After having one of the most amazing days exploring Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound, today we headed back up North to continue our adventure in the town of Wanaka. Known for its picturesque shoreline trees and amazing hiking trails, we were excited to check the area out.
It takes roughly 3 hours to drive from Te Anau to Wanaka and 2 of those hours are back-tracking to Queenstown. Thankfully, the drive is scenic (most of the drives on the South island are) so we didn’t mind too much.
When driving between Queenstown and Wanaka you have two options. The first is to take highway 6 thru Cromwell, which takes roughly 1.5 hours to drive. The other option is to take the Cardrona Valley Road, which will save you 30 minutes driving.
The big caveat is that the Cardrona Valley road takes you up thru a mountain pass and includes steep switch-backs. So if the weather isn’t good, it can be a white-knuckle drive. The weather was great during our drive, so we took the quicker route.
We ran into a nice couple from California on our Milford Sound cruise and they said they absolutely loved the town of Wanaka. When we arrived in the city, we could see why. The lake, which is surrounded by snow-capped peaks, is beautiful. The Wanaka Tree, which we heard a lot about, was a little worn from people climbing on it for pictures, but it still has the charm you see in photographs.
The town of Wanaka itself is wonderful. It’s not as big as Queenstown, but larger than Te Anau. There are some cute restaurants and shops in town that visitors can explore, as well as plenty of activities at the lake to enjoy.
One of the big reasons we decided to visit Wanaka was to explore some of its world-renown hiking trails. The most famous of these, the Roy’s Peak Track, is closed during October from lambing season, so we can’t do that hike.
There are two other hikes that offer similar views to the Roy’s Peak track. The Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Combo Track is an easy-to-moderate hike that takes about 3-hours to complete. Problem is, there was a rock fall on that track, so it is currently closed.
The other option is the Isthmus Peak Track, which is rated as moderate-to-difficult and takes 5-6 hours to complete. It’s difficult because it is a steady uphill climb almost the entire way. This is the hike that we are going to try while in Wanaka. Slow and steady.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that I will be skydiving while in Wanaka. I am actually sitting and waiting for the weather to clear so that I can go up right now. So, stay tuned for a very eventful update tomorrow!