Free Things to Do in Wanaka (and Some Cheap Stuff Too)
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have an awesome time in Wanaka. With heaps of walks, photo opportunities and some affordable attractions, there are certainly some places where you can stretch your dollars further with these free and cheap things to do in Wanaka.
When staying in Wanaka, try to use backpacker hostels, campgrounds and lodges to save money on accommodation. We list our favourites in the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Wanaka and 5 Best Backpacker Hostels in Wanaka. And for more ways to save money when travelling around New Zealand in general, be sure to check out our tips like 11 Ways to Save Money in New Zealand and 11 Tips to Save Money on Food.
1. Take a Picture of #ThatWanakaTree – FREE
Ok, just get it out of your system! This is your time to shine as the best photographer out of all your friends on Instagram. Whether it’s raining or the sun is shining, it’s impossible to take a bad photo of #ThatWanakaTree.
Location: From the west end of town, walk to Stony Creek along the lakeshore.
2. Hike Roys Peak – FREE
Those views as you reach the summit of Roys Peak are something to cherish forever! Walk through exposed grasslands and tussock hills and zigzag to the 1,578m (5,177ft) summit. That’s a full day only costing 6 kilometres’ worth of fuel! (Hitchhike for cheaper results!)
Location: The Roys Peak Track car park is on Wanaka Mount Aspiring Road, approximately 6km (4 miles) from Wanaka town centre.
3. Walk or Cycle Around Lake Wanaka – FREE
Walking tracks are plentiful around Lake Wanaka. It’s just a case of walking for as long as you like then returning the same way. From the town, head east to reach the likes of Eely Point, Beacon Point then meet up with a track taking you down the Clutha River. Alternatively, follow the lake from the west end of town to Stony Creek, then Waterfall Creek and beyond. Of course, walking is free, but if you want to explore a little further, hire a bike from your hostel or budget accommodation, which tends to be a little bit cheaper than hiring from a bike store in town.
Location: Start from either Wanaka Lakefront, Beacon Point Road or Ruby Island Road.
4. Boggle Your Mind at Puzzling World – CHEAP
Illusions, puzzles, giant mazes, tricks and freaky stuff: Stuart Landsborough’s Puzzling World never has a dull moment. Try to get your bearings in a tilted room, try to figure out the giant maze, and don’t forget to visit the bathrooms! What’s more, for an activity that is around NZ$25, you can consider it great value for money! Get your admission ticket to Puzzling World on Klook, Viator or Tripadvisor.
Location: 188 Wanaka-Luggate Highway, approximately 2km (1.2 miles) from Wanaka town centre.
5. Hike Up Mt Iron – FREE
After you are done exploring Puzzling World, across the road is the entrance to the Mt Iron loop walk. A hike up this glacier-carved rocky knoll will reward you with awesome views of Wanaka and its surrounding mountains. The walk is a 1h30min loop.
Location: The Mt Iron car park is well-signposted off State Highway 84 just as you leave Wanaka. Find it on the opposite side of the road to Puzzling World, approximately 2km (1.2 miles) from Wanaka town centre.
6. Visit Wanaka Lavender Farm – CHEAP
The vibrant fields of lavender make another awesome free photo opportunity in Wanaka. Walk through the lavender fields, interact with the farm animals, play a game in their gardens and treat yourself to lavender ice cream. That’s an afternoon that’s well spent (and inexpensive) in Wanaka! Admission is NZ$5-$10 per adult and NZ$2-$5 per child, depending on the season. See more family-friendly activities like this in the 16 Things to Do in Wanaka with Kids.
Location: 36 Morris Road, approximately 4.5km (2.8 miles) from Wanaka Town Centre.
7. Play Disc Golf – CHEAP
It’s disc golf with a lake and mountain view. What more could you want? Hire a disc golf disc from one of the outdoor stores in town (usually about NZ$5) and hit the 18-net course in Lismore Park or the more technical 9-net course at Eely Point. It is free to play at the course but buying/renting discs is cheap.
Location: Lismore Park – between Lismore Street and Plantation Road, Wanaka town centre. Eely Point – Lakeside Road, approximately 2km (1.2 miles) from Wanaka town centre.
8. Go to the Artisan Market – FREE
Every New Zealand town has one and Wanaka is no exception! Treat yourself to some local produce at the Wanaka Artisan Market, held year-round on Thursdays from 3pm to 6pm. See more tasty activities in the 10 Foodie Experiences in Wanaka.
Location: Alongside Bullock Creek, between the Speights Ale House and Francesca’s Italian Kitchen.
9. Hang Out by the Lakefront – FREE
With that view, the lakefront of Wanaka town is not a bad place to be. Get a photo on the jetty, drink some craft beer at the lakefront bars, go for a swim in summer, use the barbecue facilities… The opportunities are endless!
Location: Wanaka lakefront along Admore Street, Wanaka town centre.
10. Go to a Hipster Cinema – CHEAP
Wanaka is blessed with two cool and quirky cinemas which are far from your normal cinema experience. Cinema Paradiso offers a homely feel with freshly-baked cookies to buy during the interval, while Ruby’s Cinema has a theme of vintage class. What’s more, movies are under NZ$20 making it a cheap thing to do in Wanaka. See more date night experiences like this in the 10 Most Romantic Things to Do in Wanaka for Couples.
Location: Cinema Paradiso – 72 Brownston Street. Ruby’s Cinema – 50 Cardrona Valley Road.
11. Scout Out Wanaka’s Best Swimming Spots – FREE
We’ve already touched on the lakefront in Wanaka but there are many more stunning bays and swimming spots to discover. Of Course, the Lakefront Beach has a pontoon and a wharf to jump off, while another excellent swimming spot can be found at Glendhu Bay.
Location: Lakefront Beach – Wanaka town centre. Glendhu Bay – Wanaka Mount Aspiring Road, approximately 14.5km (9 miles) from Wanaka town centre.
12. Take a Road Trip Down Haast Pass (and See the Blue Pools) – FREE
One of the great road trips from Lake Wanaka is down Haast Pass. Passing through the wild mountainous landscape of the Mt Aspiring National Park, there are many incredible sights to see along the way for free. Stop by the Blue Pools of Haast for an hour walk to a vibrant blue river. Thunder Creek Falls, Fantail Falls and Roaring Billy are awesome waterfall photo stops to see on the Haast road too.
Location: State Highway 6 between Makarora and Haast, approximately 64km (40 miles) from Wanaka.
13. Hike the Rob Roy Track – FREE
Another fantastic hike in the Wanaka area is the Rob Roy Track (not to be confused with Roy’s Peak). Get stuck into hiking in rugged alpine landscapes complete with glaciers, snowfields, waterfalls and sheer cliffs. The one-way track takes about 3-4 hours to make the return trip on what’s described as a relatively easy hike. It’s one of the must-do hikes that we mention in the 25 Best Things to Do in Wanaka.
Location: 54km (33.5 miles) from Wanaka on Wanaka Mount Aspiring Road. Start from the Raspberry Creek car park.
14. Stop By the Cardrona Bra Fence – FREE
On your way between Queenstown and Wanaka stop by one of the weirdest free attractions we have on this list of free and cheap things to do in Wanaka! The Cardrona Bra Fence, or “Bradrona”, offers a spectacular array of boulder-holders on, well, a fence.
Location: 2125 Cardrona Valley Road, approximately 23km (14 miles) from Wanaka town centre.
15. Challenge Your Travel Mate or Family to Archery, Mini Golf and More at Crossfire – CHEAP
Depending on what activities you do and how much (or little) you do, Crossfire can certainly be classed as a cheap thing to do in Wanaka. Archery, a golf driving range, a rifle range, claybird shooting and mini golf: it’s all here for competing with your travel crew and trying some unique sports. Prices range from NZ$10 to NZ$55. Find out more about Crossfire on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: Mount Barker Road, approximately 9km (5.5 miles) from Wanaka town centre.
16. See More than 60,000 Toys at the National Transport & Toy Museum – CHEAP
An attraction that impresses all ages, The National Transport & Toy Museum is one of the largest collections of vehicles, aircraft and toys in, not just New Zealand, but the world! There’s something for everyone here with more than 60,000 toys and adult-sized pedal cars for “big kids” to play on. Have a go on the military guns, pretend that your driving a car from yesteryears, and enjoy a picnic by the children’s playground. Adult admission is under NZ$20, while kids aged 5+ is around NZ$5, and under 5s get in free. For more family-friendly attractions, check out the 16 Things to Do in Wanaka with Kids.
Location: 891 Wanaka-Luggate Highway, RD 2, approximately 9km (5.5 miles) from Wanaka town centre.
17. Let the Kids Loose at the Wanaka Dinosaur Park – FREE
On the subject of family holidays to Wanaka, don’t deprive kids of a play session at the Wanaka Dinosaur Park. The playground with a fun dinosaur theme is right on the lakefront of Wanaka town, featuring plenty of apparatus to wear the little ones out!
Location: The playground can be accessed off Ardmore Street or off Lakeside Road.
18. Hit the Climbing Walls at Wanaka Basecamp – CHEAP
Fun for all ages, Wanaka Basecamp is a Clip n’ Climb indoor climbing wall that’s ideal for an active thing to do on a rainy day. The automatic belay systems allow for even newbies to climb safely and independently on the many individually themed climbing walls. Race up the “Dark Tower” wall with UV holds or one of the many crazy colourful challenges.
Location: 50 Cardrona Valley Road, approximately 2km (1.2 miles) from Wanaka town centre.
19. Pick Up Some Sweet Treats at One of the Speciality Stores – CHEAP
If you have a bit of a sweet tooth, Wanaka is certainly an excellent place to try some naughty treats. Get a selection of artisan chocolates from Patagonia Chocolates, indulge in homemade gelato at Black Peak Gelato and stop by the Charlie Brown Crepes food truck for sweet and savoury French crepes on the go.
Location: Patagonia Chocolates – 155 Ardmore Street. Black Peak Gelato – 5/123 Ardmore Street. Charlie Brown Crepes – 77/79 Brownston Street.
20. Take a Trip to Queenstown – FREE/CHEAP
Finally, if you are really not interested in the 19 free and cheap things to do in Wanaka listed above, then maybe it’s time to move onto Queenstown. Don’t worry, you don’t have to spend much to enjoy there either, especially with the 20 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Queenstown.
Location: Cardrona Valley Road then Crown Range Road, approximately 69km (43 miles) from Wanaka.
More Things to Do in Wanaka
That’s it for our ultimate list of the free and cheap things to do in Wanaka but by no means the end of our Wanaka advice. Check out more experiences in the following guides:
- 25 Best Things to Do in Wanaka
- Wanaka – Guide for Backpackers
- The Foodie Guide to Wanaka
- The Travel Guide to Wanaka for Families
- The Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Wanaka
- The Luxury Travel Guide to Wanaka