Lake Wanaka is just over an hour’s drive from Queenstown and is home to the township of Wanaka. Day trips to this neighbouring town were a highlight of my time on the South Island. Whatever you’re into, there’s an activity to please most people in this charming little place. Here’s my top 4 things to do:
That Wanaka Tree
My first suggestion for Instagrammers is a short trip from the lakefront car park to the left around into Roy’s Bay where you can snap a ready-made likes machine with little or no effort on your part. Naturally, the tree changes with the seasons, but I’m yet to visit it on an unphotogenic day. Around 80 years ago, the Wanaka Tree began life as a fence post before it found fame as a symbol of determination. Tree, fencepost, tourist trap, whatever you want to call it – it’s beautiful.
Read more about the Wanaka Tree here.
This little gem in Wanaka CBD is quite possibly my favourite…a boutique cinema showing a range of brand new blockbuster films and old classics.
Tickets are $15 for adults and a little less for kids & seniors. Ring up and book via telephone before you arrive to avoid disappointment – the showings get booked up super fast and you can simply pay on arrival.
As you trudge into the cinema, expecting an exceedingly average rainy day activity to ensue, you will be very pleasantly surprised. Join the queue to pay for your ticket, peruse the menu and select your film snacks. This could be anything from nachos and popcorn to a piping hot coffee, a glass of pinot noir and a luxurious cheeseboard. Anything that takes a little prep will be brought into the cinema for you.
The actual screen rooms are something to behold. I challenge you to find a regulation cinema seat in Paradiso…Instead you will find an old classic car in which you can park your bottom, a vast selection of comfy well-worn sofas and armchairs, aeroplane seats, benches, bean bags and pretty much any other type of chair than the ones you’d expect.
The films show on fantastic big screens, with a sound system picked out by Peter Jackson himself – (Paradiso bought the audio system used at the Lord of The Rings Premiere at an auction and installed it in their cinemas.)
The final flourish comes at half time, when the film is paused at a convenient spot, and the customers file out of the room to collect an enormous cookie that has been baking during the first half, ready to munch in the intermission. A great activity and a credit to NZ’s laid back attitude to leisure.
If you’re trying to pick from the multitude of bars and cafes along the waterfront and are a little indecisive, I’ll make the choice a little easier. Kai whakapai, a favourite with Wanaka locals serves great drinks, strong coffee and delicious cakes, as well as an extensive bar menu. It also looks out onto the lake – what’s not to like?
If you’re not big into hiking, don’t bother reading any further. However, my suspicions are that if you’re a big New Zealand fan, you might well be interested in the walks this region has to offer. Having already summited Ben Lomond (post to follow soon) in Queenstown twice, I set my sights a little further afield to Roy’s Peak in Wanaka, standing at 1578 m in Mount Aspiring national park. The start of the walk begins at a little car park just outside of Wanaka township, past Roy’s Bay and the Wanaka Tree.
The official site say it’s a 5-6 hour return. If you’re reasonably fit, you’ll do it in considerably less. It’s not a technical climb and there’s not the same horrendous incline as in the last leg of the Ben Lomond track, but its still a solid angle the entire way. The ascent took just over two hours, and the descent around 1 hr 40 mins.
Make sure you bring your camera. The view at the top was the highlight of my NZ photography, and possibly my whole trip. Queueing to take the photograph seems a little surreal at the top of a mountain, but it’s to be expected: it is absolutely breathtaking.
Make sure you have well-worn in boots for this one. Dare I say it, I think walking down was actually worse than walking up…