What to Do in Wanaka
Wanaka might be a small town, but its home to some big activities. Not only that, but the variety in experiences is vast, from adrenaline-pumping skydives to relaxing wine-tasting tours. Whether you’re a budgeting backpacker or a luxury traveller, a couple on a romantic getaway or a family with young kids, there’s something to suit all types of travellers visiting the picturesque lakeside town of Wanaka! Check out some of our top recommendations in this list of things to do in Wanaka.
1. Hike Up Roys Peak
For the active travellers or budgeting backpacker, challenge yourself to a day of hiking up to Roys Peak. Those views as you reach the summit something to cherish forever! Walk through exposed grasslands and tussock hills and zigzag to the 1,578m summit. What’s more, that’s a full day only costing 6km-worth of fuel from Wanaka! Find the Roys Peak Track car park along the Mt Aspiring Road. For more activities like this, see 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Wanaka.
2. Experience Breathtaking Scenery on Horseback
Explore the stunning landscapes surrounding Wanaka on horseback with The Cardrona. Head out into the New Zealand countryside to see historical places, pass through a working cattle station, traverse rivers and soak in the marvellous vistas of alpine valleys. The horse trek includes a stop by the historic Cardrona Hotel for a complimentary beverage before returning back to the stables along the picturesque Cardrona River. See more amazing horse treks around the country in 11 Awesome Horse Treks in New Zealand.
3. Hit the Ski Fields
If you’re visiting Wanaka in New Zealand winter, don’t miss out on hitting the slopes! Seasoned skiers need only get a lift pass and rental hire for Cardrona or the Treble Cone ski fields, which you can learn more about in The 24 Ski Fields in New Zealand. On the other hand, first-timers can pick up a “First-Timer Package” at Cardrona Alpine Resort, which includes two beginner lessons, a lift pass and rental gear. Alternatively, Cardrona offers a Gondola Sightseeing Passes where you can still spend the day in the snow without having to ski. At the other ski field, Treble Cone, you get the opportunity to learn and hone your skills over three days with the Treble Cone Learn to Ski 3-Day Package. The package includes small-group lessons, a lift pass for the entire three days, and gear rentals.
4. Land on a Glacier in a Helicopter
Reach some of Wanaka’s most stunning areas by taking a scenic helicopter flight. The 35-minute helicopter flight with Aspiring Helicopters flies from the Matukituki Valley, just outside of Wanaka, to a 7,000ft-long glacier in the Mt Aspiring National Park. Along the way, you’ll get a birds-eye-view of majestic mountains and learn about this UNESCO World Heritage Area from your pilot. Find more premium experiences like this in 10 Luxury Activities in Wanaka.
5. Delve into the Wilderness of the Mt Aspiring National Park by Jet Boat
Experience an iconic New Zealand invention, the jet boat, for the very reason it was incepted: to follow the South Island’s shallow rivers into the remote wilderness. Do just that on the Wanaka River Journeys half-day jet boat and walking tour! The family-friendly tour has you zipping along the braided Matukituki River into the majestic Mt Aspiring National Park. Admire views of Lake Wanaka and Mt Aspiring along the way then stop to experience a 50-minute guided walk around the Avalanche Glacier. See more like this in 10 Things to Do in Wanaka with Kids.
6. Boggle Your Minds at Puzzling World
One of the most popular all-weather attractions in Wanaka, Puzzling World is a complex of learning buildings, gravity-defying rooms, bizarre illusions, and home of “The Great Maze”. Most of the attractions are inside, taking you about 30-45-mins to explore where even the toilets are worth visiting, whether you need to go or not! Outside is The Great Maze, taking anywhere between 10 minutes to two hours to solve – depending on how sharp you are. All in all, it’s a must-do for all ages!
7. Meet the Animals and Enjoy a Picnic with a View on a 4WD Tour
Experience the Kiwi farming lifestyle, and one of Wanaka’s farming specialities, at Criffel Station. Join the Explore Tour to meet the alpacas, feed the sheep and view the majestic deer grazing. Alternatively, a 4WD tour is available to take you to a staggering 1,300m above sea level where you’ll enjoy a gourmet morning or afternoon tea.
8. Do a Winery-hopping Tour
Set within the Central Otago wine region, Wanaka has a fantastic selection of wineries and vineyards to explore. Learn all about the grapes grown here, as well as taste the wines, on one of the local wine tours. For instance, Wanaka Wine Tours offers tours to four different boutique wineries for wine-tasting and indulging in a gourmet food and wine-matching experience. Alternatively, WanaHaka offers winery tours with a cultural twist! Learn more about the wines of Wanaka in the 5 Best Wineries in Wanaka. Plus, see more experiences like this in 9 Things to Do in Wanaka for Foodies.
9. Get Cosy, Watch a Movie and Indulge in Good Food at Cinema Paradiso
For something to do on an evening or on a rainy day, snuggle up to a movie and some glorious home baking at Cinema Paradiso. More than just a movie theatre, Cinema Paradiso provides a boutique cinema experience with comfortable sofas and a cafe/bar to grab gourmet food before, during and after your movie. Plus, there’s an interval mid-way through each movie to stock up on freshly-baked cookies, indulge in homemade ice cream and top up your glass of wine. For more activities like this, see 10 Romantic Activities in Wanaka for Couples.
10. Cruise Around Lake Wanaka with a Glass of Wine or Beer in Hand
Of course, you’ve got to get out on the lake at least once during your stay beside Lake Wanaka! A fun and affordable way to do that is on the Happy Hour Cruise with Lake Wanaka Cruises. The one-hour cruise sails around the lake, lapping up the late-afternoon sun and passing by scenic spots like Waterfall Creek, Stevensons Peninsula, Ruby Island and “That Wanaka Tree”. The small-group tour also includes a complimentary glass of wine or beer.