The Must-Dos in Wanaka!
Wanaka is fast becoming a top destination for travellers and for good reason. There’s so much to do here! Surrounded by mountains, lakes and the Mt Aspiring National Park, adventures are only a short drive away. 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.
For more inspiration for your trip to Wanaka, check out The Complete Travel Guide to Wanaka. It’s definitely worth staying a while to do a few things, so take a look at our 10 Best Hotels in Wanaka and 10 Best Budget Accommodation in Wanaka for accommodation.
1. Hike Up Roy’s Peak
This is by far the most popular day hike in the area. The views from the top of Roy’s Peak are what you see on every Wanaka postcard. See them for yourself from 1,578m (5,177ft) on this 5-6 hour return track. It’s a relatively steep track and mostly exposed so be prepared! It’s also one of the free things to do in Wanaka. (Be aware that the track is closed from mid-September to mid-November for the lambing season.
Location: The Roys Peak Track car park, Mt Aspiring Road, approximately 6km (4 miles) from the Wanaka.
2. Take a Photo of “That Wanaka Tree”
Ok, we didn’t really want to put this high on the Wanaka must-do list but since you’re gonna do it anyway, it might as well be there! Yes, taking a photo of the lonely tree on the edge of Lake Wanaka has become the biggest tourism trend in the country. Looking so picturesque with the views of mountains in the background, we won’t judge you for jumping on the bandwagon too.
Location: From the west end of town, walk to Stony Creek along the lakeshore.
3. Climb a Waterfall with Wild Wire
For your dose of adventure in Wanaka, check out Wild Wire. This experience allows you to climb an 80m (262ft) waterfall over a 1,000m (3,281ft) via ferrata course with no prior climbing experience needed. Via ferrata is a course following a steel cable while using metal pegs, handholds, footholds and bridges. The result is climbing the huge Twin Falls with spectacular views along the way. Find out more about Wild Wire on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: Pick-ups available from the Wanaka township with Wild Wire.
4. Take a Road Trip Down Haast Pass
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. 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 Haast and Makarora. 64km (40 miles) from Wanaka.
5. Ski or Snowboard at Treble Cone
In winter, it’s all about the snow sports in Wanaka. Treble Cone is the South Island’s largest ski field with excellent terrain for both beginners and experienced snow bums. With that, if you’re only going to pick one ski field while visiting Wanaka, why not Treble Cone? Find out more about the ski season in New Zealand here.
Location: Mt Aspiring Road, approximately 23km (14 miles) from Wanaka.
6. Hike the Rob Roy Track
Another fantastic hike in the Wanaka area is the Rob Roy Track (confusing, right?). 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.
Location: 54km (33.5 miles) from Wanaka on the Mt Aspiring Road. Start from the Raspberry Creek car park.
7. Go Canyoning in the Mt Aspiring National Park
To crank the adventure up a notch, why not jump, abseil, slide, climb and swim through the Mt Aspiring National Park?! Canyoning is one of the more extreme but ridiculously fun ways to experience the great outdoors. One of the top canyoning trips in New Zealand is right here in the Mt Aspiring National Park with trips departing from Wanaka. Book your canyoning trip in Wanaka on Viator or Tripadvisor or compare the experience with others in the 7 Best Places for Canyoning in New Zealand.
Location: Haast Pass, Mt Aspiring National Park. Pick-ups are available in Wanaka.
8. Fly a Plane
A scenic flight is a sensational experience in itself. Flying the plane yourself? Well, that takes the experience to a whole new level. As one of the more unique activities in Wanaka, flying with U-Fly, Learn to Fly NZ or Southern Lakes Learn to Fly has to be on our Wanaka must-do list!
Location: Wanaka Airport, Lloyd Dunn Avenue, approximately 10km (6 miles) from Wanaka.
9. Get Puzzled at Puzzling World
Another unique attraction with a hint of the bizarre is Puzzling World! As the perfect indoor activity for those times when the weather isn’t playing ball, Puzzling World has to grace this list of the best things to do in Wanaka somewhere. See some weird illusions, holograms, brain teasers and try to complete The Great Maze. Find out more about Puzzling World on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: 188 Wanaka-Luggate Highway, approximately 3km (2 miles) from Wanaka.
10. Kayak or SUP on Lake Wanaka
Spending time in Wanaka without heading out on Lake Wanaka would be a crime! One of the fun ways to get out on the lake is by kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding (a favourite Kiwi pastime). Kayaking is the best choice for long trips out on the lake, while paddleboarding is best done to explore the bays close to the Wanaka waterfront. Book your kayaking trip on Viator or Tripadvisor and your stand-up paddleboard trip here on Viator or Tripadvisor.
Location: Trips and rentals can be found on the Wanaka town lakefront, the Wanaka i-SITE or booked with the links above.
11. 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. Find out more about the horse trek on Viator and Tripadvisor and see more amazing horse treks around the country in 11 Awesome Horse Treks in New Zealand.
Location: Cardrona Valley Road, approximately 23km (14 miles) from Wanaka town centre.
12. Hit the Slopes of the Cardrona Alpine Resort
For another popular skiing option near Wanaka, check out the Cardrona Alpine Resort. Seasoned skiers need only get a lift pass and rental hire for Cardrona (available on Viator and Tripadvisor), while first-timers can pick up a “First-Timer Package” which includes two beginner lessons, a lift pass and rental gear (also on Viator and Tripadvisor). Alternatively, Cardrona offers Gondola Sightseeing Passes where you can still spend the day in the snow without having to ski (on Viator and Tripadvisor).
Location: Cardrona Skifield Road, approximately 35km (22 miles) from Wanaka town centre.
13. 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 2,134m (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 out more about flights with Aspiring Helicopters on Viator and Tripadvisor, as well as more premium experiences like this in 10 Luxury Activities in Wanaka.
Location: 2211 Wanaka Mount Aspiring Road, approximately 23km (14 miles) from Wanaka town centre.
14. 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. Find out more about Wanaka River Journeys on Viator and Tripadvisor. Plus, see more like this in 10 Things to Do in Wanaka with Kids.
Location: Tours depart from 99 Ardmore Street (outside of the i-SITE).
15. 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. More information is available on Viator and Tripadvisor. Alternatively, a 4WD tour is available to take you to a staggering 1,300m (4,265ft) above sea level where you’ll enjoy a gourmet morning or afternoon tea. Check out this tour on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: Tours depart from Crossfire Wanaka, Mount Barker Road, approximately 10km (6 miles) from Wanaka town centre.
16. 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 (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor). Alternatively, WanaHaka offers winery tours with a cultural twist (also available on Viator and Tripadvisor)! 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.
Location: Wine tours in Wanaka offer accommodation pick-up.
17. 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.
Location: 72 Brownston Street.
18. Cruise Around Lake Wanaka with a Glass of Wine or Beer in Hand
Finally, one last way to get out on the lake is on a fun and affordable 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. Find out more about the cruise on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: Tours depart from 100 Ardmore Street.