Time 2 Go Lake Wanaka Scenic Highlights

With mountains on all sides, and two perfect lakes at its centre, Lake Wanaka is outrageously scenic in any season.



Lake Wanaka with wings on

Lake Wanaka is an all-year holiday destination with a passion for aviation.

- see a collection for flyable World War II fighter aircraft at the New Zealand Fighter Pilots Museum

- flight seeing operators are always keen to show off their playground over Milford Sound, Mount Cook and Mount Aspiring.  Landings are available in remote parts of Mount Aspiring National Park for hikers, climbers and hunters


- leap into the landscape with a tandem skydive over some of the most spectacular scenery anywhere in New Zealand

- 'Warbirds Over Wanaka' is held every two years - the next one is in 2014.  It's classed as one of the best warbird shows in the world and features historic aircraft, RNZAF jets, aerobatic formations and helicopters


A taste of Wanaka wilderness

The lake, mountains and ski fields around Wanaka provide endless scope for fun and adventure.

- get a guide to take you fly-fishing on the lakes, rivers and streams in the area.  The region offers superb brown and rainbow trout fishing

- Lake Wanaka is a playground for sailors, water-skiers, kayakers and wind surfers


- go white water sledging or canyoning on the rivers - fast and furious fun for the daring

- saddle up with a horse trek and venture into the wilderness - previous riding experience required


- walking in the mountains could be as simple as a one hour stroll or as challenging as a four day hike

- go mountaineering with a professional mountain guide


- Nordic skiing is the thing to do at Waiorau Snow Farm

- the ski fields of Cardrona and Treble Cone are brilliantly equipped and offer a mix of terrain for skiers and snowboards of all abilities


Quirky things to see

The people of Lake Wanaka are interesting and imaginative, as you can tell from these special attractions.

- at Stuart Landsborough's Puzzling World you'll get lost in a world of jigsaw puzzles and a maze.  Try the hologram room and hall of following faces; take a seat in the Roman toilets

- things are always cheerful at the Wanaka Beerworks, a boutique brewery located next to Wanaka airport


- eclectic describes the collection at Wanaka Transport Museum - there's everything from cars to fire engines, bicycle to army tanks, model cars to aircraft

- take aim at Have A Shot - the place to try your hand at a range of shooting activities.  While you're there, show off your swing at the mini golf course



The 25 kilometre scenic drive up the Cardrona Valley leads through historic gold fever country to the marvellous Cardrona Hotel (1868), now a restaurant.  Descendants from the gold rush still live in the valley as farmers.  Today Cardrona Valley is a place for horse trekking, hiking and skiing.  The Cardrona Alpine Resort is known for its dry snow, wide slopes and steep chutes.  Nordic skiing at Waiorau Snow Farm is an inspired way to enjoy the winter landscape.

Cardrona Valley merges with the road over the Crown Range which, at 1121 metres, is the highest main road in the country.  It's the quickest way to get to Queenstown and the views are incredible.  The green waters of the Kawarau River can be seen snaking their way along their course far below.



Mount Aspiring National Park, just a short drive from Wanaka, has some of New Zealand's most scenic walks.  From Wanaka, the drive up the Matukituki Valley towards the park offers tantalising glimpses of the high peaks and glaciers.  Treble Cone Ski Area is passed on the left and, further up the valley, remnant wetlands on either side of the road are home to a number of native wading birds.

The pinnacle of the park is Mount Aspiring/Tititea, rising elegantly from its flanking glaciers to 3027 metres.  It's a peak much loved by climbers and photographers.  You don't have to be a mountaineer to enjoy the delights of the park (although any one of a dozen world-class local guides can help you to achieve a summit); it's just as satisfying to hike through the park's open valleys, or fly overhead and gaze down on the glaciers, golden river flats and forested ridges.

Within the park is the Rob Roy Glacier, a massive glacier beginning high above on Rob Roy Peak - 2,606 metres.  After gentle trekking for around 2 1/2 hours the glory of the Rob Roy Glacier comes into sight.



Mount Iron (because it resembles an iron) is a local landmark.  It rises abruptly from the gentle slopes that lead away from Lake Wanaka.  A remnant of past glaciation, Mount Iron now offers a spectacular vantage point from which to view the surrounding valleys, peaks, rivers and lakes.  A circular walking-track leads through tussock and manuka shrubland to the flat-topped summit.  Horse-treks are also available in the area.

Mount Roy is just a few minutes' drive from Wanaka, yet rises to over a thousand metres.  It offers an exhilirating full-day walk.  A zigzagging track leads up through thick golden tussock until the airy ridge to the summit is reached.  From the top, there are sweeping views across the inlets and islands of Lake Wanaka and up to the shimmering peak of Mount Aspiring/Tititea.


The mighty Clutha River is Lake Wanaka's primary outflow, which accounts for its impressive width and speed.  It is the longest river in the South Island and was thoroughly dredged during the gold rush days.  Fly fishing, rafting, kayaking and jetboating are a few ways to enjoy the Clutha's scenery.


The road over Haast Pass is only 160 kilometres long, but it took over 30 years to carve out of solid rock.  It runs past lakes Wanaka and Hawea, through golden tussock-covered hills, then winds over the great divide of the Southern Alps to the rainforests, waterfalls and rivers of the west coast.  The contrast between the east and west landscapes is extreme.

The pass was first used by Maori on their way to the pounamu (jade) rivers of the coast, but it was named after the first European to make the crossing.  It took Julius von Haast and his part over four weeks to complete the journey, after being shown the start of the trail by Maori.



Wanaka and Hawea are two of the most beautiful lakes in New Zealand.  They were gouged out of solid rock by the actions of glaciers and are separated by a narrow isthmus.  Lake Wanaka is more than 300 metres deep and Hawea is even deeper.  The lakes, which are dramatically blue, are fed by melt water from snow fields and glaciers.

The mountains surrounding the lakes rise over 2000 metres, and in winter they are powdered with snow and ice.  Deciduous trees planted at the lakes' edge put on a spectacular show every autumn.

As with other inland South Island lakes, Hawea and Wanaka were in mythology dug by the chief Te Rakaihautu.  Using his mighty ko (digging stick) he gouged out the inland lakebeds, forming mountains from the spoil.

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