Hiking

Wanaka, New Zealand Visitor’s Guide

There are a lot of incredibly beautiful places on New Zealand’s South Island, but few other places on the island can match the number of incredible hikes and visa viewpoints that you will find in the Wanaka area.  Located on the shores of Lake Wanaka, which sits just at the foot of the stunning mountains of Mount Aspiring National Park, the city could not have been placed in a more beautiful area.  This is why travelers from around the world flock to New Zealand each year to enjoy the beautiful views and amazing hikes in and around this wonderful city.

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In this guide, I am going to lay out all of the information you need to plan a successful trip to Wanaka, New Zealand.  This includes the passport, VISA, customs, and immunization information you need to consider before traveling, along with the best ways to plan your travel to Wanaka.  I will also give you some recommendations on what to see, where to stay, and where to eat while you are visiting Wanaka on your vacation.  With this information in hand, you can rest assured that the trip you plan will produce memories that will last your lifetime.

At A Glance
Top Things to See
How to Get There
Best Time to Visit
Where to Stay
Where to Eat
Recommended Tours and Excursions
Photo Gallery

At a Glance

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Passport requirements exist. See the linked article below for details.
Immunization recommendations in the linked article below.
The official languages in New Zealand are English and Māori.
The official currency in New Zealand is the New Zealand Dollar.

Passport, VISA, Customs, and Immunization Requirements

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Before you purchase plane tickets or start booking your accommodations and excursions, it is important that you review the passport, VISA, customs, and immunizations requirements for New Zealand to make sure you are eligible to visit.  You will not want to wait until the last minute to review this information as that will allow you very little time to sort out any issues should they arise.

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New Zealand Passport, VISA, Customs, and Immunization Requirements for Visitors

Top Things to See and Do

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One thing that the Wanaka area has no shortage of is amazing things to see and do.  It is located just a short distance from some of the most amazing hiking paths in New Zealand and just a stone’s throw from the Central Otago Wine Region and the adventure capital of Queenstown.  As you start to plan your trip to Wanaka, I have included a list of the top things to see and do in the Wanaka area below for you to review.

See the Infamous Wanaka Tree

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No trip to Wanaka is complete without taking a walk along the shore of Lake Wanaka and stopping to see the infamous Wanaka Tree.  This stunning tree is normally completely immersed in the waters of Lake Wanaka, but when the lake level is low it can be reached from shore.  Please remember, if you can reach the tree and want to take some photos with it, it is recommended that you don’t climb or sit on the tree.  The tree is starting to show some wear and tear and it would be unfortunate if it were to not be there for future generations to enjoy.

Hike the Roy’s Peak Track

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Out of all of the fantastic hikes in the Wanaka area, the Roy’s Peak Track hike is undoubtedly the most popular and well known.  With views like the one you see above, it isn’t hard to see why this peak is so well-trafficked.  In addition to being one of the most beautiful trails in the Wanaka area, the Roy’s Peak track is also one of the most difficult.  It isn’t difficult because it is overly technical, but it is very steep and fairly long, which can be difficult for beginning hikers.

Trail Type: Out-and-Back
Trail Distance: 15.6km or 9.7 miles
Altitude Gain: 1,251 meters or 4,104 feet
Difficulty Level: Difficult

To give you an idea of where the Roy’s Peak Track is in relation to Wanaka and how to get there, I have included an area map for you to review below.  If you are coming from Wanaka, the parking area for the Roy’s Peak Track is a short 6km\6 minute drive away from downtown Wanaka.

How to Get to Roy's Peak Track Map

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If you would like to hike the Roy’s Peak Track during your visit to Wanaka, you are going to want to make sure you allow yourself at least 6 hours to hike the trail.  Yes, some more experienced hikers can do it in less time, but the trail is heavily trafficked and you don’t want to run out of daylight or feel rushed.

Important Note:  The Roy’s Peak Track is closed each year from October 1st thru November 10th each year for the lambing season.  So if this hike is high on your list, you will want to schedule your visit to Wanaka around that.

Roys Peak Track Map

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Hike the Isthmus Peak Track

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Another one of the beautiful hikes that you can take in the Wanaka area is the Isthmus Peak Track, which is located north of Wanaka between Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea, in a region known as “the Neck”.  If you aren’t able to hike the Roy’s Peak Track because it is closed, would prefer to hike a trail that isn’t as crowded, or would like to do as much hiking in the area as you can, then I definitely recommend the Isthmus Peak Track.

Trail Type: Out-and-Back
Trail Distance: 15.9km or 9.9 miles
Altitude Gain: 1,133 meters or 3,717 feet
Difficulty Level: Moderate to Difficult

Like the Roy’s Peak Track, the Isthmus Peak Track is a fairly long and steep trail that rewards hikers with truly spectacular views.  The viewpoint at the top gives you views of the surrounding area that I think are equal to the amazing views from Roy’s Peak Lookout.  The best part is, this trail sees far less traffic than the Roy’s Peak Track, so you won’t need to wait in line at the top to get your pictures as you will on Roy’s Peak.  It’s also not quite as steep as the Roy’s Peak Track, so I have it rated as a moderate-to-difficult trail instead of difficult.

How to Get to Isthmus Peak Track Map

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Guide to Hiking the Isthmus Peak Track in Wanaka, New Zealand

Hike the Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Track

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For those of you without a lot of hiking experience that would like to do some hiking while in the Wanaka area, I can think of no trail better than the Diamond Lake to Rocky Mountain Track.  This trail has some beautiful views but isn’t nearly as long as the Roy’s Peak or Isthmus Peak tracks.

Trail Type: Loop
Trail Distance: 8km or 4.9 miles
Altitude Gain: 767 meters or 2,517 feet
Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate

The trail is about half as long and half as steep as some of the more difficult trails in the area, so it is a great option for those who want to see the beautiful views around Wanaka but aren’t ready to tackle some of the more difficult tracks.

Rocky Peak Viewpoint - Photo Map

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Go Skydiving

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When I was in New Zealand, I was told that the best place to go skydiving for your first time is on New Zealand’s South Island.  I didn’t quite understand why people were saying that until I looked into it more and ultimately decided to go on my trip.  Not only is skydiving in New Zealand incredibly safe relative to other places in the world, but I don’t know if you will be able to find more beautiful landscapes to take in as you jump out of a perfectly good plane and start hurling towards the Earth.  If you would like to learn more about skydiving in the Wanaka area, I have linked to my Skydiving in New Zealand Guide for you to review below.

READ MORE:
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Everything You Need to Know About Skydiving in New Zealand

Go Bungy Jumping

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For those who are looking for some additional adrenaline activities to do while you are in the Wanaka area, one of the most popular adrenaline activities New Zealand’s South Island is known for is bungy jumping.  If you would like to give bungy jumping a try, the AJ Hackett Bungy Kawarau Bungy Centre is only a short 45-minute drive towards Queenstown from Wanaka.

Take a Wine Tour of the Central Otago Valley

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If you are looking for something to do that is at a little slower pace, Wanaka sits in very close proximity to one of the best wine regions in the world.  The Central Otago Valley wine region is the southernmost commercial wine region in the world, and it is arguably also the most beautiful.  If you like wine, you will love taking a tour of this amazing wine region.  For those of you who are interested in learning more, I have linked to my guide on touring the Central Otago Valley wine region below.

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Guide to Wine Tours in New Zealand’s Central Otago Valley

Visit Nearby Mount Aspiring National Park

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There are a lot of beautiful national parks on New Zealand’s South Island and Mount Aspiring National Park may be one of the most beautiful.  The park is home to some of the most stunning mountains in the Southern Alps range and has more than its share of postcard-worthy waterfalls to admire.  If you are up for doing some additional hiking or just want to take a scenic drive thru one of New Zealand’s most previous parklands, I would suggest taking a day trip to nearby Mount Aspiring National Park.

Take a Clutha River Jetboat Ride

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If you are looking for some adventure on your trip to Wanaka, but going skydiving or bungy jumping are a bit too extreme for you, another fun activity that will get your heart pumping without being exposed to death-defying drops is a jet boat ride on the Clutha River.  The nearby Clutha River and its glacial-fed waters are stunningly beautiful, as is the scenery surrounding the river.  Cruising up the river in a jet boat, skipping over the rapids with the boat’s specially designed internal jet engine, is an exhilarating experience.

Kayak on Lake Wanaka

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On days where you would prefer to just hang around Wanaka and enjoy the beauty of this amazing city, taking a kayak out on Lake Wanaka can be a fun and peaceful experience.  It’s a big lake with a lot of beautiful coastline and vistas to explore and kayaking is the perfect way to do it.  There are a few shops in town that rent out kayaks at the beach, including Paddle Wanaka.  If you have time, I strongly suggest it.

How to Get There

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Wanaka is located in the Otago Region on New Zealand’s South Island, just a short 60-minute drive from nearby Queenstown.  If you are planning on visiting Wanaka from outside of the South Island, your best bet is to fly into Queenstown, which has an international airport.  Of course, that also depends on what else you plan on seeing on New Zealand’s South Island.  If you plan on seeing other parts of the island, you can also choose to fly into Christchurch, which is about a 5-hour drive from Wanaka to the north.

Getting to Wanaka Map

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Best Time to Visit

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Average Temperature (°F)

The time of year you decide to visit Wanaka will ultimately depend on what you would like to do when you visit.  If you are planning on getting out on the water or doing a lot of hiking, you will probably want to target the times of the year when the weather is warmer.  The months of October thru April typically have a much milder lower temperature than the winter months.

However, if you are planning on visiting the South Island in New Zealand to do some skiing and Wanaka is going to be one of your stops on your trip, then the winter months of June thru August will be the best time for you to visit.  During that time, you will have the best chance of having good snow on the slopes.

Average Precipitation (Inches)

Because Wanaka is protected by the Southern Alps in the interior of the South Island, you don’t need to worry as much about scheduling your trip to avoid seasonal rains.  As you can see in the chart below, the amount of precipitation fluctuates throughout the year, but there isn’t a time of year where the level of precipitation is considerably higher than other times of the year.

Where to Stay

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When visiting Wanaka, you have several options to choose from in terms of accommodations.  Some people who visit New Zealand’s South Island decide to rent an RV or Camper Trailer and tour the island that way.  For others, staying at hotels, hostels, or homes they find on services such as AirBnb is preferable.  In order to assist you in choosing which option is best for you, I have included some information on each of the options for you to review below.

Hotels, Hostels, and Home Sharing

If you feel more comfortable staying in a hotel, hostel, or rented a home, I have included a number of highly-rated options at different price points for you to review below.

Wanaka Hotels, Hostels, and Home Sharing Map

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Base Backpackers Wanaka ($)
Matterhorn South Lodge and Backpackers ($)
The Willows Wanaka Apartment ($$)
Aspiring Lodge Motel ($$)
Distinction Wanaka Alpine Resort Serviced Apartments ($$$)
Wanaka Luxury Apartments ($$$)
Lansdown Peaks Apartments ($$$)
Wanaka Springs Lodge ($$$$)
Edgewater Hotel- Lake Wanaka ($$$$$)
Riverview Terrace ($$$$$)

Renting an RV

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If you are feeling a bit more adventurous and would like to rent an RV or camper and tour the South Island that way, I have included a list of some of the more popular RV dealers for you to review below.

New Zealand South Island Camper and RV Rental Map

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Discover NZ Motorhome Rentals, Hope, NZ
Maui Motorhome Rental Airport, Christchurch, NZ
Maui Motorhome Rental, Queenstown, NZ
JUCY Car Rental and Campervan Hire Airport, Christchurch, NZ
JUCY Car Rental and Campervan Hire Airport, Queenstown, NZ
Campervan Hire Airport, Christchurch, NZ
Iconic Motorhomes, Christchurch, NZ
Britz Campervan Hire, Queenstown, NZ
Wicked Campervan Hire, Queenstown, NZ
Walkabout Motorhome Rentals, Christchurch, NZ

Where to Eat

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In addition to being located in a beautiful spot with a lot of fun things to see and do, the city of Wanaka also has a lot of amazing restaurants, cafes, and bars to please the foodies who visit.  If you are looking for a great place to grab a bite to eat while in Wanaka, I would suggest you start with the highly-rated options I listed below.

Wanaka Restaurant Recommendations
Restaurant Cuisine Cost
Kika European, New Zealand, Veggie $$-$$$
Bistro Gentil French, European, Wine Bar $$$$
Big Fig Cafe, Mediterranean, Healthy $$-$$$
Wanaka Gourmet Kitchen European, New Zealand, Veggie $$-$$$
Kota Restaurant & Bar Wanaka New Zealand, International $$-$$$
Cork Bar Wine Bar, Pub $$-$$$

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There is an abundance of amazing things to see and do in the Wanaka area and one of the best ways to experience those things is on a tour.  If you are looking for fun tours and excursions to fill out your trip, I have included some category links to recommended tours and excursions you can review below.

Air, Helicopter & Balloon Tours
Cruises, Sailing & Water Tours
Cultural & Theme Tours
Food, Wine & Nightlife
Multi-day & Extended Tours
Outdoor Activities
Walking & Biking Tours
Water Sports

Photography Advice for Wanaka

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With so many beautiful things to see in the Wanaka area, you are going to want to have your camera ready when you visit.  If you would like some tips on where and how to get the best photographs in the Wanaka area, I have included a photography planning guide for the Wanaka area below for you to review.

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Photography Planning for Wanaka, South Island

 

Speaking of photographs, I was able to capture a lot of amazing photographs when I visited Wanaka.  If you are interested in seeing some of the images I was able to take, I have included a gallery below for you to review.

Wanaka, New Zealand

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