Whether you’re into photography, adventure or drinking wine, you’re sure to find something perfect in our guide to the best things to do in Wanaka, New Zealand.
Wanaka is one of the most visited and favoured towns in New Zealand for some good reasons. Every winter, ski lovers and tourist flock into this small lovely town to enjoy the nearby ski fields along with the amazing winter vibe going on throughout the town.
However, there are more things to do in Wanaka than just having fun in the snow.
Our List of the Best Things to Do in Wanaka, New Zealand
Wanaka is located around an hour drive from Queenstown. It’s located right by Lake Wanaka, with some spectacular hikes right by its doorstep. Planning a trip to Wanaka? Here are the best things to do in Wanaka for an unforgettable trip!
Enjoy Panoramic Views on Roys Peak
Roys Peak is one of the best hikes I’ve ever taken in my life, seriously, and no list of Wanaka activities would be complete without mentioning it.
This is also arguably the most famous ‘Instagram’ spot in all of New Zealand, and images of people standing on a hill with the lakes and peaks of Wanaka surrounding them are pretty iconic.
Located just 10 minutes from Wanaka town, it’s easily accessible for all kind of travellers, doesn’t matter even if you don’t have a car.
It’s a very simple track, where you can literally see the peak from the carpark, which is also where you’ll find the entrance of the trail.
At the entrance, you’ll see an unsupervised donation box collecting the $2 entrance fee.
At the early part of the track, you’ll be passing by some private land properties, with plenty of sheep roaming around. And guess what, their poo is everywhere too. Watch where you’re stepping to avoid the ‘fresh treats’.
There are basically three stages during the hike – green, yellow and white. If you’re not visiting during the winter, then forget about the last one.
In the first part, you’ll find yourself hiking at a warmer temperature, I wouldn’t recommend putting on your jacket just yet. Green grasses are covering the ground, brown poo is everywhere.
For the second part, you’ll stop seeing green plants, instead, you’ll find plenty of yellowish shrubs surrounding you. On winter, you might find a layer of ice coating them.
Approaching the peak, you’ll start your battle against the snow. It could get more than 1 feet tall of snow during winter on the peak! And once you reach the peak, you’ll get one of the best panoramic views on the world, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, overlooking Lake Wanaka.
It’ll take around 2 hours to reach the peak through the zig-zag track. It’s steep all the way up, great day to challenge your fitness!
If you’re aiming to get your Instagram photo, this spot isn’t actually at the summit! You’ll know you’re there though because you’ll probably find a huge line up of people waiting for their chance to get the shot.
Once you’ve grabbed it, make sure you keep walking the 30 minutes or so to the summit, which is something most people don’t bother to do.
Enjoy the Wanaka City View From Mount Iron
Lots of articles call Mount Iron Track a walk instead of hike, but I would call it a hike because it’s just like the Roys Peak Track, but much shorter.
While the altitude of 250m doesn’t sound so impressive, the view it offers definitely is. On the peak, you’ll get an unobstructed view over the snowy mountains of the Southern Alps, Lake Wanaka, and the picturesque Wanaka town.
The loop track goes 4.5km, and it’ll take you around an hour to get to the peak.
However, it’s a little tricky to find the parking lot to start your hike. It’s located 2km outside of town, and the carpark is so small that sometimes you wouldn’t even notice it. So pay extra attention when you’re driving there.
At the peak, you’ll also find a board showcasing all the names of the peaks you see at the Southern Alps.
The entrance to Mount Iron Track is free of charge.
Check out this post if you’re planning a 10 Days Road Trip Itinerary in New Zealand South Island
Admire The Southern Alps in Rob Roy Glacier Track
Located in Mount Aspiring National Park, Rob Roy Glacier Track is yet another one of the top things to do in Wanaka.
I’d recommend this only for those who have a car, as the track starts in the parking lot, slightly more than an hour drive from Wanaka town through Matukituki Valley Road.
It’s a perfect track for you who loves adventure, especially if you haven’t seen a glacier before.
The hike is relatively simple, and you won’t get lost because of the well-marked path. What’s challenging is the non-stop gradual steep grade.
At the summit, you’ll enjoy the view of waterfalls plunging from the hills, and active glaciers with avalanche sound from time to time.
Here’s a safety tip for you: If you’re planning to have a picnic or lunch at the viewpoint, be very aware of the Kea birds. They’re not afraid of humans, and they’ll keep asking for food persistently. But it’s illegal to feed them. And you can’t scare them away. Pretty frustrating, huh?
Take to the Air With Skydive Wanaka
I had my first-ever skydive in Wanaka, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made in New Zealand, even though I was very tight on budget.
For an acrophobic like me, skydive is something I’d never imagine myself doing.
Skydive Wanaka office is located right beside the Wanaka Airport. And there are a variety of ways you could book your slot with them, but I found out there’s no need to.
All you had to do is register yourself in the office, and you’ll be arranged the flight in a very short time. When it’s not that busy, of course.
I took the package of 15,000 ft skydive with 60 seconds free fall, pictures and videos included. And I was extremely satisfied with the quality of the photos and videos, so worth it.
Their orange old-school plane could carry around 8 pairs of guests and instructors, with some seats reserved to the videographer, who will freefall along with you.
If you’re planning to do a skydive in New Zealand, I recommend Skydive Wanaka because the view is simply amazing. You’ll get to see the Southern Alps (Mt Cook & Mt Aspiring included), Lake Wanaka, Lake Hawea, Wanaka town and all the green farms down there during a clear day.
Skiing in Treble Cone
Did you know Treble Cone is the largest ski field in New Zealand? Hosting over 550 hectares of the hill, Treble Cone also has numerous trails for skiers of all levels.
Every winter, Wanaka becomes so crowded because everyone’s flying here just to enjoy the white powders. In fact, you’ll find ski equipment rental stores literally everywhere across the town, much like a convenience store.
Treble Cone is located 40 minutes drive from Wanaka town, and they also have shuttle buses to carry you to and from if you don’t have a car. You’ll have to pay for it of course.
Another ski field in Wanaka is Cardrona Alpine Resort, which is equally as popular as Treble Cone.
Check out the price for the season pass, lift passes and day passes here at the Treble Cone website.
Have Fun in Puzzling World
Puzzling World has been one of the best family-friendly Wanaka attractions for more than 45 years now!
With an award-winning complex of optical illusions, 3D maze, and puzzling rooms, Puzzling World receives more than a quarter million visitors per year now.
However, Puzzling World is famous for its Leaning Tower of Wanaka, leaning on an angle of a whopping 53 degree! Often the first thing to be photographed by visitors to the attraction.
Definitely pay a visit to The Sculptillusion Gallery to have a look at the mysterious objects, paintings, and reversible figures.
Check out their website for the pricing here!
Did I mention that they actually have Psychic Challenge? A challenge where you can win a crazy $100,000 New Zealand Dollars. Sounds pretty absurd, right? But they actually have it there, even though nobody has yet to claim it.
If you’re wondering what to do in Wanaka, New Zealand, then winning a cheeky $100k sounds pretty good to me!
I’ve heard of it but of course, I didn’t go for it so I don’t know much of the details. Who knows, you might be the lucky one?
Hiking in Diamond Lake & Rocky Mountains Track
Weird name, huh? The track is actually a combination of two tracks, which are the Diamond Lake Circuit Track and Rocky Mountain Summit Track.
Like other tracks in New Zealand, the track starts at the parking lot, located around 20-30 minutes’ drive from the town.
There are a few tracks for you to choose from, a shorter Diamond Lake Circuit Track (45 minutes return) or Rocky Mountain Summit Track (3 hours return).
During the winter, you’ll find Diamond Lake frozen. It was once an ice skating field, but I’m not sure whether they still do it now. But other than that, you’ll find pieces of frozen ground in the shady parts of the track, so pay extra attention to where you step!
The Rocky Mountain Summit Track will bring you to the 775m peak of Rocky Mountain. And since the peak is quite ‘rounded’, there are quite a lot of spaces for you to sit back and relax.
Mountain biking is only allowed until Diamond Lake only, and not Rocky Mountain.
You’ll have a great view on Lake Wanaka and nearby snow mountains. And by nearby, I mean they’re literally just across the short valley. Seems to close yet so far.
Relax in the Wanaka Lavender Farm
Located just a few minutes’ walks from Wanaka town lies Wanaka Lavender Farm. It’s easily accessible for those who’re spending a day or two in Wanaka, and don’t have a car to get around.
With 10 acres of lavender fields and gardens, along with several farm animals (including alpacas and highland cows!), Wanaka Lavender Farm is a wonderful place to get a taste of the country feel.
The cheap entrance fee is also one of the reasons I’m including this farm in this article, at only $5-10 depending on which season you visit.
After the walk around the farm, you can head over to the café and enjoy their tea and ice-cream, made from their own local ingredients. There are a bunch of souvenirs and gifts available in the store as well, along with essential oils, soaps, perfumes, balms and more!
You’ll love Wanaka Lavender Farm even if you don’t fancy flowers and farms. The soothing atmosphere is also a great way to relax after a good few days of skiing.
Not the most adventurous of all the Wanaka activities, but a lovely one nonetheless.
Photographing That Wanaka Tree
That Wanaka Tree is definitely one of the most photographed objects in New Zealand’s South Island. Looking at it, you’ll question yourself how the heck is it living in the middle of the lake, and still blooms every spring season?
Other than being in the waters of Lake Wanaka, one more thing that makes That Wanaka Tree special is that it portrays different views on every season.
In Spring, you’ll find green leaves on the branches. In winter, you’ll find it bald, with white snow mountains at the background.
But one thing’s guaranteed, you’ll enjoy your time taking photos of the tree! And there are not as many tourists as you think. I visited during the winter when Wanaka was most crowded, and I shared the beach with only a few other travellers and photographers.
For the best time to visit That Wanaka Tree, I recommend visiting in the early morning during sunrise or late evening when the sun’s scratching the horizon. That’s the golden hours for photographing lakes. Click here to read our best travel photography tips.
This is absolutely one of the best free things to do in Wanaka.
Go Wine Tasting in Rippon
Being the oldest vineyard in Wanaka, Rippon is famous for its unique wine production and picturesque views on Lake Wanaka and the Southern Alps from the vineyard.
It’s been around for 5 generations on the same family, establishing themselves some good authority when it comes to the best wine in town.
Rippon is open for wine tasting on a daily basis, from 11 am to 5 pm every day. The wine tasting is quite informal, with 5 to 7 types of wines for tasting.
Like other vineyards in Central Otago region, Pinot Noir is the signature.
Where to Stay in Wanaka
Wanaka is a small town, but there’s plenty of awesome accommodation options, depending your style and budget.
Best Backpacker Hostel – YHA Wanaka Purple Cow
The YHA chain has undoubtedly the highest quality and best network of hostels across all of New Zealand, and in Wanaka it’s not any different.
It’s a social place, with an epic communal area for backpackers to hang out. There’s also a nice mix of dorm rooms as well as private rooms.
Best Midrange Hotel – Ramada Resort by Wyndham Wanaka
Don’t let the fancy name fool you – The Ramada Resort by Wyndham Wanaka is actually very affordable considering the quality you get.
The rooms are massive and comfortable, and the location is awesome, being very close to downtown. Well worth the price tag if you’re looking for a mid-range hotel in Wanaka.
Best Luxury Hotel – Lakeside Apartments
If money isn’t an issue, then you should splurge out and stay in the most beautiful accommodation in Wanaka – the Lakeside Apartments.
As the name suggests, this place has self-contained apartments a stones-throw from Lake Wanaka, so you can really spread out and be in absolute comfort in town.
How Was Our List of What to Do in Wanaka?
So here are the top things to do in Wanaka, New Zealand. What do you think about them? Let me know in the comment section below. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy New Zealand as much as I did. Be safe, and happy traveling.