TOP 5 Must – See Places in Wanaka, Otago
Wanaka is a small town one hour away from famous Queenstown. Actually, it can be considered as the small sister of Queenstown, sharing similar landscapes and culture, while being much calmer – a perfect place to escape that bustling party world of Queenstown!
But now – a little more about Wanaka itself. The first who inhabited this place were Maori people. They set up summer campsites known as “kianga” by the lake Wanaka where they were fishing and hunting birds. First European visitor arrived in Wanaka on 1853, later sheep stations were opened around the area and on 19th century the gold rush began. After the gold rush farming started to flourish, but now Wanaka is all around tourism that makes the biggest economy here! And no wonder! There is so much to see and do in Wanaka! And we have made a summary of TOP 5 Must-See Places in Wanaka! Enjoy!
1. Go for a hike in one of many hiking trails!
There are many around the area, some of which can take several days. But here we have five most popular and most accessible trails in Wanaka. Choose the best for yourself!
Mount Iron – moderate, 1-2 hours. A gradual climb through grassland and low Kanuka woodland to summit where you can enjoy 360 degree views of the Wanaka basin and Lake Wanaka. Worth the effort.
Eely Point & Fisherman track – easy, 1-3 hours. Suitable for all walkers this track runs along the lake edge, around the bay and goes all the way to Albert Town via the Outlet Track offering views out across the water and of the surrounding mountains.
Roys Peak – moderate to hard, 5-6 hours. A steady climbing track that rewards with panoramic views from the top. Most of Lake Wanaka can be seen, along with an awe-inspiring view of Mount Aspiring and the surrounding mountains and glaciers.
Rob Roy Glacier Track – moderate (steep in parts), 3-4hours. This track incorporates all that you could ever want from an Alpine walk. A swing bridge, 15 minutes from Raspberry Creek car-park, crosses the West Matukituki River, downstream from the Rob Roy Stream junction. After the bridge the track climbs through a small gorge into beech forest, then into alpine vegetation and provides great views of the Rob Roy Glacier.
Diamond Lake – moderate to hard, 1-3 hours. Either a walk around the lake (the lower circuit track), or 3 hour return walk over sometimes uneven ground to the top of Rocky Mountain that provides stunning views over glacier-carved landforms.
2. Do not miss That Wanaka Tree!
That Wanaka tree is truly a very popular tree! Well, it is actually considered as the most photographed tree in all the New Zealand! Why is it so special? This lonely tree is growing in the water, and it took around 100 years for it to get to its size! The sad part is ..tourism, actually. Yeah, as this tree has become so popular, people will do anything just to get a photo with the tree, also go through super cold water to climb it. Now there are signs on the shore that are saying you shouldn`t get to the tree, just enjoy the scenery from the shore.
Where the tree is located? It can be seen from the shore of the lake Wanaka, around 20-minutes-walk from the very central part of the lake in the town centre. There are no signs – just go to your left when you reach the lake till you see people crowd on one spot. And it will be there.
3. Explore the museums and attraction parks in town!
We will definitely start with the Puzzling World. Giant Maze, illusions and a real brain test – yeah, this famous place is worth to visit. As this attraction park claims, for over forty-five years they have been messing with people’s heads no matter what age, nationality or experience. This is a wonderful place to spend the time in! The price is around 22 NZD for all the experience.
Then there is National Transport and Toy Museum. Here you will be able to find almost all types of collectible relics starting from toys and models to trucks, cars, motorbikes, airplanes and more! It is actually one of the largest private collections in the Southern Hemisphere and displays a large collection of items including over 650 vehicles, 15 aircraft and 60,000 toys plus 1000’s of miscellaneous items. And this will cost you around 19 NZD.
And the last but not least is Warbirds & Wheels Museum. This is a place for retro cars and vintage war planes, where you can see aircrafts used in both the First and Second World Wars. Also, awarded best airport café in New Zealand! The ticket here will cost you 20 NZD.
4. Enjoy Wanaka Lavander Farm
Enjoy a walk through the flowers and meet farm animals like alpacas, sheep, mini donkeys, Shetland ponies and more! Play a garden game, unwind over a cup of herbal tea and lavender ice-creams. And sample Lakes Honey, get to know those many lavender products that are produced on site like essential oils, honey, massage cream, bath oil & salts, handmade soap, body lotions, perfume and more! Discover how to use lavender for relaxation to relieve symptoms of headaches, stress, sleeplessness and tension, how to use it in culinary, healing and soothing. During the summer this experience will cost you 10 NZD, and half of that in the winter.
5. Discover a number of wineries in the area
This region has a long reputation as a producer of excellent wine. Wanaka climate is great for growing quality grapes and from boutique wineries, therefore here you will be able to find some good places!
One of them is Rippon Vineyard. That is Wanaka’s oldest vineyard. The winery uses biodynamic farming methods, with no irrigation, to produce six main varietals: Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Gamay and Osteiner.
Maude is a family-owned wine company, created by experienced winemaking couple that are producing hand crafted wines in their custom build winery.
Mondillo Vineyard has been created by Italian immigrant. His Italian heritage is steeped in many generations of cooking great food and making superb wine.
And Archangel Wines that came alive in 1940 with two young Polish girls, Stefania and Halina. Archangel Vineyard sits on two ancient glacial terraces in Central Otago, one of the Southernmost winegrowing regions in the world. Today, the 23 hectare estate is farmed using full organic practices and creates magical wine.
Wanaka attracts visitors in every season throughout the year. It`s possible to see how fast and vast expanding town it is. Most likely it will become a huge tourist hub soon, but for now it is just perfect place to enjoy breathtaking scenery, go for skiing in mountains, swim in the lake and get to know New Zealand`s South Islanders culture!
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