Wanaka’s Top 10 must-do activities for first-timers
Finding the best things to do around Wānaka
Planning your first visit to Wānaka and finding it hard to decide what to put on the to-do list? You’re not alone. For a small town, Wānaka packs a big punch when it comes to activities and attractions. We can help you make the most of your holiday with our list of Top 10 must-do Wānaka activities.
Whether you’re looking for family-friendly activities, luxurious relaxation or adventure activities, Wānaka offers something for everyone. We know this sounds like a bit of a cliché, but when it comes to our little alpine town, it’s definitely true.
For the first-timers, here are a few of our favourite activities to put on your Wānaka to-do list.
1. Take a dip in Lake Wānaka
Let’s start with the obvious. Dazzling and deep blue, Lake Wānaka is the focal point of most goings-on in Wānaka. In the warmer months, the lake is buzzing with boats, water skiers, sailboats, kite surfers and much more. However, you don’t need a boat to enjoy Lake Wānaka. And some would say, water skiing is year round!
The many bays and beaches are ideal for swimming. Just remember, Lake Wānaka is fed by the icy waters of alpine rivers, so the water is anything but tropical. Be prepared for around 11C in some sections and a balmy 15C – 20C in the shallow bays. Popular swimming spots are the main town jetty, Eely Point and Roy’s Bay.
2. Wānaka Bike Trails
Mountain biking is fast becoming Wānaka’s summer-time addiction, if not year-round. While snow sports have been the main adrenaline drawcard for decades, the many mountain bike trails are providing a way for visitors and locals to get their thrills when the snow has gone.
For easy, family-friendly biking, hire bikes in town and take the ride from Eely Point along the lakefront to the Wānaka Tree. Or the Clutha River track offers a great ride through the bush, which should be just enough to challenge junior riders. If you want to go big, check out the Dunstan Bike Trail or head to Bike Glendhu and ride the epic downhill tracks with the very appealing option of catching a shuttle to the top of the tracks.
3. Mou Waho: The lake on the lake
One of the unique attractions in Wānaka is Mou Waho. You can take a 45-minute lake cruise on Lake Wānaka to the island, which includes a bush walk. This is not just any island; it is an island on a lake on an island on a lake on an island in the sea. If that one is sounding hard to figure out, we recommend you get there and see it for yourself.
4. Lavender Farm
One of the best picks for a family-friendly activity in Wānaka would have to be The Lavender Farm. It’s a wonderful day out for all the family and offers gardens, farm animals, games and a charming tea room where you can taste their delicious lavender ice cream.
The Lavender Farm is a working farm producing a range of lavender products. Walking through the property is like walking through a sea of purple (and often a sea of very happy bees). There are beautiful gardens to explore and a menagerie of animals to hand feed.
As you would expect, the many walks and hikes in Wānaka range from multi-day mountain slogs to gentle strolls.
For an easy-going family-friendly option that will still get the blood pumping, we recommend Diamond Lake on the Wānaka-Mt Aspiring Road. You can do the easy lake walk and choose to add on the Rocky Mountain Track, which will take you to one of the best spots for views over Lake Wānaka.
6. Paddle Boarding
One of our favourite Wānaka adventure activities and most fun ways to explore Lake Wānaka, it has to be stand-up paddle boarding. Hire a board from town and head out to explore bays and islands on the lake. Depending on your fitness level, you can paddle to Ruby Island or simply have a play close to the main beach. Other spots for paddleboarding are Dublin Bay and Eely Point.
7. Hitting the snow in Wānaka
Wānaka is regarded as one of the best spots in New Zealand for snow sports. With Cardrona Alpine Resort, Snow Farm and Treble Cone all accessible from your Wānaka accommodation, you will be seriously spoilt for choice.
You will find world-class park terrain at Cardrona Alpine Resort, stunning cross country skiing at Snow Farm, and Treble Cone on a powder day is always the local’s pick. All ski fields offer learn to ski and snowboard lessons.
8. The perfect spot for sundowners
Wānaka won the lottery in the outstanding views stakes and we think one of the best things to do in Wānaka is to simple take in the views.
Find a table at one of the many outdoor bars and restaurants along Ardmore Street and settle in. This is one of the best places to soak up the views at sunset.
9. Wānaka to Cardrona Valley
Just a 15-minute drive from Wānaka is the Cardrona Valley, and the perfect spot to spend a day or half-day in classic Central Otago scenery.
Cardrona was once a gold mining town, and this history is still found in one of its most iconic buildings, The Cardrona Hotel. This fabulous hotel and pub is often touted as the most photographed hotel in the country. And for good reason. The Cardrona Valley also offers the impressive Cardrona Distillery, and activities such as horse trekking and quad biking.
10. Dinosaur playground
And finally, one of our favourite things to do in Wānaka is one that doesn’t cost a thing. It’s the dinosaur playground located on the lakefront directly in front of Lakeside Apartments. With a giant dinosaur slide as the main attraction, this Wānaka park and playground offers plenty for the kids and Mum and Dad can take in the incredible views while keeping one eye on the young ones.
With so much on offer, we’re pretty sure you won’t be able to do everything in just one visit. The best solution is to start with the must-dos and then book yourself back for another visit.
Start planning your Wānaka holiday at the perfect place to stay, Lakeside Apartments.