Winter in Wanaka - 10 Must Dos

You could live a lifetime in Wanaka without experience everything the area has to offer. But as you may not have a lifetime, here are our top 10 must dos.

When you first arrive in Wanaka, it is common place to miss a breath; the mirrored image of snow-capped peaks reflecting off the placid Lake Wanaka, the beautiful pines standing tall on Eely Point and the relaxing vibe of town highlighted in the low lying architecture. That’s right, there are no high rises here, (almost) no big commercial chains, just beautiful scenery and beautiful people.

You could live a lifetime in Wanaka, and after visiting you may be tempted to try, and not experience everything the area has to offer. To help you catch just some of the best, here are 10 things that make us absolutely love calling Wanaka home:

  1. Breakfast. No day, let alone a snow day, should start without a big brekky, and there are many worthy mentions in Wanaka. The breakfast potatoes at Federal Diner are crunchy and delicious, the all in vegetarian breakfast at Relishes will keep you charging and the coffee at Café Gusto is worthy of a stop on the way to the mountains. But at the top of our breakfast list is Ritual Cafe. In our opinion, Ritual serves up the town's best eggs benedict as well as fantastic coffee.
     
  2. Winter in Wanaka is all about getting into the peaks of the Southern Alps. For the best views and highest altitude ski slopes, head to Treble Cone - a 35-minute drive along the shores of Lake Wanaka. In winter, cars heading to the slopes must carry snow chains, however with Treble Cone’s road being graded daily, it is rare for chains to leave the boot of the car. But hey, if you do have to use chains…. POWDER DAY.
     
  3. New Zealand is famous for its oversized cheesy scones and the best of them can be found freshly baked at Edgewater. Order from their extensive list of scones, grab a coffee or wine and 20 minutes later your scone arrives hot out of the oven. Can’t get fresher, or more delicious than that. Edgewater makes for a great and unique aprè option.
     
  4. For the best place to escape the crowds on snow, head straight to the Saddle Basin at Treble Cone. The basin offers a wide variety of terrain suitable for lower intermediate to advanced skiers and snowboarders. Start with a cruisy warm up on the wide and nightly groomed Raffles Run, before getting more adventurous in one of the basin's several natural halfpipes such as Bullet or Superpipe.
     
  5. No ski town top 10 would be complete without an après recommendation. Most of the bars in Wanaka line the lakefront providing a great vista of the snow covered peaks. Our favourites - that’s right, we cannot narrow it down to just one - are Gin & Raspberry and Kai Whakapai, both located on Ardmore Street. Head to Gin & Raspberry for a classy affair, making sure you get in early to grab a seat on the first floor sundeck. Head to Kai’s if you want a more local flavour, including the delicious Brewski, a beer brewed right in Wanaka.
     
  6. Getting the snow legs back can take time, and if you’re only in town for a short period, that’s time better spent progressing into the steeper and deeper. Way up high on our things to do list is a group or private ski or snowboard lesson with one of Treble Cone’s highly experienced instructors. Group sizes stay famously small at Treble Cone, so it might just well be the most valuable thing you do on your whole trip. It’s also a great way to meet some new snow buddies. 
     
  7. Whilst Wanaka is well and truly a snow town, there are plenty of other activities to fill a rest day. Some of the best are skydiving with Lake Wanaka Skydive or a wine tour with Funny French Cars. Funny French Cars provides a great inside look into the region's budding pinot noir industry. And when we say inside, we mean inside. These guys know absolutely everyone and so will you after one of their tours.
     
  8. For the more adventurous and somewhat adept skier or snowboarder, we recommend a day outside of the ski area boundary within the safety of one of Aspiring Guides backcountry tours. You will learn plenty about mountain safety, discover untracked lines and untouched views and meet some other like-minded adventurous folk. Best of all, you access the backcountry via Treble Cone’s lift system, so whilst you will have to earn most of your turns, you won’t have to earn them all.
     
  9. By habit (not hobbit), we don’t like to compare Wanaka with Queentown as each town has something brilliant to offer. But if we were to compare, we think we have the famous Ferg Burger beat with our own Red Star Burgers. Located on Admore St opposite Cartex, Red Star has big and delicious meat and veggie options and the most delicious Kumara (sweet potato for non New Zealanders) chips and aioli in town.
     
  10. After the ski fields close, Wanaka becomes a vibrant town with returning skiers and snowboards taking to the bars, restaurants and shops. In winter most retailers open until 7:30pm including ski and snowboard shops Racers Edge, Outside Sports, Base 2 and Cheap Skates. But be warned, it is oh so easy to walk out with a new winter toy to play with.

But in the end, it is close to impossible to not have a fantastic time in Wanaka. Just keep your chin high and say hello to everyone. You will fit right in.

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