The epitome of everything we love about the South Island, Wanaka offers up snowy alpine peaks, picturesque lakes and an awe-inspiring assortment of adventure activities. So whether you plan to visit for a weekend getaway or lengthy family holiday, there is always plenty to see and do.

Make the most of your holiday by taking a look at our complete guide to the best Wanaka has to offer. Read on for the best time to visit, how to get there, things to do, accommodation options and much more!

Fun Facts About Wanaka

First up, let’s find out a little bit about Wanaka and what you are in for when visiting this wonderful little alpine resort-style town.

When To Go

The best time to visit Wanaka all depends on whether you plan to hit the slopes while you are there. The snow season runs from late June through to the end of August, so you will need to plan accordingly. On the other hand, if you aim to avoid the snow (and the cold), then the months of December through to February are the warmest.

Visiting Wanaka in the autumn will offer up the most settled weather, sometimes lower prices and fewer crowds too. The spring is also a quieter time to visit; expect less crowds and a more relaxed pace with variable weather patterns.

How To Get There

There are three main transportation options for getting to Wanaka; flying, driving or going by bus. While flying in is undoubtedly the most convenient and fastest option, some say the scenic drive is just as much a part of the fun!

How To Get Around

Wanaka is a pretty small town so getting about on foot is a possibility, along with hiring a bike. However, if you plan to get out and about and enjoy everything Wanaka has to offer, then hiring a rental car might be the best option as there are no public transport options available.

The nearby ski fields do have shuttle buses running across the main ski season that can ferry you to and from the ski fields, and most tourism operators will provide a pick up/drop off service to your accommodation – be sure to ask when you make your booking.

Where To Stay

Whether you are looking for budget style accommodation or prefer a touch of luxury, Wanaka has it all. You will find everything from backpacker hostels, bed and breakfasts, motels and hotels through to boutique luxury lodges and holiday apartments. Here are a few of our top picks!

Belvedere Apartments

Self-contained luxury at its best, the Belvedere Holiday Apartments provide that home away from home feel with everything you need for a relaxing holiday. Choose from 1 or 2 bedroom apartments with full kitchen, dishwasher and laundry facilities included. Expect to pay around $180 per night for two people per night.

Edgewater Hotel

Situated on the shores of Lake Wanaka, the Edgewater Resort Hotel offer uninterrupted views out over the Lake and is within easy walking distance to the towns amenities. Expect to pay around $270 for a Lake view room for two people per night.

Lakeview Motel

Affordable motel style accommodation with queen bed or twin studio options for budget-conscious travel.  Expect to pay around $150 for two people per night.

Oakridge Resort

Set slightly out of the township (3km), the Oakridge Resort offers all the usual things you would expect from sizeable hotel-style accommodation. There are 173 rooms, a day spa, swimming pool and restaurant on-site. Expect to pay around $190+ per night for two people.

Tin Tub Luxury Lodge

Set atop the Peak View Ridge, Tin Tub Lodge offers a choice of standard or luxury rooms with beautiful views out over Lake Wanaka. This bed and breakfast style accommodation offers guests a premium accommodation experience with room rates from $350 to $850 per night.

Wanaka Bakpaka Hostel

Perfect for independent travellers looking for budget accommodation, the Wanaka Bakpaka Hostel meets your basic needs with the choice of 2-6 bed dorms or private double rooms. Expect to pay around $28 per night for a bunk bed in the dorms or $84 for a private double room.

Where To Eat

Wanaka has a good variety of places to eat, everything from takeaways and coffee carts through to excellent little cafes and restaurants. There are just too many to mention here, so we have picked out our favourite 5 places to eat in Wanaka – just for you!

8 Things To Do In Wanaka

Wanaka is one of those places where you don’t have to go far to find something interesting to see and do. Check out our list of the top 8 things to do in Wanaka below.

1. Skiing And Snowboarding

Without a doubt, Wanaka is one of the best places to enjoy the delights of winter snow in New Zealand. Experience some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the country along with cross country skiing, tubing, tobogganing, dog sledding, snowshoeing and even ice driving – all within a 45 minute drive from Wanaka’s town centre.

Visitors to Wanaka can choose from the well-known Cardrona, or Treble Cone ski fields, and the very popular family orientated Snow Farm facility. Or, if you are after a more unique snow-filled encounter, the privately owned and operated Soho Basin backcountry snow experience is complete with snow-cat for transport and lunch!

Cardrona Ski Field

2. The Transport And Toy Museum

A great option for the whole family, Wanaka’s National Transport & Toy Museum offers the chance to view over 60,000 toys, 600 vehicles and 20 aircraft spread across four large buildings. There’s even a café on-site!

Spend some time wandering the rows of vintage and classic cars, farm machinery, buses, boats, fire engines, military vehicles, tractors, trucks and motorbikes. Then check out the large display of Barbie and Star Wars toys, scale miniatures and models, RC toys, adult-sized pedal cars and much more! Entry costs $20 per adult and $5 per child; family discounts are available. The museum is open from 8.30 am to 5 pm every day.

3. Indoor Rock Climbing

The perfect rainy day activity, the indoor rock climbing arena at Basecamp Adventures Wanaka is an awesome way to burn some energy, get an all-over workout and have some fun at the same time! Hang out on the clip and climb walls, have a go on the Sports Wall or get serious in the Boulder Cave –there is something for everyone!

Basecamp Adventures Wanaka is open from 12 to 7 pm weekdays, and 10 am to 5 pm at weekends. Entry prices are $20 for Clip n Climb (including harness hire) $24 for the Sports Wall (plus $6 for shoes). Basecamp also offers outdoor rock climbing adventures, mountaineering and guided alpine walks; see website for more information.

4. Puzzling World

No visit to Wanaka is complete without checking out the quirky amusement centre attraction, Puzzling World. Located on the Wanaka-Luggate Highway, the 3D maze, optical illusions, and abstract buildings such as the “Leaning Tower of Wanaka” are sure to delight the whole family.

Puzzling World is open every day from 9 am until 4.30 pm, and entry costs are $25 per adult and $18 per child. There is no time limit on your visit, so you can enjoy this eclectic mix of interactive activities and intellectual challenges for as long as you want!

5. Skydiving

One for the adrenaline seekers out there – how does jumping out of a perfectly good aeroplane and freefalling from up to 15,000 feet reaching speeds of 200kph sound? Oh yeah, and there’s some pretty epic views while you’re up there doing it!

Skydiving in Wanaka is top of many peoples bucket list not only for the sheer beauty of the surrounding landscapes but for the thrill of skydiving over mountainous terrain – what better way to make memories than with this extreme adventure activity!  Prices range from $280 up to $410, with added extras such as handy-cam footage and a camera flyer to capture the moment on video for you.

Queenstown Wanaka

6. Canyoning

Taking it to a different kind of extreme, Wanaka is famous for its epic canyoning adventures. This is the kind of activity that will be the highlight of your trip, combing both nature and adventure tourism into one.

Exploring the incredible deep and rocky waterways of the Wanaka region on foot via abseiling, rock climbing, swimming and zip-lining will keep you busy for the best part of a day as you navigate waterfalls, rock faces and rock pools along the way. Canyoning tours range from $200 per person up to $600 for a longer full-day trip. Please note; canyoning is only available from October through to April due to weather conditions.

7. Hiking In Wanaka

Often one of the most popular (and free) activities in Wanaka is hitting the hiking trails. And there are plenty of them! The Roy’s Peak and Mt Iron tracks are the two most commonly sought out tracks, along with the Butterfields Wetland Walk and the Upper Clutha River Track.

Due to the mountainous terrain, many of the hiking tracks around Wanaka are categorised as advanced difficultly, meaning the track is likely to be mostly unformed, rough and steep and suitable for people with a moderate to high level of outdoor skills and experience. When heading into Wanaka’s backcountry always make sure you are well prepared – see here for more information on the walking tracks in Wanaka.

8. Mountain Biking

If mountain biking is your thing, then Wanaka is certainly not going to disappoint! The best place to start is to head on over to the Sticky Forest Bike Tracks. This awesome network of 20 short tracks will keep you busy for hours with beginner, intermediate and advanced options. And best of all it’s only 3 km from the town centre.

Hire a bike from Racers Edge and hit the trails for as long as you wish – it’s free! Hiring a bike in Wanaka will cost around $50 to $100 per day, depending on the type of bike you hire. Multiday discounts are available along with e-bike options if you prefer a little assistance out on the road. For more mountain biking trails, check out some of the best mountain biking tracks in Wanaka here.

Best Day Trips From Wanaka

If you are hanging around for a bit and are looking for some things to do a bit further afield, then there are plenty of simply stunning day trips options available. Some of the best day trips from Wanaka are:

1. Queenstown

The most obvious day trip option for those staying in Wanaka is to head on over the Cardrona Valley Road to Queenstown for the day. With drives times of only an hour each way, you will have plenty of time to make the most of what Queenstown has to offer – don’t miss the Queenstown Hill Walking track, taking a ride up the Gondola, The Remarkables ski field and exploring the town centre.

Morning Snow Lake Wanaka

2. Mt Aspiring National Park

At just an hour’s drive away, access to the Mount Aspiring National Park is the perfect day out for avid hikers. You will find a large number of walks ranging from 1 to 2 hours right up to multi-day hikes. Some of the best walks in the Mount Aspiring National Park are shown here.

3. Glenorchy

Surrounded by magnificent snow-capped mountains, Glenorchy is a beautiful little settlement with access to excellent fishing, jet boating, hiking and the nearby settlement known as Paradise – you simply can’t go wrong!

4. Alexandra

Heading deep into Otago Wine country, a day trip to Alexandra will include passing by the Kawarau Gorge (making the short detour is well worth it) and visiting both Cromwell and Clyde. These smaller towns of the Otago region will delight with fresh produce, stunning scenery and award-winning local wines – of course!

Need more ideas? Find more attractions and activities on offer in Wanaka here. We hope you enjoy your stay!