Lake Wanaka is New Zealand’s fourth-largest lake located in the Otago region of New Zealand. And it’s so beautiful, it even has a town named after it.
That’s right, Wanaka centre is a one-hour drive from Queenstown and renowned for being the gateway to the Southern Alps’ Mount Aspiring National Park. Because of this, its mountain views are incredible.
In essence, if you like Queenstown, you’re going to adore Wanaka. I like to refer to it as Queenstown’s little sister because it’s smaller but very similar.
You’d be forgiven for initially thinking that there’s nothing to do there but go visit the nearby National Park. In fact, if you’re heading to the South Island of New Zealand anytime soon, read on for 5 must do’s around Lake Wanaka.
1. Check Out the Beach
First up, the beach on the edge of Lake Wanaka is a must-see while you’re in town. As well as getting the best views of the snowcapped mountains, it’s also a peaceful place where you can quite happily sit for hours and reflect on life.
If you’re not a beach fanatic, not to worry – you can find greenery and picnic benches down at the lakefront too.
Pro traveller tip: Speaking of luscious landscapes, there are gorgeous photo opportunities on the drive to and from Wanaka, so make sure you allow plenty of time for stops.
2. Walk to #ThatWanakaTree
While you’re at the beach, you should also take the 15-minute stroll west to THAT Wanaka Tree. Yes, it’s so famous, it’s even got its own Instagram hashtag.
Essentially, this popular spot consists of a singular tree growing out of Lake Wanaka and is a great area for taking scenic snaps.
Pro traveller tip: Get there early, unless you’re up for battling lots of tourists trying to get the same shot of a tree. Just saying.
3. Do Some Shopping
Wanaka town centre itself is really cutesy. It only consists of a couple of main streets, but that’s all part of its charm.
Like independent boutiques and quirky stores? Well, the CBD is full of them. And you can quite easily have a pleasant morning by poking around these shops.
Pro traveller tip: You can even follow up a morning of bargain-hunting with food at one of the yummy local cafes. Me? I’d recommend Ritual for a hearty brunch.
4. Head to Puzzling World
Just outside of Lake Wanaka is one of the most unique places I’ve ever been to.
Puzzling World is a local gem and consists of a multi-level outdoor maze and optical illusion rooms. And it’s a super fun way to spend an afternoon, regardless of your age. Trust me.
5. Visit the Blue Pools
If you head 60 minutes north of Wanaka by car, you’ll come across the famous Blue Pools Walk in Mt. Aspiring National Park.
Loved by locals and visitors alike, this stunning stroll takes you through beech/tawhero forest to a swing bridge that crosses the Makarora River. There you’ll find a boardwalk with a viewing platform where you can see the river gorge in all its glory.
How did the Blue Pools get its name, I hear you ask? Well, that’s all to do with light reflecting off the icy cold water. And I guarantee that you’ll be as impressed as I was.
Other Activities to Do Around Lake Wanaka
If none of the above activities tickle your fancy, there are plenty of other things to do around Lake Wanaka. For instance, if you love to ski, you’ll find the Treble Cone and Cardrona ski resorts nearby.
There are also some other hikes around the town, including Roys Peak. Taking 5-7 hours to complete, you can find the start of the track a 5-10 minute drive from Wanaka.
Whatever you do, make sure that you visit Wanaka while you’re in the South Island of New Zealand – even if it is only a day trip. Often overlooked because of Queenstown, it has more to offer than people think!
Have you ever been to Lake Wanaka? Would you want to after reading this post?
Katie Davies is the Yorkshire-based freelance writer who founded Trendy Tourist. Since 2017, she has written for over 100 companies on a range of subjects, from fashion to marketing. When she’s not producing content, you can find her shopping, exploring a new place or sitting somewhere having a cup of builder’s tea.