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 the best 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 – Free Thing to Do in Wanaka
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 #ThatWanakaTree – Thing to Do in Wanaka in Autumn
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. While you can do this activity at any time of the year, the best time is in autumn when the surrounding trees have their autumn colours. Discover more amazing autumn destinations in the 5 Best Places to Visit in Autumn in New Zealand.
Location: From the west end of town, walk to Stony Creek along the lakeshore.
3. Climb a Waterfall with Wild Wire Wanaka – Unusual Thing to Do in Wanaka
For your dose of adventure in Wanaka, check out Wild Wire Wanaka. 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, read reviews and even book your tour on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: Pick-ups available from the Wanaka township with Wild Wire.
4. Take a Road Trip Down Haast Pass (and See the Wanaka Blue Pools)
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. Plus, add this romantic road trip to our 10 Most Romantic Things to Do in Wanaka for Couples.
Location: State Highway 6 between Makarora and Haast. 64km (40 miles) from Wanaka.
5. Ski or Snowboard at Treble Cone – Thing to Do in Wanaka in Winter
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. Plus, find more must-visit winter destinations in the 5 Best Places to Visit in Winter in New Zealand.
Location: Mt Aspiring Road, approximately 23km (14 miles) from Wanaka.
6. Hike the Rob Roy Track – What to Do in Wanaka for Free
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. See more unmissable walks and freebies in the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Wanaka.
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 – Thing to Do in Wanaka in Summer
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 with Canyoning New Zealand 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 – Unique Thing to Do in Wanaka
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 or Learn to Fly NZ has to be on our Wanaka must-do list! Book your trial flight on Klook and find more unique experiences in the 10 Best Luxury Experiences in Wanaka.
Location: Wanaka Airport, Lloyd Dunn Avenue, approximately 10km (6 miles) from Wanaka.
9. Get Puzzled at Puzzling World – Thing to Do in Wanaka on a Rainy Day
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. See some weird illusions, holograms, brain teasers and try to complete The Great Maze. Find out more about Puzzling World on Klook, Viator and Tripadvisor. Plus, see more family-friendly activities in our 16 Things to Do in Wanaka with Kids.
Location: 188 Wanaka-Luggate Highway, approximately 3km (2 miles) from Wanaka.
10. Kayak or SUP on Lake Wanaka – Romantic Thing to Do in 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 with Paddle Wanaka. Again, more endearing activities like this can be found in the 10 Most Romantic Things to Do in Wanaka for Couples.
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 – What to Do in Wanaka in Summer
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 – What to Do in Wanaka in Winter
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. Alternatively, Cardrona offers Gondola Sightseeing Passes where you can still spend the day in the snow without having to ski or explore the mountain terrain in summer.
Location: Cardrona Skifield Road, approximately 35km (22 miles) from Wanaka town centre.
13. Delve into the Wilderness of the Mt Aspiring National Park by Jet Boat – Family Thing to Do in Wanaka
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 16 Things to Do in Wanaka with Kids.
Location: Tours depart from 99 Ardmore Street (outside of the i-SITE).
14. Do a Winery-Hopping Tour – Foodie Thing to Do in Wanaka
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.
15. Get Cosy, Watch a Movie and Indulge in Good Food at Cinema Paradiso – Thing to Do in Wanaka at Night
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.
Location: 72 Brownston Street, Wanaka town centre.
16. Cruise Around Lake Wanaka with a Glass of Wine or Beer and a Cheese Platter
Another 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, Wanaka Town Centre.
17. See Milford Sound on a Scenic Flight
See one of New Zealand’s most breathtaking natural attractions in style with a scenic flight from Wanaka. The Glacier Flight & Cruise experience with Southern Alps Air takes you on a 45-minute flight, observing epic glaciers, alpine lakes and untouched forest of a UNESCO World Heritage Area. After landing in Milford Sound, you’ll board a cruise of the majestic fiord and look out for seals, dolphins and penguins before returning to Wanaka by plane. Check out the flight details and book your flight on Viator and Tripadvisor. Additionally, you might like to compare the flight to the 10 Best Scenic Flights in New Zealand.
Location: 16 Lloyd Dunn Place RD2, Wanaka Airport, approximately 9km (5.5 miles) from Wanaka town centre.
18. Cruise Lake Wanaka, Travel by 4WD and Enjoy an Island Walk
Enjoy a full day out experiencing Wanaka in three ways with Ridgeline Adventures. Their Wanaka Nature Encounter tour includes a 4WD excursion on private roads, exploring a historic farming station and stopping by rolling meadows and ancient forest. The tour also takes you on a scenic lake cruise to Mou Wahou Island where you’ll have the opportunity to spot rare birds and enjoy commanding views with “high tea” atop the island. Learn more about Ridgeline Adventures and their tours on Viator, Tripadvisor and KKday.
Location: Wanaka Marina, Lakeside Road, Wanaka town centre.
19. Get Stunning Photos, Feed the Farm Animals and Eat Lavender Ice Cream at the Wanaka Lavender Farm – Cheap Thing to Do in Wanaka
An affordable attraction that’s open all year round, the Wanaka Lavender Farm is not to be missed. You can spend at least a couple of hours here wandering among the lavender, feeding the bulls, pigs and alpacas, getting some fun snaps, and treating your tastebuds to lavender ice cream and other treats in the cafe. See more cheap experiences in the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Wanaka.
Location: 36 Morris Road, approximately 4.5km (2.8 miles) from Wanaka Town Centre.
20. Have a Splash in Lake Wanaka
And remember, you have Lake Wanaka to enjoy. In summer, the lake just begs to be splashed in! 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.
21. Be Welcomed to Lake Wanaka with a Traditional Maori Ceremony
Get a taste of the Maori culture with a welcome from WanaHaka. The Maori tour company invites you and your party into Wanaka the traditional way with a “powhiri”. Experience the full powhiri, including a challenge to your tribe’s leader, a welcoming speech in the Maori language, and receive a Maori bone carving to remember the experience. Find out more about WanaHaka on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: Roys Bay, 59 Wanaka Mount Aspiring Road or Ruby Island Road, Wanaka.
22. Be Transported into Another Reality at Realm VR
Leave Lake Wanaka behind and jump into a new universe at Realm VR. This VR indoor attraction is New Zealand’s largest fully immersive VR experience using cutting edge technology to make you feel like you’re in another world. There are experiences for ages 7 and up, such as defending your castle from Orcs, creating 3D art, saving the world from zombies and countless other experiences. More information is available on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: 31 Dunmore Street, Wanaka town centre.
23. Land on a Glacier in a Helicopter – Luxury Thing to Do in Wanaka
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.
24. 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.
25. Treat Yourself to Dinner – What to Do in Wanaka at Night
Finally, there are many enticing eateries in Wanaka, which you can check out in detail in The Food Guide to Wanaka. For something rather special, however, head to Bistro Gentil just outside of Wanaka, which soaks in romantic views of the surrounding gardens and mountains. The bistro serves up New Zealand produce prepared in a French style. Alternatively, for something more casual but offers million-dollar views along with flavoursome Asian cuisine, check out Kota Restaurant & Bar.
Location: Bistro Gentil – Golf Course Road. Kota Restaurant & Bar – Level 1, 80 Ardmore Street, Wanaka town centre.
Discover More Must-Dos and Things to Do in Wanaka
That’s it for our ultimate list of things to do in Wanaka but by no means the end of our Wanaka advice. Plan the perfect trip with the following guides:
- The Travel Guide to Wanaka for Families
- The Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Wanaka
- The Luxury Travel Guide to Wanaka
- The Foodie Guide to Wanaka
- Wanaka – Guide for Backpackers
- The Complete Travel Guide to Wanaka
Finally, complete your New Zealand bucket list with the 51 Best Things to Do on the South Island or the 101 Things to Do in New Zealand: The Ultimate List.