22nd January 2023

If you’re looking for a relaxed holiday set amongst the mountains, Wanaka may be the perfect choice for you.  Often pitched as the quieter version of Queenstown, just a short stay in Wanaka will show you why this town stands alone as a destination of choice for so many.  The hiking in and around Wanaka will leave you speechless (and at times breathless!) with some of the most Instagram-worthy day hikes in the country in the vicinity, and Mt Aspiring National Park nearby. 

The laid-back vibe of the locals is contagious, and it is a fantastic choice for a peaceful ‘recharge’ holiday, but there are still adventure activities available to keep you entertained throughout your stay.  Where Wanaka really shines is in the Winter months, boasting the largest ski field in the South Island (Treble Cone) and one of the most family-friendly ski fields in the country (Cardrona).

Wanaka Highlights

  • Postcard-worthy views
  • World-class hiking
  • Winter ski fields
  • Extensive biking trail networks
  • Boutique vineyards and cellar doors
  • Relaxed vibe

Wanaka in Summer

Summer in Wanaka is all about the lake!  Hang out by the beach for an alfresco picnic, take a dip to cool off on hot summer days, wander or bike one of the lakeside trails or simply pick a lakeside establishment to sip on something cool and enjoy the water views.  A number of beautiful boutique vineyards are dotted around the area and are a fantastic choice for an indulgent afternoon tickling your tastebuds.  Summer is a great time to enjoy scenic helicopter flights over the nearby Mt Aspiring National Park or a kiwi-classic jet boat ride on one of the local rivers.  If making the most of the long warm days to head out for a hike, our top tip is to skip the ultra-famous Roy’s Peak (where you’ll often have to queue at the top for a picture) and opt for an alternative trail that will be less congested.

Wanaka in Autumn

Autumn in Wanaka is a photographer’s dream destination!  The turning of the leaves paired with glowing sunrises creates unbeatable scenes, and a stroll in the crisp Autumn morning air is enough to start any day off just right.  Enjoy a blissfully slow pace of life, browse the local boutique stores, sip warm coffee next to an open fireplace, and connect with the local community. Warbirds Over Wanaka is a popular bi-annual airshow, dubbed as the biggest airshow in the Southern Hemisphere, which draws in huge crowds to Wanaka every other year – be sure to book in advance is you are visiting town for this spectacle.

Wanaka in Winter

Wanaka is a world-class winter destination, and you’ll often find international athletes choosing the Wanaka mountains as their training ground between the Northern-hemisphere winters.  Cardrona is a great family-friendly mountain with huge wide-open groomed trails for beginner to intermediate skiers as well as some really fun advanced terrain.  Treble-Cone is better suited to intermediate to advanced skiers, with steeper terrain, and long leg-burning trails.  Both mountains are within 40 minutes drive from the town center.  Heli-skiing is abundant in the surrounding mountains, so if you want to explore the backcountry, talk to us about Wanaka heliskiing options.  Heliskiing is available to anyone who can ski at an intermediate or above level (ie – tackling blue runs on a ski field), and the terrain of your heliski will be determined by your ability level.

Wanaka in Spring

Spring is a great time to get the best of both sides of Wanaka – the ski fields are still open until early October, and the longer and warmer days mean you can get out and about wandering the trails and enjoying the Spring sunshine.  Spring is a fantastic time to hire a bike and take a ride on the Millennium trail, which will take you out to the west of Wanaka towards Glendhu Bay.  In true Wanaka style, the pace is slow in Spring, and your days will be filled with fresh mountain air and pops of bright vibrant Spring colours in the great outdoors.

Accessing Wanaka

60 minutes from Queenstown Airport (ZQN) via car.  Wanaka connects by road to the West Coast, Central Otago, Queenstown, and South Canterbury.

Wanaka Busy Periods

During these dates, when the town fills with visitors, it will pay to plan ahead and book early to avoid disappointment:

  • Christmas and New Year
  • Warbirds Over Wanaka Event
  • Winter School Holidays

MajorDomo’s Top Pick of Restaurants

A selection of some of our favourite places to dine out for a special treat:

  • Francesca’s
  • Bistro Gentil
  • Kota
  • Big Fig
  • Minaret Mountain Kitchen

Popular Local Activities

There are a number of popular local activities to enjoy in Wanaka – some of the most popular are:

  • Wild Wire Via Ferrata
  • Scenic Helicopter Flights
  • Jet Boating
  • Mou Wahu Island 
  • Heliskiing

Popular day hikes

With an abundance of day hikes around the local area, we suggest popping into the local Department of Conservation office when you arrive to discuss the current status of tracks and which would be best suited to your fitness level.  Some of the more popular day hikes include:

  • Town to Waterfall Creek (low fitness level required)
  • Outlet Track (low to moderate fitness level required)
  • Rob Roy Glacier (moderate fitness level required)
  • Mt Isthmus (high fitness level required)

Ready to start Planning your Wanaka Holiday?

If you’d like some help planning a Wanaka holiday, you can browse our luxury Wanaka properties here or contact us now to discuss your needs and we’ll do all the hard work for you.

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