for backpackers including YHA. You can search for backpacker options using the search box above.
Wanaka Travel Costs
$ – Expect to pay around $30NZD + for a bed in a hostel dorm room.
$$ – Expect to pay $70NZD + for a basic Airbnb.
$$$ – Expect to pay $80NZD + for a basic hotel room, though $100-$150NZD is more typical, and upwards from there.
Expect to pay $5 for a takeaway coffee and $15-$25 for a meal in a restaurant. Wanaka has one main supermarket, New World, so to save on food you can buy your own groceries and cook your own meals.
You can pick up a hire car at Queenstown Airport for as little as $19NZD per day or a campervan for a little as $46NZD day.
Petrol prices in New Zealand are high. Expect a litre of unleaded petrol to cost approximately $2.20NZD at a minimum, meaning it will cost at least $70 to fill a small car and more for a campervan.
For help creating your travel budget, click here.
Planning a trip to New Zealand
If you are in the process of planning your trip to New Zealand, this article will tell you EVERYTHING you need to know about visas, flights, accommodation, budgeting, travel insurance and more.
Arrange travel insurance for New Zealand
You will no doubt be participating in adventure activities in Wanaka, so ensure that you arrange travel insurance before your trip. I recommend World Nomads. If you aren’t sure whether you should get insurance or not, read this.
Traveling to other New Zealand destinations?
Click here to browse other New Zealand travel resources.